Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Posts tagged ‘Leah Smiley’

Braidio Partners with The Society for Diversity to Make Diversity & Inclusion Training More Accessible to Organizations Around the World

The Society for Diversity the largest professional association for diversity & inclusion leadership in the U.S. and Braidio, a Collaborative Learning Platform, Will Bring Professional Diversity and Inclusion Training to Small Businesses and Enterprise Organizations  

 

Plainfield, IN – Oct 16, 2015 – The Society for Diversity and Braidio, a cloud-based collaborative learning platform, have established a partnership to easily make professional diversity and inclusion training an integral part of any organization’s employee learning program, from small businesses to enterprise organizations. The Society for Diversity selected Braidio to be its preferred learning platform provider due their next- generation technology, which offers easily scalable “self-serve” learning content via a turnkey, “plug ‘n play” application.

 

Brands like the Hyatt Regency, American Express and Sodexo have successfully harnessed diversity and inclusion (D&I) to yield better results in recruiting, learning, marketing and measurement. However, the average organization has yet to experience diversity and inclusion outcomes worth reporting.

 

“There are many challenges to getting diversity and inclusion right. The starting point is to determine whether an effort centers on messaging or learning. Messaging is ‘we value diversity’, while learning allows people to make and fix mistakes. While messaging serves a brand need, learning wholly serves business success. For businesses to truly deliver on the diversity and inclusion promise learning must be relevant, repetitive and reinforced. This is why Braidio and Society of Diversity have partnered,” said Brian Sorge, VP of Client Solutions at Braidio.

 

Braidio kicked off the global partnership with a webinar for the Society for Diversity on the topic of “Diversity and Inclusion: Why Are We Still Talking About This?” The Society for Diversity offered the fall learning session to its 9,200 members and non-members.

 

The partnership will level the playing field, so that more organizations can receive consistent results in the realm of diversity and inclusion learning.

 

“The goal of diversity and inclusion is not to change people – that’s where organizations veer off to the left. The purpose is to change the way that an organization approaches, utilizes and responds to differences, so that it can proactively and strategically serve customers better. First, you have to understand your organizational culture. Second, you must know how your customer has changed and will shift over the years. Utilizing this model allows organizations to focus on customer preferences, the bottom line and their unique competitive position,” said Leah Smiley, President of The Society for Diversity.

 

The Society for Diversity offers years of experience and significant D&I outcomes to help more organizations build cultural competence. For example, The Society for Diversity’s subsidiary, the Institute for Diversity Certification, provides D&I credentials to more individuals than any other program in the United States.

 

For the 2016 diversity certification program, Braidio will help refine the online preparation courses so that the classes are more technologically-interactive and advanced.

 

“The Society for Diversity spends a lot of time trying to be the best. We also invest a considerable amount of effort in helping our constituents outperform their peers in the field of diversity and inclusion. That’s why this Braidio partnership is so perfect – it enhances our work so that diversity officers can lead effectively and continue to get great results,” added Smiley.

 

The Society for Diversity and Braidio are working together on the 2015 Diversity Leadership Retreat. The conference will facilitate organizations’ approach to profitability through employees and customers/students around the world. Through intimate, robust and balanced conversations, the conference will encourage interactive learning and demonstrate innovative thinking in the specialized, yet highly complex, area of diversity and inclusion. Participants will learn simple techniques that they can apply on the job to solve common problems, while saving time and money.

 

The conference will take place in Charlotte, NC, from October 20-23. Braidio will provide a branded conference site, where speakers can post their presentations and other content, and users can collaborate and share prior to, and after, the event, creating continuous and sustained learning. Braidio will also provide a two-hour general session featuring Sorge on the topic of “How to Create Sustained Learning Around Diversity and Inclusion.”

 

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About The Society for Diversity:

The Society for Diversity is the #1 and largest professional association for Diversity and Inclusion. We empower leadership and drive culture change through diversity and inclusion education, and a focus on bottom line impact. Since 2009, the Society for Diversity has acquired members in 43 states and 3 countries. Our members represent the best global employers in the corporate, non-profit, education and government sectors. The organization’s mission is to educate and equip diversity executives and professionals with the tools needed to design and execute effective diversity and inclusion strategies; share information and resources through an international business network; and establish a global standard of quality in the field of diversity. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto: www.societyfordiversity.org

 

Society for Diversity Media Contact:

Leah Smiley

1-800-764-3336

leahsmiley@societyfordiversity.org

 

About Braidio:

Braidio’s cloud-based Collaborative Learning Platform focuses on three basic human activities – learning, networking and collaboration – to establish a sustainable employee-driven learning economy within your organization. Our content delivery approach enables your employees to organically integrate learning into their daily workflow while allowing the employer to build and monitor learning metrics. As a result, Braidio advances your business with talent development tools that employees will actually use, at a fraction of the cost of traditional (and under-utilized) training tools. With customers ranging from Fortune 100 enterprises to SMBs, Braidio provides a solution that is affordable, scalable and effective regardless of whether you have a few employees or offices around the globe. For more information, please visit braidio.com or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Braidio Media Contact:

Benjamin Doda

Resound Marketing

(732) 580-7276

ben@resoundmarketing.com

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7 Ways to Stay Relevant Amidst a Cultural Shift

By Leah Smiley

spongebobWhile some may not like rap music or the hip hop culture, we all have to come to terms with its dominant influence on youth around the world.

In the wake of the “Straight Outta Compton” movie occupying the #1 box office spot for three weeks in a row, and generating over $147 million (in respect to a $28 million budget), the entertainment industry is paying attention to hip-hop music. Case in Point:  Over Labor Day weekend, Nickelodeon ran a Sponge Bob dance party commercial featuring a “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)” remix by 17-year old rapper, Silento.

In the making for over 40 years and globally diverse, the hip-hop culture has impacted language, graffiti art, music, dance, social and multi-media, as well as styles of dress. CNN recently explored hip hop’s influence on fashion in a documentary entitled, “Fresh Dressed”. This fascinating chronicle revealed the historical influences in the development of a new genre of music, and its ultimate relevance to the entertainment and fashion industries.

When rap music first appeared, many thought it was a fad that was associated with gangs and undesirable “urban consumers”. But trillions of dollars later, some actually realize that this style of music can impact everything from education to product placement. Some forward thinking companies were able to brilliantly parlay hip hop music into increased sales, new product development, and better market penetration for Generation X, Millennials, and I-Gen. While such a multi-cultural marketing strategy does not replace traditional efforts, it does supplement an overall game plan to stay relevant for generations to come.

Beyond the entertainment industry, professionals and executives must continuously ask themselves, “How Can I Stay Relevant?” There are several things that we can do to personally ensure that our careers do not stagnate amidst a global culture that is continuously changing:

  1. Manage your time well so that your schedule allows you to read professional and industry-related news on a regular basis.
  2. Anticipate problems by understanding how trends will impact the organization now and in the future.
  3. Become more knowledgeable about global affairs—read, take classes, attend conferences, and network with others.
  4. Build a strong professional network, inside and outside of your organization.
  5. Demonstrate self-initiative by volunteering for key assignments or acquiring skills that are relevant to industry trends (e.g., such as foreign language skills or building strong teams across cultures)
  6. Take advantage of data and analytics to provide deeper insights.
  7. Foster a transparent environment by demonstrating your own openness to different ideas, requesting feedback outside of performance reviews, asking for help, and being responsive.

 

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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 http://www.societyfordiversity.org

5 Trends That Will Impact Diversity & Inclusion Work

Diversity & Inclusion

How are you proactively planning for the future of business?

Last week, I co-presented a webinar about the 2015 Diversity Leadership Retreat. I discussed “5 Trends That Will Impact Diversity & Inclusion Work.” A summation of my presentation follows.

Within the scope of diversity and inclusion work, it is important for organizations to proactively:

  • Understand Diversity & Inclusion from a Global Context
    There is a “Make in India” pitch, a “Made in China” campaign, a “Made in America” movement, and so many other promotions to persuade manufacturers and consumers to invest their monies. Beyond short term job creation and tax revenue benefits, these campaigns point to a long-term strategy for global dominance.

    Sustainable revenue growth is one of the drivers behind the need to do business better in international markets, as well as the impetus to appeal to diverse employees and consumers in distinct regions. Nevertheless, in these global markets, diversity issues will manifest in different forms. For example, in some places, religion, age and income are issues; in other places, the biggest diversity “problems” center around emigrants and women, or the LGBT and disabled communities.

    In Forbes, Glenn Llopis writes, “No longer can America’s corporations hide behind their lack of cultural intelligence.  Organizations that seek global market relevancy must embrace diversity – in how they think, act and innovate.  Diversity can no longer just be about making the numbers, but rather how an organization treats its people authentically down to the roots of its business model.   In today’s new workplace, diversity management is a time-sensitive business imperative.”

    Thus, instead of viewing diversity as a problem, the challenge lies in seeing opportunities that exist when embracing under-served and under-utilized markets.

  • Realize the Need to Offset Impending Labor & Economic Shortages with Women
    “A society where women can shine should not only be a PR exercise (for companies and the government) to demonstrate that they are utilizing female talent. The important thing is to change the rules of the game by incorporating the perspectives of women in corporate management and work style,” Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe once said.

    “International organizations including the World Economic Forum and the International Monetary Fund have long called on Japan to make more use of its female workforce to offset the labor shortage brought on by its rapidly aging population and antiquated traditions — some 60 percent of Japanese women quit work after giving birth. One of the obstacles blocking working moms from climbing the ladder, let alone staying employed, is posed by Japan’s notoriously and often unnecessarily long working hours”, according to a July 2014 article, Female Workers May Finally Get Foothold, in Working Woman Report.

    Japan isn’t the only country facing a shortage of skilled workers. Nor are they the only nation to consider fully-engaging women in the labor market and economy.

    Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has issued a Global Gender Gap Index. According to The Global Gender Gap Report 2013, the authors propose that closing gender gaps is important not only from an equity perspective, but also from an economic one: Research shows that investments in women’s education and use of female talent boost a country’s competitiveness.

    Report authors cite the benefits of more women working: The talent pool across leadership positions is larger, women’s decision making tends to be less risky, and gender-equal teams may be more successful. Countries that have closed education gaps and have high levels of women’s economic participation—the Nordic countries, the United States, the Philippines, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia–are better prepared for global competition.

  • Hedge Competitive Pressures with Innovation
    The competitive landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade. For one, customer preferences are shifting rapidly, placing a higher preference on personalization, interaction and mobile solutions.

    In the Marketing Society’s Forum on “Are We Keeping Pace with Changing Consumer Preferences?”, Louis Fowler, Marketing Director at First Direct, asserts, “We are prone to making the mistake of thinking we can predict what’s going to happen, rather than finding a way to respond quickly when things do. Technology not only enables, but also holds us back as it can be slow and expensive. The answer is in people, not systems.” People, in particular diverse employees, are key to anticipating and addressing changing customer preferences before the competition meets their needs.

    The second major component of competition involves the global context of modern day business. These competitive pressures are not just being felt on businesses. Educational institutions, nonprofits and government entities are concerned about competition as well. For example, Inc. Magazine recently ran an article entitled, “Pushing the Boundaries” by Greg Lindsay. The article highlighted the fact that Santiago, Chile offers entrepreneurs a one-year visa, free workspace and $33,000 in cash to relocate. Meanwhile Tallinn, Estonia, began offering e-residencies, which grants foreigners the same digital identities that are Estonians’ birthright.

  • Stay Abreast of Continuously Changing Demographics & Projections
    California recently scaled back its 2050 Hispanic population projection by 7 million. A Pew Research Center report states that “Under projections published in 2007, the state’s Hispanic population was expected to reach 31 million in 2050, or 52.1% of all Californians. But according to updated projections released late last year, Hispanics are now expected to number 23.7 million in 2050, or 47.6% of all Californians. That pushes the prospect of a Hispanic demographic majority further into the future – perhaps to sometime after 2060.”

    California is not alone. In May 2015, the Washington Post reported, “As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades.”  Recent Census reports show that data pertaining to older workers, women, veterans, LGBT, and other demographic groups are also moving targets because of global population changes and the complexity of diversity.

  • Utilize Multi-Dimensional Frameworks
    Speaking of complexity, the U.S. Census Bureau is presently grappling with how to describe current demographics pertaining to existing definitions of race and family, as the current definitions are not as clear-cut as they used to be half a century ago.

    Likewise, in the workplace, using a uni-dimensional framework with employee resource groups, supplier diversity, or recruiting, worked well at some point in the last decade. But employers are quickly learning that using singular dimensions such as race, ethnicity or gender are not sufficient anymore. For example, some companies have been exploring how to create Business Resource Groups that include White men. Additionally, simply having an Employee Resource Group for individuals with disabilities may not adequately serve a company’s growing base of caregivers. Hence, organizations must think beyond current diversity efforts toward the future of inclusion.

In our next webinar for the 2015 Diversity Leadership Retreat, l will discuss 7 areas where you could make more of an impact with diversity and inclusion. To register for this FREE webinar, click here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4193645463497400833

Also, we need your feedback! Please participate in a brief survey on “Global Supplier Diversity Trends” at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DXYLK5B

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Leah Smiley is the President of the Society for Diversity. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto www.societyfordiversity.org

 

What Can Indiana Fix?

By Leah Smiley

indianaFirst, let me preface this conversation by stating unequivocally:  religion, politics, and business (in a capitalistic economy) DO NOT mix well.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act has caused such an uproar in the last couple of weeks that it’s hard to believe that nearly two dozen other states have the same law. Apparently in Indiana, the bill’s intent of protecting businesses does not align with its impact of hurting companies that do business in the state of Indiana. Even the Society for Diversity got “the message”. In response to a recent membership promotion advertising a partnership with The Derwin Smiley Show and the Indianapolis 500, one person said:

“I would ask you to revisit this contest considering what is happening in Indy right now. I don’t think it is in the best interest of any person or groups of people who work on diversity matters to be supporting anything in Indiana.”

My staff freaked out! Meanwhile, Indiana’s Governor seems to be unfazed by all of the negative attention the bill is receiving in his state.

Governor Mike Pence recently wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal doubling down on his position. He asserted that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is “Ensuring Religious Freedom in Indiana” because it is a law that was intended to preempt the Affordable Care Act from forcing businesses to act against their religious beliefs in the provision of healthcare or insurance.

Yet, something about this RFRA law seems unnecessary, even exorbitant, in the quest for religious “freedom”. Even in the other states where the law has been successfully enacted, there is the stench of religious intolerance– the same kind that has driven millions of believers away from various monotheistic faiths. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.”

I live in Indiana, and the Society for Diversity is headquartered in Indiana.The Society for Diversity’s position on the law is that no organization in the United States should be allowed to legally discriminate against any person for any reason. After all, if you are going to be in business for the long-term, you must serve more people than your competitors– and you have to serve them better than your competitors. This is the competitive advantage of diversity. Additionally, if we are going to bring “religion” into the conversation, what ever happened to doing what is right?

Currently, business leaders are organizing a statewide effort to fix the law. As this process plays out, I would like to know what would you suggest?

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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 www.societyfordiversity.org.

How Real Leaders Handle Inappropriate Conduct

By Leah Smiley

firedUnivision reaches 94 million households in the United States. It is the largest Spanish language broadcaster in the U.S., and the fifth largest television network. According to CNN, “Rodner Figueroa, an Emmy Award-winning host and presenter, was fired by the Spanish-language network for remarks he made on-air. In a broadcast on Wednesday, Figueroa said, “Michelle Obama looks like she’s part of the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes.'” He made the comments as a photo of the first lady was shown on screen.

Figueroa was fired on Thursday.

Free Speech proponents assert, “He can say what he wants.” But I will illustrate my response with a brief personal story. For my father’s 60th birthday, my siblings and I hosted a party at The Mansion in Voorhees, NJ. During the event, my siblings reminisced about who received the most spankings while we were growing up– and then everyone looked at me. What I remember most, is not the spankings, but the lectures that accompanied the discipline. It almost made me want to say, “hurry up and get it over with man!” But my father insisted on telling me that “everyone makes mistakes, and that is OK. But for every mistake you make in life, there are consequences.” Sheesh, I hated that word “consequences”.

Some will say, Figueroa was Latino, he wasn’t racist. The courts have ruled that even if a Cuban repeatedly called a Puerto Rican an illegal immigrant (when he or she is not) or a black person called another black person the “N” word in the workplace, your organization could get sued for discrimination. So that means that ethnicity does not preclude one from experiencing consequences for unprofessional and inappropriate conduct.

Keep in mind, there are times when you should NOT terminate an employee. For example,

This is just a partial listing of real U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) cases. But then there are other times when, for the sake of morale and the organization’s reputation, you should take swift and definitive action. Don’t:

  • Ask the person to resign
  • Make the person profusely apologize
  • Wait for the public to demand someone’s head

Fire ’em.

Some will say, “show compassion in an environment where customers are unforgiving”. OK, here’s the bellwether for compassion: will you be terminated in that person’s stead? That’s how you know if you really have compassion, because you believe in what that person did so much that you are willing to take the fall.

If not, fire ’em.

It’s common sense. Grown folks should be intelligent enough to distinguish between professional and unprofessional conduct AT WORK. They should also be considerate of the people that support or buy from your organization (e.g., the Obama Administration has advertised with Univision). And they should be able to determine what is funny versus what will cause a political firestorm or a public relations nightmare.

Common sense will also tell you that management will not allow inappropriate behavior.

The best terminations etch a sketch in workers minds about inappropriate conduct in the workplace. So as not to create an environment of fear, you want to fire the offender swiftly and then communicate with your staff about the termination. Allow them to ask questions, or express concerns. Make sure you reference a specific employment policy so everyone understands that this is not personal. Finally, reaffirm your commitment to an inclusive organizational culture that values ALL workers and great contributions. This is what separates leaders from figureheads.

Unless you are a politician or lobbyist, your personal political beliefs are not relevant at work. Furthermore, discriminatory behavior is never acceptable. At some point, leaders have to take a stand– discerning that allowing unprofessional behavior in the workplace inevitably snowballs into an avalanche of problems.

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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 www.societyfordiversity.org.

Bad Leadership Validates Unfounded Fear

By Leah Smiley

boogeyman4cvThe other night, my 5-year old son came into my room in a state of panic. He said, “My tooth is wiggly”. As he came closer, I noticed that he had tears in his eyes and a look on his face that said, I’m about to burst into tears. I asked, “What’s wrong?” He said, “I don’t want to lose my tooth.” At first, I thought it was because the tooth fairy forgot to leave a dollar the last time I—oops, ‘he’—got the tooth from under the pillow. But then he said, “It may not grow back.” I soon realized this was easier than I thought. I told him to look in the mirror at the other teeth that grew back. He thoroughly inspected his mouth and began to smile because he realized that his fear was unfounded.

Workplace diversity is a lot like my 5-year old. There are many “fears” when it comes to dealing with difference and change. Some of the top fears include:

• Addressing errant behavior.
People always tell me, “you should go to Missouri or you should help the folks in New York”. But my nonchalant response is, “I like to work with proactive employers.” What does that mean? It means in many of these cases, someone in leadership knew that there were some problems. Nevertheless, they turned a blind eye or slapped the offenders on the wrists until the snowflake became an avalanche.

Here’s the reality: corruption, racism, and negative attitudes are viruses. If you ever had a kid in daycare, you know what I mean—the best childcare providers frequently clean and sanitize the entire building because those little snotty nosed, germ-bots will eventually infect everyone.

• Saying or doing the wrong thing.
The Wall Street Journal recently printed an article entitled, “Women at Work: A Guide for Men” by Joanne Lipman. Here are a few of the reader’s comments:

“What, no mention of the women who, as a result of the prevailing preoccupation with ‘equality’, have been promoted far beyond their level of competence and who retain their positions far longer than is healthy for the company? They hold those positions, and are sometimes promoted into those positions, at the expense of better men. I found the article to be sexist, and unreasonable in the sense that good leadership comes from people who know their business and know how to make the right decisions, not necessarily from good ‘collaborators’. ”

“The reason feminists will always fail to achieve workplace “equality” is because they exhort (and expect) women to be something they aren’t: men.”

“So, of course, now men are supposed to make extra efforts to help even more women displace men in the workplace…??? No thank you. Women: You asked for access and opportunity, then learn the rules, go out and earn it like many of us “privileged” men had to do….Stop whining. If not, do me a favor, run to the kitchen and make me a sandwich honey…”

One person went so far as to say that he doesn’t even invest in companies that are run by women. Online, everyone is bold; but in the workplace, some people do not like to interact with different groups in fear of getting punished for saying or doing the wrong thing.

These sentiments are not limited to a discussion about women, they also apply to articles about blacks in the workplace, or marketing to Latinos and Asians, or including gays and different religious groups. Some news organizations have actually eliminated their comments sections because the reader feedback was so brutal.

But guess what? These folks are in your workplaces. If you think for one minute that diversity and inclusion is not necessary, think again. Your organization’s ability to compete and sustain growth is jeopardized due to ineffective teamwork, lack of communication, unresolved conflicts, and discrimination. The Bible says it best, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

• Going against the grain.
Many organizations imagine embracing innovation, creativity, and leadership. But the reality is that conformity is valued way more than going against the grain will ever be. A good example of this is can be found in the black community. Young black kids learn early that their peers are not accepting of students who do well in school, speak properly or demonstrate respect. When I was growing up, I remember the same kind of peer pressure—to underperform in order to fit in. Luckily, my dad wasn’t having it. Since I can remember, he frequently told us, “It’s OK to be different. Don’t try to fit in.”

In the workplace, very few executives encourage, or reward, non-conformity. But this mindset also does not reward risk-taking. People are so concerned what others will think, that although they may not feel the same way as everyone else, they will go along to get along—perhaps smiling, or remaining silent, or even adding a few ‘agreeable’ words. But deep down inside, there is a simmering resentment because they feel forced or like they have to conform. Accordingly, they suppress good ideas, feedback or other risks in fear of being different. It’s not hard then, to understand why diversity and inclusion are so difficult for the organization to advance.

Think of going against the grain in this manner: imagine if Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Winston Churchill, or John F. Kennedy were conformists. Barry Goldwater, former U.S. Senator and Presidential nominee, once said, “Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.”

At the end of the day, fear is not demonstrative of good leadership for all of these reasons and more. It causes organizations to react slowly, stifles true inventiveness, and suppresses the greatness that lies within. Once you get rid of fear, diversity and inclusion are among the many things that will become easier and better in your organization. As leaders, it is up to us to invalidate those unfounded fears and advance towards greatness.

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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 http://www.societyfordiversity.org.

A Holiday Note to the ‘P.C.’ Police: Be Civil

By Leah Smiley

 

pc police 2It’s that time of year again, when Diversity and Inclusion efforts receive a bad rep because of a few over-zealous, politically correct individuals.

As we approach the holidays, the P.C. (Politically Correct) police become more vigilant than ever. Once, I sent out an e-mail blast that said, “Merry Christmas” and I received messages for days on end saying, “You’re not a REAL diversity professional”.

According to Wikipedia, “freedom of religion [in America] is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is also closely associated with separation of church and state, a concept advocated by Colonial founders such as Roger Williams, William Penn and later founding fathers such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.”

In the workplace, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides for ‘religious freedom’ through anti-discrimination laws. According to EEOC, “Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.” This protection includes atheists, agnostics and non-religious folks.

Most developed nations have workplace protections for people based on religion. In emerging markets, however, religious diversity is causing all sorts of conflicts. According to DoSomething.org, “Nearly 50 percent of countries increased their religious discrimination between 2009 and 2010, and only 32 percent saw decreases. On average, countries that have government restrictions on religion have higher rates of social hostility. Social hostilities of religious discrimination include armed conflict, harassment of women over dress code, mob violence, hate crimes, violence or violent threats, terrorist violence, and more.”

Consider this partial listing of recent events:

  • Somali extremists killed 28 non-Muslims in Northern Kenya.
  • Two attackers armed with knives, axes and a gun stormed a synagogue in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, killing four worshipers and wounding several others.
  • In the Philippines, a nurse and teacher bled to death after extremists threw a hand grenade into a Church of Christ.
  • In Bangladesh, a prominent university professor was murdered, several years after he led a push to ban students wearing full-face veils. The professor followed the folk sect Baul, popular in parts of western Bangladesh, whose members call themselves followers of humanism rather than a particular religion.
  • According to The Freethought Report released in December 2013, Atheists face death in 13 countries. Even in places like Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Malta and Poland, blasphemy laws allow for jail sentences up to three years on charges of offending a religion or believers.

This very brief list certainly provides an overview of the world’s religious state of affairs. For global organizations and governments, this level of religious (or non-religious) intolerance presents a risk for workers and their families, tourists and business travelers, conventioneers, customers, and more. In other words, there are much bigger fish to fry than whether or not someone says, “Happy Kwanzaa.”

Therefore, if you are P.C., try to relax this holiday season. If someone says, “Happy Hanukkah” because you look Jewish and you have a Jewish-sounding name, try not to go ballistic. Perhaps, you can say “Happy Hanukkah to you too!” But if your “freedom” does not allow you to celebrate Hanukkah, perhaps you can simply say, “Happy Holidays” without going into a diatribe about how some Jews are Jewish by ethnicity only. Likewise, if a store clerk says, “Merry Christmas”, don’t go on a rant about banning the store because you’re not a Christian. Take a deep breath, smile, and keep moving.

When we think about all that is going on around the world, and the fact that people are dying for what they believe (or don’t believe), the least we can do is show some civility when someone seeks to spread a little holiday cheer. The Platinum Rule for Diversity is to treat others as they want to be treated. Yet, religious and secular fanaticism (e.g., unreasonable zeal, mean-spiritedness, or other extreme behavior) threatens everyone else’s freedom.

Political correctness is not an apparent token that you are the king or queen of diversity and inclusion because sometimes, P.C. is offensive. Thus, instead of being politically correct this year, try to be civil. In the words of Jim Leach, former U.S. Congressman and academic, “Civility is not about dousing strongly held views. It’s about making sure that people are willing to respect other perspectives.”

P.S.  You can send me all of the P.C. notes you want, Happy Thanksgiving anyway!

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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 www.societyfordiversity.org.

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