Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Archive for October, 2013

Beyond Slavery and Affirmative Action: Evaluating Your Purpose (Part II)

In Part I, I talked about the fact that there are some who are too preoccupied with race in the workplace—impacting customer service, student service, constituent service and every other aspect of how your business operates.  Case in point:

  • In New York, a young man was arrested after using a debit card to buy a $350 belt at Barney’s. The sales clerk tipped off the store’s security, who questioned the college student along the lines of “how could you afford to buy such an expensive belt”? Even after showing his receipt, the black student was arrested by New York City police.
  • Earlier this year, Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker stopped by a New York Deli to buy yogurt before going to work. But the quick trip took a humiliating turn when an employee accused Whitaker of stealing and patted him down in front of other customers and employees.

Now, there are some folks who try to justify this sort of overzealous employee behavior. But the reality is that these employees tried to justify their biased beliefs. They wanted to prove that the customers stole merchandise or committed some other wrong doing. But is that their purpose in the workplace?

On another note, my son is very smart but he has special needs. Additionally, my husband once taught special needs children, so we are very familiar with this student population. Hence, when my daughter started First Grade this year, her teacher kept sending home these negative behavior reports. When I went to the school for the parent-teacher conference, the teacher began the meeting by telling me that she wanted to get my daughter “tested”. When I brought up the fact that my daughter reported being reprimanded for minor infractions—without warning—the teacher began stuttering. Then she displayed my daughter’s grades:  100%, 100%, 96%, 92%, etc. I didn’t debate with her; I simply went to the principal’s office the next morning. For goodness sake, how many honor roll students are behavior problems in the classroom?  For those who said “a lot”, don’t be cynical– the reality is that this teacher felt like she had to prove that something was wrong with my child. She did not understand her very powerful role and purpose in the classroom.

So then, what is our purpose? I will assert that our purpose is to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we interact. This difference can be made through the organizations with which we work. Too often, many employers hire people who serve no obvious purpose, other than getting a paycheck. Additionally, hiring managers aren’t trained to seek employees with experience AND purpose. Some are looking to give jobs to friends and family members who are out of work. Others are looking to hire people that look like them. While many are simply making decisions based on a subjective determination of who is “qualified” or “unqualified”.

Purpose is what drives revenue, efficiency and engagement. More importantly, it also energizes your mission and vision because it makes people’s lives better, easier, and more fulfilling. When you make a conscious decision to hire those who serve a purpose, your organization will have fewer lawsuits, less discrimination, and more loyal customers/students/constituents. Keeping in mind that purpose is not evident in what one says but it does manifest itself in what one does. Accordingly, you must look for examples of interdependence, inclusion and innovation.

Racism, discrimination, bias, etc., may always be around. You can’t change people. But you can change your organization’s outcomes when you align people with your purpose.

By Leah Smiley, CDE, President of the Society for Diversity

Beyond Slavery and Affirmative Action: How the Past Hampers Our Future (Part I)

For more than 35 years, Hollywood has been creating films to examine the history of slavery in America. In 1977, the movie “Roots” gripped America. In 1989, “Glory” riveted the screen. In 1997, “Amistad” captivated audiences. And in 2013, “12 Years a Slave” torments critics and reignites racial tensions.

Why is this relevant to the current state of diversity and inclusion? For one, as we think about slavery, and its vestiges in America, it’s important for all of us to remember that the black experience in the United States goes beyond slavery. Outside of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, there were and are, notable blacks who have made significant contributions to their fields, as well as left groundbreaking imprints on American culture. For example,

  • Elijah McCoy (1843–1929) invented an oil-dripping cup for trains.Other inventors tried to copy McCoy’s oil-dripping cup. But none of the other cups worked as well as his, so customers started asking for “the real McCoy.” That’s where the expression comes from.
  • Garrett Morgan (1877–1963) invented the gas mask and the first traffic signal.
  • Dr. Patricia E. Bath (1949–) invented a method of eye surgery that has helped many blind people to see.

In addition to thousands of inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs, there are also notable firsts, such as the first black to receive a Ph.D. degree, the first black to trade on Wall Street, and the first black to lead a Fortune 500 company. The standards for these “firsts” were high, and ultimately paved the way for other blacks to enter into different professions.

Nevertheless, because these contributions are often omitted, there exists a misnomer that educating or employing a black person equates to “inferior standards”, “lower performance”, “quotas” and “unqualified persons”. Case in point, UCLA recently conducted a study which found that the university inadequately handled racial bias and discrimination complaints by faculty members. In the reader comments on one online site, an alumni said, “I graduated from UCLA a few years ago with a B+ average.  For the most part I thought I was smarter than my “black” professors . . . I couldn’t help but think they got their jobs as a gift to make up for past injustices.”

In Philadelphia, a K-12 teacher told me that she had an Asian student who had straight A’s. But in her class, he was disengaged and distracted, to the point where he had a ‘D’ average. Once, before a holiday, she let the kids have a ‘free’ day and this particular Asian student decided to play chess. The teacher, who was an expert in chess, played him…and won. After that, she never had a problem with that student again. Without saying a word, the student completed her class with an ‘A’.

In our classrooms and workplaces, there are people who are preoccupied with slavery and Affirmative Action or WHO works harder and is smarter. There will be some who make faulty hiring or promotion decisions based on these ideas. There will be others who advocate for divisive policies and the elimination of equity workers. And there will be a few who alienate customers, students or constituents.

The challenge is, do we accept the fact that this nation will always be divided on race, or do we attempt to move toward a more equitable and complete educational/professional experience? Read Part II.

By Leah Smiley

The Institute for Diversity Certification Confers Credentials to 10 New Designees

These certified diversity executives and professionals have demonstrated advanced knowledge, skill and competency in diversity and inclusion.

Plainfield, IN–October 4, 2013: The Institute for Diversity Certification conferred Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) and Certified Diversity Professional (CDP) credentials to ten (10) new designees during its September exam window:

  • Karen Reed, CDE, Acting Director of Administration & Director, Division of Multicultural Health and Community Engagement at the Virginia Department of Health
  • Dennis Stull, CDE, Director of Human Resources at Ghertner & Company
  • Jasmine Taylor, M.D., CDE, Associate Vice Chancellor for Multicultural Affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center
  • Shirley Aldana, CDP, Senior Diversity & Inclusion Consultant at Enlace Consulting and Resource Group
  • Randie C. Chance, Ph.D., CDP
  • Yolanda Hamilton, CDP, Diversity Consultant, YDH Consulting LLC
  • Valerie McAllister, CDP, Culturally & Linguistically Appropriate Services Specialist at the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity
  • Julia Mendez, CDP, Principal Business Consultant at Peoplefluent
  • Mabel D. Strum, CDP, President of MDStrum
  • Julie Swander, CDP, Diversity Coordinator at OhioHealth

Although there are other CDE designees, Karen Reed, Dennis Stull and Dr. Jasmine Taylor are the first CDE designees in the 2013 program. In November, the Institute for Diversity Certification (IDC) will complete its 2013 exam season with the largest group of CDE and CDP Candidates to date. IDC recently opened its 2014 testing cycle with self-study, classroom-based and online preparation course options.

Rita Taylor-Nash, a current CDE Candidate and Vice President at Health Care Service Corporation says, “This is the best and most comprehensive certification program I have seen in this field. In fact, I have included successful attainment of certification status in the goals of every team member.”

The IDC diversity and inclusion certification exam is a uniform test that assesses a candidate’s knowledge of 16 broad competencies. IDC also assesses a professional work through the Candidate Project evaluation. All IDC designees must pass the exam with an 80% or better. Currently, the exam competencies include The Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion, Generational Intelligence, Empowering Women in the Workplace, LGBTA Employment Issues, and Measuring the Impact of Diversity and Inclusion, to name a few. Much of the content addresses management expectations, linking diversity and inclusion goals to organizational objectives, and getting quantitative results. The Executive program heavily focuses on Global Diversity and Inclusion issues.

Leah Smiley, Founder of the Institute for Diversity Certification says, “In today’s competitive business environment, you definitely want people on-board who can execute diversity strategies well, and deliver anticipated results. This program helps organizations to purposefully move diversity and inclusion from one level to the next.”

Currently, there are nearly 200 IDC designees representing organizations such as Eli Lilly & Co., Cisco, Mercedes Benz, Wal-Mart, Goodwill Industries International, University of Miami, University of Alabama, Indiana State University, NASA, WellPoint, US Air Force Academy, HealthSouth Corp., Wells Fargo, Belk Inc., Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, and more. Upon obtaining credentials, designees may volunteer to share best practices with new Candidates by instructing preparation courses, reviewing Candidate Projects, updating materials, and providing feedback on test questions.

For more information about IDC, call 1-800-983-6192 or log onto

About IDC

The Institute for Diversity Certification was formed for the sole purpose of providing diversity and inclusion (D&I) management preparation courses and materials; administering diversity certification exams; and designating diversity and inclusion credentials to Certified Diversity Professionals (CDP) and Certified Diversity Executives (CDE). Our program is a global framework for recognizing and rewarding high quality, knowledgeable professionals who strive for excellence in the field of Diversity and Inclusion. IDC is a subsidiary of the Society for Diversity, the #1 nationwide professional association for diversity and inclusion with members in 39 states.

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