Reaching Latinos: Marry marketing psychographics to multidimensional demographics

by Andrés T. Tapia – medicalhomearticle.LatFamily-300x208

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page:

In the last post, we finished talking about the second of three strategies corporations can use to seize the opportunities offered by the growing Latin talent pools. In this post, we’ll cover the third and final strategy.

Strategy 3: Marry marketing psychographics to multidimensional demographics

A telltale sign that there is lack of clarity about how to best reach Latino talent and consumers is that many are confused by just the most basic terminology: is it Hispanic or Latino?

The very fact that these terms are often used interchangeably in the media, but have meaningful although not-so-simple-to-explain differences in their origins and who uses them and how, is telling in itself.

But which term to use is only the tip of the iceberg. When we say Latino or Hispanic are we referring to the first-, second-, third-, or fourth generation Latino? The Boomer, Xer, or Millennial Latino? The English-, Spanish-, or Spanglish-dominant Hispanic? The Peruvian immigrant or the Honduran American born in Wichita? Or any of the other hyphenated Latinos coming from 27 different national heritages? This is the demographic part.

Then, as marketers well know, there is a psychographic part—the drivers that influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. Do they buy for comfort? For adventure? For status? For being on the cutting edge?

Latinos, like members of any other group, also have psychological drivers unique to the individual. Marketers have been able to group these individual psychological drivers to segment consumers. So even within the same demographic group they can go after segments such as hipsters, rebels, or security seekers. These are the psychographics.

The next step is to marry demographics with psychographics to create the most targeted approaches to attract talent and consumers. In other words, knowing the multidimensionality of demographic characteristics of Latinos is exceptionally important, but it is not enough without also layering in the various psychographic profiles.

This then gets us to the motivations of Latinos as it relates to cultural identity. How much do they or do they not want to identify with their ethnic roots versus how much do they want to embrace mainstream American culture as the core of who they are. Are they assimilationists? Are they Upwardly Mobile Aspirants? Are they Nationalistic in their ethnic country of origin pride?

The psychographic profiles that people will take are unpredictable to discern for individuals. But patterns do emerge. And now we can combine appealing to the demographic of the Millennial Puerto Rican to the psychographic or those who are Assimilationists or Nationalistic for example.

When the media zeros in on the undocumented (11 million) and the marketers on the Spanish speakers (34 million that is inclusive of the undocumented numbers), they are looking at important segments within the Latino umbrella but not the whole.

For example, they most often overlook the 26 million English-dominant Latino Millennials who paradoxically also tend to identify with the heritage of their parents’ country of origin (Colombian, Costa Rican, Argentinian, etc.) according to Pew Hispanic Research.

Marisela, my daughter, is a case in point. I think back just a few years ago, tiara perched on her jet-black hair, looking radiant and happy, surrounded by her friends and family. It was her quinceañera—her fifteenth birthday—a rite of passage in the Latino culture where a girl becomes a young woman. Mom, a European-American, and Papi, proud…and torn. Our daughter was coming of age and this joyous celebration with 200 people, a live salsa band, and a Peruvian food buffet, also marked one major milestone in Marisela’s passage toward independence and growing into her own identity.

So Marisela talks about being Peruvian American even though she was born and raised in the United States. She embraced becoming bilingual and multicultural as her friendships include young people who are Jewish, European-American, Black, and Latino. She spent extended time in Peru, where she found love and ended up marrying a Peruvian.

Adult choices

While Millennial Latinos are shaping their own Latino identities so are those in the older generations in the rapidly changing demographic landscape.

This was the lively topic of conversation at dinner in Boston’s North End, at the outdoor patio of Ristorante Fiore, an Italian restaurant on Hanover Street, after a successful diversity conference. A group of us Latinos sat, sipping our wine or espressos, began debating the role of accented English as it related to Latino identity in the workplace. Why is it that having a French or British accent is seen as a plus, but having a Spanish accent a drawback? And because of this, should Latinos who speak English with a Spanish accent work at reducing their accent? As the alcohol and caffeine took its effect, the conversation around how we sound dipped into a discussion about identity and success when one is in the minority.

The answers are not easy, the implications uncomfortable. Here we are a table of Latinos from different countries, different migration stories, different choices. What path should each of us take? I described facing ridicule and teasing at best, discrimination at worst due to my heavily-accented English during visits to the United States when I was young. This experience motivated me to work on my accent when I came to back to the United States to attend college.

As I did, the change in responses to my words clearly shifted toward more positive reactions as I calibrated my inflections, pitches, and tones. From that point on, it was as clear as the Peruvian brandy pisco that many English-dominant European-Americans heavily weighed their assessment of the value of words by the density of the accent of Spanish-dominant speakers.

But others around the table at Ristorante Fiore have made a different choice, equally valid. For them, how they sound, including their accented English, is part of their Latino identity. It is a marker of who they are culturally in the same way that Martinez, Ochoa, Jimenez, and Castillo are name markers of a Latino identity that is so paramount that even when offered a choice through different circumstances of a more Anglicized name, they don’t take it up. While others do.

We pick our cultural identity spots. ‘Este es quien soy’. ‘This is who I am’. Increasingly, for more Latinos, particularly Latino Millennials, the assimilation survival tactics of their parents are not as necessary or desirable.

Instead, our choices of how to let our Latino selves show up in American society are as diverse as the various peoples that make up the Latino/Hispanic fabric “en los United States de America.”

Promising future For Latinos—and the companies who hire them

I hope you have enjoyed and taken some good takeaways from this series. It takes two to tango. If Latinopalooza and corporate America can learn to dance together, the benefits of the reverberations of this multicultural choreography will be felt in the workforce and marketplace for a long time to come.

What Does the Latino Boom Mean for Business?

by Andrés T. Tapia –

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page:

In my last post, I shared a teaser with some head turning statistics oniStock_4746494XSmall.HispBusTeam Latinos that I was launching in this series. So let’s get started.

Consider this. The United States continues to be in the midst of a Latino population explosion. In the first decade of the 21st century, Latinos grew at three times the growth rate of the rest of the population—becoming the largest ethnic minority group. This has accounted for half of the overall United States population growth. At this rate, it is estimated that one in four U.S. nationals will be Latinos by 2025 and one-third by 2050. By 2060, the U.S. Hispanic population is estimated to reach 128.8 million.

So, what does this mean for businesses? There’s a largely untapped pool of talent available, who can bring ideas, connections, and information that will help to grow the Latino market as well your business. To seize the many opportunities offered by the growing Latino talent pools, corporations must heed three key principles:

  1. Understand the multidimensional diversity within the Latino community.
  2. Become self-aware of how corporate cultures are and are not attractive to Latino talent.
  3. Marry marketing psychographics to multidimensional demographics.

In this blog series, I will explore each of these principles with facts, strategies, and practical tactics. I invite you to comment along the way.

The Melting Pot’s Contradictory Legacy

by Andrés T. Tapia – Newspaper And Tablet PC

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Diversity and inclusion among biggest headlines right now:

  • Supreme Court Rules Against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
  • Supreme Court Ruling Reaffirms the Striking Down of California’s Proposition 8
  • Supreme Court Significantly Weakens the Voting Rights Act
  • Supreme Court Punts on Affirmative Action in University of Texas Case
  • George Zimmerman Not Guilty in Trayvon Martin Shooting; Verdict Sparks Cries of Injustice

Triggered by these headlines, as people take to the streets to extol progress on LGBT issues and rail against injustice on racial ones, and as the pundits release their torrent of words that range from the inspired to the insipid, what are diversity and inclusion (D&I) leaders’ unique contributions to what is unfolding? I would love to know what you see as the compelling answer to this question. Write to me here.

To whatever it is you have to offer and what many others have already brought up insightfully in terms of equality, profiling, justice, and opportunity, I’d like to offer this: crosscultural dexterity (or crosscultural competence). The absence or mastery of it makes a pivotal difference in how these issues are being decided and interpreted not only in the courts, but also as related issues show up in corporations.

Before elaborating, I need to get a little technical, but I assure you the pay off will be worth it. Here’s a sound bite primer on one way in which crosscultural dexterity is measured. Based on the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), where the model was developed by Milton Bennett and measured by Mitch Hammer, people can fall anywhere along a spectrum when it comes to cultural differences:

  • Denial that any differences exist
  • Polarization around differences where they are viewed as right or wrong, better or worse, superior or inferior
  • Minimization where the focus is more on what we have in common and where the differences are not seen as making a difference
  • Acceptance that despite our many similarities we still have some fundamental differences
  • Adaptation, which is where we have the skill to adapt to others’ differences and in a reciprocal way are able to help them adapt to ours

Where does all this fit in having a deeper understanding of the various actions on the part of the Supreme Court and the jury in the Zimmerman trial? It’s the consistent thread of a minimization worldview in full manifestation.

In some of the legal decisions, minimization is leading to good, healthy, constructive outcomes, yet in some other situations it’s leading to very unjust outcomes. Understanding why this is requires the kind of cultural dexterity that is in short supply in society in general.

Let’s explore this further.

Where Minimization Heals

The American ethos of the Melting Pot comes from the place of minimization. In many, many ways it has yielded powerful outcomes including one of the most pluralistic societies in the world. And in some of the recent Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, this minimization worldview has yielded good and just results.

Consider how we are in the midst of an inflection point where many of those who might be unsupportive of gay rights are yielding to a countervailing force that is the bedrock American concept of equality embedded in the U.S. Constitution. This is why the Supreme Court justices, out of their minimization worldview that difference should not make a difference, declared that there’s no basis to say that certain groups of people have more or less rights just because of the person they choose to love. In the end, their decision minimized difference and said that it should not make a difference.

This is an example of the way minimization can play out in a very effective way. In fact, minimization played a positive role in launching the Civil Rights Era as a way of countering the societal polarization going on. At the time, people were highlighting differences in destructive ways to discriminate against and segregate people due to their color or gender. Instead, this minimization worldview helped construct legislation and the attitude that difference should not make a difference when it came to access to services, education, jobs, housing, etc. That’s powerful. That’s minimization in a good way.

Where Minimization Can Destroy

Where can minimization be destructive and even justify discriminatory activity? When it’s used to minimize and deny that differences can make a difference where they really do. As discussed, minimization seeks to be colorblind (“When I see you I don’t see the color of your skin”) and gender blind. And how we wish this were true in terms of equal outcomes, but it’s a self-perception fallacy that we can truly not notice race, gender, and by the way, age—the three things psychologists tell us are the first three things we take into account when we meet someone.

In the public arena, the reality is that society is far from achieving this. It is through unconscious and conscious biases that we end up with unequal outcomes. I recently co-wrote a paper with Kathy Phillips, a professor at Columbia University Business School, where we show conclusively that in so many arenas of society—health care, income, racial profiling, arrests and incarceration, career advancement—there are deep and systemic disparities. For all our desire for a minimization worldview to be true, it’s not. Because if it were true, difference would not make a difference and therefore there would be no disparities.

Which takes us to the recent rulings on race. The Supreme Court has used a minimization worldview to justify weakening the Voters Rights Act that was put in place because Blacks were being disproportionately prejudiced against in terms of their ability to exercise their right to vote. Therefore nine states required special supervision in order to ensure any voter registration law changes did not lead to vote suppression. The Supreme Court justified weakening these provisions rooted in the minimization worldview that, Hey, it’s the 21st century. We have a Black president. That was back then, this is now. We are colorblind. [1]

This is the same line of argument being used to continue weakening affirmative action. Even though the Supreme Court punted on the University of Texas case and they put it back to the lower courts, there were clear indications on the part of those who don’t agree with affirmative action that its time is over.

The latest, most egregious, outrageous, and hurtful evidence of the minimization worldview playing a destructive and unhelpful role is in the recent Zimmerman verdict regarding the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Here is an African-American teen walking from his house to the store to get some Skittles and an iced tea and walking back, which should have been the safest set of circumstances that one could be in. He’s trailed by a stranger in a car with a gun. There’s a confrontation. The boy ends up dead and the shooter ends up being let go and declared not guilty.

Did race play a role? Even though the defense said no, and the judge said no, and even the boy’s family and the prosecution said no, minimization was at play big time. Read this New York Times article, “Zimmerman Prosecutors Duck the Race Issue,”  through the minimization worldview and you will see how it unfolds.

The truth is that had he not been Black he would not have been followed, triggered by racial profiling. That’s why he was confronted. Whatever altercation took place, it was the logical outcome of an environment where difference did make a difference in why Trayvon was being followed. In this case it was a racial difference, and it ended up tragically. But the law, and in this case all the key players including the prosecution, assumed minimization.

The minimization worldview is so pervasive and entrenched that even the prosecution did not want to demonstrate greater crosscultural dexterity by helping the jury move toward acceptance and adaptation and in that realize that there are still too many times where difference does make a difference.

And hence the outrageous verdict, because clearly race played a role—and the firestorm of public reaction that is pivoting around race proves this. Sure, there’s a law at play in terms of the burden of beyond reasonable doubt and the hugely problematic Stand Your Ground laws and in a court of law a jury must operate within the constraints of the law.

It’s understandable why the defense would want to take race out of the equation, and they were doing their job. But for the prosecution to strategically also say “this was never about race” stripped it of one its most potent prosecutorial lines that could have confronted the jury’s minimization worldview and challenged them to move toward acceptance and even adaptation in seeing how difference—in this case race—was at the heart of what happened and why. Of course, their verdict may have ended up the same but we will never know what would have happened if the jury had not been left off the hook of answering the question: why was a stranger with a gun following a young Black teen walking home?

Does race make a difference? Yes.

Does gender or sexual orientation make a difference? Of course.

In a society that wants to hold on to its minimization worldview we, as diversity practitioners, need to be skilled at surfacing these differences in a way that is post Civil Rights Era, but not post racial. This is not easy, as evidenced not only just through our own experiences, but also in watching the first Black president of the United States navigate the issue exceptionally carefully. While picking his spots of when he will weigh in (often to the chagrin of people of color wanting him to speak quickly and forcefully every time), when he has spoken he has indeed demonstrated a facile use of cultural dexterity that serves as a template for how we can do the same. (View President Obama’s comments on the George Zimmerman verdict.)

As D&I practitioners we must be skilled in a way that the prosecution in the Trayvon Martin case was not skilled, in a way that the Supreme Court is not skilled, in a way that Congress is not skilled, and neither is the media. And neither are most executive leaders in our corporations.

We must be skilled at constructively surfacing differences and discerning when difference doesn’t make a difference and when it does. If we don’t know how to do that and we don’t teach our corporations and our society to do that, organizations, institutions, and courts are going to continue to make ill-informed decisions that lead to unfairness and injustice to those who continue to be disenfranchised or discriminated against in one way or another.

Conversely, as we step into the breech not just as advocates and seekers of justice, but as skilled facilitators for the necessary conversations and understanding that need to happen, then our crosscultural dexterity can be one of the most helpful things we can offer in this paradigm-shifting time.

How to ensure this headline?: Extra! Extra! Read all about it! D&I leaders lead the way to understanding, healing, and opportunity.

Surviving and Thriving in a Season of Great Uncertainty and Great Opportunity

by Andrés T. Tapia – Business people standing on stairs

As I have been travelling around the U.S. and the world and engaging with many of you over dinners, conference interactions, consulting engagements, or wind downs over coffee, martinis, or pisco sours, it’s clear that we are all in a moment of great anticipation as well as angst in the diversity and inclusion field.

Many of our conversations have focused on how, for the last few years, in a celebrated way, the field has been undergoing transformative changes. A generation of pioneering leaders is retiring and moving on. A new generation with new voices is rising. What diversity and inclusion means is morphing real time. More and more companies, not-for-profits, and governmental agencies are pursuing diversity and inclusion as never before.

It’s indeed a time of great vitality and verve for the D&I field. But with these changes, diversity is encountering a paradoxical dynamic that can be best summed up in this royal way: “Diversity is dead. Long live diversity!”

Here’s how this is playing out. As more and more companies are declaring how important it is to address diversity, at the same time, like in other parts of business, diversity budgets aren’t growing or are being cut. This puts diversity and inclusion in a conundrum of having greater visibility, greater expectations, greater accountability—and fewer resources. As a result, diversity leaders are betwixt and between. There’s pride, and at times even euphoria, about the fact that the message is getting across that diversity is vital to the business. But that sugar high irrevocably preordains the sudden emotional crash that follows of “how are we going to get the work done?” How can we create a sustainable path?

Unprecedented complexity reigns in today’s diversity work. Thanks to our success in making the case that it’s not all just about race and gender but so many other diversity dimensions, we’re now headed down the path of diversity of one. We have, in addition, made the sale that it’s about a marketplace that is vastly diverse and global, clamoring for new types of products, services and ways of marketing and supporting them and that D&I has answers to those challenges and opportunities. And now we are even engaging in deeper work about how the success of operational strategies such as mergers and acquisitions, offshoring, regionalization, and globalization are also highly dependent on the internalization and application of D&I strategies and crosscultural dexterity and competence.

Our increasing success in making the case has taken us to a more complex field of uncertainty, in some ways of our own doing, about how to deliver the best strategies and solutions. In this our own competence gets tested because we now have been given the responsibility of handling the very things we had clamored for but really haven’t had to do before. It’s too late to heed the warning of be careful what you ask for. It’s now in our hands and we can’t give it back.

So, what’s the way forward? Here are six things you can do right now:

1. Collectively acknowledge the pain and uncertainty and then imagine the possibilities. One of the advantages of Diversity Best Practices’ conferences and networking opportunities is the chance to talk about this—about what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. It’s therapeutic to lean on the community to share how you’re feeling and why. And then dream together.

2. Learn how to develop the key competencies of Next Generation Diversity. At DBP, we’ve been trumpeting the eight competencies that we believe are more important than ever for diversity practitioners to be able to lead in this new era. In particular, I encourage you to pay attention to the competency of influence. As quickly as you can, learn the skills and behaviors you need to develop to be influential.

We used to equate power and authority with the size of our budget and whether our teams were growing. Now, power comes through the ability to influence others to do what they would not have otherwise done were it not for our ability to see what’s in it for them in supporting D&I. This kind of influence increases the challenge of protecting your budget from crazy cuts as well as to more creatively to tap into other departments’ budgets to remain strong and healthy.

3. Develop an alliance mentality inside your organization. This is a specific way to be more influential. Determine how you can be of value to other departments, such as HR, research and development, and marketing. And I don’t mean just telling them what they need to do. Look at what they’ve already committed to doing and identify how diversity and inclusion can help them achieve these goals. By doing this, you can get the kind of executive support from the lines of business and support functions that will allow you to partner with them to tap into their resources to do the work that is beneficial to them.

4. Hone your position as a thought leader. In this really dynamic field of diversity and inclusion, where the best practices are getting calcified and there’s an urgent push to shape the next practices, new thinking is what is getting noticed in a corporate world that is rushing at a break-neck, Mach-speed pace. And this new thinking doesn’t necessarily have to be complex and deep. People clamor for clarity. They are looking for insight and wisdom that will lead to high-impact, simple, and actionable solutions. You need to provide this.

5. Sharpen your story-telling ability. Even as measurable accountabilities rise, don’t get so bogged down by the detailed PowerPoint that you miss the human aspect of this work. Float above it and discover the compelling story. In fact, data-grounded stories are the most powerful. Scan those rows and columns of numbers and see what storyline floats up connecting seemingly unrelated findings. Tell the story of what your organization can be if you really invest in diversity.

6. Become a Diversity Best Practices member and make the most of your membership. Our member conferences have become true, interdisciplinary learning communities of knowledge sharing and knowledge creation. Hold discussion groups around our thought-provoking white papers. Turn tough questions asked of you by executives and leaders into research topics our team can look into for you as part of your 30 hours of research.

DBP’s membership is geared toward helping you survive and thrive in these turbulent times. Membership is also not just for you, but also for a range of people across your organization. Forward-thinking member companies are already doing this and extending their impact within their organizations. It’s a simple and compelling value proposition: someone else is designing, developing, and delivering high-impact, world-class events and publications for you. You just need to show up and/or send those you want to influence.

The challenges we’re currently facing are not insurmountable. In fact, they present unprecedented opportunities. Together, as a community of diversity practitioners, we can learn and grow along the six ways outlined here—and as we do take our organizations into next generation diversity and inclusion.

Engagement: The True Measure of Inclusion

by Andrés T. Tapia –


Multiracial Hands Making a CircleInclusion! It’s the rallying cry in today’s organizations – a response to the urgent recognition that diversity alone is not enough. This has become more evident as organizations have become more diverse, but have failed to achieve the promise of diversity.

While a key diversity metric is a count of the different ways an overall workforce is diverse, inclusion requires different measurements. I believe there are three key inclusion metrics: influence and decision-making power, strength of the talent pipeline, and engagement. Today, I want to talk about engagement. (Look for my take on the other inclusion metrics in future postings.)

As seemingly obvious as this is, few organizations fully leverage engagement and employee satisfaction surveys to measure inclusion. And here, I’m not talking about the four to five questions around diversity and inclusion. Rather it’s about being able to use and analyze every single engagement survey question through a diversity lens.

A good number of companies are doing demographic cuts of the data. But I’ve been surprised that it’s still a limited number. However your organization defines the mix (diversity), it should be measured by how well the mix is working (inclusion). I can’t think of a more powerful, embedded, systematic, and accepted tool to do this than the engagement survey. It’s smart to hook diversity and inclusion to engagement, which often is already an accepted, and even valued, metric.

A few tips:

  • If you are already measuring “people of color,” see if you can break the group down into the different racial or ethnic population segments. You’ll very likely find variance in the results.
  • If you are measuring engagement by age and tenure, see what it looks like when you break the data down by generation. Evaluating age ranges within a generation can be more beneficial than simply looking at age.
  • If you are proud of your lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusion efforts, count your LGBT population and measure their engagement.
  • If you want to discover more people with invisible disabilities, give them the opportunity to self-identity in your engagement survey. When they do, offer a handful of questions specifically about their experience as a person with a disability in the organization.

Be sure to measure these aspects in a multidimensional way. Don’t just look at your female engagement. Rather, look at the engagement of Millennial women versus Xer women versus Boomer women. Then look at those cuts through a racial or ethnic lens. With this approach you can look at multivariate results that lead to much more pinpointed and meaningful issues that in turn lead to much more focused interventions and solutions that can lift inclusion of those particular groups.

Measurement is not enough, however. When the results come in, be sure they are analyzed in crossculturally competent, diversity savvy ways. Much interpretation of engagement results is governed by cultural and worldview assumptions, beliefs, and preferences. Challenge preconceived notions of what is and is not engaging. Tap into the different groups for insights. See what’s missing that should be considered.

Diversity and inclusion practitioners need to get really smart about the art and science of engagement. Are you a part of those key engagement conversations? If you are, be ready to provide your diversity and inclusion practitioner insight coupled with a credible grasp of the engagement discipline. For those of you who aren’t currently plugged into your company’s engagement efforts, connect with the person who owns engagement. Ask him or her, how do you use this tool? What are its advanced uses? What are the challenges? Get to know that person and their engagement work.

As you learn from them, offer to help them become even better engagement professionals by allowing them to see the diversity and inclusion implications from a crossculturally competent way. The more diverse the workforce gets, the more diversity savvy all of human resources must become when it comes to making the most of the engagement surveys.

In upcoming messages, I look forward to sharing more thoughts on the other two key measures for inclusion: influence and decision-making power, and strength of the talent pipeline. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you about this topic. Share your thoughts in the space below.

Is the West Ready for the New Muslim Middle Class?

by Susan Welch, Hewitt Research and Andrés T. Tapia

Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion, and the growing number of Muslims in the workforce is profoundly changing the world. So argues Tufts University professor Vali Nasr in Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World.  He details how Muslim entrepreneurs revived Turkey’s economy and built the “skyscraper economy” of Dubai. According to Nasr, middle class Muslims are business-oriented, and, at a macro level, may offer a gateway to reforming the Arab world.

Nasr’s analysis of middle-class Muslim attitudes toward productive business ventures is encouraging. But what about Muslims working West of Turkey and Dubai? The dynamics we can expect to see as growing numbers of Muslims enter predominately non-Muslim workplaces in the West are not all positive. At least three major problems are bound to arise:

Increased Instances 0f Overt Discrimination. In a U.S. poll, 58% of Muslim respondents said they’d experienced discrimination since 9/11. It’s no wonder, given that 40% of Americans reported having a negative view of Muslims. A 2008 Pew Survey of Global Attitudes found an increase in Islamophobia across the Western world. At least half of the populations of Spain and Germany and Poland, and well over a third of the population of France, admitted prejudice against Muslims. In the U.S., documented cases of violence and discrimination against Muslims increased 70% between 2002 and 2004.

Religious Misunderstandings. More than 75% of American Muslims reported being at least somewhat troubled by the issue of religious expression at work. In the United States, Christian religious holidays are observed with gusto, and major Jewish holidays are at least grudgingly recognized; yet few non-Islamic people even know that Ramadan is the Islamic calendar’s ninth month, designated the month of fasting. Fewer still realize that the concluding day of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, is a festival celebrating an end to the fast. In addition to holiday observances, daily religious practices present workplace challenges. Muslims pray, facing Mecca, five times a day. On Friday, the noon prayer is also accompanied by a sermon, requiring a bit more time.

Conflicts over Appropriate Dress. Muslim men may wear skull caps or turbans and have beards; women often wear head scarves. These forms of traditional dress favored by some Muslims may violate explicit or implicit employee dress codes.

Employers who become crossculturally competent can make the Western workplace more inclusive in ways that benefit Muslims and non-Muslims. Offering flexible schedules on holidays, providing a quiet spot for prayer or meditation, and communicating openly about what can be worn at work when, and why, will make for an environment where all employees feel honored–the kind of environment where you feel like you can be yourself. And as we’ve explored in previous posts, studies show that that is the kind of environment in which employees give the most.

But these moves toward inclusion, as important as they are, will remain superficial changes unless the core issues underlying Western attitudes toward Muslims are addressed. The recent waves of anti-Hispanic sentiment in the U.S. are instructive here. Hispanics, like Muslims, became associated with population shifts huddled on the horizon, driven by immigrants with higher birth rates. Some non-Hispanics reacted to these shifts with fear–fear of losing power and a desire to preserve things “as they are.” But those who understand the power of diversity and inclusion to improve everyone’s lives have, in organization after organization, been leading non-Hispanics through fear to inclusion.

Vali Nasr offers a promising vision of Muslims and non-Muslims working together to build prosperity. How ready will your organization be to respond to the new wave of Muslim workers he describes?

Is Your Hospital Crossculturally Competent?

According to Cook Ross consultants, hospitals that prepare for growing cultural diversity provide better overall service, lower health costs and improve their market share. How culturally competent are your healthcare providers?

Schoolchildren More Segregated Today than at Time of MLK’s Death

A national tragedy: African-American and Latino schoolchildren are more segregated today than they were at the time of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  death in 1968 says the UCLA’s Civil Rights Project in their January 2010 report.

As a shifting demographics continue to transform many sectors of U.S. society, the country is falling far behind in building faculties that reflect the diversity of its students–44% of whom are now nonwhite–and failing to prepare teachers who can communicate effectively with the 20% of homes where another language is spoken. Millions of nonwhite students are locked into “dropout factory” high schools, where huge percentages do not graduate and have little prospect of contributing to the economy. Often failing US schools are shared by two or more highly disadvantaged minority groups; most schools are not working on creating positive relationships between them and their teachers, who are often white and untrained in techniques that might lower tension and increase school success, the report says.

In states such as California and Texas where nonwhite students are already the majority, these failures are straining local economies and social systems. On an even larger scale, this reversion to segregation threatens the U.S.’s economic and social position in the world. In a global economy where success is dependent on knowledge, average U.S. educational levels decline as the proportion of children attending inferior segregated schools continues to rise.

The findings are the results of a decades-long systematic neglect of civil rights policy and related educational and community reforms. Its findings echo a damning statement made in 1983 in a report commissioned by the Reagan Administration that looked at the state of education back then. In the “A Nation at Risk” report there was this phrase: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

And for students of color the results are worse than mediocre.

They are devastating.

Does the Term “People of Color” Do More Harm than Good?

by Andrés T. Tapia —

Recently a high school classmate from Peru contacted me with questions about my use of the terms “communities of color” and “people of color” in this blog. Here’s part of what she wrote:

“This term  ‘people of color’ or ‘personas de color,’ which I also saw recently in an article written in Spanish, has got me thinking. Using dark/er skin as a social reference has historically proven painful. Black/Whites is where it all started, with ‘whites’ being the ‘superior race’ and ‘blacks’ being slaves. Up to this day I think that superior connotation for white (pure) remains. I think the shorthand ‘people of color’ continues the horrible tradition of differentiation due to color of skin/social rank and does nothing to draw attention to ethnicity and all its richness. Is an educated Hispanic, with a good economic situation, light skin and blue eyes a person of color? Is a swarthy person of Italian ancestry a person of color? Is a light skinned Arab with blond hair a white person ? Color of skin is relative and says nothing about who you are or what your culture is.”

My classmate and I had a constructive exchange which became a good opportunity for me to put in writing what I believe about this topic. Based on our conversation and further reflection, here are my thoughts:  

I agree wholeheartedly that humans, in their primal need to find ways to say “you’re in” and “you’re out,” have chosen skin color as an easy but very problematic distinction. And although the contradictions and inconsistencies in race–as in all social constructs –are easy to see, I too am deeply troubled that it has been used to justify slavery, Jim Crow laws, Apartheid, and exclusivity even within “communities of color.”

So why do I refer at all to the social construct of race that has been used in negative ways for so long? The short answer is that ignoring the concept of race won’t make it go away; it is still too pervasive and too ingrained. But one can transform the meaning of race by playing the social construct game in reverse. If skin color has been used to disempower darker skinned people, then let’s turn the tables and use it as a form of empowerment, associating a palette of strengths, abilities, traditions, and values with the presence of  “color.” In this way we can acknowledge the anthropological, sociological, and psychological payoff and costs race has meant for people within certain groups–and work to deconstruct its meanings and create new ones.

Shifting the Conversation from Being Exclusively about Race
Having said this, it is also true that in my work as Chief Diversity Officer at Hewitt Associates and a speaker on diversity and inclusion issues around the world, I usually shift the conversation away from race and toward becoming crossculturally competent in order to understand one’s own and others’ worldviews and navigate differences in a mutually beneficial way. This is because it doesn’t take long to run right smack into the wide spectrum of diversity withinracial groups. We can say Black, but then how to we address the differences between African Americans, Afro Caribbeans, AfroPeruvians, Africans? Much of the answer lies in addressing their cultural worldview differences in addition to not losing sight of common dynamics they experience based on their shared race. 

However, despite what I feel is the need to address race and then move to a deeper place,  even in this work, in the US  specifically, I do end up using the term “communities of color”  as a shorthand to identify those who are not Northern European whites. It works in the U.S. given its history of racial separation.  And especially now. given this special historical moment as the demographics shift dramatically, there is a powerful story emerging about the growing number of non-whites, aka people of color, in the US. While African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans each have their own distinct stories of their increasing numbers in US society, it is the collective diversification of the US that is creating the synergistic cultural, political, and economic  transformation. 

To say that in 1950 90% of the US was white and that by 2040 only half will be so — and that already whites are not the majority in many counties, cities, and some states — is to describe a national transformation that then  invites a new conversation  about national identity, shared values, go-to-market strategies, social policy, and so on. And after centuries of color being used to subjugate, color now is about rising in power and influence. Check out this “People of Color” map of the USA. This is not a moment to give up what is now a benefit.

A Shorthand for the Debate
Also, given that this social construct helps us talk about a phenomenon it is both practical and legitimate to use the shorthand “people of color” instead of in every reference using the awkward as it were one word “AfricanAmericansLatinosAsianAsianAmericansNativeAmericans.” It also helps us move away from the less-than connotation of “minority” (which is becoming more and more a misnomer anyway).  Admittedly, this simplification for discussion purposes does not properly manage the more complex reality of, say, Hispanics who consider themselves “white.” It also leads us down convoluted categorizations like in the US Census Bureau’s “non-Hispanic white” (though dropped in the 2010 Census). As we go deeper we get the inevitable blending of race (skin color) and ethnicity (cultural heritage).

From a global perspective, people of color ends up usually not being a helpful way for engaging the dialogue on diversity. In countries such as my friend’s and my native Peru, our history of miscegenation, I use different social constructs that make more sense than race when talking about people groups. I talk about low-income and high-income communities, women and men, Limeños and Aymaras and Quechuas, or whatever distinctions need to be made in a particular context that make sense for the audience so that together we can figure out how we can tap into that diversity for unleashing greater acceptance and understanding yes, but also greater creativity, innovation and productivity.

Far from making a scientific claim for the validity of “race” I use the terms “people of color” and “communities of color” when they resonate with how people perceive the world.  But even then it is only as a starting point for more holistically exploring what makes each of us uniquely who we are. As my friend rightly points out social constructs are often used to control and manipulate and there is an important caution here about falling into the trap of reinforcing a way of looking at the world that has been used to keep marginalized groups down.

The paradox here is that to undo the negative impact of the social construct of race, we must first use it as a starting point for the conversation because it is so ingrained in members of society, then deconstruct it (challenge the traditional interpretation and offer a new one), and then actually begin to dismantle it altogether. My friend is ready for that. I believe there’s too much work still to be done in the middle step of deconstruction and redefinition before we are ready to get us there.  After so many centuries of those in power defining what dark skin means we need this empowering moment to define it in our own terms. And only then can we, in a significantly more powerful way, contemplate letting go of it for good.

Marines Get Crosscultural Competence Help In Afghan War Effort

In the complex social, political, military, and cultural terrain of the agonizing war in Afghanistan, satellite controlled missiles can pinpoint human targets but do soldiers know when best to call a meeting with village elders so it does not interfere with prayer time?

In a controversial effort to increase the chances of the success of the current strategy of “clear, hold, and build,” US Marines are investing quite a bit of time and effort to supplement their warrior skills with crosscultural competence. This is the key ingredient more and more companies serious about diversity are realizing is essential for creating inclusive cultures.

“In order to hold the ground recently captured from the Taliban,” NPR reports, in a project called Human Terrain System (HTS), the US military is using “the work of civilian anthropologists and other social science researchers, who advise military commanders on how to win the hearts and minds of local people.”

HTS proponents believe this approach intended to make them savvier about their ambitious build strategic prong is making a big difference. But some social scientists are objecting saying “there are serious ethical problems with using social science techniques to further military objectives.”

See what you think. Listen (4’36”) or read.

Some Indians Find It Tough to Go Home Again

In the New York Times story, “Some Indians Find It Tough to Go Home Again,” the multilayered complexity of globalization and the emerging workforce challenge simplistic notions of diversity and inclusion.

About 100,000 “returnees” will move from the United States to India in the next five years, estimates Vivek Wadhwa, a research associate at MTI who has studied the topic. These “repats,” as they are known, are drawn by India’s booming economic growth, the chance to wrestle with complex problems and the opportunity to learn more about their heritage. They are joining multinational companies, starting new businesses and even becoming part of India’s sleepy government bureaucracy.

But a study by Mr. Wadhwa and other academics found that 34 percent of repats found it difficult to return to India — compared to just 13 percent of Indian immigrants who found it difficult to settle in the United States. The repats complained about traffic, lack of infrastructure, bureaucracy and pollution. For many returnees the cultural ties and chance to do good that drew them back are overshadowed by workplace cultures that feel unexpectedly foreign, and can be frustrating. Sometimes returnees discover that they share more in their attitudes and perspectives with other Americans or with the British than with other Indians. Some stay just a few months, some return to the West after a few years.

Returnees run into trouble when they “look Indian but think American,” said Anjali Bansal, managing partner in India for Spencer Stuart, the global executive search firm. People expect them to know the country because of how they look, but they may not be familiar with the way things run, she said. Similarly, when things don’t operate the way they do in the United States or Britain, the repats sometimes complain.

The contours of the article take readers to unexpected places. Here we have Indians who grew up in the US, or who came to the US for their professional formation, facing challenges of exclusion as they go back to Mother India. But the exclusion on the part of those who never left toward these “repats” is only part of the story. The repats themselves may be carrying unexplored ethnocentrism on their part as they re-encounter Indian culture. What interculturalist Dr. Milton Bennett’s model of intercultural sensitivity refers to as “reversal,” the tendency to see one’s own culture as inferior to others – a common phenomenon for many who leave home countries, have a positive experience in a host country, and then go back home.

The telling of this story itself reveals one additional layer – that of the non-Indian American view of the dynamic. In this case we have NYT reporter Heather Timmons herself becoming part of the story as she writes about Mr. Brachmachari who had taken exception to the point of view of one of the reporter’s sources, Mr Ayyadurai:

“To prove his point, Mr. Brahmachari who was two hours late for an interview scheduled by his office, read from a government guide about decision-making in the organization. Mr. Ayyadurai didn’t follow protocol, he said. “As long as your language is positive for the organization I have no problem,” he added. As the interview was closing, Mr. Brahmachari questioned why anyone would be interested in the situation, and then said he would complain to a reporter’s bosses in New York if she continued to pursue the story.

Can you spot Ms. Timmons’ potential ethnocentricism? In the meantime the layers continue to be added. In The Inclusion Paradox I write about the multinational Indian consultancy that in the US is having trouble attracting and retaining the “locals” (aka the Americans) who are not feeling like their Indian bosses are being sensitive to American cultural preferences. The world is indeed upside down and the need for crosscultural competence for all players is greater than ever.

Featured Post: With the Rise of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, How Relevant Is English? (Part 2)

by Andrés T. Tapia

Paradoxically, as I discussed in Part 1, as the US sees its economic hegemony decline and the BRIC countries bulk up their economic muscle, the use of English as a business trade language becomes more and not less important. Here in Part 2 I explore this paradox’s additional counterintuitive implications:

  • even as English becomes more used, the need for English speakers to be multilingual will increase
  • there will be a heightened debate about what a native English speaker is
  • accent when speaking English will matter more and less
  • there will be a growing rivalry between English and Chinese as the language of business

Let’s look at the first two now. I will share thoughts on the final two in the next installment on this topic.

Even as English Becomes More Used, the Need to Be Multilingual Will Increase

As the world becomes even more reliant on English, it does not mean there is free ride for native English speakers. In fact, the strengthening of English skills on the part of  English-as-a-second-language speakers could lull English-only speakers into believing that inclusive communication is happening.  The growing use of a common language will definitely improve but not fully bridge the gap.  Monolingual speakers will be increasingly at  a disadvantage as conversations move from straightforward logistical coordination and knowledge sharing to the nuances of negotiation, relationship building, and influence.

For example, English is a less emotive language given its Anglo-American cultural roots compared to say Portuguese, Russian, Italian, and Spanish. Take the simple punctuation issue of exclamation marks. In English one exclamation mark at the end of the statement is enough. In Spanish the sentence is grammatically incorrect if in addition to the one on the end there is not an upside down exclamation mark (¡) at the beginning. ¡That’s right!

Small thing, you may think. Well, behind that ¡ are expectations about how to express emotion, how to establish relationships, how to prioritize work — because when the cultural preference of expressing emotion careens into the cultural preference to hide it, the different parties will revert to their native language to fortify their positions. Monolingual speakers will be at a distinct disadvantage, and not even know it, as their multilingual counterparts switch between languages in order to deliver the mot juste, the most perfect word, to best influence the outcome in their favor.

There Will Be a Heightened Debate about What a Native English Speaker Is

Saying that English may become more important in a more diverse and global world is not the same as saying that American or British English will become more important.  However, currently most business English language instruction is created by British and American companies and, guess what?, their recordings of the English to imitate happens to be British or American English. 

This state of affairs is starting to be challenged. The nature of a trade language whether it be Swahili or English is that it becomes widespread precisely because people  from an increasing number of cultures start to use it as their own. And with that come pronunciations and an increasing number of words that are non-American and non-British but are perfectly accepted English words.  For example, when Americans go to Chipotle and they order a “burrito with salsa” would they say they just ordered in Spanish? Likely not.  So if not, what is the correct pronunciation of “burrito” and “salsa” now that they have become English words too? Would I tell a native English speaker who does not speak Spanish that their “buh/rei/toe” and “sahl/sah” is wrong but my “boo/rree/toh” with the trilling r’s is right? Comprende?

Now let’s reverse it and say we then headed to a hot dog stand with an East LA Hispanic whose first language is English. Would one say that her order of a “hotdog with kechuppronounced hought/doughg wit que/choop” is not proper English? Many would likely say that it is not. But isn’t she a native English speaker?

As an increasing number take on English as their first language, what does a “native speaker” mean after all? It surely can be an Australian or a Scot, but how about an Indian whose parents spoke English and Hindi to him since he was born, went to a British system school in Bangalore, and now lives in the US and his cadence and accent clearly identify him as someone from India? Wouldn’t he also be a native English speaker? Or how about the Afro Caribbean Millennial from the former British colony of Grenada? In her lilting Caribbean pronunciation, isn’t she also a native English speaker?  

GlobalEnglish is one business English language instruction organization that does use voices of people from a variety of different nationalities who are positioned as native English speakers coming from certain parts of the world. This way, for example, the professional in Krakow who is just starting to interact regularly with professionals in India and is as unlikely to learn Hindi as her Indian counterparts are going to learn Polish, needs to brush up on her English. But this time rather than listening to the British pronunciations she was likely exposed to during her Polish equivalent of English 101 highschool class, through her headphones linked to their site she is hearing the proper pronunciations by that new English native speaker, the Indian from Bangalore.  She’s gearing up to be an effective global worker. 

Interim Thoughts

In the fascinating and entertaining nine-part BBC and PBS  TV series and book, The Story of English, the writers trace the evolution of English from the 5th Century AD up to the turn of the Millenium just before the explosion of the globalization era. While theirs is a story line that ties the rise of English to the economic dominance of English speaking Britain and U.S., the new chapters will need to explore the continued rise of English due to the economic dominance, paradoxically, of non-English speaking countries. 

In the third and final installment on this modern story of English we will explore why accents will become both a greater and lesser issue in the workplace and what is going on in the growing rivalry between English and Chinese as the language of choice in business.

Inclusion Paradox Sighting: American Female CEO of Dutch Company Brings Profitable Diverse Perspective and Stresses Crosscultural Competence

In a Wall Street Journal  October 12, 2009 article on “inside outsiders” writer Joann Lublin profiles global publishing giant Wolters Kluwer’s CEO Nancy McKinstry and how her differences led to a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line. “I was able to use my differences to make change,” she is quoted as saying.   And given the need for new ways of doing business due to new competitive pressures, she goes on to say that a male Dutch leader would have faced “more pressure to maintain the status quo.”  She is also a believer in providing her executives with challenging crosscultural opportunities to be able to move promising products faster across borders. This included asking leaders to run the offices in countries not their own despite resistance that “you can’t have a Spaniard running France.” “We are a global business,” she replied.  “We will overcome these cultural differences.”

Inclusion Paradox Sighting: Chinese Artist Living in Germany Captures East – West Worldview Differences

Artist Yang Liu, who is Chinese and lives in Germany, captures through illustration the first two of the three steps of being crossculturally competent: self awareness of one’s own culture and awareness of others’ cultures. Look at how she calls out worldview differences between West (blue) and East (red) so that we can, paradoxically, have inclusion. If we internalize that these differences are real and that they affect nearly everything we do, then we can move to Step 3 which is to manage the differences.

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Definition of Beauty
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Elderly in day to day life
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Handling of Problems
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In the restaurant
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Moods and Weather
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Yang Lui
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Queue when Waiting
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Sundays on the Road
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The Boss
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The Child
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Three meals a day
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Way of life
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What’s Trendy
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Illustrations designed by Yang Liu