Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Posts tagged ‘education’

Back to School?

By Leah Smiley, CDE


My children went back to school on July 30th.

My youngest daughter and son are polar opposites. She loves school and can’t wait to compete with the other students for the top honors. I have to remind my daughter to tone down her rhetoric, because everyone is not used to a smart, confident and beautiful little black girl proclaiming her greatness like Muhammad Ali. She is very intelligent and talented in art. My son…well, let’s just say that he just recently stopped telling me that Kindergarten’s day is too long, and he hasn’t cried for two mornings straight!

Over the weekend, I saw quite a few families packing up for college. One dad, in particular, stood out. He appeared very excited to take his son to school. This image reminded me that there are many first-generation college students entering school this fall. In 2010, 25% of all American undergraduate students at 4-year colleges and universities came from families in which neither parent had attended a community college or 4-year college. An additional 25% of undergraduate students indicated their parents had some college experience, but no bachelor’s degree (National Center for Education Statistics, 2010).

The New York Times recently ran an article entitled “Who Gets to Graduate?” In it, author Paul Tough asserts, “When you look at the national statistics on college graduation rates, there are two big trends that stand out right away. The first is that there are a whole lot of students who make it to college – who show up on campus and enroll in classes – but never get their degrees. More than 40 percent of American students who start at four-year colleges haven’t earned a degree after six years. If you include community-college students in the tabulation, the dropout rate is more than half, worse than any other country except Hungary.

The second trend is that whether a student graduates or not seems to depend today almost entirely on just one factor – how much money his or her parents make. To put it in blunt terms: Rich kids graduate; poor and working-class kids don’t.”

Traditional “bridge” programs tend to focus on academic deficits, remedial coursework, and study skills training. However, within recent years, more institutions are developing innovative approaches to address the economic disadvantages.

For example, author Wray Herbert notes in a HuffPost Blog on “What’s a GPA?” that “Nicole Stephens and Mesmin Destin of Northwestern and MarYam Hamedani of Stanford have devised a novel intervention that — instead of playing down social background — encourages disadvantaged college freshmen to explore the ways in which their social backgrounds are shaping their college experience and limiting their opportunity. The idea is that learning about class differences, and why they matter, can empower students with strategies for success.” The intervention uses group dialogue to challenge students in their approach to learning, asking for help, and overcoming setbacks.

Economic status is a dimension of diversity that is often neglected in favor of race alone. But the ability to create effective diversity and inclusion interventions on college campuses may entail broadening the definition of diversity, and expanding its scope among all students. What will it mean to your office? What will it mean for your students? I sense that “back to school” can open up a whole new avenue of opportunity, and achievement, for everyone.


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

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


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.

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


Teaching Students About Diversity

by Leah Smiley

As schools are seeing more students of color in the classroom, they must begin to think critically about educational reform and ensuring that all students achieve greatness, regardless of their individual differences. It is my proposition that educational reform, then, includes offering curriculum and instruction with:

1. Accurate examples of diverse contributions to U.S. History

2. Opportunities for students to learn more about inspirational diverse role models

3. Positive reinforcement pertaining to experiences with individuals who are different

So why do teachers claim to instruct students in this area of diversity using examples of slavery, rap music, and sports? I’ll tell you why– because they don’t know any better. They watch too much TV; read too many online blogs about people of color robbing, stealing and doing drugs; and they listen to other teachers who have biases. This results in teachers “stereotyping” the black experience.

That’s right, I said it: stereotyping. Stereotyping is so much easier than doing a little work to distinguish facts from fiction. As an example, in 2011 there were a few hundred blacks that became successful rappers or athletes– just a few hundred. On the contrary, according to the Small Business Administration, as of 2011, there are over 2 million black owned businesses. In a population of 40 million plus, isn’t it more likely that a black person would be a business owner, than a rapper or athlete?

Additionally, the unemployment rate for blacks is 11% (according to the Department of Labor)– which of course is much higher than other groups, but that leaves the question: what about the other 89% of people?

African Americans are commonly linked to welfare, public assistance and poverty. But the reality is that roughly 25% of the population lives below poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This figure could be caused by a number of factors including, unemployment; underemployment (where you have a job, but don’t make enough to support your family); and bad choices resulting in prison records from illegal activities. But that still means that 75% of the population is not in poverty. Here are some other facts:

– Washington, DC, which is affectionately called Chocolate City because there are so many black folks, has the highest personal income per capita in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

-Queens County, New York is the only county with a population of 65,000 or more where African Americans have a higher median household income than White Americans. Nevertheless, there are dozens of cities and suburbs around the country with affluent and highly educated blacks, such as Atlanta, GA; Prince Georges County, MD; Willingboro, NJ; and more.

I bring these facts up because it is necessary to educate our students about these issues so that they are not under the assumption that what they read online and see on TV is true. Instead, teachers should instruct students to question images that are in the media or that they learned from their parents. Not only does this build a critical skill that is invaluable in the business world, but it helps them to view individuals who are diverse as individuals.

Furthermore, if teachers do a little more research, they may find out that their self-fulfilling prophecy (or notion that diverse parents don’t care about education), is also a stereotypical myth. Perhaps if YOU changed your mind, you would get better results in the area of parental participation– and you just may get some help in teaching students about diversity.

The 2013 Diversity Certification Exam Schedule is Now Available

The Institute for Diversity Certification, a subsidiary of the Society for Diversity, just posted its testing schedule for the 2013 exam year. Log onto for details or attend a FREE webinar for more information about diversity certification and how it can benefit your career:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
1:30PM – 2:30PM (EST)
“Career Path Choices with Diversity Certification”
FREE – Register at

You can still get certified now if you apply for the September or November 2012 exam windows. The deadline for the September 2012 exam window is July 6th. Apply at

WEBINAR, 6/20: “Reducing the Appearance of Reverse Discrimination & Double Standards”

Do employee perceptions align with the reality of your diversity and inclusion efforts? How do you know that the majority groups don’t view your efforts as reverse discrimination or double standards?

Find out how to distinguish between perceptions of discrimination, reverse discrimination and double standards at a webinar on:

“Reducing the Appearance of Reverse Discrimination & Double Standards”
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
1:00PM – 2:00PM (EST)

Register at

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