Category Archives: Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion

Policies, Faith, and Calendars – by Deborah Levine

When the Jewish New Year came in September this year, I got many questions about calendars and holy days from Human Resource departments. They wanted to know why the holiday occurs on a different day each year according to our secular calendar. And they asked about food associated with the holiday. Offering the traditional apples and honey for a sweet New Year was the easy part. Explaining the timing was the real challenge.

What should I write about religion and religious calendars in these contentious times? I know that many organizations and companies would prefer that the issue of religious diversity would disappear. But every year, thousands of religion-based lawsuits claiming a “hostile or offensive work environment” are registered with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

What can you do to avoid a hostile and offensive workplace when so many conflicts over religion are begun unintentionally? The bias is labeled “unconscious” when people think it’s harmless, and even fun, to joke about Jews and money, Muslims and head scarves, Sikhs and turbans. They’re surprised when people feel harassed. Isn’t it a right to exercise of their freedom of expression?

Some respond to the dilemma by insisting that no religious expression be allowed at all. Others consider that approach hostile and offensive to people of faith. How do you begin to negotiate between such polar opposites? The first step is for organizations to develop written policies around religion if they haven’t already. Without a written policy, every incident is a matter of debate and personal preference. It doesn’t take long for the resulting distrust and dislike to damage team cohesiveness.

Timing is every thing. Well-meaning companies may find employees disengaged and distanced by ill-timed scheduling decisions. Don’t hold a conference or essential meetings on a major holy day. And if you must, don’t penalize those who can’t attend. What happens when religious calendars aren’t respected? If employees aren’t able to spend time with their families on major holy days, they may feel undervalued and leave. The organization’s talent pool is diminished and it incurs the expense of replenishing it.

Consider your partners and vendors, too. For example: Don’t have a job fair on a day when diverse vendors can’t set up booths. If vendors aren’t able to observe their holy days, they may disappear. In that case, the organization not only loses needed vendors, but the communities that these vendors represent may remove themselves as customers. The organization now has fewer marketing options.

Ready to upgrade your scheduling strategies? A vital element of your company policy should be a multi-faith calendar. Religious calendars vary with seasons, months, and days. Do not try to guess the dates of major holidays. Purchase a multi-cultural calendar or get an online version, many of which are free to users.

While we may not share the same holy days, and many of us aren’t religious, respect for sacred time makes good business sense. Avoid insensitive scheduling and build credibility with employees, vendors, and customers onsite and online. Sensitivity generates good will year round. The trustworthiness you establish helps offset unintended mistakes. So check your calendars and enjoy a few apples and honey!

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For more information on calendars and religious diversity CLICK Religious Diversity at Work

Cynical about Women? – by Terry Howard

It’s not unusual for me to be on the receiving end of sarcastic comments in response to something I wrote. It comes with the territory. In fact, I’ve grown to relish the barbs, and on occasion will use them as teachable moments. Here’s the latest one from “Cynical Cedric” followed by a teachable moment checklist:

“Hey Howard, we’ve noticed that you’ve been strangely silent on the sexual assault stuff that’s been in the news lately. I think that many women are paranoid and worry too much about something that probably won’t happen to them. This stuff is largely overblown.”

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Seeing Beyond the Label: Patriarchy – by Sharon Riegie Maynard

What we are facing in the United States, and really throughout the world, is a crisis in consciousness, a clash of value systems. Values are that which one believes. Values are the impetus for thoughts, attitudes, and actions and yet we seldom have conversations about the underlying reasons for the actions and cultures. It was over 20 years ago that Paul H. Ray created a platform to gather information as to the values held by the citizens within the U.S. This research study, which has been repeated several times, hold some key information to conversations around the problems being seen.

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Working from Home: A Game Changer – by Elaine Spector

After over 21 years of working in an office, I finally had the opportunity to take a leap of faith to work from home. Many people have questioned me about the move, and how I am fairing. My response is simple: “It is a game changer.”

Like many Americans, I’ve spent a majority of my working life in a brick and mortar office. On a typical morning, I would take a quick shower, eat a hurried breakfast, and dash to my car in a futile attempt to beat the traffic. I have been in the law practice for 21 years, most of which were spent living and working in Washington, D.C.- a city notorious for its congestion. After a move to Baltimore, I continued to commute to D.C. for seven excruciating years.

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What Should an Aspiring Global Leader Know? — by Deborah Levine

Here’s what teenage global leaders-in-training had to say when asked what a young global leader should know. The words of wisdom come from high school and middle school students participating in the American Diversity Report Youth Global Leadership Class. Enjoy their  timeless advice and then read what leadership experts said about preparing the upcoming generation of leaders.

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The Challenge of Unconscious Bias – by Deborah Levine

Starbucks’ plan for an afternoon of unconscious bias training is admirable but may not be effective. The fuzzy, vague term of unconscious bias is often applied indiscriminately, but unconscious bias isn’t a one-size-fits-all term amenable to a one afternoon of training. Yes, it can refer to the incident where the police were called to arrest two African-Americans waiting for a meeting at Starbucks. But it can also mean only smiling at customers that look like you, rejecting resumes from diverse applicants, and promoting the employees who resemble the current leadership team. If we want to address unconscious bias effectively, we need to first be aware of how the senses, emotions, and brain interact to create unconscious bias. Second, we must go beyond awareness of our biases to sensitivity to their impact. Lastly, we need to develop a system that internalizes wise decision making with ongoing reinforcement of that competence.

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Recognizing Workplace Harassment Beyond #MeToo – by David Grinberg

More than just sexual harassment…

When most people hear about harassment at work it’s likely to be sexual harassment, especially in today’s #MeToo era. But sexual harassment is just one of multiple unlawful bases of harassment in the employment context.

Other forms of job harassment usually don’t get the same amount of national media attention, unless the case is particularly egregious — such as racial harassment involving a hangman’s noose, KKK graffiti or the N-word.

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Unconscious Bias “R” Us – by Deborah Levine

NOTE: Article originally appeared in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Who doesn’t know about the cops being called on two black men at Starbucks? Don’t we all know that Starbucks closed its stores around the country to do unconscious bias training? But what would you answer if asked for a description of “Unconscious Bias”? Most folks will ramble, hem and haw, or just say, “I have no idea.” When asked to describe training to prevent unconscious bias from becoming outright prejudice and discrimination, the response may be a profound, dumbfounded silence.

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Why Disability Employment is Good Business: USA Observes ADA Anniversary – By David B. Grinberg

All savvy employers should know by now that providing equal opportunities to people with disabilities simply makes good business sense in the 21st century global economy. This is especially true in a competitive U.S. labor market.

Unfortunately, not every company has gotten the message.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. This sweeping statute has opened the doors of inclusion and gainful employment to millions of citizens with disabilities nationwide, which has helped to boost business productivity.

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Moving on from Just One Woman – by Deborah Levine

NOTE: Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

There’s a spotlight today on the women attempting to transform longtime invisibility into success, money, and power. How’s that working for us? There’s been a disappointing 25% decrease in the number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 in the past year. Several corporate women CEOs earn as much, and sometimes more, than their male counterparts including Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, Debra Cafaro, CEO of real estate investment trust Ventas, and Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors. Unfortunately, women make up only 5% of CEOs in the Fortune 500. Astonishingly, only one Fortune 500 company has both a woman CEO and a woman chair of its Board of Directors. Just one.

Continue reading Moving on from Just One Woman – by Deborah Levine