As we begin 2017, the results of the U.S. presidential election are rippling through the national consciousness. Not surprisingly, there is much discussion on the fate of diversity advocacy in the community and in business. The economics of diverse communities, particularly regarding race, gender, and generation have become a daily issue for news reporting. Debate over Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is a natural extension of the discussion. Opinions range from D&I as a failure to D&I as more necessary than ever. Here are the vision and goals of diversity advocates followed by comments by D&I consultants. Together, they demonstrate a determination and renewed passion for both a diverse society and the diverse workplace.
or… Why There is No Room for Naysayers and Negative Viber
A long-term client recently called me worried that Diversity and Inclusion would be put on the business back burner. “What will happen to support for Diversity and Inclusion now that Trump is president,” he asked.
In just the 10 days following the US election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported 867 hate harassment incidences ranging from racist and threatening graffiti, fliers, to physical attacks. The unusually high number of incidents were primarily anti-black and anti-immigrant and the most common venues were schools and colleges. In addition, the New York Police Department said it has seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes following the election of Donald Trump, with the majority of incidents directed at Jews, according to New York news outlets. In a discussion with colleagues, the question came up as to whether the sudden emergence of the dark forces of hate demonstrates a failure of the diversity & inclusion profession.
Post-election days are filled with heated conversations wherever you go: Starbucks, farmers’ market, grocery shop, or friendly get-togethers—and it seems people just won’t let it go. Immigration and Inclusion are among the hottest topics. In a campaign interview with CBS “60 Minutes” Donald Trump said we are getting the people who are criminal out of the country, “probably two million, it could be even three million.” Campaign over, I wish our new President would be aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, are so eager to earn the US citizenship that their heroism and sacrifices on the battlefield often demonstrate it.
Jean-Marie Lawrence with Valoria Armstrong
(Photo: Adrian J. Edwards/Chattanooga News Chronicle)
For the third year, the Chattanooga area Chamber of Commerce hosted its Diversify marketplace, showcasing the area’s growing number of diverse vendors and connecting businesses of all sizes. The luncheon and its speaker are highlights of the event, coordinated by the Chamber’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Maria Noel. This year’s speaker was Valoria Armstrong, the first African American and female president of Tennessee American Water. Hundreds of civic leaders packed the banquet hall, enjoying the food and some networking time as they waited for the speaker.
Discussion of rank and privilege is not an everyday topic. In fact, it is often avoided and stirs up a multitude of feelings and emotions. It is too often a taboo topic and avoided. We need to discuss this important issue. In one of my speaking engagements on rank and privilege, just before going into the room, I overheard someone say they would not go to that particular discussion because they anticipated it would be too heated. It was not, and it does not have to be.
Diversity in the business world ranges from local to global and everything in-between. There are the traditional categories of race, ethnicity, gender, and age. There is also a growing global component that brings issues of language, national origin, and religion. The opportunity for culture clash and conflict increases yearly. Diversity debates usually heat up during presidential campaigns and this one should be one for the history books. It’s inevitable that emotions ooze into the workplace.
The Women’s Council on Diversity has inspired Chattanooga since its first meeting the day after 9/11. The influx of international companies led to our community-wide Global Leadership Class six years later, followed by Women GroundBreakers Storytelling. Documented in the American Diversity Report, these projects demonstrate how a small Southern city tackles its growing diversity and internationalization. Women Ground Breakers is now a Think Tank and part of Lean In, the international women’s movement begun by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.
Observations and Tips from recent training in the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) trenches (especially hostile or militant audiences)
CURRENT EVENTS – Current events are just “upping the volume, the passion, the conversation in the workshop.” Do not shy away from current events. I do not answer “what do you think about…” questions at first, I deflect to rest of room to get them talking. Do your homework, stay up to date on current events – be ready! Address vacuum, hearsay and gossip with facts. You might have to revisit ground rules more than once. Between Trump, Confederate Flag, Terrorism (domestic and international), Law Enforcement News, shootings, etc., – who can keep up? Well, you have to. I read multiple newspapers and watch multiple news hours every night (I watch all sides, all perspectives). You have to be a historian to do this work correctly.