Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Archive for December, 2013

Diversity and SMP Volunteers By Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP, and SMP NJ Volunteer

When Ms. Joanne Bartosik, Coordinator of Volunteers, asked me to speak with Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) New Jersey volunteers about diversity, I was excited to share my views with them. The presentation, and conversation afterwards with the volunteers, went very well! Below is a snippet from the presentation.

My definition of diversity includes the varied existences of the full range of inanimate and living beings, ideas, beliefs, situations, policies and/or institutions at any given moment in time and in any given environment. Diversity can be identified in myriad forms: race, country of origin, ethnicity, religion, class, gender, disability, caste, color, sexual orientation, education, and culture, also political affiliation, majority vs. minority construct, affiliation through marriage, marital status, belief systems, language, accent/pronunciation, music and other arts, dress code, physical features such as hair, age, height, weight, and so forth. Sometimes individuals identify themselves in multiple descriptive modes instead of being mono-descriptive. Thus, when asked who I am, I might say, I am an American, New Jersey-ian, and Hindu woman. I call this the layered identity notion. In today’s “the world is flat” (Thomas Friedman) mode, with people so connected and interconnected virtually, it’s a little difficult to have a mono identity. In fact people were always multi-layered, but may not have identified themselves as such.

Another point to note is that we are constantly interacting with those who are similarly multi-descriptive about themselves, which might lead to a Venn diagram type of inter-cultural professional and personal environment scenario, which often can be challenging. Another important construct besides the layered identity is the majority-minority-majority construct. We could be the minority in a country but majority within an institution, such as a university or religious institution, and the majority in the country could become the minority therein. An example is Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), wherein African Americans who are a minority in the US become the majority, and others who are the majority in the country (Caucasians) become the minority. Furthermore, other minorities (such as Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, etc.) become double minorities therein: minority in the country and minority at the HBCU. The resultant interaction is interesting and invigorating, but also poses many puzzling and perplexing questions about reversed power roles.

Accordingly, these details are important where you volunteer as well. In the context of volunteerism in New Jersey, the first point to note is the demographics throughout the state. Some of the larger groups are: White not Hispanic or Latino (58.2%), African American (14.7%), Hispanic (18.5%), and Asian (9.0%). Other groups include: Native American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, two or more races, etc. For complete details, please visit: Given the apparent demographic diversity with a huge concentration in urban centers of African American, Hispanic and Asian populations, of which one can also find a whole gamut of visa holders, green card holders, and US citizens in the latter two, the complexity of diversity can be difficult to comprehend.

However, as more individuals are added to the demographic pool when they are inducted as new citizens, a vital charge for volunteers can be how to relate to and assist a heady intercultural mix. This can become even more delicate when Asians (which could be South Asian, Southeast Asian or East Asian), Latinos or other non-English-speaking populations attempt to understand complicated American processes from the perspective of gender and age. For example, in the healthcare system, older women from these cultures may not wish to visit or be treated by a male doctor, or even go to the doctor unless it’s an emergency. And when doubts creep up in their minds or they notice something out of the ordinary in the Medicare Summary Notices (MSN), they might not be sure there is an error, or if they do, they might be afraid to ask, and not even know whom to ask. Regardless of gender, language can be a major restrictive factor, as older immigrant populations may not know English or know it well enough.

The role of volunteers can best be explained in two ways. First is at a personal level. Keep in mind five basic points: i) not to consider oneself more or less diverse than others … each is unique, different and thus diverse to another, ii) diversity equations/power equations keep changing, iii) we all have biases, iv) recognize and find solutions to one’s biases and v) make “yourself” the center of change and do not expect others to change, for as Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in others.

The second role is professional as a volunteer.  Four points are important. Volunteers need to i) familiarize themselves with basic equal opportunity employment (EEO) laws, ii) acquire training in diversity sensitization and diversity negotiation through the host organization, iii) form volunteer resource groups of different races and ethnicities to learn from each other, and iv) encourage collaboration between the host organization and local English-language schools to provide basic understanding of the issues in English.

Diversity no longer shines on the horizon as a moral imperative, because most organizations have diverse constituents; thus, shortage of diversity is not the issue. What diversity seeks now is two things: how best to use it for the benefit of the individuals and the organization; and second, how the organizational diversity can be turned into a business imperative. Only if organizations are convinced that diversity will bring them profit do they push ahead on the diversity development continuum from basic EEO training to seeping diversity into all practices from hiring, to professional development, to layoffs and turnovers and to leadership positions. In a nonprofit, the business case for diversity can be made by the volunteers in four ways: i) recruiting new diverse constituents, ii) recruiting more diverse volunteers, thus saving in time, talent, and money, iii) retaining more and more diverse constituents and diverse volunteers, leading to less turnover and thus more money saved, and iv) utilizing their connections and resources to secure more funding.

Besides providing diversity training, a nonprofit can consider providing the following to its volunteers in workshops and training sessions:

Both tools are relatively inexpensive and allow for a deeper understanding of the self, and in turn, how to relate to others.

At the end of the day, diversity is a combination of the moral imperative and the business imperative with an attempt to create not only a level playing field for all but also consequent benefits for all.




Author Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP is a consultant in organizational diversity and higher education. Read more about her on her website at:

Why We Have It All Wrong: The Right Response to the Changing Nature of Diversity and Inclusion

By Leah Smiley

I would like to present a different way of thinking about diversity and inclusion. My assertion is that many of us have it all wrong in our understanding of, and approach to, the changing nature of diversity and inclusion (D&I). Last week’s Twitter-Gate scandal involving Justine Sacco, former IAC public relations executive, is a perfect illustration of why this issue of diversity and inclusion can be an illusion.

Here’s a woman who unknowingly set off a global Social Media firestorm on her way to vacation. I use the term “unknowingly” because she has made several inappropriate comments in the past, but had no idea that tweeting, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” would receive such widespread ridicule and condemnation. You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal?” People make absurd comments every day.

I think the big deal boils down to three points:  (1) When you correctly define the words diversity, inclusion and cultural competence, Ms. Sacco understands diversity. After all, she is a global traveler and was vacationing in South Africa. More importantly, she clearly grasps the concept of White privilege. This is why D&I is very different today. In the 1960’s, White women were predominantly sympathetic to diverse individuals because they were disenfranchised too. Fast forward fifty years. Because White women were the primary beneficiaries of Affirmative Action, they are not in the same boat as other diverse groups. Consider demographic data in education, procurement, and the workplace. Or look at the fact that in 2013 there were 22 female CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, as opposed to 6 black, 8 Latino and 8 Asian Fortune 500 CEO’s. Furthermore, new U.S. census data shows that White women earn $0.77 cents for every dollar White males earn, compared to Black women who earn $0.66 with similar education and experience.

Don’t get me wrong, all of us still have a lot of progress to make and there’s nothing wrong with privilege– if you use it right. But we are seeing that many of those who are aware of their privileges haven’t been using it for the greater good. This brings me to my second point: (2) Racism, bias, and discrimination are no longer about “hate”. It boils down to competition. That is why we keep arguing about “who’s better”, “who’s smarter”, and “who’s more valuable”. We are all competing for limited resources: fewer higher income jobs, fewer affordable housing options, fewer spots at top-tier educational institutions, fewer small business contracts, etc.

So this means that today, competition is a key driver in discriminatory and biased behavior.  I assert however, that our understanding of competition is flawed. First, too many organizations are rewarding internal competitors. Then they can’t figure out why no one is working together. Second, people waste a ton of negative energy sizing up the ‘weaknesses’ of their opponents. Thus, instead of developing or helping one another, people in the workplace and in classrooms are merely looking for mistakes that can eliminate the competition.

How can we adjust our organizational focal point in 2014? Great question! My line of reasoning emphasizes: (3) This awkward situation is an incredible teaching moment.  For Ms. Sacco, I hope she learns to tone it down a bit. If your organization chooses to employ this incredibly talented female, she’s not a racist. She’s more of a shock jock who can thrive with the right amount of accountability. For IAC, they learned that they should have responded to Ms. Sacco’s antics a little sooner. She was so cute and funny however, they let it go…wrong. Senior level executives must be as responsible with diversity and inclusion as lower level employees.

For D&I practitioners, the lesson is that a diverse person can fool you. Yes, she was a woman, and fairly young, and had a wealth of global experience, but the reality is that her behavior was consistently inappropriate and at times, mean-spirited. Is it indicative of the entire management team? Is it symptomatic of the organizational climate? Or is it symbolic of a generational culture? I don’t have the answers to that. Going back to point #1, you can’t look at someone who gets ‘diversity’ and ascertain whether they are culturally competent or inclusive. Hence, our need to include and engage White guys, as well as individuals from other countries.

Diversity and inclusion naturally entails leveraging your competitive advantages—but let’s be clear about WHO the competitor is and the fact that “your” applies to the organization and not people. This is why we say that diversity and inclusion primarily benefits an organization—not just individuals.

After the Sacco debacle, global advocates for AIDS relief in Africa got it right. They pounced on an opportunity to provide more education and garner more financial support.  Likewise, how can you take proactive action during this teaching moment? Or will you wait until someone else gets it wrong?


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

More Employers Strategically Leveraging Diversity Through Specialized Education

The Institute for Diversity Certification conferred diversity credentials to 29 new designees, the largest group yet

About 60% of Fortune 500 companies currently have a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) or executive role designated for diversity, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.  Many of these employers expect real business benefits and bottom-line results. Therefore, they are going beyond traditional compliance efforts toward strategic culture change and innovation with specialized Diversity and Inclusion education.

The Institute for Diversity Certification (IDC) leads the way with a robust credentialing program for diversity and inclusion (D&I) professionals. IDC offers two tracks, the Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) program, which focuses on global D&I efforts, and the Certified Diversity Professional (CDP) program which addresses the day-to-day administration of D&I interventions. Both programs allow corporate, nonprofit, government and education leaders to hone their skills in leveraging differences for better business performance and capturing diverse demographics for enhanced bottom-line impact.

IDC recently conferred credentials to 29 new designees during its November/December 2013 exam window. The twelve (12) new CDE designees are: Leslie Anderson, Ph.D., Missouri State University; Gloria Chiantella, NPR; Lyle Foster, Missouri State University; Eric Guthrie, JD, BetterMEBetterWE; LaTricia Hill-Chandler, Veolia Water NA; Kimel Hodges, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; Carol Hogard, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield; Cheryl Lindsay, HanesBrands Inc.; Jeannine McMillan, Rolls-Royce North America; Jo-Elle Mogerman, Ph.D., Chicago Zoological Society; Michelle Taylor, Cummins Inc.; and Rita Taylor-Nash, Health Care Service Corporation.

The seventeen (17) new CDP designees include: Regina Atkins, Indiana State University; Laura Bird, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona; Tonia Buxton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Paul Crylen, Health Care Service Corporation; Craig Enyeart, Indiana State University; Idella Glenn, Ph.D., Furman University; Melissa Hurm, Lee Distributors; David Kagan, Teach for America; Tradara McLaurine, Indiana State University; Lucie Nelson, Heartland Family Service; Tanya O’Neill, Humana Inc.; Brian Pauling, NV Energy Inc.; Marcia Reina, Teach for America; Jennifer Rivera, Aon; Lilla Turner, Health Care Service Corporation; Debra Vance, Ivy Tech Community College; and Elsa Velasquez-Ward, Midland Memorial Hospital.

Performance Assessment Network (pan) provides state-of-the-art, secure internet-based testing, and proctored administration for IDC candidates at over 600 testing centers throughout the world. Previous exam administrations netted up to 15 candidates per testing window. But this year, a total of 40 exams were administered by pan during the November/December testing window alone.  DiversityInc noticed a similar trend. In 2005, it only had 201 companies participate in the DiversityInc Top 50 process. Last year they had 535 companies participate. Some employers have begun inquiring about how to link their credentials from IDC to their DiversityInc Top 50 application. Additionally, many have decided to enroll entire departments in the IDC credentialing program.

Rita Taylor-Nash, Vice President at Health Care Service Corporation says, “I was initially torn between completing the certification process before committing my team or having us complete the process concurrently.  I chose the latter based on my high-level review and resulting comfort with the course content and format.”

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. The 2014 exam competencies include The Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion, Emerging Markets, Generational Intelligence, Empowering Women in the Workplace, LGBTA Employment Issues, and Harassment Around the World, to name a few. Much of the content addresses management expectations, linking diversity and inclusion goals to organizational objectives, and getting quantitative results.

Leslie Anderson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Counseling at Missouri State University, says, “I have had other diversity professional training and this one was superior to the one I had previously completed.” Taylor-Nash adds, “The course content covers the nuts-and-bolts of D&I that all professionals should know. On a more strategic level, it also covers major demographic and global trends that have positioned D&I as a key component to organizational and business success.”

Leah Smiley, Founder of the Institute for Diversity Certification asserts, “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, 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. Designees demonstrate more confidence upon completing the program due to the level of peer interaction and the focus on excellence. For more information about IDC, call 1-800-983-6192 or log onto

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 about diversity and inclusion certification, or the Society for Diversity, log onto

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