Why Corporations Need to Pay Attention to #BlackLivesMatter

by Andrés T. Tapia –

(This article was originally published in Huffington Post Black Voices)

As outrage over young, unarmed black men being shot by law-enforcement officers fuels marches in America’s streets from coast to coast, there’s an awkward silence among corporate-diversity champions on how best to engage on the issue.

The discomfort is understandable. While corporations can have social impact when they choose to, they have very rarely been at the vanguard of social-change movements and, by definition, must act according to self-interest, considering what is best for their brand and place in the market. Given this, the bar is set very high on when company leaders feel they can and should weigh in on polarizing topics without risking a hit to their bottom line.

So yes, General Mills, with its family-friendly brand, chose to recast Betty Crocker’s highly traditional father/mother nuclear family in the vein of Modern Family/Black’ish/Cristela. Starbucks stood up for LGBT rights in the state of Washington. Many companies are making glass-ceiling-shattering decisions when it comes to who leads them (#IBMGinniRometty, #YahooMarissaMayer).

But when it comes to race, and especially when it comes to violence on the streets, the terrain gets so much more complicated when it comes to how corporate decision makers feel they can and should respond.

In conducting my diversity and inclusion consulting work in corporate C-suites this past year, I have experienced a growing cognitive dissonance between what are genuine commitments on the part of leaders to achieve more diverse and inclusive workplaces on the one hand and, on the other, a near complete avoidance of reflecting on the implications of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin on their work.

Sure, it can feel like a leap to many. But here’s where we need to make the link. While some may say that the issues between the police and low-income urban youth are too far removed from the corporate dynamics facing college-educated professionals of color, scratch the surface and there are significantly more psychosocial links than meet the eye.

In saying there are links, I am not saying these are parallel situations. The dynamics of law enforcement, public safety, and incarceration disparities have a life of their own that don’t show up in corporations. But the realities of unconscious and conscious bias that lead to racial profiling and racial marginalization, which manifest in very different ways on the street, have a way of showing up under different guises in the corporation.

Take a moment and reflect.

The black male executives or high-potential talents swiping their ID card as they start their work day have just come in from a real world outside where they have a significantly greater chance of having been stopped by a police officer on their way to work, either driving or walking, than their white counterparts.

Check out these statistics about how real this kind of racial profiling is, and then ask yourself how much this may be weighing on the minds of Black and Latino employees. As reported by the ACLU in 2013, around 525,000 New York residents were stopped and questioned by police. Of those, 56 percent were Black and 29 percent were Latinos, though Blacks and Latinos collectively make up just over than 51 percent of New York City’s total population. Eighty-eight percent were found to be innocent.

It does not take a great leap of logic to consider that the level of paranoia this may induce on the street is likely to show up in some ways at work. I saw this firsthand when I was the chief diversity officer at a global human resources consulting and outsourcing firm headquartered in a white neighborhood. African Americans were indeed pulled over not infrequently as they were just trying to get to work. They were also more fearful of leaving after dark, therefore often showing less willingness to stay longer to finish a job.

And beyond fearing being stopped for driving or walking while Black, there are the too-many-to-name instances where a highly accomplished professional gets given the keys by a driver at valet parking, or gets asked for the aisle number for the paprika, or gets tapped for a glass of wine at a reception. Just ask President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who shared with People that even they have not been spared from this type of indignity.

Back to the workplace. Even with the consistently dropping unemployment rate, there is a persistent discrepancy between the unemployment rates for various racial groups in the U.S. In November 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for whites and Asians was 4.9 percent, while the Latino rate was 6.6 percent, and for Blacks the rate is 11 percent.

And for those who are employed, the prospects of leadership promotions are dismal. According to DiversityInc magazine and the Alliance for Board Diversity, in the Fortune 500 only 1.2 percent of CEOs and 6.3 percent of board directors are Black. The representation of Asians and Latinos among Fortune 500 CEOs is no better, at 1.8 percent and 2 percent, respectively, and board membership has been reported at just over 2 and 3 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, out in broader society, compared with whites, Blacks and Latinos experience disparate results in health carelong-term savings, and educational achievement and face greater obstacles to being able to vote easily and suffer greater discrimination in housing and bank financing.

What does it mean to say that race still matters? It means that race has an influence on individual outcomes. From the moment a person is born in America, his or her race matters. Race matters at birth, and it matters at death. Race matters in the food we eat and in our health. Race matters in education and in justice. Race matters in politics; it matters in housing. Race matters in employment; it matters in wealth. Race matters in the U.S.A. from cradle to grave.

If we declare that we value diversity and inclusion in our corporations, then we must face this moment-of-truth question: Today, as protestors step into the streets, football fields, and basketball courts declaring that #BlackLivesMatter, are we ready to do the necessary soul searching and organizational changes to bend the narrative that race still matters in the workplace?

 

Globalization’s Good News for the U.S. Workforce

by Andrés T. Tapia —

Mixed group of nations behind the American flag.

There’s good news on the globalization front for America’s diverse talent. Increasing numbers of corporations are bringing jobs back to U.S. shores as Asian and European companies open up more plants here. Taking advantage of this good news represents challenges and opportunities for diversity and inclusion professionals. Are our workers and students of color ready for these jobs? Can CDOs step to the forefront of tying diversity to bringing jobs back home?  Read more in the November/December 2013 issue of Diversity Executive Magazine.

 

 

Diversity and the Rise of America’s Second-Tier Cities

by Andrés T. Tapia –

Stock_17527885XSmall.cincinnati.pd

The Cincinnati skyline at twilight

In my work as president of Diversity Best Practices, I travel around the country a lot—meeting with members, consulting, giving speeches. While my engagements often take me to the usual big cities—New York City; Boston; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco—increasingly my work is pulling me to second-tier towns. Like most people, I had preconceived ideas about our country’s smaller cities—slower paced, homogeneous, lacking in resources and amenities. To my surprise, there is a fervent movement around diversity and inclusion in these secondary cities that I believe is evolving into a national trend.

From Pittsburgh to Columbus to Omaha to Grand Rapids to Milwaukee to Indianapolis to Minneapolis, cities that people have typically assumed lack diversity are more diverse than people think. In fact, the percentage of racial minorities in Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; and Milwaukee surpasses that of New York City. And Grand Rapids and Milwaukee come close to rivaling the Big Apple in terms of the percentage of Latinos.

What’s more, because many of these cities are experiencing economic growth the imperative of diversity is growing right along with their rising economic indicators. Omaha has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, Columbus one of the fastest economic growth rates, and Pittsburgh is the poster child of a city making the pivot from an industrial economy based on steel to the new economy of finance, healthcare, and technology.

In their growing dynamism, companies in these second tier cities are awakening to a realization that not only do they need to leverage the diverse talent pool already in the city; they need to bring in more talent from outside to keep their economic growth momentum. This means attracting more diversity—racial/ethnic, immigrant, LGBT—to cities that on first blush may not be seem to be magnets for big-city types from groups that historically may not have felt welcome.

It’s this legacy perception that they lack the diversity and amenities found in major metropolitan areas that poses a fundamental challenge to these second-tier cities. If they don’t overcome it, their economic growth may stall out due to lack of talent.

So companies in these markets are working together to get their diversity story out. I have been with passionate diversity leaders in Milwaukee, Columbus, Omaha, and Cincinnati, where they have banded together through city-wide diversity councils where big and medium-sized companies (even competing organizations) are addressing their common diversity challenges. They’re also partnering with their local Chambers of Commerce and city development organizations to make their cities more attractive. Because when it comes to attractive city life its not just about seeking tolerance; it’s also about finding a place to do my hair, find my spices, boogey to my music. So these diversity leaders are helping their cities with the following three-prong communications effort.

  • Spread the word about the economic opportunities as the nation as whole struggles with a sluggish recovery. These cities are home for some of the largest companies in the nation, many of them in the FORTUNE 100. Mutual of Omaha, Union Pacific, and ConAgra in Omaha; Cardinal Health, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nationwide, Limited Brands, Huntington Bank in Columbus, Ohio; Fifth Third, Macy’s, Procter & Gamble, Kroger in Cincinnati; 3M, Target, Cargill, Best Buy, General Mills in Minneapolis; PNC, Humana, US Steel, Heinz in Pittsburgh; MillerCoors, Manpower, Rockwell, and Harley Davidson, Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual in Milwaukee. And then there’s the largest employer in the world in the middle of Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Mart is so much of a force in its headquarter town that some of its vendors have set up large facilities in the southern town specifically to serve the big box retailer—supersizing the retailer’s already outsized economic influence on the town.
  • With economic strength comes the benefit of increased tax revenues. Increased revenues have fueled a civic renaissance providing residents and visitors alike with a very cosmopolitan experience. In Omaha’s Market Square, the small-town quaintness of horse-drawn carriages meandering down cobblestone roads meets a metropolitan menu of sushi, Indian, French, and Latin fusion restaurants representing a savory selection of international cuisine typically reserved for the big city. Pittsburgh has transformed from a soot-producing steel town to a clean, landscaped happening urban hub. Cleveland’s Historic Warehouse District with its potted flower lined sidewalk cafes is reminiscent of European scenes. Milwaukee’s shuttered factories have been reborn as funky lofts for artists and restaurants and night clubs for hip professionals. Cincinnati’s historic riverfront on the Ohio River offers a large urban park experience that can be topped off in the evening with a cabernet sauvignon and a prime rib cooked medium rare.
  • Confront and cast off the legacy that these cities are not welcoming to racial and ethnic minorities and other underrepresented groups. A Cincinnati study found that despite the city’s growing diversity, a majority of its residents feel that still more diversity is needed and that they still fall short of providing a truly inclusive and welcoming spirit to outsiders. Cincinnati’s findings likely represent the feelings of those in many of our country’s second-tier cities and these cities know their work is not done.

These systematic, city-wide approaches already in action are the key to achieving greater diversity in these smaller cities. The next step involves metropolitan-wide collaborations with local businesses—grocery stores, beauty salons, barbershops and more—in an effort to truly meet the needs for lifestyle amenities that potential residents seek when contemplating a new home. The effort is a win-win for all involved—these cities and their residents and the companies located there. For an influx of greater diversity will mean a growing population with needs for all kinds of mainstream and exotic goods and services.

This trend is still evolving. Keep your eyes open. There’s an emerging diversity story here, in a second-tier city near you.

People of Color Feel Uncomfortable at Work

by Andrés T. Tapia – Stock-photo.214466XSmall.divbuspple

Many people of color feel that they can’t share their true selves in the workplace. They lead dual lives – one at work and one everywhere else. This is happening even as business leaders say they value diversity and multicultural fluency. Check out the piece on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network that talks about the latest study by the  Center for Talent Innovation. Let me know what you think.

Tattoo Barbie and the Power of Pop Culture

by Andrés T. Tapia –TatooBarbie

Pop culture has a way of both reinforcing traditional cultural mores and  also of mainstreaming outlier messages and attitudes. And particularly in the era of diversity and inclusion, Barbie has unexpectantly played a cultural changing role in this way.

For more than 50 years, Barbie, that mainstream America icon has enchanted or annoyed girls and women of all ages. It could be that Barbie’s pop culture stature has been a mirror of the ever changing mainstream society’s views of what it means to be a young woman.  After decades of traditional beauty queen obsessions with shopping and looking great, she started crossing gender role lines as an astronaut, a pilot, and a Nascar driver among 120 other occupations. As times changed, so have her friends who’ve become more multicultural: African American (Christie), Hispanic (Teresa) and Asian (Dana).

And now, to both the horror and delight of millions, we have Tattoo Barbie. The recently released tattoo Barbie is providing new fodder for debate. Women, both for and against tattoos, have weighed in on this latest Barbie version.

The negative  comments surface on a cyclical basis every time Barbie pushes the envelope. Some concerns are about whether she contributes to young girls’ and women’s insecurities about their body image. Do her impossible body dimensions encourage eating disorders and low self-esteem? Is she an appropriate role model for what adults want girls to think and believe? So while Mattel blew it when a version of talking Barbie said, “Math class is tough” Tattoo Barbie is hip and tough while still maintaining that ability to connect with the mainstream. And that very ability to normalize the cultural edge is precisely where her power for influencing and changing cultural interpretations lies.

While many may still cringe at Barbie’s materialism and impossible figure, Mattel has helped manstream diversity that has been scary or mysterious for many. She becomes a channel to try out new ways of being a girl and young woman. Now a group of Barbie fans is petitioning Mattel to create a bald Barbie. This is to help girls still feel pretty even though they’ve lost their hair because of chemotherapy treatments for cancer. The bald Barbie Facebook page has been “liked” by nearly 150,000 visitors as the momentum continues to grow.

Another group has taken a more do-it-yourself approach. African American women in Ohio have taken donated Barbies and restyled their hair to reflect a more natural hairstyle for black girls. Fro-lific, a Columbus, Ohio group of women committed to natural hair, admits that Mattel offers various African American versions of Barbie and her friends. Still, Fro-lific members maintain that most black Barbies have hair that seems more chemically straightened than a reflection of the typical texture of black girls’ hair. They donated the “naturalized” Barbies to a local girls’ organization during the Christmas holiday.

Whether sporting “tats,” going bald, or naturally “tressed,” whether she’s a bride or a Nascar driver, Barbie can play a role in influencing a change in cultural attitudes toward difference.

Getting Minorities Outside and Into National Parks

by Andrés T. Tapia –

NPS.Ram1

 

Although I grew up in Lima, Peru, my urban upbringing was tempered by frequent forays into the countryside–hiking in the Andes, traveling to the Amazon rainforest, and visiting my maternal grandparents in a rural area of Washington State. Being outside was a regular part of my childhood. But that’s not true for too many minority youngsters and their families.

According to several studies, including a presentation by the National Park Service (NPS), visiting a national park is overwhelmingly a white family’s experience. About 91% of national park visitors are white. Even when you look at all outdoor recreation, minority participation lags far behind–80% of all outdoor recreationists are white, according to the Outdoor Foundation. That situation hasn’t changed much since the 1960s.

Yosemite Park Ranger Shelton Johnson, who is African American, has said numerous times that he is more likely to meet a visitor from Japan or France than an African American or Latino family in the park. Getting minorities into our national parks has become such a big deal that Oprah devoted a 2-part program to the subject, where she admitted to never having visited one before. Even the Obama family vacation to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon sparked national attention.

Black, Latino, Asian and Native American families just aren’t going outdoors, let alone visiting a national park. The NPS, headed by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, has recognized this gap and, as it approaches its 100th birthday in 2016, is trying to do something about that situation.

Part of that effort was the 2009 partnership with noted historical documentarian Ken Burns and his 6-episode documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Check out a video preview here.

 

An offshoot of the documentary is the Untold Stories Project, where NPS stories focus on the contributions of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and American Indians to the park system. The Project seeks to engage under-represented minorities in the nation’s National Parks. Here’s one video about the project.

As with many diversity initiatives, a critical issue behind this push (aside from the NPS’ legal and ethical mandate) is the realization that much of the future support for our national parks will fall to the same ethnic groups that are not visiting the parks today. If today’s minority youth don’t develop a connection to our national lands, it’s likely they won’t support the park system as adults.

Interestingly, some of the research behind this attendance gap delves into what discourages minority families from visiting the parks. Once the studies adjusted for socioeconomic factors, the main difference was…yes…culture. Those of us on the crosscultural front lines understand that what motivates, engages, and appeals to mainstream sensibilities may not hold similar attraction to families coming from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. For instance, where a white families may find the iconic view of the sun setting over the rim of the Grand Canyon appealing and engaging, Latino and African American families may prefer their nature forays to include a gathering of friends and relatives. Increasing diversity in our national parks–in attendance and employment–means more than just making them available and accessible. It means confronting the different experiences and expectations that all guests seek from these national treasures.

A you can see, the Inclusion Paradox, the power of constructively calling out differences, shows up in all aspects of society…even outdoors.

U.S. Women’s Soccer: Not Quite America’s Team

by Andrés T. Tapia –WomensSoccerTeam_2.

This article was published by the New America Media.

What a thrill. What pride. What a show of skill and prowess by the US women’s national soccer team in the 2011 Women’s World Cup even as they lost in penalty shots to Japan on Sunday.

Too bad that this fabulous squad does not yet quite look like America.

Wambach made magnificent header goals. Rapinoe great centers. Boxx streaking shots from outside the box. I cheered them along, as they deserved to be cheered, and relished their hard fought battle on behalf of a nation.

But my feelings were bittersweet. In a roster of 21 players, there are only two Latinas and no Blacks or Asians. In the team picture of bright, young, exuberant, and inspiring faces, the hues and shades of a multicultural America that is 30% racial/ethnic are quite limited.

There is something deeply amiss in the lack of diversity in both the women and men’s national soccer teams. Not only because 1/3 of the nation is missing in their composition, but because when we look at the age range of those who play professionally the gap is even more striking: 40% of this age group are people of color.

Further, given soccer’s popularity, particularly in the Latino community, this lack of diversity can’t be excused. While it can be said legitimately about golf, tennis, and swimming that the pipeline of diverse talent in the game is significantly limited given low participation numbers by minority children at the entry point of the pipeline, the same cannot be said about this most populist of sports, futbol.

Yes, golf, tennis, and swimming must find ways to get more minorities involved, not only for the sake of these marginalized communities, but also for the sake of the vitality of these sports. By limiting the talent pool it draws from, is it any coincidence the US has not dominated in golf or tennis in the past decade? But soccer has a huge built-in advantage over these other sports even as the US Tennis Association (USTA) significantly steps up its efforts to introduce tennis to ten-year-old kids of color. But the massive numbers of female and male participants of color in soccer are getting bypassed by colleges, US Soccer teams, and pro-soccer farm systems.

As one looks at the player roster both in women and men’s soccer, how is it that diversity, in this sport has been whitewashed?

When I played on the varsity soccer team at Northwestern University, I was the only Latino on the team — and a walk-on from South America and not a Hispanic American at that — and Floyd the only black. Granted, NU was not that diverse to begin with, but surely, in the soccer subculture there should have been some sort of over-indexing of diversity.

To increase the diversity of the US teams – not only to be truly America’s team, but also to ensure that US teams remain competitive – an all-out diversity effort must be launched.

First, more minority children must be enrolled in the largest soccer youth programs around. When I coached my daughter’s AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) girls’ soccer team, the $100+ fees were out of reach for many working class Latino families. To Highland Park AYSO’s credit, it began instituting a sliding scale fee funded by local individuals and companies. But while this upped participation some, the lack of relations between the white and Latino communities made it hard to spread the word about the program.

And even when more Latino youngsters did participate, coaches — many new to the sport of soccer themselves — did not know how to reconcile the differing expectations from Latino parents when practice schedules conflicted with work schedules at the family store or other business. And given standard “fairness” principles, the “no practice, no play” policy killed any nascent enthusiasm among working-class and immigrant kids and parents.

The barriers to entry in the more competitive youth travel soccer leagues are even higher given the $1000+ fees and far away road games that assume parents have cars and free weekends to schlep their cleat-clad kids.

But the institutions that truly have no excuse for their lack of diversity on their soccer teams are colleges. Thousands of girls and boys nationwide are playing on public middle-and high school soccer teams. Here participation is free, school busses transport the teams to their matches, and immigrant parents have at least some working knowledge about school culture that they don’t have about para-organizations such as AYSO and travel soccer.

Title IX, which demanded the playing field be evened out for collegiate women in terms of budgets, facilities, and scholarships, is the number one reason women’s sports in the US has risen to the world-class caliber we saw in Sunday’s World Cup. But like in corporate America, women’s gains have unfortunately ended up being white women’s gains, with Black, Latina, Asian, and Native American women conspicuously absent as beneficiaries of powerfully important gender diversity programs.

To break through we need US Soccer, college soccer scouts, and parents to shift their assumptions and behaviors.

In machista societies like the Latino one, girls have to be seen as legitimately able to compete in sports for fun or career just as boys are. Scouts need to get comfortable going into barrio and inner city schools and to suburbs dominated by immigrants just like football and basketball scouts started doing a generation ago.

And US Soccer can up the ante by insisting its scouts and coaches source greater diversity for players considered for the US uniform.

Because that uniform belongs to all of us.

Corporate Boards Continue to Miss Out on Diversity

by Andrés T. Tapia –

silhoutte.boarddirectYou would think that by now we would still not be hearing the  clichéd excuses of “we can’t find any,” or “it will take too long to find someone,” or “is it even that important?”

What the excuses are defending is the lack of diversity on corporate boards. Unfortunately, we’ll probably hear these excuses even more as explanations to Janell Ross’ article in the Huffington Post where she reports that  “white men’s already dominant control of the boards that oversee the nation’s largest corporations widened during the last six years,” according to a new report issued by the Alliance for Board Diversity.

For the Fortune 100 between 2004 and 2010, white men gained 32 board seats while African American men lost 42. According to the report, there are nearly 900 companies in the Fortune 1000 that do not have a single Hispanic board member, and of the Fortune 100 only half have a Latino board member. This growing homogeneity is occurring at the same time as the Hispanic population is exploding and the country grows even more diverse. Such an increase in white male representation defies not only common sense but also business sense.

As diversity and inclusion (D&I) champions understand, but the reluctant CEOs and board members in this report don’t seem to realize, the business and financial benefits of diversity can intensify an organization’s competitiveness, innovation, and connection to customers. Just look at these stunning findings on gender diversity on boards:

A 2007 Catalyst study examining corporate finances between 2001 and 2004–a period of boom and bust–found that companies with women on their boards outperformed those without women in several key ways. Among the study’s findings: Fortune 500 companies that ranked in the top 25 percent for female board member inclusion produced on average a 53 percent better return on equity, a 42 percent difference in profits, and a 66 percent difference in return on invested capital when compared to companies with the least gender-diverse boards.

So the low diversity on boards not only causes dismay from an inclusion perspective, but companies with little board diversity make themselves vulnerable to blind spots to threats plus they may be limited in seizing economic opportunities.

Perhaps a key issue concerning board diversity, according to Lissa L. Broome, a professor at University of North Carolina School of Law who researches the issues of diversity on boards, is the tendency for key players to ignore or at least avoid talking about difference. Such hesitancy represents the underlying issue in the Inclusion Paradox, which provides ways to lean into and make the most of that discomfort.

If we don’t find ways to do this, our companies will be forfeiting a major trump card in high stakes global competitiveness.

Keiko Fujimori Loses Peru’s Election, But Diversity Message Struck a Chord

by Andrés T. Tapia –

This article was published by the New America Media.KeikoFujimori_500x279

Keiko Fujimori lost Peru’s presidential election Sunday. But don’t expect the dynamic, if difficult, Keiko–age 36, female, Gen Xer, of Japanese descent, mother of two toddlers, spouse of an American and daughter of a former president, who is now incarcerated–to fade into the shadows of Latin American politics.

Keiko–as she’s known universally in Peru–has been the candidate of the unexpected and a force that likely altered Peruvian national politics for years to come.

At the presidential debate last week with her second round opponent–and Peru’s new president–Ollanta Humala, her opening statement had a greeting in Quechua–the language of the descendants of the Incas in the Andes of Peru. And her closing statement concluded with sign language.

What’s more, Keiko appealed to the youth vote by laying out her “Mi Primera Chamba”–My First Gig–scholarship program and to the Mom vote by promising to create nutrition programs and quality education for children.

This is not just typical political pandering in Peru, but stem from who Keiko is. She allowed TV hostess Magaly to come to her home. After they chatted like two girlfriends, she gave Magaly a tour of her middle-class home. Along the way she showed off Peruvian Andean landscape paintings her imprisoned father has done in jail, and then the pair ended up in Keiko’s kitchen, where she expertly chopped vegetables for that evening’s dinner.

Defying Expectations
Keiko–as everyone calls her–has become adept at presenting herself in visuals that defy traditional expectations.

When her parents split up in a bitter divorce during her father’s presidency, Keiko, then age 19, officially became First Lady to fill in for her exiting mother’s responsibilities.

Despite ample opportunities to go anywhere for college, she headed to Boston University to earn a degree in business administration. She returned married to Mark Vito, an U.S.-born IBM consultant, who did not speak Spanish.

Without a hint of self-consciousness, Keiko projected her Japanese visage on big screens at political rallies surrounded by a sea of dark-skinned indigenous Peruvians. Though her roots are Asian, she appealed to them as one of them, her racial minority physical features presenting a kindred-outsider status to the marginalized people of Peru–just as happened when her father ascended to power.

The elements of her biography don’t merely translate into images defying the status quo; they drive her fusion of a right-of-center and a populist political platform. Her ease with crossing socioeconomic and racial barriers has influenced a right-brain/left-brain, left-wing/right-wing heterodoxy that is both pragmatic and passionate.

Despite deeply held reservations by many Peruvians about her filial links to her father, jailed for corruption and human rights abuses, Keiko’s implicit and explicit diversity and her messages of inclusion, helped propel her into the second and final electoral round having beat out another former president, Alejandro Toledo, and a successful former minister of finance and economy, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski–a graduate of both Oxford and Princeton Universities, no less.

Presidential Candidate Mom
Keiko was also nearly the first Latin American female president with young children and, therefore, the first high-profile role model for work-and-family flexibility. As is typical of middle-class Peruvians, she has live-in childcare help. But her fluid movement in and out of her roles as leader and mother seems remarkably seamless.

After the first-round election results were announced and Keiko was declared one of the two finalists, Keiko handled her press conference with ease.

Afterward as she exited through the phalanx of journalists, her 18-month-old, Kaori Marcela, straddled in her left arm, Keiko took impromptu questions shouted out by journalists. As the child began to fuss, she switched from potential president of Peru to attentive Mom. With a smile, Keiko said, “Ok, it’s time–got to go.”

And with no apology, she left. Whatever else may come for Keiko, that’s what her multicultural country folk will remember. Keiko–young, centered and, without apologies, very much herself.

Now in her loss, she must plot out her next career move while Dad sits in jail with no chance of a pardon and her children continue to make their toddler demands. Meanwhile, she will watch as her rival takes the reins of the future she had been so certain was destined to be hers. 

She has time – a lot of it – to let things play out. Five years from now Keiko’s Magical Diversity Tour still likely to be fueled up and waiting for her to lead the way.

Peru Election 2011: Keiko Fujimori’s Magical Diversity Tour

by Andrés T. Tapia –

This article was published by the New America Media.

KeikoFujimori_500x279Keiko Fujimori–age 36, female, Gen Xer, of Japanese descent, mother of two toddlers, spouse of an American and daughter of a former president, who is now incarcerated–may be Peru’s next president.

If chosen in Sunday’s election, Fujimori would be Peru’s first woman president and one of four today in Latin America—and one of only seven in the region’s history. Like Laura Chinchilla in Costa Rica, Cristina Kirchner in Argentina and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, her gender will influence her agenda. But so will her youth.

At the presidential debate last week with her second round opponent, Ollanta Humala, her opening statement had a greeting in Quechua–the language of the descendants of the Incas in the Andes of Peru. And her closing statement concluded with sign language.

What’s more, Fujimori appealed to the youth vote by laying out her “Mi Primera Chamba”–My First Gig–scholarship program and to the Mom vote by promising to create nutrition programs and quality education for children.

This is not just typical political pandering in Peru, but stem from who Fujimori is. She allowed TV hostess Magaly to come to her home. After they chatted like two girlfriends, she gave Magaly a tour of her middle-class home. Along the way she showed off Peruvian Andean landscape paintings her imprisoned father has done in jail, and then the pair ended up in Fujimori’s kitchen, where she expertly chopped vegetables for that evening’s dinner.

Defying Expectations
Keiko—as everyone calls her—has become adept at presenting herself in visuals that defy traditional expectations.

When her parents split up in a bitter divorce during her father’s presidency, Keiko, then age19, officially became First Lady to fill in for her exiting mother’s responsibilities.

Despite ample opportunities to go anywhere for college, she headed to Boston University to earn a degree in business administration. She returned married to Mark Vito, an U.S.-born IBM consultant, who did not speak Spanish.

Without a hint of self-consciousness, Keiko projects her Japanese visage on big screens at political rallies surrounded by a sea of dark-skinned indigenous Peruvians. Though her roots are Asian, she appeals to them as one of them, her racial minority physical features presenting a kindred-outsider status to the marginalized people of Peru–just as happened when her father ascended to power.

The elements of her biography don’t merely translate into images defying the status quo; they drive her fusion of a right-of-center and a populist political platform. Her ease with crossing socioeconomic and racial barriers has influenced a right-brain/left-brain, left-wing/right-wing heterodoxy that is both pragmatic and passionate.

Despite deeply held reservations by many Peruvians about her filial links to her father, jailed for corruption and human rights abuses, Keiko’s implicit and explicit diversity and her messages of inclusion, helped propel her into the second and final electoral round having beat out another former president, Alejandro Toledo, and a successful former minister of finance and economy, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski—a graduate of both Oxford and Princeton Universities, no less.

Presidential Candidate Mom
Keiko would also be the first Latin American female president with young children and, therefore, the first high-profile role model for work-and-family flexibility. As is typical of middle-class Peruvians, she has live-in childcare help. But her fluid movement in and out of her roles as leader and mother seems remarkably seamless.

After the first-round election results were announced and Keiko was declared one of the two finalists, Keiko handled her press conference with ease.

Afterward as she exited through the phalanx of journalists, her 18-month-old, Kaori Marcela, straddled in her left arm, Keiko took impromptu questions shouted out by journalists. As the child began to fuss, she switched from potential president of Peru to attentive Mom. With a smile, Keiko said, “Ok, it’s time–got to go.”

And with no apology, she left.

inclusionparadox.com