Category Archives: Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusion

Corporate Responses to Diversity Challenges – by Marc Brenman

In the aftermath of tragic police violence and subsequent street protests, many US corporations and other organizations have issued ritualistic and formulaic statements declaring their support for Black Lives Matter and decrying racism. What does this mean, and what will they do to follow through? Many of these companies already have diversity programs and are already required to comply with state and federal nondiscrimination laws and regulations. A number of states, cities, and counties have broader non-discrimination prohibitions than the federal government, for example, to include LGBTQ status.

The larger companies employ Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) or someone with a different title but similar responsibilities. The vast majority of people in these positions are African-American females. Some are male, and some are Hispanic. A few are white females. Almost none of the CDOs are members of the executive teams of these companies. Diversity does not occupy a place similar to core missions, such as production, operations, marketing/sales/ advertising/branding, finance, legal, logistics, supply chain, health and safety, etc. Only a relatively small percent of companies report their diversity demographics publicly, and almost none disaggregate the figures by level of employment, pay grade, responsibility, etc.

Almost none can point to actual improvement in employing/training/promoting people from traditionally discriminated against groups. Some have leapt to providing training on implicit or unconscious bias, even though the concept is a neurological one, and almost no one knows enough about the neurology to accomplish anything about it. In fact, some experts state that if done poorly, such training can excite unconscious bias and bring it out into the open, where it can have bad effects.

At the moment, the diversity expert and training world is reeling from a Trump Executive Order banning most diversity training and programs that engage in what the Order refers to as stereotyping by race and ascribing blame to one race. The Order applies to federal agencies, and by extension to federal contractors and recipients of federal financial assistance. This universe is very large.

As I write this, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) of the US Department of Labor, which oversees federal contractors, is soliciting input on elements of diversity programs at federal contractors that might not meet the requirements of the Order. Executive Order 13950 “notes that materials teaching that men and members of certain races are inherently sexist and racist have recently appeared in workplace diversity trainings across the country” and “invites the public to provide information or materials concerning any workplace trainings of Federal contractors that involve such stereotyping or scapegoating.”

The OFCCP requests to federal contractors and subcontractors is wide-ranging with the following questions:

  • Have there been complaints concerning this workplace training? Have you or other employees been disciplined for complaining or otherwise questioning this workplace training?
  • Who develops your company’s diversity training? Is it developed by individuals from your company, or an outside company?
  • Is diversity training mandatory at your company? If only certain trainings are mandatory, which ones are mandatory and which ones are optional?
  • Approximately what portion of your company’s annual mandatory training relates to diversity?
  • Approximately what portion of your company’s annual optional training relates to diversity?

Corporations often receive awards for their diversity efforts from a variety of self-appointed organizations that “speak” for diversity and equity. When I see such announcements, I often look at the composition of the executive teams of these corporations. About 80% of the time, I find that the executive teams are very undiverse, being composed almost entirely of white men. Sometimes, there is one woman as human resources head. In some companies, there might be one Chinese-American or Indian-American. So these companies are in violation of one of the cardinal rules of diversity initiatives—start at the top and set an excellent example. The actual message is clear: diversity is fine for the underlings, but not for the people at the top.

Another area of contradiction is the argument put forth by diversity experts that diversity is good for company revenues and the bottom line. A number of prestigious foundations and think tanks are complicit in this myth. When I examine the studies that arrive at the diversity return on investment (ROI) argument, I find that the studies have conveniently left out successful firms in IT, Silicon Valley, India, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and China, which are all very undiverse in employees, management, and executives.

A third troubling area of organizations and equity today is that of anti-racism programs. When I ask those in the anti-racism field if they can show quantitative improvements on the ground in anti-racism effects, almost none can. Usually I hear a great silence. In fact, on many criteria of progress and participation in American society, African-Americans have moved backwards—in education, housing, healthcare, employment, and family wealth, for example. Thus, one can legitimately ask about the efficacy of diversity and anti-racism programs and initiatives.

The other core functions of organizations listed above (such as production, operations, marketing/sales/advertising/branding, finance, legal, logistics, supply chain, health and safety) all have to show positive results, or the managers of the efforts will soon be gone, and/or the effort will be reorganized/shaken up. Why should diversity, equity, and anti-racism efforts get a pass, an exemption, or a waiver from rough organizational life? Do we have a problem consisting of lowered expectations, symbolism, and tokenism?

This is not to say that the problem is due to the professionals in these fields. There is plenty of blame to go around, including institutional racism, intransigence, organizational culture, white supremacy, structural inertia, foot dragging, etc. To me, those in the diversity/equity/anti-racism fields need to do some serious soul-searching, thinking, innovation, creation, and classic strategic planning and evaluation. The last is almost entirely lacking in the fields listed. About the only evaluation criteria is “don’t rock the boat.”

I once proposed that members of a corporation’s executive team be cycled through the CDO’s job for six months, and evaluated on firm success criteria, such as increasing the employment of X traditionally discriminated group members by Y% over Z period of time. In corporation parlance, this is calling “making the numbers.” I bet that we would see some surprising improvements in such hiring. Anybody willing to take this bet? Or are folks in the diversity/equity/anti-racism fields willing to slide along in the world of low and no expectations?

STEM Women Make it Count – by Sheila Boyington

‘Make It Count’ Event Commemorates Centennial of Women’s Right to Vote, Highlights Equity and Education

This year of 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of a remarkable shift in the women’s suffrage movement—the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 which ensured a woman’s constitutional right to vote.

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Future of Diversity Amid Pandemic – ADR TOWN HALL

ADRThe American Diversity Report (ADR), an award-winning digital multimedia platform, offered a virtual Town Hall featuring a distinguished panel of experts to discuss the future of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in education and employment amid COVID-19. We thank the many donors who made this event and ADR’s next year possible. CLICK to see List of ADR DONORS 

“For 15 years, ADR’s dozens of writers from around the U.S. and the world have provided Inspiration, Instruction, and Innovation expertise.  We recognize that COVID-19 requires an innovative approach to Diversity, Equity  Inclusion,” said Deborah Levine, ADR’s Editor-in-Chief and award-winning author of 15 books.

CLICK SEE THE TOWN HALL VIDEO.

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Education about Racial Issues – Who educates who? – by Terry Howard

Terry Howard

My hunch is that the majority of those well-meaning folks who say, “When I see you, I don’t color,” or a variation, have no idea how exhaustive it can be to many Black folks. And to Black folks who hear this constantly, the typical response is usually a deep inhale and a …. “well, here we go again!”

Case in point is Oprah Winfrey’s latest magazine “O” with an advice column headlined, “How to Deal with Your White Friends”– advice for Black women feeling worn down by the neediness of others to help them deal with racial issues.”

So why this recent surge in interest in racial issues, Black ones in particular?

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Unpacking “Black Lives Matter” – by Terry Howard

 “The Black Lives Movement wants to see the destruction of the nuclear family.”
     “BLM is a hate group that’s planning to destroy the police.”
 “Let us not be confused. BLM is nothing but a Marxist group.”

These are actual quotes – from politicians running for office (surprise, surprise, surprise) – that typifies how Black Lives Matter has become a convenient boogey man – a political wedge issue – these days. However, the words have moved from baseball caps and posters. They’re now painted in large letters on streets in New York, Washington, DC and other cities. You’ll even find the words on tattoos, and even engraved on protective masks to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Continue reading Unpacking “Black Lives Matter” – by Terry Howard

A STEM Woman’s Story – by Deborah Levine

Don’t Bother Trying to Fit In

Deborah Levine
ADR Editor-in-Chief Deborah Levine

When my family moved to America from British Bermuda, I was still in elementary school, having completed first form, the equivalent of first grade, at the Bermuda High School (BHS) for Girls. Uniform and uniformed, I marched in step with the other girls, just as my mother had done through her entire schooling at BHS. Yes, I did stand out as the only Jewish girl in the school, or anywhere on the island. But generations of my family were well known on the island, so the singularity was tolerable. Inserted into a New York City suburb, I was delighted to find that this particular oddity was completely irrelevant. For better or worse, I still stuck out and a confidence crisis set in.

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RIP John Lewis – By Elwood Watson

A Tribute to the ‘Conscience of Congress’

As he’s laid to rest, there are no shortage of salutes to Congressman John Lewis, the formidable civil rights activist and legislator from Georgia who departed this earth on July 17, 2020, at the age of 80.

Mr. Lewis was a larger than life figure, a fierce, fiery presence packaged in a medium-sized man’s body. He was a person who lived an extraordinary life.

Mr. Lewis, there have already been numerous, bountiful tributes to you; you were more than deserving of such recognition.

The commentary (save for a few right-wing websites) has been overwhelmingly positive and rightly so. Indeed, even when you were alive, there were a considerable number of articles written about you and your life experiences. You were a living legend.

To hear network commentators, radio hosts, prominent and lesser-known podcasters and people from all walks of life pay their respects to you was and is nothing short of deliriously satisfying.

    For a Black man who was born in 1940 in Troy, Alabama, a child of the deep, segregated south, life was a challenge from the very beginning.

Bold Social Activism

From childhood on, you readily witnessed glaring unjust impositions that were routinely perpetrated upon Black men and women who often had no recourse, legal or otherwise, to challenge such indignities. Witnessing and experiencing such injustices made you determined to combat such untoward mistreatment.

While your parents, who were deeply indoctrinated in the mores and customs of the segregated south, were steadfastly opposed to you becoming actively involved in civil rights activities (their concerns and reservations were well-founded), you nonetheless decided to follow your own heart, forge your own path, trust your own instincts, and pursue a life of social activism.

Trust me, more than a few of us, of my generation, thank the Lord that you and others of your cohort did!

    It was largely due to those of your generation that monumental change was able to take place in our nation.

For much of your life, you were engaged in confrontations or challenges of some sort, from disagreeing with your parents about how to behave and live your life as a Black man who was living in the legally segregated south, to challenging and confronting vicious southern mobs who attacked you for daring to ride segregated buses or sit at segregated lunch counters, to enduring violent police officers and brutal beatings (your skull was cracked and you almost died).

     For demanding the right to vote as an American citizen, you were often at the forefront of challenging injustice wherever it reared its tormenting and sadistic head. You will always be remembered for your courageous leadership in the face of racial oppression, such as:

     Your 1960s activism in organizing the Nashville sit-ins in 1960. Your courage in becoming one of the 13 original freedom riders in 1961. Your involvement as director of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963.

Your assistance to Martin Luther King Jr, A. Philip Randolph, and other political and religious leaders of the movement — by adhering to their concerns and wishes that you and some of your fellow comrades modify the language of your eventually delivered speech, and restrain behavior that was viewed as aggressive by some— made that iconic event proceed much more smoothly than it otherwise might have.

In fact, you were often on the front line with Dr. King and other leaders, who you viewed as mentors.

Public Service

During the 1970s, after a few unsuccessful runs for public office, you worked in a variety of government agency positions, first in Atlanta, for the Voter Education Project, for several years, and then working for the Carter administration as a leader of ACTION, VISTA, and similar agencies until you returned to Atlanta.

Unlike the 1970s, your 1980s runs for public office were successful. First you became a part of the Atlanta city council in 1981, and then you pulled off an upset by defeating fellow civil rights activist Julian Bond in 1986 and becoming a member of the House of Representatives.

The campaign temporarily damaged your decades’ longtime friendship with Bond, but over time both of you managed to mend the wounds. You went on to be reelected more than 16 times!

While in Congress you were known and widely respected by your colleagues as, “The Conscience of Congress.”

You, along with several other veterans of the modern civil rights movement were overcome with unbridled emotion at the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Memorial in 2003 as his widow, Coretta King and others consoled you.

Who can forget when you stood on the house floor with a picture of yourself drenched in blood shouting “this was my blood” as you passionately demanded that Congress support the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Fellow congressional members stood up and applauded you for your bravery then and on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma.

Congress went to extend provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2006. Although, it is ironic that such legislation is now under attack as you have passed on.

In your later years, you were as fiery as ever, demanding that the needs of the marginalized and voiceless be addressed.

    Even in your 70s, you were getting arrested for standing up to and challenging injustice. You eventually came to support Barack Obama for president after initially supporting Hillary Clinton.

While you marched with a few Presidents, it was the image of you with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters — the first Black family to live in the White House — marching over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where you almost lost your life more than half a century earlier, which was nothing short of tearful for many of us.

    It was an electrifying moment for many of us. Your emotional embrace of the former president was touching as well.

You argued that all Americans, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other specific factors be treated as equal and human beings. It was due to brave, heroic individuals like you and others that Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and many others now follow in the pathway you opened up. Witnessing President Obama award you the Medal of Freedom in 2012 was nothing short of spectacular.

Fighting pancreatic cancer undoubtedly was one of your heaviest battles to wage. Even then, you did so with sophistication, strength, and dignity.

     You were a shining example of courage.

Final Thoughts

God called you home on July 17th.

There is no doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Frederick Douglas, Juanita Abernathy, A. Philip Randolph, C.T. Vivian (who passed away on the same day as you) and, of course, your longtime friend and short-term nemesis, Julian Bond, and many other forebears have welcomed you with heavenly arms.

Once again, thank you for all you did. You lived and endured an extraordinary life from the womb to the tomb.

May you rest in peace.

Why Disability Employment is Good Business – By David B. Grinberg

In case you missed it, July 26 marked the 30th anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). All employers need to remember that workforce diversity includes people with disabilities.

All savvy employers should know by now that providing equal opportunities to people with disabilities simply makes good business sense. This is especially true in an interconnected, global economy. Unfortunately, not every company has gotten the message.

As the ADA turns 30, there is good and bad news regarding people with disabilities (PWDs). The good news: The disability community can be found in virtually all aspects of modern society.

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Systemic Racism and Corporate Social Responsibility

HISTORIAN ELWOOD WATSON URGES COMPANIES TO SUPPORT BLACK COMMUNITY BY ADDRESSING ECONOMICS OF SYSTEMIC RACISM 

Systemic Racism Corporate Social Responsibility Goes Beyond Cosmetic Changes to Brands, Says Professor  

 

WASHINGTON – Professor Elwood Watson, PhD is calling on corporate America to address the economic impact of institutional racism – in allegiance with the Black Lives Matter movement and all people of color – rather than making superficial branding changes to products some perceive as racist.

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Perspectives: ADR Advisors and Colleagues

Perspectives and Quotes

Editor’s Note: In these challenging times when race-related issues are at the forefront of American society, the American Diversity Report is pleased to share quotes from our advisors and colleagues. I have no doubt that their words of wisdom will stick in our readers’ minds.

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