Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Posts tagged ‘diversity impact’

Expanding the Value of Diversity and Inclusion

By Leah Smiley, CDE


Today the Associated Press (AP) reported that the “Wealth Gap is Slowing U.S. Economic Growth“.  The AP asserts,  “Part of the problem is that educational achievement has stalled in recent decades. More schooling usually translates into higher wages. S&P estimates that the U.S. economy would grow annually by an additional half a percentage point—or $105 billion—over the next five years, if the average the American worker had completed just one more year of school.”

From my perspective, there are two issues going on here: (1) the schools are more diverse than ever before, and too many of us have become complacent with a lower standard of performance within “inner-city” schools. For example, look at the number of school districts around America that are in fiscal distress:

  • The Chicago Tribune reports that 121 school districts are in poor to dire financial shape, with 62% operating in deficit spending
  • According to Michigan Radio, several school districts need emergency funding from the state to make payroll, including Benton Harbor Area Schools– where there are 40-50 students per class, they don’t bus students, and they cut back on building cleaning services
  • Huffpost reports that, “In New York, 13 percent of school districts evaluated recently by the state comptroller’s office were found to be operating with dangerously low or nonexistent fund balances, chronic operating deficits and extremely limited cash on hand. And California saw a record number of school districts in fiscal distress in 2012; currently, eight school districts have negative certifications, meaning that based on current projections, the school districts will not meet their financial obligations for fiscal 2014 or 2015. Another 41 school districts may run out of money by fiscal 2016.”

Not only are some of these districts among the largest in the country, but they are also the most diverse. Keep in mind that by accepting this lower standard for education, it surreptitiously denotes that diversity = lower performance in the workplace.

The second issue is inextricably tied to the first. Because these diverse students will soon approach our workplaces as potential employees, how will it bode for diversity efforts if the people, for whom we are working to ensure equity and fairness, really are on a lower level of performance? It will be hard to make a business case for inclusion.

While the actual law may not have done so well, the notion of “No Child Left Behind” makes a lot of sense. Therefore, as diversity and inclusion practitioners, we must make a strategic effort to connect with other D&I interventions around us. Here is what we must do:

1.) Which K-12 schools, universities, and employers have diversity practitioners? Have you reached out to them to find out what they are doing, or how you can help advance their work? Each year, local universities have diversity conferences. Can you send some employees? Can you provide financial support? Can you speak or secure a speaker from your organization? Can you “adopt” a school and purchase backpacks and school supplies for needy students?

2.) Does your organization have employees who are interested in volunteering? How can they support K-12 schools or the community? Eli Lilly has an annual Global Day of Service, where instead of going to the office, workers disperse in the communities and perform needed projects. Since the Global Day of Service launched in 2008, Lilly employees have given 625,000 hours of service to communities around the world. In 2013 alone, more than 20,000 Lilly employees participated (with pay) in nearly 60 countries, from Barbados to Slovenia.

Or perhaps, you can start a mentoring program at a school in a specialized field, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math). You could also connect with several different nonprofits, and offer multiple options to members of your employee resource groups.

3.) Support bring your child to work days– but add a little more pizzazz. Encourage moms and dads to participate; think about different work-related activities that the children can observe; and try to coordinate some kind of ‘extra credit’ with the schools to encourage more employers to engage parents and young people in the workplace.

Not only do these efforts provide diverse youth with the resources that they may need, but it may also allow them to see different professionals who care. Notwithstanding, from a business perspective, we are building our organization’s visibility, brand and pipeline.

Why wait until someone contacts you? Take the initiative today to reach beyond your traditional functions and make a difference in the lives of ordinary people, as well as positively impact the value of your organization’s D&I efforts.


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:

New Program For Supervisors Focuses On Cultural & Inclusive Excellence

The Institute for Diversity Certification (IDC) recently announced the introduction of the Cultural & Inclusive Excellence Program for Supervisors, which will focus on building strategic leadership skills. This program will be a two-day learning and coaching laboratory for supervisors and managers, and it will be held at the IDC office in Plainfield, Ind. on November 12-13, 2014.


The Cultural & Inclusive Excellence Program for Supervisors will focus on stimulating cultural and inclusive excellence through participation in a blend of leadership development training, 360-degree feedback and one-on-one coaching. Those who attend will have the opportunity to increase their knowledge and build the skills necessary to lead a diverse and global workforce, as well as ensure that they are prepared to deliver world-class service to a wide range of individuals.


“Today, many of our training contracts center around providing separate diversity and inclusion learning experiences for supervisors. Organizations realize that these front-line leaders need a different kind of educational framework and support system,” explained Leah Smiley, President, The Society for Diversity. “After speaking with human resource and diversity experts around the country, we realized that all employers could benefit from this type of interactive training.”


Helping managers to understand the internal and external components of cultural competence and inclusion is a primary goal of the program. For example, changes in customer tastes and preferences, spending patterns and demographic trends could hurt the bottom line. Many of these changes may be attributed to generational trends and can be easily rectified by employing and managing multiple generations in the workplace.


Likewise, there exists a strategic opportunity for organizations to broaden their share of emerging markets. According to a study from the Boston Consulting Group, women in the U.S. reported “controlling” 72.8% of household spending. Meanwhile the 2013 Catalyst Buying report shows that, African-Americans’ buying power has increased from $316.3 billion in 1990 to $946.6 billion in 2010 and is projected to climb to $1.3 trillion in 2017. Latinos’ and Asians’ buying power will also increase to $1.7 trillion and $1.0 trillion by 2017 respectively.


Internationally, as many 42% of managers are said to fail in their overseas assignments, according to a survey on global leadership trends released by Right Management in 2013. This presents an enormous opportunity for managers to understand and embrace different cultures, as it is a central component of their future work.


Much of the curriculum is related to global leadership development. The topics include:


  • The Difference Between Management and Leadership
  • Understanding Global Demographic Changes and Projections
  • Preventing Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation
  • Building and Leading a Diverse, Multi-Generational Team
  • Developing Multicultural Communication Skills
  • Managing Conflict & Discipline Issues


“This isn’t your average diversity and inclusion training program. It is a model of excellence that presents an opportunity for supervisors to empower themselves and attain business goals,” stated Smiley. “By attending this two-day program, attendees will return to their jobs with new ideas for, and excitement about, fostering an inclusive and equitable workplace culture.”


The deadline to register for the Cultural & Inclusive Excellence Program for Supervisors is Friday, October 3, 2014. Space for this program is limited to 16 participants, so registration will fill up quickly. For more information on this program, as well as how to register, visit

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