Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Archive for July, 2014

What’s Next for Diversity and Inclusion?

By Leah Smiley

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Twitter hoped to capitalize on its surging revenue growth by adding new measurements, engaging its users, and shuffling its executive team. Herein lies the opportunity for diversity and inclusion. First, we must continue to stay abreast of industry trends and changes in our organizational strategy.  Second, we must become better skilled at helping our organizations to understand complex cultural data about different demographic groups that may include our customers, students, constituents, or potential employees. And third, we have to become more adept at engaging new executive leaders– prior to changes at the helm.

Last week was the Society for Diversity’s inaugural leadership conference themed “Planning for the Future”. While it was an adventure, it was certainly power-packed with great speakers and lots of information.  Over the next year, we want to focus on creating diversity and inclusion systems that support each other. For instance, many of us operate in an independent environment. We may not be connected to others within our organizations; we may not be connected to diversity practitioners in our industries; and we may not be connected to other entities that have diversity efforts (e.g., k-12 schools with colleges, with employers, and with the community).

Not only will this be the theme of next year’s diversity conference in Charlotte, but it will also be the primary focus of our efforts leading up to the October 2015 event.

Looking ahead, there are three things that should concern diversity practitioners:  (1) impending U.S. Presidential elections, where it has become en vogue to pit diverse groups vs. traditional groups against each other during campaigns; (2) political and economic instability in several countries overseas; and (3) the restructuring of many diversity and inclusion offices. These external and internal drivers will ultimately impact our work, our vision for inclusion, as well as our ability to obtain desirable outcomes.

Keep in mind, our work ought to manifest characteristics of traditional business functions, while at the same time, balancing change with reliability in results. While the strategy at different organizations will vary, the expectation for results ought to remain the same. I always tell diversity practitioners that their CEO may not ask for an annual report, but one should be prepared and delivered anyway. Because at some point, your CEO is going to talk to another CEO and find out that you were supposed to prepare an annual report. Then the question will arise, why haven’t you done it? What have you been doing? What impact have you had on the organization? And how do you rate in a cost-benefit analysis– does your cost outweigh your benefit?

Within the field of Diversity and Inclusion, there is a tendency to think that we are exempt from demonstrating measurable, quantitative impact. It’s almost an acknowledgement that we were selected for our positions based on factors other than our experience and abilities. Not only does this subtle ‘acknowledgement’ hurt D&I efforts at our organizations, but it also impedes the field as a whole.

As with Twitter, the future of doing business better is change. What’s next for diversity and inclusion is increased accountability and demonstrated excellence in leveraging these changes. It’s up to diversity and inclusion to seize the opportunities and help our organizations to navigate change from a position of cultural competence, financial strength, and competitive advantage. We also must ensure that we don’t neglect to continuously plan for the future.


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


Valuable Knowledge Gained At 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat

The Society for Diversity wrapped up its 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat on Friday, July 25 in Orlando, Fla. with over 70 people in attendance over the two day conference. The event provided valuable knowledge to those in attendance, and everyone walked away with materials and information to take back to their companies.

The first day of the conference started with a keynote presentation from Isaias Zamarripa, Director of Global Workforce Diversity, Johnson Controls. His presentation highlighted the connections between employee networks, diversity recruiting and bottom line impact. After Zamarripa’s presentation, the attendees got the option to attend breakout sessions, such as unconscious bias and the role of the chief diversity officer.

During the lunch hour on July 24, the Diversity Leadership Awards were presented by Ericka Dunlap, 2004 Miss America. Dunlap presented the following awards to their recipients:

  • Corporate Diversity Leader- FordHarrison, LLP
  • Educational Diversity Leader- Nadia Quarles, University of Chicago
  • Non-Profit Diversity Leader- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • Society for Diversity Member of the Year- Dr. Ken Coopwood, Missouri State University

These recipients are leaders in the diversity and inclusion field by being thought leaders and striving to be the top in their industry for D&I efforts.

After the presentation of these awards, there was a panel on supplier diversity. The day finished with additional breakout sessions that attendees could choose from.

“All of the sessions provided vast amounts of information to those who attended,” explained Leah Smiley, The Society for Diversity president. “Choosing which sessions to attend must have been difficult because there were always sessions going on at the same time that were relevant to anyone in attendance.”

The second day started off with a keynote presentation by Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President, University of Maryland-Baltimore. His presentation allowed attendees to tell Dr. Hrabowski what they wanted to learn from him, and he tailored his presentation to what he was asked about.

“Dr. Hrabowski’s presentation was highly interactive,” stated Smiley. “I think that people walked away with more insight and information than they would have thought possible from an hour discussion.”

Another keynote speaker, Dr. Shirley Davis Sheppard, highlighted the lunch hour. Her presentation was on the “10 Global Trends that are Keeping CEOs up at Night.” Her presentation was on par with the other presenters, and it had many attendees walking away wanting more.

The event ended on July 25 with a thank you speech from Smiley, “I appreciated everyone who attended the event, and I can’t wait to see everyone again at next year’s conference.”

While the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat is over, planning has begun on the 2015 event. The planning committee has already decided that the event will be hosted in Charlotte, N.C., and it will be moved to October in order to more easily accommodate attendees’ schedules. More information about next year’s event will be provided at a later date, but information can also be found on The Society for Diversity’s website,

Former Miss America to Present Awards at 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat

The Society for Diversity is proud to announce that Ericka Dunlap, former Miss America and Miss Florida, will present the Champions for Diversity Leadership Awards at the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat on July 24. The awards will be presented to those who are thought leaders and pioneers for diversity and inclusion within their organization or industry.

Recently, Dunlap reached out to The Society for Diversity to find out how she could be involved with the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat. As a diversity advocate, she wanted to ensure that she could attend the retreat in some capacity.

“We are excited to have Ericka Dunlap to present our awards,” explained Leah Smiley, President, The Society for Diversity. “As former Miss America and the first African American woman to become Miss Florida, she understands what it takes to be a thought leader and passionate about something bigger than yourself, especially diversity.”

Dunlap will be awarding four awards in the following categories: Corporation, Education Institution, Non-Profit Organization and The Society for Diversity Member of the Year. The nominees for these awards are as follows:

  • Dr. Shelvy Campbell, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Diversity, Marshall University, Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine & School of Pharmacy
  • Dr. Ken Coopwood, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Missouri State University
  • Peggy Harris, MHA, FACHE, CDM, SPHR, Assistant Vice President, Office of Diversity & Inclusion, Carolinas HealthCare System
  • Tracey K. Jaensch, Partner, FordHarrison LLP
  • Floyd W. Pitts, JD Senior Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, American Red Cross
  • Nadia M. Quarles, Esq. Assistant Vice President, Business Diversity Office of Business Diversity, University of Chicago
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • FordHarrison LLP
  • Walgreens Corporation

“The organizations and individuals that have been nominated are the best in their respective fields, and they have exemplified what it means to use diversity and inclusion to better their organization and industry,” stated Smiley. “It was a difficult decision to choose the winners, but we are excited to announce them later this week.”

There is still time to register for the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat to see Erick Dunlap present the Champions for Diversity Leadership Awards, as well as attend the keynote presentations and sessions that will provide immense knowledge about diversity and inclusion. For more information on the retreat, awards or to register visit

More than a Buzzword

By Danniella Banks

For many college and universities in the US the word “diversity” is a buzzword that can be used to draw prospective students into considering the institution. But what does “diversity” truly mean to these places of higher learning? Is it more than just a buzzword and attention grabber?

To some colleges and universities, the answer is no. After looking through several university websites, I noticed that while they mention diversity on the homepage or in the mission, there is not anyone in charge of actually helping to maintain or increase diversity at the organization, such as an office of diversity or even a director of diversity. While many have an office of multicultural affairs, or something similar, it often is only a resource for students, while nothing is available for faculty and staff.

As a recent college grad, I remember looking at college websites and seeing photos of students from all races, so I thought that was what my classes and dorms would look like. However, like many students, when I stepped foot on campus I realized how wrong I was. Many campuses show the few non-white students in all of its brochures and on the website, but when you actually visit campus, you see that the amount of diversity shown to the outside world really isn’t truthful.

So why are some colleges and universities providing a false sense of what the demographics are? My guess is that it has to do with the competitiveness of the market. There are only so many students that will attend college each fall and every school in the nation, as well as worldwide, are competing to be the school that those students choose. Not only are there a limited number of students, each school wants to make sure that they also get the best of the best.

Another explanation to why this may be happening is because colleges and universities focus more on the grades and other merits that should allow a person to get into a university, rather than looking at what may diversify the student body. This is explained in a recent Times Higher Education article in which a recent study found “reviews of candidates tend to be dominated by traditional definitions of merit (grades and test scores), with little if any attention given to issues of diversity.”(NOTE: This article is related to those pursuing a doctoral degree, so statistical data may be different from what other program application reviews may look.) It goes further to explain that it isn’t until it comes to awarding scholarships and other awards that committees look for minority students.

While adding a diversity department with a Diversity Officer might be a quick fix for the problem, what really needs to happen is a focus on creating diversity and inclusion among students, as well as faculty and staff. Even though the current student body is a small percentage of minorities, there is still diversity among the students because they all come from various backgrounds, meaning that they are not all carbon copies of each other. The schools need to embrace this fact, while moving forward to create a more diverse student body that brings together students from all races, religions, and other demographic segments.

Diversity: It’s More than Race & Gender

By Danniella Banks

Race. Gender. These are the two statistics that people dwell upon when they think about diversity, however, for those who truly understand what diversity is know that there are many more components than just those two pieces.

I have to admit that up until I applied for my position at The Society for Diversity, I also believed that diversity was all about the ratio of men to women and whites to other ethnicities. However as I started looking more into the field and this organization, I realized how truly wrong I was. There are many more factors that are involved. Religious affiliation, level of education, relationship status, and living with a disability are just a few of the other pieces to the puzzle that relate to the diversity of an organization.

On top of all the things previously mentioned, there is also another piece of the diversity pie: inclusion. Without inclusion in an organization, then diversity cannot work to help an organization become the best. You not only have to have people from various backgrounds, but you also have to make them feel as though they belong and are understood.

Here’s an analogy that I’ve heard several times in regard to diversity and inclusion that I think sums things up very well:

When making your own chocolate milk, you pour the syrup in to a glass of milk. However, this is not really chocolate milk until you stir it up. The cup of white milk with a little bit of chocolate sitting at the bottom is how many executives see diversity. As long as the chocolate is present, they have diversity. However, in order for the diversity to really work, and for the milk to be chocolate, you have to mix everything together so that everyone is working cohesively together.

Instead of focusing on creating diversity in your organization, think in terms of how diversity may already be present. Yes, your organization may need to try to recruit more people from other races or more women, but that can’t happen overnight. If you have the programs in place to make your workforce more inclusive, then as you are able to add employees from demographics that are currently lacking, you can help to guarantee that they will feel needed, therefore stay at the organization longer.

Diversity is all about looking at things from a different perspective, such as not just focusing on gender and race and realizing that there are many more pieces to the puzzle.

Indiana State Approving Agency Approves Institute For Diversity Certification Licensing

The Institute for Diversity Certification (IDC) received its new approval of its licensing exams from the Indiana State Approving Agency. This new approval will allow more veterans and active duty military to participate in the program and be reimburse the cost of the exam once they have passed.

The process for the exams to be approved by the Indiana State Approving Agency was about six months, but it came just in time for the final testing window for 2014, which will take place in November. “Many current military and veterans work within the field of diversity and inclusion, and we are proud to be able to provide this program to them,” stated Ed Burns, Registrar, IDC. “By earning this approval, we hope to see many more candidates for certification earn their designation.

The next opportunity for veterans, active duty military and other diversity professionals to earn their diversity certification is in November, with classes starting in September. Those enrolled have the option to study on their own for the exam, take an eight week online course or a three day intensive classroom based course. The deadline to register is August 22.

The current cost for the program ranges from $600 to $3,000, depending on the type of credential (CDP or CDE) and the preparation method. There is a 20% discount available for members of The Society for Diversity, and the membership cost is $169. Additionally, companies that send three (3) or more employees for certification will receive a 30% discount.

Two components of the program have proved to be extremely valuable for both candidates and the organization’s for whom they work: (1) the study guide and (2) the Candidate Project.  The CDP and CDE study guides are the most comprehensive diversity and inclusion (D&I) resources available today. Not only do they provide the backdrop for diversity and inclusion work, but the 300+ page books furnish step-by-step instructions for how to successfully achieve better D&I outcomes. The Candidate Project must be a recently developed diversity plan, cultural climate analysis, research or evaluation of current D&I efforts. This usable professional work is peer-reviewed and rated on a pass/fail basis only.

Those interested in registering for the November 2014 testing window can apply online or by fax by visiting The deadline to apply is August 22, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. EST. The next exam window starts in April 2015.

2014 Diversity Certification Deadline is Quickly Approaching

The last exam window for diversity certification in 2014 will close on August 22nd. Those interested in earning their Certified Diversity Professional (CDP) or Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) credentials this year will need to apply for the November testing window, in which classes will begin in September. This certification is open to anyone in the field of diversity and inclusion, human resources, legal/risk management, marketing, or in an international supervisory position.

Each year the Institute for Diversity Certification (IDC) has four opportunities for those in the field of diversity and inclusion to take classes, pass an exam and complete a project to earn their diversity credentials. These credentials allow them to establish credibility as experts and differentiate themselves from other practitioners. They also indicate achievement and excellence because candidates must pass the online, proctored exam with an 80% or better.

“Those who have earned their credentials can see how they are better able to impact the businesses that they work for,” explains Ed Burns, CDP, Registrar for IDC. “They gain valuable knowledge that they can take back to the workplace and make change happen.”

A certificate is different from certification. With a certificate, individuals usually affirm a certain level of knowledge by taking a class. Certification, on the other hand, is a common practice in many industries where individuals take an exam and obtain credentials to use after their name upon successful completion. Currently, the CDP and CDE programs are unaccredited, however, IDC anticipates receiving its accreditation by the end of this year. Once the accreditation is put in place, the action will be retroactive– meaning that it will be effective for all previous designees as well. While accredited colleges and universities offer diversity and inclusion certificate programs, the way that accreditation works, each program must also be accredited. Therefore, the Institute for Diversity Certification will offer the only accredited diversity and inclusion certification program.  Due to this change, once accreditation occurs, the price of the classes will increase by at least 50 percent.

Roughly 200 candidates have participated in The Institute for Diversity Certification’s (IDC) unique diversity and inclusion education program since 2011. Current designees include representatives from Wal-Mart, Cisco, Cummins, Eli Lilly & Co., Colgate Palmolive, Sodexo, Commerce Bank, Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, Hanes Brands, Belk Inc., University of Miami, University of Alabama, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Indiana State University, Federal Reserve Bank, NASA, US Air Force Academy, Missouri Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Health, Teach for America, Goodwill Industries, and more.

“The accreditation process has been a long one, but we are glad that it is finally coming to an end,” stated Burns. “It will be nice to have the accreditation for those who will take the course and exam in the future, as well as for those who already have their designation.”

The current cost for the program ranges from $600 to $3,000, depending on the type of credential (CDP or CDE) and the preparation method. Candidates may self-study, take an 8-week online preparation program, or attend a 3-day intensive classroom-based course. There is a 20% discount available for members of The Society for Diversity, and the membership cost is $169. Additionally, companies that send three (3) or more employees for certification will receive a 30% discount.

Two components of the program have proved to be extremely valuable for both candidates and the organization’s for whom they work: (1) the study guide and (2) the Candidate Project.  The CDP and CDE study guides are the most comprehensive diversity and inclusion (D&I) resources available today. Not only do they provide the backdrop for diversity and inclusion work, but the 300+ page books furnish step-by-step instructions for how to successfully achieve better D&I outcomes. The Candidate Project must be a recently developed diversity plan, cultural climate analysis, research or evaluation of current D&I efforts. This usable professional work is peer-reviewed and rated on a pass/fail basis only.

Those interested in registering for the November 2014 testing window can apply online or by fax by visiting The deadline to apply is August 22, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. EST. The next exam window starts in April 2015.

Learning from the Best

By Leah Smiley, CDE

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart intends to grow by embracing a smaller store concept. This business strategy reflects changing times and shifting customer preferences. Doug McMillon, Chief Executive of the world’s largest retailer, recently gave Wal-Mart executives a homework assignment:  read “The Everything Store,” by Jeff Bezos, Founder of Inc. “According to the book, Mr. Bezos himself studied Wal-Mart as he built Amazon, internalizing its credo of acting fast and experimenting often.” Mr. McMillon acknowledges that he learned from previous Wal-Mart executives, who were instrumental in leading the organization to dominance.

Since the retirement of many Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) pioneers, organizations have resorted to placing D&I back under the auspices of HR. For many, there was no transfer of knowledge or urgency in designing an Office with an integrated impact on operations. Last month, I even read about a Chief Diversity Officer that was “promoted” to Vice President. Until then, I was wrongly under the impression that a “Chief” anything was a high-level position (e.g., Chief Financial Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Marketing Officer).

Seriously, setting aside my Gen-X sarcasm, what does the future hold for D&I if organizations continue to create “token” positions? Or if people taut the successes of some women or a few people of color and presume that we ‘no longer need diversity and inclusion’? Or if we continue to have practitioners ‘wing it’ because they are afraid to admit that their race, ethnicity or gender does NOT equate to diversity expertise?

I have always said, and still say, that diversity and inclusion is a science. Remember that subject in school that entailed, “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”? Interestingly enough, Mr. Bezos used that word “experiment” in his tell-all book, “The Everything Store”.

Just as grew by learning from Wal-Mart, this field of D&I also requires practitioners to learn from experts who have significant accomplishments and will empower us to avoid the mistakes of early D&I pioneers. We don’t have to wing it anymore. All of the pioneers did not retire. And there are many who are making a significant impact through D&I. Therefore, it’s time to elevate our endeavors and strive for achievement and excellence.

In an article entitled, “Do We Really Need Diversity Offices”, Dr. John Fitzgerald Gates, national diversity expert, advises Diversity and Inclusion to go beyond workplace satisfaction or risk prevention—HR and legal are already adept in those areas. Organizations really need Diversity and Inclusion leaders who can address strategic business challenges in marketing and multicultural communications, supplier diversity, boardroom diversity, and international affairs.  For example, in “Wal-Mart Looks to Grow by Embracing Smaller Stores” the Wall Street Journal states that, Wal-Mart “has stumbled in country after country in its attempts to expand overseas, even as it remains a dominant retailing force in countries like Mexico and Canada.”  Guess what? This is a common problem for many global organizations, and it represents an opportunity for D&I.

In seizing the opportunity however, we must be highly skilled in competitive intelligence, strategic planning by business unit, big data demographics and projections, as well as business measurement systems. We also need to master the differences between cultures– outside of black/white or male/female. Hence, Diversity and Inclusion must be the glue that turns business goals into reality.

How valuable would this type of learning be to you and your organization?

I encourage you to attend the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat, where you can learn all of this and more. Most importantly, you will be encouraged to engage in “Planning for the Future: Linking Diversity, Demographics and Dollars” and contributing to transformative impact. For more information, log onto:


Wall Street Journal
John F Gates

New Society for Diversity Members

By LaMona Marshall

Join us in welcoming the following newest members to the Society for Diversity:

  • Julianne Gozar, FirstLine Transportation Security
  • Valerie Davidson, Butler University
  • Tangia Stegall, Miller Coors
  • Vanessa Nazario, PNC
  • Enid Banton, Banton Consulting LLC
  • Samuel Jacobson, Andrews Kurth LLP
  • Sher Pasquini
  • Neil Reid,  ARH Associates
  • Shereen Ford, ARH Associates
  • Kelly Durkin-Murray, State of Rhode Island, Department of Administration
  • Michelle Taylor, Cummins
  • Angel Iverson, University of Florida
  • Deborah Stanley-McAulay
  • Denise Harrison, U.S. Postal Service
  • Annit Sinnott, EMP
  • Merci Madar, MD, EMP
  • Donald Norris, MD, EMP
  • Travis Ulmer, MD, EMP
  • Jason Bolden, MD, EMP
  • Kimberly Gailliard
  • Dr. John Bello-Ogunu, College of Charleston
  • Alison Colter-Mack, Pima Community College
  • Michael Alston, EdD, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Kristen Marston
  • Dr. Shelvy Campbell, Marshall University, Joan C Edwards School of Medicine and The School of Pharmacy
  • Nadia Quarles, University of Chicago
  • Landri Taylor, PCL Construction
  • Anita Gage, EMP
  • Kindred Willaim, MIT, Lincoln Laboratory

We would also like to acknowledge our renewing members as well:

  • Yolanda Hamilton, YDH Consulting LLC
  • Maria Cole, University of Montana
  • Doranna Byrd, Ivy Tech Community College
  • Mamie Thorns, Saginaw Valley State University
  • Erin McConahey, Arup

There are exciting activities and events scheduled for the upcoming year. We will start local chapters in the very near future. Consider sponsoring and/or hosting a chapter in your city. Contact LaMona Marshall if interested at

In an effort to spread our passion for diversity, we will organize few charitable drives to support other organizations who lend help to communities for the greater good. Look for more information to come, your support will be needed to make our events and activities successful.

Becoming the most efficient and successful diversity professional possible is why we are here to assist our members. As always, your suggestions and comments are always welcomed.

Diversity Certification: A Hybrid Course Offering

By Ed Burns, CDP

As part of the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat, the Institute for Diversity Certification, the non-profit subsidiary of the Society, has included on the conference program two learning tracks registrants may attend via a hybrid classroom course.

Reflecting the Institute’s popular programs for diversity practitioners and executives, there will be two separate conference certification tracks, one for the Certified Diversity Professional (CDP) credentials, and the other for the Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) credentials. Those wishing to obtain their CDE credentials will attend class sessions on July 24 during the retreat, while those wishing to obtain CDP credentials will attend classes on July 25. They will not only attend classes, but have the opportunity to attend the keynote presentations, as well as the breakout sessions on the day that they are not taking their respective classes.

In addition to earning CDE and CDP credentials, those who currently have credentials can earn credit hours for continuing education. Each designee is required to complete 60 hours of continuing education every three years after earning credentials in order to keep their credentials up to date.

Along with the study guides and the exam review sessions, registrants who attend the Institute’s learning tracks can earn their valuable credentials with a successful candidate project and an exam score of 80% or higher.

For more information on the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat or the Institute for Diversity Certification, visit


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