During my highly visible role as diversity and inclusion director at two Fortune 500 companies, I wrote internal articles read by people across the globe. I also had to make difficult decisions, sometimes with potentially significant financial consequences, for the organization. Following is a major decision I made and the national fallout in one company. That’s followed by a few responses I received in response to internal articles I wrote. Note that topics of sexual orientation or Islam/Muslims seemed to generate these messages to me:
Chart your own professional future. Because where you work can make all the difference in the world in your job satisfaction. Why not? Now is the right time. Unemployment is low and there is a labor shortage, so you have choices in jobs!
This means that you should act with purpose in choosing where you work. Figure out what is important to you and then, while interviewing, ask questions that help you learn about the company and if it is a place where your needs and values will be met. If diversity is a critical value for you, it should be as well for the organization at which you work. How can you determine how important diversity is to an organization just from an interview? You will want a sense of this before deciding whether or not to accept an offer of employment. You can acquire this information during an interview by asking questions like the following, observing, and listening.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Un-Bias Guide for Leaders is based on Levine’s Matrix Model Management System which involves the storytelling principles of cultural anthropology, the planning methodology of urban planning, and the team leadership of facilitation. The Un-Bias Guide is combination text / workbook customized for the workplace. The guide is an innovative tool for addressing unconscious bias and conscious choices.
UN-BIAS GUIDE FOR LEADERS
Designed for team training in the workplace: business leaders, nonprofit administrators, and innovative entrepreneurs. CLICK at the bottom of the following short video to hear Deborah Levine share why the Un-Bias Guide is what today’s workplace needs.
“When Ms. Levine introduced her story methods and the Matrix Model Management system, light bulbs went off. Tell our stories breaks down barriers and let us react on a different level.”
~ Online Wall Street Journal
“Deborah Levine leads Un-Bias trainees through a discovery process that promotes awareness of the unconscious, deeply held cultural views that we all carry. When those views are examined and shared, a new paradigm of equity and insight begins to evolve. Ms. Levine’s revelatory training, smattered with humor and even a bit of Yiddish, challenge existing notions of diversity and unleash opportunities for leaders and change-makers to shape a more inclusive and representative future.”
~ Rebecca Whelchel, Executive Director of Metropolitan Ministries/Chattanooga Social Services
“Deborah Levine is one on the nation’s leading experts, speakers, authors, trainers and communicators on sensitive and complex issues of cultural diversity. She takes you below the surface and gets at the heart of what works in bringing diverse people together in a mutually beneficial way in which everyone wins. Her latest workbook is a ‘must read’ for employers, managers and labor across all industries. Unlawful discrimination can cost companies big bucks, bad publicity, damage the brand and alienate the consumer base. This exemplary educational guide is a small but wise investment in better understanding and leveraging diversity from the corporate boardroom to the classroom, from Wall Street to Main Street USA. This is an especially important issue to comprehend as America’s population becomes increasingly more diverse in all walks of life. This trend is projected by the U.S. Census Bureau to continue well into the foreseeable future — and the future is now.”
~ David Grinberg, former national media spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
“In my role as a Human Resources Manger, the training and cultural awareness of the Matrix Model Management System will allow me to relate to others as they would like without assuming what they want or need.”
~ Valoria Armstrong, TN American Water/President,
NAACP Chattanooga/Former President
Purchase your Signed copies:
UN-BIAS GUIDE for LEADERS
(originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Thought Leader has become a popular term in 2018. It sounds impressive and timely, even if we’re not sure what it means. At one level, the term is meaningless. If you aspire to be a thought leader, does that mean you’re currently a thoughtless leader? Joking aside, Thought Leader has come to refer to an expert in a given field who’s been able to monetizing that expertise. Some look at the reference as the result of inflated ego, but also as a useful marketing tool for increasing visibility and recognition.
“Oh, oh…traveling alone on business…with her!”
Another day, another sexual harassment complaint against a high profile man. Will all this result in a chilling effect on the organization in which some men in power will be reluctant to hire or promote women? Will women and men – men in particular – find themselves now reluctant to travel on business with women? With these questions in mind, I decided to repost an article I wrote a while back about questions from one of my listening tours:
“Terry, tell me what concerns many men the most when traveling alone with a single woman on company business. How do men of Muslim or Pakistani or Saudi backgrounds deal with this issue from a cultural or religious perspective? What advice would you offer women and men who may have concerns about this?”
I puzzled over her questions then decided to seek answers from a cross section of people in my global network, male and female.
Here’s what they shared:
“Terry, my only concern is that when I travel alone with a woman, which I do often, do I sometimes come across as patronizing or over-protective of her, particularly in some parts of the world where women may be viewed as less equal, or in some cases where safety may be an issue?”
“I recall a situation where I traveled overseas with a male colleague. We were both married. I heard from others that he would avoid having lunch with just a female colleague on a work day, so I knew he would be sensitive about the issue. We both took extra care to avoid any situation that may be misconstrued or misinterpreted by ourselves or by others. I can be a touchy feely person sometimes with friends, but I made sure to keep an extra distance between us to avoid making us both uncomfortable. I believe he did as well. It was a successful trip despite his initial discomfort with traveling with a woman. I think awareness of the issue comes first and taking steps to put the other person at ease is next.”
“With my Pakistani background, I totally understand the dilemma Muslim men might face and do agree that there are measures you can take that will ensure that the integrity of your relationship is maintained. Many Muslim men and women do not shake hands with the opposite sex. I do not hold this too strongly. I respect women who choose not to shake hands with me.”
“Traveling with a woman depends on whether you are a single man and not in a committed relationship. It also depends on the other person and how secure they are. I know we are talking about business, but I have yet to see someone totally separate the business and social when traveling together. We are relational and emotional beings by nature, but experience and maturity helps us manage both. In case some didn’t know, men are just as emotional as women. We were trained from an early age to manage and manifest our emotions differently. Nothing wrong with that.
At some point during the trip the conversation won’t be all just about business. However, most men are not equipped to handle conversations that venture beyond “How about them Cowboys”. Let’s be real. We men like sometimes sharing a cab, breakfast, lunch and dinner with someone. I can say the same for some women as well. Men are stimulated by what we see, touch, feel, taste, etc. That is why most of us like sports and other interactive activities.
I will also share that most men and women in a secure relationship are not as bothered by traveling with a single person of the opposite sex. The relationship you have with the person before the trip can make a difference in comfort level as well. The more you know about each other helps create a more plutonic relationship.
Lastly, from a religious perspective, as in a Christian perspective, men and women are advised to avoid the appearance of mis-conduct. Unfortunately, we live in a time when chaste behavior in not the norm, thus, for most people of faith, your putting yourself in a position that appears to be compromising is a big deal. Many on-lookers assume the worst before the best. “
“A lot of this depends on corporate culture and effectively navigating situations given your own boundaries as well as the expected norms of the corporate culture. For example, at my company we tend to be a very touchy feely culture and hug a lot. If the culture is more congenial, it helps to be absolutely clear on what your boundaries are because women and men are programmed differently.
“One thing not addressed is the “fear of” factors. Today I do believe women are more willing to stand up to an inappropriate comment, gesture or innuendo; however, there may be times in a person’s career (man or women) where they feel pressured from a career standpoint to “go along.” If you don’t feel strong enough to say something we head down the pathway with warning signs. I believe it’s possible that men and women can, with the best of intentions, end up here out of one of two emotions – fear for their career progression or desire to achieve in their career.
As a long time HR practitioner, I’ve seen both. The other issue, especially for men, is the litigious fear factor – fear of something they say or do being misinterpreted or misrepresented in a complaint about their behavior, or of being sued and having their name and reputation destroyed. Most of this comes down to not knowing how to have open and real conversations at work. I am a subscriber to “when in doubt, don’t” as it relates to subjects like these.”
Some tips for consideration:
- Get to know the person you will travel with prior to the trip.
- If you are married or have a relationship with another, make sure you tell them who you are traveling with and keep them in the loop during the trip.
- If you are uncomfortable or have some religious tenants that forbid traveling with someone of the opposite sex, make separate arrangements and let the other person know when you can meet to discuss the business of the trip.
- Avoid private meals together in your room or in dimly lit restaurants.
- If you get uncomfortable with the conversation, talk about how much your wife or girlfriend would love to be there with you sharing the sights, or tell them a pleasant story about your relationship.
- If you really feel uncomfortable, check out alternatives for traveling with another person.
I have been puzzled in recent weeks by colleagues congratulating me on my humility. What are these folks talking about? People who knew me years ago would definitely be amused by that. At best, I was described as “Sweet but Stern.” At my boldest, I was told that I could terrorize entire cities. Community leaders had a white-knuckled grasp on their chairs when I tersely announce my intention to speak off-the-record. Not even a voice from the back of the room calling out, “Oh ho, this should be good!” slowed me down.