Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Posts tagged ‘cultural competency’

Educating More People on How to Use Diversity in the Workplace

By Danniella Banks

There are many conferences each year that bring together professionals from various industries and organizations, and for many professionals, it is difficult to decide which ones to attend. One no-brainer choice for this year should be the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat because all businesses can benefit from learning more about diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

If that is not enough to convince someone to attend, then the list of exceptional speakers should provide evidence that this conference will give attendees invaluable knowledge. The speakers include (in presentation order):

  • Isaias Zamarripa, Johnson Controls
  • Trudy Bourgeois, The Center for Workforce Excellence
  • Carol Sankar, Sankar Enterprises
  • Dr. Fiona Citkin, Expert MS Inc.
  • Susana Rinderle, Susana Rinderle Consulting LLC
  • Leah Smiley, The Society for Diversity
  • Dr. Sandra Jowers-Barber, University of the District of Columbia
  • Enrique Ruiz, PositivePsyche.Biz Corp.
  • Shulunda Gibson, Speech & Voice Care Center
  • Ricardo Torres, Permanent Solutions Labor Consultants
  • Mary L Martinez, APT Metrics Inc.
  • Martin George, Language Training Center
  • Jaime Penahererra, Latino Health and Education Consortium
  • Effenus Henderson, HenderWorks Consulting
  • Malik Ali, Central and North Florida Minority Supplier Development Council
  • Diana Bolivar, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando
  • Dr. Ken Coopwood, Missouri State University
  • James Rodgers, J.O. Rodgers & Associates
  • Dr. Shelton Goode, PPL Corp.
  • Wokie Nwabueze, Princeton University
  • Dionardo Pizana, Michigan State University
  • Dr. Paul Henry Hawkins, Working Diversity Inc.
  • Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, University of Maryland-Baltimore
  • Lisa I Perez, HBL Resources
  • Rosalie Chamberlain, Rosalie Chamberlain Consulting & Coaching
  • Charlie Parker Jr., University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Dwain Celistan, DHR International
  • Frank Matthews, Diverse Issues in Higher Education
  • Juan Gilbert, Diverse Issues in Higher Education
  • Dr. Shirley Davis Sheppard, The Success Doctor and SHRM
  • Dr. Eddie Moore Jr., America & Moore LLC
  • Alvin Singh, ARS Media
  • Ini Augustine, SocialWise Media Group
  • Sharon E. Davis, SeDA Consulting
  • Nadine Vogle, Springboard Consulting

These speakers come from various backgrounds and types of organizations, which will help to educate more people on how to use diversity in the workplace to increase revenues and have a productive workforce.

With all of these speakers, it will be difficult to choose which one is the best or most interesting, but to be honest, I am most looking forward to the session entitled, “Overcoming Multi-Generational Workplace Challenges,” with Lisa I Perez, Rosalie Chamberlain and Charlie Parker Jr. This topic is something that has always been interesting to me, so I can’t wait to see what they have to say about it compared to what I have heard and read previously.

With so many wonderful speakers, you don’t want to miss your chance to hear them all speak at one place, the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat.

HELP WANTED: Seeking Leaders with the 3C’s

By Leah Smiley


The Associated Press reported that the Board of Directors at American Apparel voted to oust its Founder and CEO, Dov Charney, regarding an investigation into misconduct. What is interesting is that we discuss Dov Charney in the Institute for Diversity Certification’s credentialing program, specifically pertaining to the legal risk that American Apparel faces involving alleged inappropriate sexual conduct in the Executive offices.

While this brilliant Chief Executive is renowned for his unconventional approach and scalable business concept, a search is officially underway for new leadership at American Apparel. In a recent Forbes article, New York Times Best Selling Author Kevin Kruse defines leadership as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” This definition of leadership also applies to Diversity and Inclusion professionals, who are continually seeking to influence the social and cultural climate of the organizations with which we interact.

Nonetheless, in “The Corporate Diversity Charade,” John Fitzgerald Gates, Ph.D., a national diversity expert asserts that “the dirty little secret of corporate America and the practice of diversity is that 25 years after establishing ‘diversity’ offices, most companies have not developed a mature understanding of how diversity can contribute to their bottom lines.” Or, diminish earnings and market share. This is evident when executives, like Dov Charney, have diversity within the ranks, but continue to get hit with harassment, discrimination and retaliation claims. According to Wikipedia, since the mid-2000’s, Dov Charney has been the subject of at least 5 sexual harassment lawsuits that are pending, or have been settled or dismissed.

Dov Charney, however, is not the only misbehaving CEO. Bloomberg Business Week reported that last night John Legere, T-Mobile’s ‘way cool’ CEO, made an ‘unfunny’ comment when he told potential customers that his competitors were, “raping you for every penny you have…” Indeed, we are witnessing a transition from a stale and stodgy C-Suite to corporate environments where shock and awe are the order of the day. Yet, here’s where a skilled Diversity and Inclusion executive is invaluable—because he/she can make the business case in a way that senior leadership trusts and respects.

Here’s what he/she could say in a one-on-one meeting, “Mr. CEO, our employees, customers and investors love our culture because it is so radical, creative and fun. We need to keep that culture– but let’s make sure that we don’t forget about the financial and organizational risks associated with crossing the line. For example, when you said, or did ___________. It could cause some people to think that we don’t value ___________, and you and I know that is not true.”

June 19th marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and along with civil rights leaders, the business community was a vital component to the passage of this transformational legislation. We have made progress on many fronts, but there is still much work to do.

The word diversity implies that there are many ways in which equity and inclusion professionals could perform this work—but we must master the 3 C’s of leadership: courage, coalitions and competence.

In the workplace, leaders must look to the future and embrace the change that keeps organizations ahead of their competitors. Robert J. Tamasy of CBMC Canada writes, “most high achievers, those that have left indelible marks in their areas of endeavor, have been ones that exhibited uncommon courage – willing to swim against the current, to challenge the status quo, to venture into the unknown with no guarantees of success.” Mr. Tamasy asserts that there are 4 ways to demonstrate courage: in taking a stand, proceeding despite danger, persevering, and acting on convictions.

I talk to a lot of courageous D&I practitioners, and a common complaint is that this type of work is very hard, and you receive little support. But it’s time to change this phenomenon and adapt the true meaning of inclusion, or working with others. This is the only way that Diversity and Inclusion professionals can go beyond the 4 walls in the Office of Diversity toward building programs and structures that are sustainable and successful.

The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines a coalition as “an alliance or union between groups, factions, or parties, for some specific action; the act of making or becoming a single unit.” Could this definition imply that the Office of Diversity, working alone, is outside of the scope and parameters of the organizational fabric? And by forming “coalitions” (especially with critics), the Office of Diversity will be able to perform specific actions better? I’m being facetious, but you get the point.

Finally, our courage and coalitions must be balanced with competence. This may be indicated by putting strategic ideas in writing, linking diversity and inclusion to business objectives, and using data to substantiate one’s interventions and goals. For example, beyond reporting how many people attended a diversity training session, it may be better to measure the outcomes of such learning.

According to the Business Briefing “Learning and Analytics” by Success Factors (an SAP Company), “the inability of companies to establish robust statistics that clearly demonstrate direct links between learning and business improvement” is a major reason why some feel that learning interventions are ineffective. “Without analytics,” it suggests, “you are at risk of driving your learning strategy blind, and never realizing the results you expected to gain. By combining traditional training reporting with business data from other systems…it is possible to quantify the commercial benefits of any learning activity in real time.”


The Society for Diversity understands that unlike the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, there are thousands of diversity and inclusion leaders. Accordingly, the Society offers a variety support systems such as the 2014 Diversity Leadership Retreat, diversity certification, resources and technical assistance, to members and non-members alike. Our goal is to empower many leaders to become the most knowledgeable, skilled, and practiced diversity experts in the world. And through our goal, we can help others see the value in diversity and experience measurable business impact.

American Apparel isn’t the only company seeking new leadership; the Society for Diversity also wants leaders with the 3 C’s to support us on this journey.

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

“Work” Flow: Connecting Change to the Future

By Leah Smiley, CDE

I read an article on LinkedIn this morning by Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic entitled, “Indisputable Evidence Shows That Millennials Have it Worse Than Any Generation in 50 Years.” The article asserts that the job market is so horrible that Millennials in the 25-32 age range are “forced” to live at home.

I don’t know if I would necessarily agree that Millennials have it worse…Millennials have higher workplace expectations as a result of being cohorts in the “trophy generation”. This is where they replaced “trophy wives” and were pushed to achieve awesome things in school, sports and social activities. Nevertheless, many lack real world experience and are used to helicopter parents swooping in to save them (hence, life at home as an adult). Therefore, the issue may not necessarily reside with “no available employment”; it may be a whole host of things from choosiness, lack of effort/motivation, and parents who are comfortable with adult kids living at home.

Think about it: something is wrong with the “work” flow. In previous generations, adult children had few choices pertaining to their living arrangements. A famous Burger King commercial from the 1970’s summed it up like this, “Have it your way”—voluntarily leave home when you turn 18 or involuntarily get put out.  Additionally, coming back home was never an option. If you did come “home”, parents would make it so unbearable that you would have to leave. Anything was better than living at home as an adult. This included working two minimum wage jobs until something better came along, or creating a product or service to sell.

The parents of today’s 25-32 year olds, are NOT the old-school Baby Boomer and Silent Generation parents. Employers are also not the companies of old. Organizations paid minimum wage for certain positions in prior years because a worker was not expected to make a “career” out of every job. This was a part of the business model for banks, retail, and food services– to create entry-level jobs that would provide experience for bigger and better opportunities. Yet, in recent years, this model is no longer working, as some folks misaligned this great concept called “retention”. Today, “retention” is not just for star workers in higher level positions; we want everyone to become so comfortable where they are, that they no longer seek opportunities elsewhere. However, now, you’re messing with the business model—because with retention, comes higher pay. If you want these folks to spend 10-15 years at your organization as a food services worker or a cashier—not only do you have to pay more but you are also eliminating opportunities for new talent to enter the workplace and gain the necessary skills to move up and out.

Do you see where this is going? The systemic flow from home to independence/self-sufficiency, and from entry-level work to higher paying jobs is interconnected. It’s not just helicopter parents, it’s also the workplace retention experts who didn’t take the time to connect their efforts to something greater, like the overall business strategy or the future.

So, how do we fix this dilemma?

1.  If you want to retain everyone, you must pay a higher price. For parents, it’s adults living at home. For employers, it’s more money. For customers, it’s higher prices. If that is your choice, understand and accept the trickle-down effect. Everything is connected (e.g., higher cost of living expenses, Millennials living at home, employers being pressured to raise the minimum wage, etc.)

2.  If your objective is to prepare individuals to transition and perform at optimum levels, you must have a cross-training and mentoring program that begins sooner, rather than later. Specifically target lower-level workers so that they can gain valuable experience performing different tasks, as well as work with different people who can challenge them, motivate them, and direct them.

Here’s where that pesky word “diversity” comes into play—lower level workers are much more likely to be diverse. According to 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 75.3 million workers in the United States age 16 and over were paid at hourly rates, representing 59.0 percent of all wage and salary workers. Other characteristics of minimum wage workers include the fact that these earners are more likely to be younger, female, single (including single parents), lacking a college education, and White, Black or Latino.

And again, here is where we also see that diversity efforts alone, do not work.  Your organization needs diversity (it’s a word that cannot be replaced with other terms), but you must also add stuff to it, like inclusion, cultural competence, equity, professional development, and performance management.

3.  If you want to re-direct your retention efforts so that star performers, who have received a considerable corporate investment are retained, you must: (a) understand your organization’s business model; (b) align your diversity retention efforts with pipeline development efforts; and (c) channel employee expectations toward proficiency. You can strategically achieve this by communicating the rewards of being a skilled worker with online employee profiles, Lunch & Learn sessions with recently promoted workers, and inclusive practices (i.e., not excluding white guys).

While I definitely can’t say that Millennials have it better than previous generations, I can affirm that times have changed and not all of the changes that have been made over the years have been for the better. Yet, it’s never too late to correct course and help our organizations—and Millennials—to reach greater heights.


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

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:

A Generation Divided Over Diversity?


nation divided


By Leah Smiley


Sometimes, I like to read different blogs and news articles that belittle diversity. I want to know what the critics are thinking, saying and doing. On the one hand, it is a little disconcerting to read the horrible things that these enlightened posters believe. But on the other hand, I think it is necessary to understand the different points of view.




One day, I was reading an “American Thinker” blog by Dr. Robert Weissberg. The author asserted that college campuses should not be diverse. He ends his blog with the following final thought:




“Diversity makes us strong is the wrong slogan; it should be ‘if we were strong we would not need diversity.’  ”




I want you to think about those words for a moment. And then I want you to put Mr. Weissberg’s thoughts in the proper context. He is an educator, with more than 50 years of experience. As with Paula Deen, I can only imagine what his views on diversity have cost him; thereby reinforcing his beliefs that diversity undermines academic achievement.




The bottom line is that ‘hurt people, hurt other people.’  There’s no need responding to his messages of hate and bigotry because he’s a wounded animal—fighting against a world that he perceives has done him harm. Nevertheless, there is a whole new generation of racially enlightened people who are ready to listen and are much different than previous generations.




1.            According to conventional wisdom, bigots are all “old people.”  Yet, millennials question the need for Affirmative Action; they question why blacks are still talking about slavery and racism when we all know it doesn’t exist anymore; and they question the logic behind diversity education requirements in their core academic curriculum.




Here’s my thought:  does asking a race-related question, or requesting diversity justification, denote racism?




2.            While they are not being taught racism at home by their fathers and grandfathers any more, both males AND females access “enlightenment” information and connect with other enlightened individuals over the Internet. The problem is that there is a proliferation of misinformation readily available for misuse. Some folks attempt to debate, but to no avail. After all, black people are at fault for being too sensitive and whites who disagree with enlightenment are blasted as “sympathetic liberals”.




Here’s my thought: Are black folks too sensitive about race issues? And are white people, who believe in the need for diversity, really defecting against the white race?




3.            This enlightened generation silently complies with diversity and inclusion goals at work—understanding that their jobs are on the line—but outside of work, they tell scathing stories pertaining to inclusion, political correctedness, and “un”fairness. It’s a little sneaky, but it is not the outdated white robe and cone head hood approach.




Here’s my thought: does it matter what these individuals do outside of work?






I’m posing these questions because I am exploring this concept called “diversity of thought”. We say that this is what we are pursuing, but it means that everyone should be allowed to think differently about diversity and inclusion.




The ultimate question is: are we really prepared for diversity of thought?  Furthermore, does this mean that we will become a generation divided over this issue of diversity?





Leah Smiley is a leading national speaker and thought leader on the subject of diversity and inclusion. Mrs. Smiley is the President and Founder of the Society for Diversity, the #1 and largest professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about Leah Smiley or the Society for Diversity, log onto 

WHO Does Diversity and Inclusion Serve?



By Leah Smiley

In every organization there is a customer/student/constituent that serves to produce revenue (or income through sales, tuition, grants, taxes, fees, etc.) for your employer. Hence, organizations align their products and services to continuously meet the expectations and needs of their customers. Using this customer-centric model, I challenge you to think about ‘who’ the office of diversity and inclusion serves and how well you are meeting your customer’s needs.


My assertion is that the customer is the foundation of success in the office of Diversity and Inclusion. It’s easy to sit in an office and assume that we know what people need. Or to put together programs that people MUST attend, and then check a box indicating that we were successful. But it becomes a game-changer when we understand what motivates people, what their aspirations are, and how they perceive workplace obstacles such as exclusion, glass ceilings, discrimination, harassment– or even this concept of diversity and inclusion. This level of understanding will help you to develop meaningful interventions, minimize backlash, reduce corporate risks, and foster respect and appreciation for all differences.


Here are some suggestions for serving Diversity and Inclusion’s customers better:


  1. Set the tone. First, participate. HP’s David Packard first coined the phrase “Management By Walking Around” in the 1940s. I implore you to go beyond merely walking around to being visible and active in key meetings, strategic planning sessions, and on other projects. This requires that you make yourself available. Next, set expectations that likewise, employees will participate in diversity and inclusion as a part of their daily work. Give solid and relevant examples of what people can do on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Connect with your customer’s customer.  You can exponentially increase your effectiveness if you understand the motivations and challenges faced by your organization’s consumers. Not only can you identify trends that support diversity interventions, but you can also assist diverse teams who innovatively anticipate the consumer’s changing needs.
  3. Get more actionable insight. There are some customers (or employees) who will give lip-service to your Diversity and Inclusion programs. Instead of attributing the reason to an “ism” (e.g., racism, sexism, ageism, etc.), find out why. Get real-world context and discover new insights by asking your passive customers better questions. For example, instead of asking, “Did you enjoy today’s speaker?” it may be better to inquire, “How did you feel about some of the points that the speaker made? Did anything make you uncomfortable?” Let’s not assume that only certain individuals can be made to feel uncomfortable. Start with the assumption that there are some things about diversity and inclusion that makes everyone in the workplace feel uncomfortable.
  4. Reward to engage. Increased satisfaction with, and better results through, diversity and inclusion requires digging deeper to find great examples of communication, teamwork, customer service, and conflict management. Regularly illustrate accomplishments within your organization through a diversity of people. No one face should monopolize diversity and inclusion within your organization. Everyone should be able to experience diversity’s rewards and benefits.

At the end of the day, addressing the “who” will help you to stay focused on what’s really important.




Leah Smiley is an expert trainer, consultant, author and President of the Society for Diversity. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto 


3 Steps to Better Diversity & Inclusion Results

By Leah Smiley, CDE
Diversity and inclusion can be an area in your organization that under-performs or obtains mixed results. For better outcomes, try these three solutions:


1.  Define the scope of your organization’s vision for diversity. The topic “diversity” encompasses a broad area. Try defining why diversity is important for your organization. Is there a need to increase cultural competency to adjust to changing customer/student/constituent demographics? Is there a need to expand international knowledge of different groups for global operations? Or is your organization competitively positioning itself for long-term growth? If you have a vision, it’s easier to develop a plan.


2.  Create and/or review your diversity plan. First, let’s talk about what a diversity plan is not.  It is not an Affirmative Action plan. It is not a schedule of events and activities. And it is not a one-time process.


Your diversity and inclusion plan should serve as an ongoing road map for success. Diversity plan goals must be linked to specific business objectives, otherwise the interventions will serve no organizational value. Additionally, the plan should be realistic. If you have a plan, and none of the goals have been accomplished in 7 years, it’s time to re-do the plan. Some items will be long-term, but other efforts should be actionable now.


3.  Build a team of diversity leaders. Many organizations leave complete responsibility for diversity and inclusion with their Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). The problem is that there is so much growth in the field of diversity, that there is a lot of turnover right now. And when the CDO leaves, diversity efforts stall indefinitely.


A solution to this problem is building a strong team. You can have a rotating diversity position among senior managers, a diversity council, or a committee for diversity on your Board of Directors. With more diversity leaders, you can have sustainability, and diversity of thought.


But don’t let your team wing it; get them trained. Diversity management is an invaluable leadership skill. Consider sending your team through the Institute for Diversity Certification. We offer a business management program that ensures better results. For more information about upcoming classes, log onto
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 

The Mandate for Courage



Sometimes, it’s easy for us to feel like we are harping on the same old issues in the workplace. Accordingly, we may become apprehensive about discussing certain diversity and inclusion topics, like race, gender and sexual orientation (i.e., the hot button issues). We also don’t want to be labeled as a “troublemaker” or “whiner”.

Nevertheless, we have to keep in mind that we were hired to help our organizations get it right. Looking toward the future, think about how much it will cost your organization IF certain diversity and inclusion issues are not addressed.  Lawsuits, turnover, wasted productivity, lost market share, etc., will amount to a fortune. Also, think about how you will be perceived IF you are the person of color who is afraid to talk about the most complex issue in your organization:  race. Or if you are the woman in leadership who is fearful of discussing gender equity. Or if you are gay, and you are doubtful about the benefits of gay pride in your place of business. I could go on, but you get the point.

The field of diversity and inclusion has a mandate for courage. Merriam-Webster’s defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty“. Possessing courage does not imply the absence of fear– it just means that you move forward in spite of it. The key to advancement in this field is to take your fear, feelings, and faithlessness out of the equation. Have a little confidence that your efforts will result in something good.

Courage:  it’s a mandate and an expectation for you.

By Leah Smiley

Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, a global professional association for Diversity and Inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto

Diversity: In My Own Backyard


Even in the year 2013, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are very personal to me, “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.”

For those who have been following me for a while, you know about the issues that I have had with my daughter and the color of her skin.

A few weeks ago my daughter said, “I wish I were white. Why did God have to make black people?”

Once again, I thought, “Oh Lord, I work in diversity and I can’t even explain this simple stuff to my daughter.” I told her, “The President of the United States is black. He is the most powerful man in the world, so there is nothing wrong with black people.” I forgot that when her elementary school voted for the President, all of the other children voted for Barack Obama, but she voted for Mitt Romney…

Bad example– let me try this again. Before I could offer another excuse, she began saying, “I’m brown, DJ’s brown, Sam’s brown, but everyone else in our house is black.” My husband and I were speechless.

I began talking to other diversity professionals, who gave me great advice! The other day, my daughter even asked for a black Barbie doll. This is wonderful progress considering the fact that in the past, she scorned at those little dolls because, “they don’t look like me.” She was happy to pick up a white doll. I thought to myself, “Do white little girls ever pick up a black Barbie? I hope so. I’m starting to feel like I’m doing something wrong here.”

Through my discussions with other mothers, I have found that this is still a huge issue. One parent told me that her son became hysterical when she informed him that he was NOT white. He was crying, yelling and rolling around on the floor– she didn’t know what to do.

I don’t think that this is a problem for children who grow up in racially diverse areas. For instance, when my daughter spoke to her cousin in Washington, DC, she asked, “Do you have any brown friends?”  My 6-year old niece started laughing at the word, ‘brown’.  She said, “Of course, silly.”

The issue is, there are still pockets of America that are not very diverse. The key is to expose children, all children (not just black and white, but Asian, Hispanic, African, etc.) to different people. My husband, Derwin, made a comment recently that Sesame Street still has rappers who wear big gold chains. This 1980’s image of black rappers is outdated. Yet, it is perpetuated by television and ingrained in children’s minds at a young age. This would not necessarily qualify as exposure.

What would?

  • Allowing your child to gain volunteer experience in different communities;
  • Going abroad with your child and exposing him/her to different cultures and languages;
  • Eating in various cultural restaurants (e.g., Indian, Korean, Jamaican, etc.);
  • Reinforcing the message that “the content of an individual’s character is more important than how he/she looks”.

These future students and employees must first obtain knowledge about diversity at home; and then it should be followed with informed curriculum and instruction at all levels of education.  Finally, the media must “catch up” to the reality of diversity at some point.


Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity, and an international speaker on the topics of diversity/inclusion and management. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto


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