Social inequality is systematically destroying the livelihood of many inner city communities. The threat is not only from unemployment, poverty, lack of social services, homelessness and the effects of gangs, violence and drug addiction, but rather it is an underpinning of the very fabric of society.
Honesty takes courage, consistency, and confidence. Great leaders don’t need to be perfect, but they need to possess a self-assuredness and fearlessness at all times that enable them to act truthfully, acknowledge their shortcomings, and admit their mistakes. Only then can they garner the respect of their team members and, by way of example, teach them to conduct themselves with the same level of integrity. Without a steady moral compass and a strong ethical backbone, it’s impossible to inspire, motivate, and encourage best practices in others. What I like to call “WOW leaders” do what’s right, not what they can get away with.
I am of Black Caribbean, Dutch, French, and British heritage. I was born on the Dutch island of Aruba, and grew up on the Island of St. Lucia in Franco-British West Indies. I emigrated to the United States at the age of 19 years. I was inspired to go into my STEM field by Dr. C.P Shim who was the professor in an introductory psychology course that I took my sophomore year in college. Determined to be a biologist in general and in particular, a proto-zoologist, Dr. Shim opened up the field of human behavior and mental processes in a way that resonated with some longing for service and knowledge deep in my spirit.
I am Tamra VanAllen, Assistant VP & Pricing Actuary at Unum. When people ask me what I do, I say, “I’m an actuary” then I watch for their reaction. It typically goes one of two ways, either an excited “I know someone else who is an actuary” or I am met with a blank stare and awkward pause while they try to decide if it is even worth asking about.
My African American family came from a small community in Eastern North Carolina. We were, and still are, a very close knit group. My overall inspiration comes from my mother, a strong woman, who supported me on my way to self development and discovery. With respect to STEM-related fields, I was inspired by my high school chemistry teacher, who did an excellent job of engaging her students. Additionally, my aunt, my Mom’s sister, taught Biology at my high school. Both my Chemistry teacher and my aunt pushed me to join extracurricular science activities because they saw that I had a natural affinity for science and math. Eventually, I was introduced to Chemical Engineering by a representative from the local DuPont Chemical plant who spoke to our HS physics class about his work as a Chemical Engineer during a Career Fair event.
As a professional who has worked in the D&I field for 25 years, I am seeing some significant emerging trends in the workplace. As a result of an improving economy, previously slashed HR budgets are finally being revitalized with attention being paid to training and development – especially for diversity and inclusion. In addition, as the labor market continues to improve, more employers are talking about becoming an “employer of choice” and strengthening their programs and employee relationships. The days of employers feeling their staff should “just be happy to have a job” are increasingly behind us as the market shifts in favor of employees. Savvy employers who value diversity, widen their recruiting net and retain talent by implementing inclusive programs will win the war for new talent. The newest generation entering the workforce is more diverse than ever and the generation behind it will produce an even more diverse “wave” of new hires. Status quo is no longer applicable.
At work, time isn’t always on our side—especially in this new era where advanced technology, changing office environments, and differing attitudes about the way we do business has dramatically altered the landscape of the workplace. The days of sequestering yourself behind closed doors and telling your secretary to “hold all calls” are long gone, as is the ability to be “off the clock.” Today, technology has made everyone reachable at all times. Even if you’re not answering calls, you’re expected to be reading your texts and checking your email on a regular basis.
Do you recall the last time you heard a casual remark about the stereotype of one particular racial/ethnic group? These are not blatant racist jokes, but stereotypical comments such as:
“White men can’t jump.”
“Latinos are lazy.”
“Blacks are better runners.”
“Natives are drunks.”
“Asians can’t drive.”
Toxic employees are trying to “take over” and create toxic workplaces. As a diversity trainer, sexual harassment prevention trainer, consultant, executive coach, and expert witness, for twenty five years now, so much of my work points to one emerging phenomenon – toxic employees, toxic workplaces, are on the rise!
Close your eyes. Imagine that you are the average white American in the early 21st Century. You can visualize yourself as president of your country (or country club). You can see yourself as the object of widespread adulation for winning an Oscar or Olympic gold. You have no difficulty picturing yourself as a graduate of Stanford or Harvard or Duke, as an inventor, as a diplomat or a thousand and one other achievements. But when you focus your mind on your fellow Americans of African or Asian or Native or Latin heritage, what do you imagine then? What images spring to mind?