Ya! The Time Has Come for Latinos to Claim Our Place in American Society

by Andrés T. Tapia

(This article was originally published on LatinPost.com http://www.latinpost.com/articles/21389/20140915/ya-time-come-latinos-claim-place-american-society.htm)

U.S. Capitol Dome

U.S. Capitol Dome

It’s up to us to have our power match our numbers

Power-cito, my Spanglish word for power-with-a-lowercase-p, is the Achilles heel of the surging Latino narrative. Despite our supersized growth, we have too much evidence that our power in many areas of society does not match our numbers.

As we joyfully celebrate and share our Latino roots during this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s also challenge ourselves to step it up and make our presence known and felt. Because when it comes to executive and senior leadership positions, political representation, and a marketplace that knows and meets our needs, we are not yet fully accounted for.

In leadership, according to the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, among the 1,200 executive and director positions available in its 2009 Corporate Inclusion Index, Hispanics held only 61 of those positions. That’s 7.9 percent. In 2013, it went down to 7.3 percent. Additionally, only 18 percent of Latinos work in management, professional, or similarly related positions.

Politically, we Latinos do not vote in numbers that the size of our population would suggest. In Arizona, for example, Latinos make up about 31 percent of the state’s population. Two-thirds (67 percent) of this population is native born, with a median age of 25 and a 57 percent home-ownership rate. These are the indicators of a potentially influential, voting-eligible population. Yet, many Latinos believe recent Arizona immigration legislation is detrimental to their community.

In the marketplace, there are still too few choices for products and services that cater to the needs, wants, and aspirations of the broad diversity within the Latino community — from the Spanish-dominant first generation Latino immigrant to the fourth generation Spanglish professional to the affluent MBA on the executive track.

The headwinds are both external as well as within ourselves. We must be vigilant about any discrimination and rally our allies in squelching it. A 2013 Harris Interactive poll found that over 75 percent of Latinos feel people with their background are discriminated against in the form of not being hired or promoted for a job and being called names or insulted.

But we ourselves also get in our own way as we seek to rise to the top. For example, many of the highly energized Latino advocacy organizations have a reputation for not being collaborative, and instead being highly competitive with one another. National origins and territoriality get in the way. A zero-sum game mindset feeds this.

We therefore have a splintering of advocacy groups — many doing insightful, passionate, committed work, but not in a coordinated, scalable way. But this splintering is what contributes to Latinos not displaying strength commensurate with our numbers.

It’s Up To Us

But it’s time we stop looking to others to hand us the power. We need to, and can, rise up to meet it. For us as individuals, it depends on our own ability and willingness to speak up for ourselves and being able to take the more calculated risks required of leaders. And collectively it’s about finding ways to minimize the differences within our own Latino ranks and being able to leverage the many things we have in common to advocate more effectively for what we need and want.

Here’s what we can stand on. Fifty-five million Latinos, and growing, are out there shopping, traveling, banking, studying, and raising families. The Latino purchasing power of $1.4 trillion in 2014, the fastest growing in the United States, is greater than the economies of 11 nations, including Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and Indonesia.

And as companies struggle with growth, Latinos offer a marketer’s dream target audience — young, growing, and underserved. With one-third under the age of 18 and 25 percent in their 20s and 30s, the majority of Latinos are near the peak of their spending years.

As we become homeowners, we are driving growth in the household goods industry at a time when other groups are cutting back on these purchases. The familia focus leads to purchasing for the here and now. Latinos over-index compared to other groups in the purchase of toys, BBQ grills, furniture, and eating out. This is consumerism driven by a worldview of many Latinos that what matters most is hoy (today), for who knows what mañana (tomorrow) will bring.

Even with the high unemployment tied to the Great Recession, Latinos account for 13 percent of the workforce and have a participation rate of roughly 68 percent. This is a higher workforce participation rate than among whites, African-Americans or Asians. From a numbers perspective, companies unsuccessful at sourcing, attracting, and engaging this talent pool will see their talent pipeline shrivel up.

Hispanics are tasting the fruits of entrepreneurship as well. According to a 2013 Geoscape study, Hispanic-owned business have grown to over 3 million, a 40 percent increase between 2007 and 2013, outpacing the growth rate for any other demographic group. They generated over $468 billion in revenues.

In addition, Latinos made a key difference in how the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections went. And with now both major parties deeply disappointing Latinos in one way or another, we are in a position to be more demanding about what it will take to win our votes.

So here we are. According to Pew Hispanic Research, Latinos are twenty-one percent of the millennial population. This is the precursor to all Latinos expected to be one-third of the U.S. by 2050. Latino is not a niche market; it is the market. Twenty-five million eligible voters nationwide, and over 6 million in places like California is not a side constituency, it is the margin of victory. Sixty-nine percent of Latinos going to college, the largest percentage of any ethnic group including whites, is not just a student body ratio, it is the future workforce.

We have the numbers behind us, as well as our optimism, our energy, and our ambitions. But we have to stop waiting for others to make the way for us. Se hace el camino al andar, you make your path as you walk it. Let’s stop playing it safe and instead take the necessary steps to be seen as the future power brokers of how things are going to be.

We have a the rest of this month to reflect on this. From there, time to take action.

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.

The Obama Era Continues: Reflections on the Diversity Implications of Barack Obama’s Re-Election

by Andrés T. Tapia – Mixed group of nations behind the American flag.

Regardless of one’s political preferences, from a historical perspective, the first time Barack Obama was elected president was momentous. The second time marks actual culture change. If in 2008 the point was tipping, in 2012 the point has tipped.

A few years ago, as the U.S.’s first Black president began his maiden term, I published my book, The Inclusion Paradox: The Obama Era and the Transformation of Global Diversity. As a student and practitioner of culture change, the work was inspired by a sense that we were at a tipping point of massive culture change. The election of Barack Obama was a defining moment that captured the zeitgeist of the times. The moment came to be known as the Obama Era, a period in history that was as much about the demographic changes in society that made possible the election of the country’s first Black president as it was about the man and leader himself, whose own diverse biography would come to further define the early 21st Century.

That first election was certainly historic. It was a massive break through the color line. But it was too soon to tell if it would be anything beyond a flash-in-the-pan stroke of luck due to an imploding economy so out of control that many millions were willing to take the riskier, what-the-hell bet of voting for a non-White person. While the insurgency of the 2008 Obama election brought us to the cusp of the tipping point of a new way of understanding a contemporary and diverse society, as the governing road got tougher and steeper, plenty of evidence mounted that Obama’s historic election could end up being an outlier episode rather than a transformative era.

As there always is when societies are at a tipping point, powerful countervailing forces emerged to keep the tip from happening. True to form, we saw this societal dynamic emerge through the fierce Tea Party phenomenon, which led to major setbacks to the president’s agenda in the midterm elections. Confidence abounded among opposition leaders. And pundits confirmed that the countervailing forces would make even further gains by denying the president a second term and leading the Senate majority to change from blue to red.

As changing demographics and new biographies of those leading and influencing policy brought different perspectives and solutions to major issues such as healthcare coverage, immigration status, gay rights, diversity efforts within the federal government, the 2012 election truly became a high-stakes contest about which way the point was going to tip.

This is why Obama’s second election—and the various state referendums on gay marriage and the legalization of pot, as well as the election of the first out lesbian senator, and the sending of the greatest number ever of women to Congress—ended up being a thunder clap announcing true culture change.

While many will disagree, even vehemently, with the merits or values behind these culture changes, for better or for worse, the point has fully tipped. It’s an announcement that the diverse demographic tsunami and all its implications to the economy, education, energy, immigration, relationships, individual freedoms, and collective responsibilities are irreversible.

This, of course, does not mean that the actual solutions to the various challenges within each of these major arenas are obvious or that they won’t require debate about how best to address. But when Blacks, Latinos, Asians, LGBT, youth, and single women decide the election for president for a second time, the agenda has been set for what needs to be addressed for the United States to remain economically competitive in a world where change is happening at warp speed.

Here’s how one of the poster children of the new economy, CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria, sees it as narrated on his show “GPS”:

“Growing up in India in the 1960s and 1970s, I always thought of America as the future. It was the place where the newest technology, the best gadgets, and the latest fads seemed to originate. Seemingly exotic political causes—women’s liberation, gay rights, the fight against ageism—always seemed to get their start on the streets or in the legislatures and courts of the United States. Indians couldn’t imagine embracing all American trends—in fact, some were rejected outright—because they were too edgy for a country like India. But we had a sneaking suspicion that today’s weird California fad would become tomorrow’s conventional practice. For me, Tuesday’s elections brought back that sense of America as the land of the future.

The Obama Era carries with it profound cultural implications, both in the United States and globally, that will affect not only personal, group, and institutional relationships, but also how we go about doing our work strategically and day-to-day. Among the populations most significantly impacted will be the emerging workforce that is becoming the New Mainstream. An increasingly multicultural workforce requires a deeper cultural understanding from many different angles—not only of what cultures are in the mix, but what individuals believe, how they act, and why.

In my book, I explored the impact of the Obama phenomenon from a cultural, rather than political, perspective. Sure, there were myriad political observations to be made—from an analysis of blue state/red state shifts to legitimate policy debates—but regardless of how such matters were hashed out politically, there was an undeniable, transformative story that seemed to be unfolding that included all of us globally. Regardless of one’s political preferences or passions, we all were willing or unwitting players in this culture-change drama.

This meant that for the past four years, as the Obama drama of his first term unfolded, I had the chance to test out some theories and observations from the position of Chief Diversity Officer at Hewitt Associates and then as the president of Diversity Best Practices. In both positions, I have had the opportunity to also serve as an executive diversity and inclusion consultant to the C-suite of dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

It’s through experiences with companies such as John Deere, Marriott, McKesson, Baxter, United Airlines, Discover Financial, and many other corporations as well as law enforcement agencies, not-for-profits, government institutions, and schools that I was able to test the eight cultural implications that I believed would be hallmarks of the Obama Era. In light of Obama’s re-election I believe these are still true:

  • Inclusion is a transformative force.
  • Whatever we do has global impact.
  • Diversity and inclusion require intentionality.
  • We’ll experience a renaissance of values-driven decision making.
  • We must have a heightened focus on results.
  • The bottom up is as important as the top down.
  • Both/and trumps either/or.
  • True diversity and inclusion require calling out our differences, not minimizing them.

Read more about each of these points.

Zakaria summarizes the change this way: “What the world saw this week was a picture of America at its best: edgy, experimental, open-minded—and brilliantly diverse.” And here’s how the architect of the Obama Era sees it as stated in his re-election acceptance speech in Chicago on election night:

“I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Black or White or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

My diversity leader colleagues, our work has never been more important or relevant. Many see it, but many still don’t. And like the U.S. president is doing, we must continue to be agents and leaders of change with confidence, facts, and compassion.

The Talent Pipeline is Key Metric for Inclusion

by Andrés T. Tapia –

Working as a team unit


For several postings, I’ve been focusing my messages on the importance of three key metrics in measuring inclusion. Earlier, I addressed the role of engagement. This was followed by a message that focused on the need to have influential leaders who truly can hold an organization accountable for the development and advancement of diverse talent. In this posting, I’ll discuss the last metric: the strength of a diverse talent pipeline.

Note that I am not focusing on representation as the key metric. Why? While we want to continue to maximize every opportunity to hire diverse candidates into senior roles, it is not a sustainable way to achieve systemic breakthroughs. Progress by ones and twos is slow and freighted with vulnerability. Being a leader today is exceptionally challenging and, just through the law of averages, many won’t succeed. This is true whether the leader is from the majority or a traditionally underrepresented group. Placing your bets on the small handful of recently promoted leaders from one of these groups is a high risk, simply due to the probabilities of success and failure.

Representation also is a lagging indicator metric. It’s helpful, but not powerful. But with the pipeline, here we have a true leading indicator. Organizations that concentrate their efforts on strengthening the internal pipeline are embarking on a savvier and more sustainable approach that will both foster greater inclusion and provide a way of measuring the breadth and depth of that inclusion.

Here are three reasons developing and nurturing a diverse talent pipeline pays off:

  • It creates a pool of talent that knows the organization. This is essential because, as our Diversity Best Practices data consistently shows us, an external hire is almost always a greater turnover risk.
  • The broader and deeper the diverse talent pipeline, the more individuals in traditionally unrepresented groups can have a multiplicity of chances for advancement. When that mathematical certainty that not all promoted leaders are successful kicks in, all the hopes and aspirations of an organization’s diversity and inclusion strategy are not riding on the shoulders of a handful of people. Instead, your advancement risk is spread across a diversified portfolio of talent.
  • It’s easier to set specific goals the lawyers can get comfortable with. We all know that quotas are DOA. Affirmative action law clearly states that while companies need to demonstrate good faith efforts toward rectifying under-representation, they can’t determine specific targets for closing the gap. This has to do, in part, with constitutional protections against guaranteeing jobs for people based on race or gender. But many employment lawyers can get comfortable with hard targets around increasing the representation of under-represented groups when these actions are not granting or denying anyone a job due to their identity. Rather these are spaces where great, strong, and potential talent can be brought in and observed, developed, and challenged. And when the time comes to compete for the promotional opportunities, let the best talent from this diverse pool be picked. If the pool is healthfully diverse then the law of averages will do its job.

So, there you have it. As you go into your upcoming planning period, think about how you can incorporate these three truer measures of inclusion into your work: engagement, influential leaders, and the diversity of your talent pipeline. All three require getting into deeper organizational processes. But, as organizations that have had the patience and discipline to do this have found, it will pay off.

What are your thoughts on these inclusion measures? How will you work with your leadership to embed inclusion into your organizational processes? Take a moment to share what’s going on in your company.

2012 is the Year of New Thinking

by Andrés T. Tapia —  


With more than a month into the New Year, now is a good time to check how we’re doing with our 2012 resolutions. Earlier, Diversity Best Practices offered some practical suggestions of things you could do to increase your impact this year.

This is also  a good moment to re-examine common topics, challenges, and opportunities in a fresh way. At Diversity Best Practices, we’re committed to disseminating details about best practices, but we also strive to be at the forefront of new thinking.

What’s the new thinking in 2012 that has implications for diversity? Three things come to mind.

It’s a Multidimensional World

In today’s global, multiracial, multigenerational workforce some of the classic ways of thinking about diversity feel too limiting. With affinity groups, mentoring programs, and career fairs organized in unidimensional ways (women or Latino or Black or Asian or Gay) how do we effectively address the growing reality that people can be all of the above?

We need to challenge ourselves to think about diversity in multidimensional ways. If you missed last year’s insight paper published on this very topic make sure to check it out. The take aways included that in the past decade the number of multiracial people in United States has tripled and the Millennial generation has grown up in an era of greater tolerance, which means there is going to be an acceleration of multicultural relationships. What’s more, globalization is bringing together people from different cultures and nations, which is leading to new types of bonds that transcend traditional diversity dimensions.

The conversations around race, for example, sound and feel very different among white Baby Boomers (who tend to have grown up in more homogeneous environments and didn’t encounter diversity until they went to college) than among Millennial whites (who grew up in multicultural communities and in a growing number of cases were in the minority).

It’s imperative we have a better handle on the implications of the intersections between race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability to just mention a few. Is there a place for the gay African American or the Latino with a disability or the Asian who is a military veteran? This creates seemingly vexing new challenges in the workplace, particularly for employee resource groups. How do you accommodate this growing multidimensional reality? Many ERGs are not equipped to address this. Now is a great time to look at your team and discuss strategies.

Global is the New Local

We also need to shift how we think about global work. Instead of viewing it as an expansion of one’s domestic efforts, today’s global business culture necessitates that companies start globally to be successful. How do you do this? Instead of treating your global work as an add on, a global mindset needs to be in place when you develop your initial strategy. In effect, your entire approach becomes global, with your U.S. headquarters becoming one of your many global regions. 

This has implications for developing strategy, action plans, staffing, stakeholder analysis, and communications strategy. Even for those who are only U.S.-based, globalization is already affecting your support functions, competitive landscape, and future expansion plans. This is about the place where you stand, your punto de partida, your starting point. How much are you thinking of global as your punto de partida?

It’s Not Just About People

More and more Fortune 1000 companies are seeing that diversity is not just a talent issue. It’s actually a huge marketplace issue. The multicultural population represents a $3 trillion market. And it’s a market that is growing, as these populations enter the job market, go to school, have their first home, insurance policies, self-paid vacations. These groups will be driving consumption. In my work as president of Diversity Best Practices and in consulting, the opportunity here is bastante grande, very big. This is where executives get highly engaged when we can help them see the direct line of sight from diversity to revenue and growth.

One example of a company capitalizing on this trend: At a Walgreens in Highland Park—a Chicago community comprised of Jewish, Anglo, and Latino residents—the ice cream freezer is not stocked with Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry’s, or Breyers, but rather La Michoacana, a Mexican ice cream provider. The brand is not well known in the United States at all, but it’s definitely recognizable to those who grew up in Mexico. The decision to feature that brand of ice cream at the impulse buying check out area is a money-making nod to the fast-growing Latino demographic in the neighborhood.

When you see something like that it means things are starting to go mainstream. How much is your diversity strategy riding that wave? How much are you lending your voice and perspective to harness the power of diversity to really win in the marketplace?

The War Is On

The talent war is going to heat up. Be on the look out. It cooled down during the recession, but the diversity of that highly desirable talent hasn’t decreased. With the economy gradually improving, competition for that diverse talent is increasing. Great talent will be available because people are ready to look for new opportunities. Just recently I was talking with the CDO at one of our financial member companies and he commented about all the great talent he has come across recently and, in contrast to last year, this wasn’t very good talent who happened to have been laid off, but very good talent currently employed at very good companies looking to make a move to enhance their careers.

To be at the forefront of doing vital work, keeping and reviewing these new ways of thinking as beacons of thinking will be essential for a successful, prosperous, and breakthrough year.


Now, More than Ever, Diversity Work is Global

by Andrés T. Tapia –

Shanghai.istock.xsmallAs part of part of an annual global initiative conducted in partnership with Working Mother Media (our parent company), Diversity Best Practices recently hosted a Best Practice Session in Shanghai, China. The November 2011 event was just one of the ways that we are actively pursuing, capturing, cataloging, and disseminating best practices from around the world and ensuring that our members get exposure to global issues firsthand. Previous events featured diversity and inclusion sessions in countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil.

In Shanghai, participants had the chance to experience China’s culture and diversity. It’s one thing to read about the country’s boom in the headlines; it’s another thing to be on the ground and feel the pulse of a nation that is seizing the opportunity of a developing global marketplace. While there, we experienced the reverence of walking through the serenity of the Yuyuan Garden and minutes later being in the center of one of the most modern skylines in the world.

Diversity is a hot topic in China right now and the work in this area is as urgent there as it is in the United States. There are big questions around the advancement of women, work life, and managing multiple generations in the workplace. Like in the United States and other countries, there are things that are clearly visible around diversity and inclusion that companies are ready to engage in and there are some things that leaders are not in tune with that are very real. The Chinese will often say that the race issue is not relevant to them because they all share the same race. While China may have little racial diversity, the country is not removed from the tensions that can come from having a diverse population.

I had an interesting insight during my visit to the Shanghai Museum. There was an exhibit about China’s ethnic minorities. When I looked at the exhibit map, I noticed that the eastern part of China, which is where China has been developing, it’s all Han Chinese. The majority of the other ethnicities are in the west. It struck me that as China expands westward, companies are going to run into diversity issues with Han leaders trying to engage and manage a non-Han workforce. It was very evident from the exhibit that people who come from these various ethnic groups have different histories and experiences and they likely have different world views that will be apparent in their preferences in what they look for in talent management and engagement.

Currently, this aspect of diversity is not on Chinese business leaders’ radar screens, but it’s going to hit them sooner rather than later. One of my takeaways from my experience in China is that we, as diversity practitioners, regardless of the country we come from, have a lot to learn about how diversity and inclusion is playing out in other countries. Because of our previous experience in the United States, we have a unique perspective to offer employers in other parts of the world.

At Diversity Best Practices, we’re expanding our relationships with thought leaders, government officials, and local leaders that will allow us to be more insightful about the reality of business and diversity in China. These relationships give us access to resources to enrich our research and hold a position at the forefront of thinking in the field.

However, China is not our only area of interest. India and Brazil are ripe with diversity challenges and insights and we’re already making plans to host events in Bangalore and Sao Paolo in 2012.

In the meantime, I hope you will take the opportunity to learn more about diversity and inclusion in China. We will be hosting a teleconference in which we will share our learnings from Shanghai on Thursday, January 19. A white paper from the event will be published shortly after. Additional information about diversity in China is available in our recently published Global Diversity Primer

The more we learn about diversity and inclusion around the globe, the more effective we will be as practitioners at home and abroad.

Adelante (onward) in the work!

KPMG Confronts the Diversity Issue We Fear Most: Disability

I just returned from moderating Diversity Best Practices’ 2010 Global Best Practice Session hosted by The New York Times.  One of this year’s topics was about what I refer to in The Inclusion Paradox as the diversity issue we fear most: disability.

Dana Foote, a partern at KPMG and co-chair for their Disabilities Network shared of her dilemma when she was asked to lead the network. It meant she would have to reveal publicly that she had MS. In listening to her process, and that of others with hidden disabilities during this session, it struck me how much the course of self-identifying as “disabled” is akin to coming out for members of the LGBT community. Despite evolving technology and mindsets redefining ability in the 21st century, intense stigmas remain. The result? Many try to hide disabilities, meaning that businesses miss out on opportunities to maximize employee efficiency as those with a disability carry heavy practical and emotional burdens in covering their difference.

It takes intentionality and focused effort to create an environment of inclusion where employees feel free enough to be out.

Take KPMG. The first year that the international audit, tax and advisory company distributed a survey allowing employees to identify disabilities that affect them, barely 100 did so. During the following year, KPMG conducted an audit of ways in which the firm could increase accesssability. They found nearly 700 ways and within a year they addressed over 500 workplace accessability issues.

This commitment to inclusion for those with disabilities nurtured a culture of inclusion for them, and as a result, in the second year of the survey over 500 employees felt comfortable identifying themselves as being affected by disability.

Here’s the inclusion paradox at work. Constructively calling out differences at KPMG, rather than assuming similarity, led to greater inclusion.

Is your company willing to move disability diversity up in its priority ranking? What would happen if you uncovered hundreds of ways that your workplace could be more accessible?

Women Leaders Rising — Stories and Stats from the 2010 Global Best Practices Session

Increasingly, women are shattering the glass ceiling–and they’re doing so in savvy businesses who actively support gender diversity in leadership. While moderating  Diversity Best Practices’ 2010 Global Best Practice Session in February 2010, I was struck by these stats:

  • At Verizon, 29% of the top 300 leaders are women.
  • At Sodexo, women hold 19% of the top 300 positions. Their goal: 24% within the next few years.
  • At Ernst & Young, the number of women in titled leadership positions has grown to nearly 20%.

To be sure we still have a very long way to go in many companies to see women represented according to their availability in the talent pool and according to the talent, education, and experiences they have. But here, let’s just take a moment to reflect on the gains above, which can be added to what presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling when referring to the votes she got. Not long ago, gains such as these were just pipe dreams. And they still might just be that if executives were not becoming more and more convinced that making leadership gender inclusive makes businesses stronger.

The 2010 Global Best Practice Session hosted by The New York Times focused on gender and corporate social responsibility, and business leaders were there to explain how corporations are helping more of their most talented women step up. Ernst & Young, for example,  is involving men in women’s initiatives, training them to become better coaches for women developing their own leadership styles. And Sodexo ties 25% of executive bonuses to achieving diversity goals around gender representation. It make sense: according to Global Chief Diversity Officer Rohini Anand, every $1 Sodexo invests in mentoring sees a return of $19. Though their approaches differ, these companies all see gender diversity in leadership as vital to strengthening their executive talent pool. Said Sodexo CEO Michel Landel:

“We set goals for every business objective. Gender diversity is no different.”

In The Inclusion Paradox, I offer more stories of how gender diversity all along the corporate ladder has made businesses better able to cope with increasingly diverse client bases. What is your company doing to help women enter top positions of leadership?