Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Posts tagged ‘demographics’

Realizing the Pledge’s Potential: America’s Blueprint for Law and Order

By Leah Smiley, CDE











The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by Francis Bellamy, who was a Christian socialist, according to Wikipedia. Bellamy had initially considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided against it – knowing that the state superintendents of education were against equality for women and African Americans.

Bellamy’s original Pledge read as follows:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923, the National Flag Conference called for the words “my Flag” to be changed to “the Flag of the United States”, so that new immigrants would not confuse loyalties between their birth countries and the United States. The words “of America” were added a year later, while “God” was added in 1954.

Since the conception of this ‘Pledge’, diversity has been a forethought, not an after-thought. The creators realized that it’s possible to be different while united. Fast forward more than one century later, America is finding that no one thing divides this Republic like the concept of ‘justice’. From O.J. Simpson to Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown, America practically splits down traditional racial lines when these subjects come up. What is interesting is that race and justice is an issue that just won’t go away. The problem is that once America becomes more demographically diverse, we will see more issues pertaining to race and justice– IF we do not take action now.

Ethnifacts, population researchers, say the “tipping point” has already happened in America. According to these researchers, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 37.7% of the population checked Hispanic, Asian and African-American on the latest census count. But that figure excludes any multi-racial groups, which would bump the multicultural population up to 49.9% as of 2010. Ethnifacts researchers also “found multicultural majorities in the following states: Arizona (58.54 percent), California (75.10 percent), District of Columbia (76.06 percent), Florida (57.43 percent), Georgia (58.46 percent), Hawaii (89.61 percent), Maryland (59.22 percent), New Mexico (76.16 percent), Nevada (64.52 percent) and Texas (69.41 percent).”

Some assume that you can move away from diversity (e.g., the concept of “White Flight” or relocating one’s corporate headquarters), and avoid the problems of multicultural communities altogether. But for those left behind, a different reality sets in. A demographic disparity occurs when different population groups are not represented in the demographic make-up of decision makers, or those in authority. Demographic disparities can affect the balance of power, the allocation of resources, and the perception of equality or fairness. Within communities, a demographic disparity can be great or slight—depending on population growth, the composition of the population, and the quality of life, to name a few. Generally, when there is more diversity, there are greater opportunities for disparities to occur in education, housing, criminal justice, and even, media reporting, to name a few.

Demographic changes, in areas where there is “more diversity” such as in Michigan, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New York, are causing local governments to re-evaluate diversity amongst its police force. This is a big issue that is very complex. Nevertheless, I will try to encapsulate the essence of the matter in a blog. Here’s what police departments need to determine:

A. What is the extent of the problem?
First, what do the numbers say? What did the population look like 20 years ago, what does it look like today, and what will it look like in the next 20 years? What “stereotypes” exist about different groups in the community? What other unconscious biases might exist? How do stereotypes and unconscious biases affect community-police relations and the perception of fairness? What other trends are evident based on the population changes? What is the specific problem? What data, lawsuits or case studies support the fact that a problem exists? How will this issue hurt the city’s/town’s image if these issues are not addressed? What else will be a negative repercussion if changes are not made?

Once the extent of the problem is determined, it is necessary to take proactive, decisive action.

B. Beyond training, how can solutions be embedded in day-to-day practices?
Sometimes, diversity training is viewed as a panacea—a cure for all ills pertaining to diversity problems. The reality is that diversity interventions would be much more effective if they were connected to organizational goals, and embedded in day-to-day practices. This is where diversity officers, human resources, front-line supervisors, and leadership can work together and find specific examples of how to apply cultural competence, inclusion, equity, and fairness. The expectation is that supervisors– not diversity trainers– would lead discussions about best practices for engaging diverse communities. The reasoning behind this is that law enforcement often has its own culture, and what better way to empower an “insider” to expedite change than to include them in the training design, content, facilitation and application.

C. Who can hold police departments accountable for change?
Step #1. When we talk about accountability, the first thing that we want to be mindful of is that accountability begins with the community. Officers should be accountable to the people whom they are responsible for “policing”. Along with the discussion about accountability, there needs to be something called a “relationship”. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a relationship is “the way in which two or more people are connected. It includes how individuals or groups talk to, behave toward and deal with each other.” Building relationships in diverse communities engender respect, communication, and peace. Even if we agree to disagree, we can do so in a way that does not destroy, or break up, the relationship.

Step #2. Diversity leaders and inclusion experts can also hold police departments accountable. Within every city and town, there are diversity professionals who work for colleges/universities, corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies. While the community may not know what it wants, outside of fairness and justice, diversity professionals can help guide police departments through the technical aspects of inclusion, cultural competence, and compliance.

For example, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion is hosting a monthly community conversation about race and policing. This presents an opportune time for honest conversations about the “difficult history of structural racism and segregation that has created homogenous suburban communities”.

Step #3. Politicians must also hold its police forces accountable. This is an example of diversity being led from the top. Unlike some corporations or educational institutions, politicians must be elected every few years by the people—you know, the ones that live in the communities? And once the diverse constituents figure out when to vote, and how to do it consistently, it will be curtains for all of those politicians who made decisions on behalf of a few. Therefore, stop and repeat Step #1.

D. How will the impact of different interventions be evaluated and measured?
Every good strategy has a plan for frequent evaluation. In “The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker”, Dr. William A. Cohen asserts that “Management requires a breakdown of tasks, assignments as to who is to do what, time schedules, resource allocations, performance expectations, a means of measuring results, periodic and ad hoc reviews, and feedback.”1

The measurements necessary for control are frequently termed metrics. Choosing the correct metrics and making the decisions about them are incredibly important in their use for control, in both the day-to-day and the strategic sense.”2  Therefore, the impact of one’s intent must evaluated, measured and controlled with quantitative and qualitative data to support that change has, or has not, occurred.

Finally, transparency implies that some mistakes may have been made along the way, but we’re going to be honest about it and report on our status anyway. According to Merriam-Webster, the actual definition of transparency is “honest and open; not secretive; easily seen through; free from pretense or deceit”.

Much can be said about nationwide efforts to address a problem that affects 15% or more of the population, and has drawn worldwide scorn due to its proximity to genocide, which is “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group.” As I stated before, there is no easy solution. Nevertheless, justice is inextricably tied to law and order. And, in keeping with the Pledge of Allegiance, (“one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”), this blueprint for law and order will help America to realize the full potential of its pledge.

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

1 Cohen, William A. “The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker”, American Management Association – 2014. Page 112
2 Cohen, William A. “The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker”, American Management Association – 2014. Page 114

Diversity Lacking in Entertainment

By Danniella Banks

Recently, the focus of those in the field of diversity and inclusion has been on the tech industry. With Google, Facebook, Twitter and others releasing company demographics, you might have missed the other data that has come out about the diversity of the entertainment industry, mostly TV and film.

USC Anneberg completed a study on the film industry and its inclusion of actors and actresses from various racial and ethnic backgrounds. What they found probably wasn’t all that shocking to anyone who watches American movies. Hispanics and Latinos are the most underrepresented in speaking parts, followed by African Americans. Think of the last movie you saw from the past five years? The chances that it had a lead role portrayed by a Hispanic, Latino or African American is slim to none, and many of them probably didn’t have a character with a speaking role from one of these groups.

One plus side, Broadway has cast its first African American Phantom of the Opera and Cinderella. These castings have excited many in the entertainment industry, but they still have a long way to go.

With the new data that USC Anneberg reported, it will be interesting to see if there will be any changes made in the near future to cast more Hispanics and Latinos in movies as lead characters, or at least characters with a speaking role. Hopefully, if changes are made, it is because the actor or actress truly deserves the job, and not because of their race or ethnicity. No matter what happens, it will definitely be interesting to see the what comes out of this new data.



The “Demographics” Buzz Word

I fear the term “demographics” has become a buzz word in the field of Diversity and Inclusion. It’s a buzz word because it gets you in the door for that nice big contract or great new Diversity Officer position. But very few people in this field actually use this so-called demographic information, or other statistical data, when designing diversity and inclusion interventions.

According to Wikipedia, a buzzword is a word or phrase used to impress, or is fashionable. Last year, Forbes Magazine published an article entitled, “New Studies Show Buzzwords Aren’t the Problem– We Are”. The writer asserts, “Don’t hate the game, hate the player”. Accordingly, I am going to assert that we have to take this word “demographics” seriously in order to be more credible and effective as professionals.

Case in point:  A few years ago, I talked to an organization that had two different diversity practitioners come in and deliver great training sessions. The problem was, nothing changed. The elephant was still in the room drinking up all of the water and eating all of the food. When they spoke with me, our conversation centered around how demographics had shifted. And without a single training session, they got more help in one hour, than they did in 8 hours of learning with two different diversity practitioners. Generally, our discussion addressed:

  1. Demographic changes and its link to the School Corporation’s goals, while taking into account (a) past, present and projected population changes; (b) changes to the family structure; and (c) competitive benchmarking (e.g., how other similarly situated schools are performing)
  2. Challenges for Students related to (a) achievement; (b) harassment/bullying; and (c) exclusion
  3. Classroom Leadership Expectations and Skills pertaining to (a) identifying stereotypes; (b) handling conflict effectively; (c) fostering inclusion; and (d) the personal belief system (e.g., I CAN be GREAT with ALL students)

Of course, I had to do research and connect that research to my discussion. Such research may include first-hand reports of students who experienced bullying in class while the teacher did nothing. Or parents from another country who did not understand a certain process. This is significant when you have a huge immigrant student population. From an administrative perspective, they can understand who they need to have on staff, what the staff needs to do, and why there must be accountability for certain actions.

Now, let’s bring it home– to your place of business, of course. How have your customers changed in the last 20-30 years? Let’s consider a nonprofit or healthcare organization that serves HIV/AIDS patients. In the 1980’s, intravenous drug users and White men who had sex with men were the fastest growing groups of people who contracted HIV/AIDS. Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that while “Blacks represent approximately 12% of the U.S. population, they accounted for an estimated 44% of new HIV infections in 2010”. Yet by 2015, experts estimate that almost half of HIV-positive Americans will be over the age of 50. What a shift– from gay men to blacks to older individuals.

Do you see where I’m going? This information has to be used in order to help our organizations develop a proper perspective about diverse groups in the workplace, as well as foster skills that will be useful in better serving our customers, students or constituents.

Speaking of which, every diversity practitioner should do some kind of research on a weekly basis. Yes, there are many activities to do but not every activity has the same value. Using the example above, conducting and utilizing research would be much more meaningful than a full day of training or some other  activity that has little impact on your organization.


By Leah Smiley, President of the Society for Diversity.  Learn more about this topic when you become a member of the Society for Diversity, or get diversity and inclusion credentials from the Institute for Diversity Certification. Log onto for more information.




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