Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Archive for August, 2013

The Imprint of Diversity and Inclusion’s Impact

By Leah Smiley

This week’s 50th Anniversary Celebration of the March on Washington coincided with our diversity certification prep course on Measuring the Impact of Diversity and Inclusion“. While this topic is definitely a difficult issue, it’s hard not to think about impact when we consider the power of diversity and inclusion.

The impact of the March on Washington was that it led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And without that legislation, there would be no discussion about women in the C-Suite or even in the boardroom. There would be no recourse for older workers in a technology-driven economy. There would be no protection from harassment for different religious groups. There would be no accommodations for workers with disabilities. And there would be no equal tax treatment for gay marriage.

Impact.  What was initially seen as a predominately African American event actually positively impacted millions of individuals who were NOT African American.

So when we have students, employees, managers, and others who are concerned that only “certain” groups benefit from diversity and inclusion, history refutes that illogical fallacy. Everyone benefits– especially the organizations that master it.

The Big Picture is that when employers leverage differences and demonstrate cultural competence, they are in a better position to take advantage of market trends, demographic shifts and global business opportunities. They are also more likely to be fair, inclusive, and caring about the people with which they work (i.e., students, workers, customers, etc.).

The question is: How have you measured diversity and inclusion’s impact at your organization?

Since there is no official “diversity” leader, the assumption is that we are all individually and equally responsible for making a difference. But the difference that you make must go beyond merely getting a job in the field of diversity, or hiring 1-2 people of color, or even getting buy-in from the leadership team.

Impact has to alter business performance. It must also contribute to professional development, team functioning, and achievement. Additionally, impact should leave an imprint. An imprint occurs when “pressure leaves a firmly fixed mark“.

The starting point for your imprint must entail:

(1) A vision for diversity and inclusion. Don’t get so bogged down with activity that you neglect your vision.

(2) Next, you must execute a simple plan of action. The key here is Keep It Simple. Build your plans around business issues and not events.

(3) And finally, you must evaluate, or measure, your efforts using quantitative and qualitative data. We often report things like attendance figures, what people like about an event, the number of meetings held or business units served, or a new award as impact. While some of this information provides context, none is impact.

Impact can be demonstrated by changes in sales, grants/donations, or tuition through student retention, to name a few. You can also indicate shifts in productivity, the ability to recruit and retain talent, cost savings, or product development. Note that these impacts are linked to financial objectives. This means that you must understand how your organization makes money (even if you are a nonprofit, educational institution or government agency) and you gotta get comfortable with numbers.

When diversity and inclusion is successful, it will impact more than certain groups and the bottom line– you can create more employment opportunities for everyone, contribute to the local tax base for all citizens, and allow individuals to feel great about working for or doing business with your organization.

Let’s go beyond traditional ideas about diversity and inclusion, and make a conscience decision to leave an imprint.


Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity. For more information, log onto

How Diversity and Inclusion Credentials Can Help You

Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that a strong diversity and inclusion strategy is critical for any organization that seeks to improve and maintain their competitive advantage. Focusing on a diverse and inclusive environment is not just a “nice” program, or “the right thing to do”; it offers an opportunity to capitalize on global and technologically savvy talent, changing customer demographics, socially responsible investors, as well as international partners and suppliers.

Every employer, with 100 or more workers, needs a Chief Diversity Officer, or individuals who can help the organization gain a competitive advantage by leveraging its differences and fostering a high-performing, inclusive culture. Smaller organizations can utilize a diversity council, while larger employers must have a designated person to coordinate its diversity and inclusion efforts.

A 2008 Diversity Best Practices survey found that the average salary for a Chief Diversity Officer at a U.S.-based Fortune 500 was $225,000. This salary will vary depending on title, function, industry, employer size, and more. For example, according to the 2010-11 Administrative Compensation Survey conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, the average salary for Chief Diversity Officers at educational institutions was $102,447.

In this field, a high salary can be a plus (especially when you consider all of the challenges that this position may experience); nevertheless, there are high expectations for results. The problem is that many are unsure what types of results they should be getting. An organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts will generally have variable outcomes for three reasons. These “outcomes” are determined by:  (1) the knowledge and skill of the diversity practitioner and/or supporting team members; (2) the level of organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion; and (3) the organization’s stage of development on the diversity and inclusion continuum.

Accordingly, bottom-line impact will also vary from organization to organization. For example, the American Red Cross counts volunteers and donations. While government agencies, like the IRS, may have a service-oriented bottom line. Still, all organizations, whether for-profit or not, depend on their ability to get the best possible return on dollars invested.

This is where the Institute for Diversity Certification (IDC) helps. IDC’s education and credentialing program centers on inclusion, speaking the language of senior executives (i.e., finance), and measurable impact. It is a business management program for Diversity and Inclusion professionals. 

Our program does not simply “teach” to pass the test– although participants only want to focus on what’s on the exam– it prepares individuals to be successful in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and how to get consistent results.

When you get Certified Diversity Professional (CDP) or Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) credentials from the Institute for Diversity Certification, you will:

  • Learn how to tackle cultural challenges and projected demographic changes with a proactive, positive and purposeful strategy.
  • Understand how to develop team leads to guide and sustain diversity and inclusion efforts.
  • Create a meaningful blueprint for success with a direct link to organizational goals and the bottom line.

Once you complete IDC’s program with an 80% or better, you will demonstrate competence, and the confidence, to get great results. Our designees are recognized as elite players in the field, and demonstrate excellence in their work.

Apply today for the November 2013 exam window. The next exam window begins in March/April 2014– so don’t miss out on an opportunity to make a positive impact on your organization now. Get more information at

By Leah Smiley, CDE


Leah Smiley is the President and Founder of the Society for Diversity. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto

A Dilemma for Women

By Leah Smiley


I love Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo. I think she embodies power, prestige, and position. She has challenged common reasoning in the IT industry in everything from the role of women to the dress code to work-at-home policies. She has also been a powerful force in the recognition of young female executives.

Yet, the recent photo shoot with Vogue Magazine presents a conundrum. As I scrolled down to look at reader comments in an article about the photo shoot, many people questioned her decision-making abilities. What’s different from previous criticisms is that this particular photo shoot seemed to take a notch out of her belt by focusing on her beauty vs. her brains.

As more organizations look to women to serve in more non-traditional positions, such as CEO’s, board members, and other executive roles, women are forced to walk that fine line. While one’s appearance can make or break one’s workplace potential, the focus must continue to be on diverse intellectual contributions, innovation, inclusion, and high performance.

This presents a dilemma for women, as pervasive stereotypes function as a glass ceiling and some gender roles are preserved in stone. How can we change this dilemma for women?

(1) We need more Marissa Mayer’s to serve as CEO’s and board members. Therefore, fascination with female executives will not be left on the shoulders of one smart lady, but spread among the many talented women in business today. Mary-Frances Winters, CEO of the Winters Group, has been doing a series on sponsorship for multicultural women over the last few weeks. This is a great place to start.

(2) We must continue to promote women’s rights and interests. For example, if a male executive loved automobiles and was featured  in Car and Driver Magazine, it would not be very newsworthy. But a female executive who loves fashion headlining in Vogue Magazine? This is unheard of!!! Again, we’re touching on issues of equality and diversity. The more education that we provide in this area, the less shocking it will become. It will also be more acceptable for females to be themselves– even in leadership positions.



Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto

No Other Options

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


There were two groundbreaking decisions made this week. In one, the Justice Department determined that it will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, noted “shameful” racial disparities in sentencing, budgetary strains of overpopulated prisons and draconian policies for incarceration, among the reasons for his decision.

In New York, a judge ruled that the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy is unconstitutional. The tactic allows police to search anyone regardless of whether they believe a crime has been committed. The federal judge asserted that the policy unfairly targets Blacks and Hispanics, who endure 80% of the searches. New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, vowed to appeal the ruling because the judge is biased against police and ignores the “real-world realities of crime”.

Sometimes I wonder, “Why do I work in diversity and inclusion?” This must be one of the most difficult professions in the world—for a variety of reasons. Yet, as I read the news stories about these legal decisions, I remember that my children are black—my son is 4 and my daughter is 6. If I don’t do everything in my power to impact this world for the good, they may become victims of the legal system, educational imbalances, employment discrimination, biased housing patterns, health disparities, and economic inequities.  And then, they will be blamed for failing to live up to the American Dream.

Like most parents, I believe that my son and daughter are very intelligent. But my daughter has a “personality” with her intelligence. I’ll give you an example. One day, I took my kids outside to play. They looked across the street and saw two children, around the same age, riding a motorized bike. My daughter (who was 5 at the time) said, “Oooh.” I told her, “Do not ask to ride their bike.”  She said “OK”. I repeated it again. She said, “Alright mom!” I cleaned out the car while my kids played. After I finished, I saw my daughter talking to the kids across the street. Next thing I knew, she was riding her scooter really fast, doing circles around the kids. Within minutes, the kids got up and let my daughter ride the motorized bike. When she was finished, I called her over and said, “What just happened”? She replied, “Mommy, I didn’t ask to ride the bike. I told them that we should race and if I win, I ride the bike.” She won. I could not say anything; all I could think of is her running circles around those little kids. A teacher once told me, “We’re not supposed to say what children will be when they grow up, but your daughter is definitely going to be an Executive somewhere.”

Imagine losing out on that kind of talent in the workplace because you are looking at the color of a person’s skin. Yet, good intentions don’t always have the best outcomes. We can think about having that kind of diverse talent in our places of business, but seem to fall short in this area of inclusion. That is why there has to be some kind of business logic behind this machine called “diversity and inclusion” so that good intentions match or exceed the outcomes of diversifying college campuses, workplaces, nonprofits and governments.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the mandate for his children in an electrifying speech on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Every time I think about his vision, I can’t say that I apologize for being passionate about diversity and inclusion. As far as I am concerned, I have skin in the game too– so making a difference is not optional for me. I was destined to impact the world for my children and for the lives of millions of diverse individuals– as well as for those organizations that will run better as a result.

By Leah Smiley



Leah Smiley formed the Society for Diversity while pregnant with her son. Today, Mrs. Smiley is President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information, log onto

The Business Case for Managers with Diversity and Inclusion Skills

“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.”  

– Agha HasanAbedi



The Wall Street Journal published an article last week entitled, “Some Tech Firms Ask: Who Needs Managers?” by Rachel Emma Silverman. The author asserted, “Management has traditionally been a worker’s best way to get ahead and increase earnings, but at startups, where speed and autonomy are prized above all else, managers are often dismissed as archaic, or worse, dead weight.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 10.8 million mid-level managers in the U.S. last year. While the Wall Street Journal article acknowledged that managers represent an essential layer of the organization, it also recognized that managers are often dismissed as bureaucrats and impediments to effectiveness.

Beyond harassment and discrimination training for supervisors, Diversity and Inclusion can play an important role in a manager’s professional growth.

To determine where supervisors need to grow, it may be helpful to ascertain:

(1) How well do managers ask questions? Asking questions instills an intellectual curiosity and encourages different groups to share their ideas and expertise. Asking questions can also lead to better problem solving; help supervisors discover departmental strengths, limitations, and overlap; and increase the effectiveness of a supervisor.

Questions like, “how can I help you to be more successful?” and “how do we build on that?” enable leaders to focus on unique business solutions.   Likewise, managers can use the Diversity Wheel’s primary and secondary dimensions to ask employee’s questions such as “what is most important to you on this Diversity Wheel?” and “what kinds of rewards motivate you?”  These types of questions will strip away assumptions, stereotypes and confusion.

(2) How well do managers relate to employees?  “Relating” encompasses relationship-building behaviors, such as listening, coaching and encouraging. When managers relate well, their employees feel heard and cared for. Each employee understands he/she is an important player on the team, regardless of their title. It’s easy to relate to people who appear to be similar to you. What is more challenging is relating to individuals who are different.

Great managers understand that each employee is unique. Therefore, they get diversity’s fundamental principle “Treat others as they want to be treated”.  Improving one’s ‘relating’ skill will help managers deliver critical feedback to diverse workers without the fear of being labeled “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic”, or some other negative term.

(3) How involved are managers with Diversity and Inclusion efforts? There is always so much to do on diversity committees, in associate resource groups, and in the Office of Diversity. What specific tasks can managers perform to help accomplish D&I goals?

When requesting assistance from managers, it’s best to have a one-on-one meeting, or video conference, versus a group session. Be prepared to listen. Also, be prepared to demonstrate the business case for diversity and inclusion. Stick with the facts– this means that you must know demographic projections, exit interview data, 360 degree feedback, and organizational goals, to name a few. There’s an opportunity for manager’s to employ diversity and inclusion skills to advance their own careers and their departmental objectives– when they understand the business case, as well as the benefits. 

For Diversity professionals, take the time to think of new ways to include and engage managers, as well as provide them with the tools that they need to be more effective.

By Leah Smiley



Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information, log onto

Comparing Generations is Bad for Innovation

 “Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation.” – Ronald Reagan


When my children started school on July 31st, I was reminded of the stark contrasts between generations.  K-12 schools are different. Colleges and universities are different. And workplaces are different. I often tell my children, “I remember when…”, and then they have to spend the next 25 minutes listening to a story about how things are different today.

Usually, we compare our generation gloriously in contrast to the negativities of the current or previous generation. And we reminisce in a way that may stymie constructive change and innovation. Think about what’s going on in Congress right now. There are some people who serve as obstructionists just for the sake of keeping Capitol Hill in deadlock. Their inability to advance, or progress, illustrates how holding on to the past can derail the future. Now let’s compare a different example of constructive change.

My 16-year old daughter has to take a child development class this year. She told me that students would have to take care of a baby doll with a nanny cam feature so the instructor could make sure that the children are being responsible. At first I began to object, while reminiscing about how parents used to be responsible for teaching children about pre-marital sex and childrearing and more—but then I remembered the teenage pregnancy epidemic of the 1980’s and 1990’s. I don’t know if it was a lack of information from the parents or if it could be attributed to a lack of supervision or if it was a combination of the two—but the ball was dropped somewhere in Generation X.

Today, however, more children are learning—even if they are learning through the schools. Teenage pregnancy indeed has decreased significantly. In fact, the rate of teenagers becoming mothers has declined so rapidly, that according to a 2012 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were fewer teenage mothers in 2010 than in any year since 1946. The average teen birth rate decreased 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, reaching an all-time low for women aged 15 to 19. That’s a 44 percent drop from 1991 to 2010.

I used this illustration to help you think about doing things differently, and not complaining about it. While we may have been at the company for 10 years, or worked with the last great CEO, or oversaw the development of a new program several years ago, what are you doing today to embrace innovation?

Innovation generally refers to renewing, changing or creating more effective processes, products or ways of doing things. Being innovative does not mean inventing; innovation can mean changing your business model and adapting to changes in your environment to deliver better products/services (or to help others embrace diversity and inclusion).

Following are some common themes for innovation:

1. Conduct an analysis of the current environment for generational collaboration. Also, evaluate how managers respond to different generations. 

2. Connect with employees and customers/students from different generations to develop ideas for improving processes, products and services.  Be open to new ideas and adaptive to change.

3. Train and empower multiple generations to think innovatively from the top down. Inspirational leadership and motivation is what drives change in organizations.

Finally, keep in mind that innovation is the key to competitive advantage for your organization. It can also help diversity and inclusion run more smoothly. Don’t dig your heels in because you remember when…



By Leah Smiley


Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, a professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information, log onto:

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