Inspiring Leadership with Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Posts tagged ‘workplace’

Broadening the Diversity and Inclusion Landscape by Danniella Banks

With companies, such as Google, in the news for its problems with diversity, many are now more aware of the issues that are present in today’s workforce. While there are organizations that are struggling, others are taking great strides to make its employee base more diverse and inclusive. Yet despite the advancements, there are still many groups that are going unnoticed in the diversity landscape.

In a recent article by Reuters, it is explained that while companies are embracing diversity, they are overlooking the fact that disabilities make people diverse as well. Those with disabilities account for over 1 billion people, according to the World Health Organization. Even though this is one of the largest minority groups, it is also the group that is the most underrepresented.

The recent struggles with regards to those with disabilities is easily seen with the problems that VA hospitals have been having. For some reason, people who have fought to defend our country have been pushed by the wayside just because they have medical needs and disabilities that may be difficult to care for. Additionally, those who are in charge of these hospitals are not following their policies of helping veterans, no matter what their ailments or disabilities may be.

The issue with the VA and other organizations that don’t take the time to care for those with disabilities is that it can lead to higher rates of homelessness, suicides and other negative consequences– all because some are unable to look past the disability and see the real person. Even though someone may have a disability, it doesn’t mean that the disability is an integral part of who the individual is, or he/she cannot hold a job. Yes, companies may need to make extra measures to ensure that the person is in an environment that is tailored to their needs, but many of these steps are easy to take. This is what inclusion is all about.

While some organizations are struggling to maintain diversity when it comes to the disabled and ex-military, these 10 are at the top for hiring veterans, according to a 2012 Huffington Post article:

1. DuPont
2. CSX
3. GE
4. J.B. Hunt
5. ManTech International
6. PG&E
7. G4S
8. Ameren
9. Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF)
10. USAA

Beyond hiring, these companies are good examples to look at when trying to create meaningful workplace programs for veterans.


Danniella Banks is the Sales and Marketing Specialist of the Society for Diversity, the #1 largest professional association for diversity and inclusion. For more information about the Society for Diversity, log onto

The Imprint of Diversity and Inclusion’s Impact

By Leah Smiley

This week’s 50th Anniversary Celebration of the March on Washington coincided with our diversity certification prep course on Measuring the Impact of Diversity and Inclusion“. While this topic is definitely a difficult issue, it’s hard not to think about impact when we consider the power of diversity and inclusion.

The impact of the March on Washington was that it led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And without that legislation, there would be no discussion about women in the C-Suite or even in the boardroom. There would be no recourse for older workers in a technology-driven economy. There would be no protection from harassment for different religious groups. There would be no accommodations for workers with disabilities. And there would be no equal tax treatment for gay marriage.

Impact.  What was initially seen as a predominately African American event actually positively impacted millions of individuals who were NOT African American.

So when we have students, employees, managers, and others who are concerned that only “certain” groups benefit from diversity and inclusion, history refutes that illogical fallacy. Everyone benefits– especially the organizations that master it.

The Big Picture is that when employers leverage differences and demonstrate cultural competence, they are in a better position to take advantage of market trends, demographic shifts and global business opportunities. They are also more likely to be fair, inclusive, and caring about the people with which they work (i.e., students, workers, customers, etc.).

The question is: How have you measured diversity and inclusion’s impact at your organization?

Since there is no official “diversity” leader, the assumption is that we are all individually and equally responsible for making a difference. But the difference that you make must go beyond merely getting a job in the field of diversity, or hiring 1-2 people of color, or even getting buy-in from the leadership team.

Impact has to alter business performance. It must also contribute to professional development, team functioning, and achievement. Additionally, impact should leave an imprint. An imprint occurs when “pressure leaves a firmly fixed mark“.

The starting point for your imprint must entail:

(1) A vision for diversity and inclusion. Don’t get so bogged down with activity that you neglect your vision.

(2) Next, you must execute a simple plan of action. The key here is Keep It Simple. Build your plans around business issues and not events.

(3) And finally, you must evaluate, or measure, your efforts using quantitative and qualitative data. We often report things like attendance figures, what people like about an event, the number of meetings held or business units served, or a new award as impact. While some of this information provides context, none is impact.

Impact can be demonstrated by changes in sales, grants/donations, or tuition through student retention, to name a few. You can also indicate shifts in productivity, the ability to recruit and retain talent, cost savings, or product development. Note that these impacts are linked to financial objectives. This means that you must understand how your organization makes money (even if you are a nonprofit, educational institution or government agency) and you gotta get comfortable with numbers.

When diversity and inclusion is successful, it will impact more than certain groups and the bottom line– you can create more employment opportunities for everyone, contribute to the local tax base for all citizens, and allow individuals to feel great about working for or doing business with your organization.

Let’s go beyond traditional ideas about diversity and inclusion, and make a conscience decision to leave an imprint.


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

Don’t Let a Hanging Noose “Surprise” You

By Leah Smiley

Every employer hopes it doesn’t happen to them– but workplace nooses are on the rise. Not only is it a workplace distraction– decreasing productivity, fostering division, and breeding fear– but it is also a public relations black eye for your corporate image and your diversity efforts.

Harassment, retaliation for discrimination complaints, and resistance to diversity training, are just some of the reasons why hangman’s nooses have been on the rise.

Within the last 30-days alone, nooses have been founded at the Siemens Plant in New Jersey and the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama, a subsidiary of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). This is the 5th noose found at or near a TVA facility. Some people have insinuated that blacks are hanging the nooses themselves in order to sue their employers. But the mere history of nooses, indicates that blacks are targeted as victims and not perpetrators. Between 1882 and 1920, a black person was lynched every two or three days in the U.S. Hence, blaming a black employee for the symbol of racial hatred and unrest is not advised.

Nooses are intended to be offensive, intimidating, and even funny to some. They are used as a reminder to people of color that if you step out of line, you will face certain punishment, even death. We have seen a decrease in nooses since the 1960’s, but since 2001, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says it has filed 30 cases in federal court alleging workplace harassment involving nooses.

The first thing to understand is that finding a noose is NOT an isolated incident. If the employer does not investigate or take swift and appropriate action, the likelihood of finding another noose increases exponentially. This also increases your liability in a discrimination and/or harassment claim.

Second, finding a noose is not limited to workers in the South, or to plants and locker rooms. There are dozens of documented cases where nooses were found in office settings, and cities with lots of diversity. For example, in December 2011, a New York city parks employee hung a black doll at the desk of a co-worker at the Bronx headquarters. A month later, the worker, who hung the noose as a joke, was arrested and suspended without pay. Nevertheless, the affected employee is suing the City.

A noose alone usually isn’t sufficient evidence of employment discrimination; it needs to be accompanied by other racially biased practices to be considered “hate speech” or a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While North Carolina, New York, Louisiana and California passed laws explicitly banning the public display of nooses over the last couple years, these laws also stipulate that there must be an “intent to intimidate.” Additionally, the plaintiff has to demonstrate that the employer didn’t do enough to respond to the problem.

The first line of defense is your offense. Be more proactive in ensuring that workers understand why they are employees in the first place: to help achieve organizational goals. That is the reason for diversity and why each highly qualified person is needed at your place of business. Individual personal views must take a back seat to the common, shared vision. All are valued, and all are necessary. This inclusive approach is not only motivational, but it is also effective in eliminating the perception of bias, unfairness, and inequity.

Nevertheless, if all else fails, employers should launch an immediate investigation into the hanging noose. If an offender is found, whether a supervisor or employee, you must take punitive actions. For example, suspension without pay, demotion, and/or termination will send a strong message that this type of “resistance” or “retaliation” against workers of color will not be tolerated.

You should also redistribute your clearly written policies pertaining to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The policy should include specific examples of unlawful behavior, specify your confidential complaint procedure, guarantee no retaliation, and describe sanctions for offenders.

Finally, you should follow-up to ensure that no further adverse actions are being imposed on the affected groups. For example, if a favorite supervisor was suspended, are other workers taking out their anger and frustration on the victim(s)? If so, you may want to provide training or counseling.

Don’t let a noose “surprise” you. Learn as much as you can about the attitudes and perceptions of your employees– not just in the headquarters, but also in the field offices. A cultural climate audit is a great place to start.

Additionally, you can also take classes, listen to webinars, participate in conferences, and read as much as you can about current diversity challenges and best practices. After all, being “surprised” is not a good excuse for a hanging noose in the workplace.

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