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

by Andrés T. Tapia – LegalImmigrant

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, 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 billon 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 powerbrokers of how things are going to be.

We have a full month to reflect on this. From there, time to take action.

World Cup Hangover: Brazil Coming of Age Through Heartbreak

by Andrés T. Tapia – 2124370_large-lnd

As the World Cup crowned Germany champion while host Brazil was left out of its own party, this South American nation was left to contemplate if something good can come through heartache in the wake of its World Cup devastation.

It’s been a hard fall for Brazil’s seductive romance — fueled by capirinhas, shaken by samba, and heated up on the beach. Soccer, that got its moniker as “The Beautiful Game” in large part due to the legacy of Brazil’s elegant and flowing style of play that led to their Seleção becoming the all-time greatest winner of World Cup titles, has also been an integral part of the Brazilian mystique. Then ten years ago the tropical paradise of leisure also buffed up into an economic superpower.

So when FIFA awarded the 2014 World Cup to the land of eternal beaches, Brazil’s seeming ability to have it all – economic prowess and joie de vivre – it captured the world’s imagination. Soccer fans couldn’t think of a better setting for the greatest sports event on the planet. “The World Cup in Brazil has a whole other different ring to it than the World Cup will have in [2018 host] Russia,” says Chris Quinn, a Canadian expat who is owner of an English language instruction academy in Natal whom I met in Salvador over a moqueca fish stew hours before the Costa Rica – Holland quarterfinal.

And to boot, what a marvelous opportunity this was to be to finally exorcise the ghost of the Maracanazo, Brazil’s debacle in 1950 when it lost the lead minutes before it was about to win the title the last time it hosted the World Cup.

But it was not to be. The moment of the announcement that Brazil had been awarded the 2014 tournament ended up being the peak of the Brazilian on-top-of-the-world mood. The rest of the story is now the well-known tale of the rising discontent expressed through many loud and visible protests and strikes on the eve of the games. Too many in what Brazilians identify as socioeconomic Class D began to resent the feeling they were being left behind as FIFA and the Brazilian government spent $18 billion on infrastructure and the staging of the games during a time when too many Brazilians still don’t have enough health care, education, and housing.

The protests went on pause during the global festa. It was futebol after all and Brazil had Neymar, Jr. And then came his injury and even worse, The Great Humiliation of the 7-1 loss to the German squad in the semifinal.

But as distraught as Brazilians looked on TV and splashed across newspapers around the world, this heartbreak could be the catalyst for a coming of age as an economic superpower.

Rather than assuming that they could just sashay their way to easy economic prosperity as the rest of the world boomed and raw materials exports surged, the current economic slowdown preceding the tournament was already forcing Brazilians to face the high cost of their inefficiencies and lack of adequate infrastructure.

The protests have also been forcing the government and many of those very Brazilians who have indeed benefitted from Brazil’s emergence as an economic superpower to take more seriously the destabilizing consequences of growing inequality.

Sure, a World Cup fairy tale ending crowning Brazil a sexta-champion at the very Maracana stadium of their ignoble defeat a generation ago would have spilled over into a mass endorphin and testosterone induced euphoria that would have invited breathless commentary about how Brazil was capable of anything.

But in the gloom of defeat, a more sanguine assessment can be made that even a glorious World Cup championship is no substitute for the unsexy work it takes to address deep social inequities or being able to build the right infrastructure to support a burgeoning economy.

And there is plenty of evidence that Brazilians are doing just that. For all the stereotyped fear mongering by the foreign press that the Brazilians were not going to be ready to host, they pulled off staging 54 games in twelve different cities not only through the stadium venues but also through the FIFA Fan Fests that catered to tens of thousands of soccer partiers on famed beaches and open areas with 100-foot-HD screens and where games were bracketed by first class live musical acts.

And what in the past has been Brazil’s notorious dysfunctional domestic travel in whose Kafkaesque ways I myself had gotten myself lost in, it successfully got millions of foreign and domestic fans crisscrossing the country efficiently and effectively to follow their favorite teams. Transportation to and from the stadiums was also well organized and the stadiums and the fields were top shape.

As for the still serious issue with violence in certain areas there has been significant progress. In the Rio favela Vidigal where I stayed, the pacificão, as the army incursion and occupation of the neighborhood has been called, has yielded results. “Drug gangs used to walk up and down this street in front of my house brandishing huge weapons,” says long-time resident Sonia Gallo whose B&B I stayed. “But now they are completely cleared out and have been pushed to the very top of the favela” which sits on elevation of one of many mountains surrounding Rio. “There’s a code here now in this part of the favela where we don’t hurt each other.”

This hard-earned progress with still much more to go may provide some hope of why Brazil’s 2014 World Cup humiliation may not endure as much as the pain of the Maracanazo. As an example of how things may be evolving, the New York Times quoted Celso Lacerda an employee from the national oil company Petrobras, as saying, “The game was kind of shocking, but I don’t think there’s much else to say. If this had happened in previous eras, there would be a bigger impact on Brazil.”

So yes, the shame, the embarrassment. But this time the realism. Brazil could actually come out stronger through its heartache.

TEDxIndianapolis Talk: Why Diversity is Upside Down

by Andrés T. Tapia –

Why is diversity upside-down and how do we with what that means for our lives and our companies? Check out my recent TEDx Talk in Indianapolis, IN. I explore just how much our world’s hyper-diversity has affected practically every aspect of our lives – in our personal relationships, in our communities, and in our companies.



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

by Andrés T. Tapia —

Mixed group of nations behind the American flag.

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



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.

The Metamorphosis of Global Diversity

iStock_000012215038XSmall.globeflags.purchasedby Andrés T. Tapia –

In recent months, I’ve given in to my global wanderlust. In November, it was immersion in São Paulo, Brazil for our Diversity Best Practices Global Member Conference. In December, it was homecoming, visiting family in my native Peru.

There’s nothing like jet lag, the cacophony of different languages, new and childhood taste experiences, and newspaper headlines not about fiscal cliffs and sequesters to freshen up one’s perspective—and prompt these few thoughts on the state of global diversity today.

Global diversity continues to accelerate its rise in importance and, with that, it’s metamorphosing into something much more multidimensional and unexpected than the first wave of exported Made-in-USA diversity.

Take, for instance, three different invitations I have received in the past six months. The U.S. subsidiary of a Belgium-headquartered company calls asking for help on building out its diversity strategy. Then, a German company calls seeking help with getting its American affiliate to come up with a U.S. response to their global diversity imperative because they are behind their counterparts in Europe and Asia. And last year, a Korean multinational asked me to present to 500 company leaders from all over the world on how they can be more inclusive in the various countries it is expanding to, from Vietnam to India to the USA.  

This is all part of a trend of non-U.S.-based multinational companies making diversity an imperative—not only in their countries of origin but throughout the globe. Now Not-Made-in-USA diversity accountabilities are adding to the rising calls-to-action that an increasing number of American business leaders are facing regarding diversity and inclusion.

This is just one way in which diversity is changing globally. A few others:

  • To be a woman is to be rising in opportunities. Women’s advancement is the most frequently cited diversity issue today. It’s the one global diversity issue that arises on all continents as the common and urgent issue we must address now. The challenges are often the same regardless of country. From Chicago to Shanghai, women are pressing to fulfill their ambitions for leadership positions and a growing number in profit and loss roles. And women, at all levels of the organization, no matter where in the world, yearn, fret, and fight for work life flexibility.
  • Socioeconomic disparities are masking the realities of colorism. The United States isn’t the only country facing race and class disparities. In a host of countries, societies are stratified based on one’s economic status. Yet, in countries such as India, Brazil, and Peru those with darker skin are more likely than their fairer counterparts to be members of the lower socioeconomic classes. This is far from a coincidence. While there’s a great deal of denial about this reality, it’s true that in many countries a preference for those of a lighter hue is blocking access to educational and employment opportunities for a significant percentage people. Until countries where colorism prevails recognize the impact of this form of discrimination, companies in these countries will continue to struggle to have true diversity in the workforce.
  • Millennials are civilization’s first global cohort. Whether they grew up in South Africa, Egypt, Romania, Laos, or Venezuela, many members of this generation shared the reality of growing up digitally and interconnected to the rest of the world. Global terrorism, global recession, global warming, and global social media have meant a common experience in many formative ways of how the world works. When a billion go “Gangnam Style” around the world in a matter of weeks, when the Arab Spring inspires Occupy Wall Street (and not vice versa), and when the Twitter-nation transcends all borders with 500 million users (making it the third largest population in the world), an unprecedented shared upbringing across the world’s 24 time zones is in the making.
  • Employment gains for people with disabilities. While in the United States the Americans with Disabilities Acts made it the law to make workplaces physically accessible to those with disabilities, there is a growing global trend to actually make it the law to employ those with disabilities. Brazilian law stipulates that depending on the size of your employee base, 2 percent to 5 percent of your workers must be people with disabilities. On Christmas Day 2012, a similar law went into effect in Peru. And in the United States, the Federal Government has put into place guidelines that those doing business with the government must have 7 percent of employees be people with disabilities.
  • LGBT rights on the march. The wall of resistance around LGBT rights is tumbling in countries across the globe. In 2009, the high court in New Delhi, India struck down the law that made same-sex sexual activity illegal. In 2010, Mexico City and Argentina legalized same-sex marriage while Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay all started to recognize same-sex relationships, such as civil unions. This is an enormous gain for the LGBT community in Latin America, which has long been characterized by its strong Catholic roots and machismo undertones. And putting an exclamation point on the importance of worldwide LGBT rights, in 2011, President Barack Obama and then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced that LGBT rights would be a criteria for whether a country will receive U.S. foreign aid.

Just a few examples of how diversity and inclusion are playing out globally. This trend is unstoppable. Next generation diversity practitioners would be wise to track and then ride these trends for the good of their organizations.

When’s your next trip to another land?

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

by Andrés T. Tapia –


The Cincinnati skyline at twilight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People of Color Feel Uncomfortable at Work

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

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

Coming Out Is About More Than Being LGBT

by Andrés T. Tapia –

In recognition of National Coming Out Day, my thoughts about diversity and inclusion and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender were published by the Huffington Post.

To be out or not to be out: a difficult, often agonizing decision that those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) must grapple with continually.

Recent events would lead us to believe it’s safer to be out today than it was in the past. Last year’s implementation of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military and the increasing number of states recognizing marriage equality are just a couple of landmark societal shifts. Nevertheless, despite this progress, bigotry and discrimination endure, and fear of judgment or rejection still prompts many to keep their LGBT identities hidden.

In fact, a 2011 survey by the Center for Work-Life Policy revealed that 48 percent of LGBT workers do not feel free to be out at work. This comes at great personal cost, and it robs organizations of getting the best contributions from their LGBT talent, because closeted employees must divert a substantial amount of their creative and emotional energy toward obscuring and deflecting a fundamental aspect of their identity. Pronoun minefields must be navigated, weekend-plan conversations must be repositioned, and preferred ways of expression must be curtailed. So energy-draining is this closeted existence that LGBT employees who are not out report significantly greater feelings of being stalled in their careers and greater dissatisfaction with their rates of promotion and advancement. They are 40-percent less likely than those who are out to trust their employers and 73-percent more likely to leave their companies within the next three years.

In my work as a diversity practitioner and as president of Diversity Best Practices, I’ve seen companies pay a heavy productivity cost due to this disengagement. Closeted behaviors — and the noninclusive work environments that induce them — not only drag down workers’ spirits, but they hinder companies’ productivity. This is one of the big messages of National Coming Out Day, which is on Oct. 11.

On this day, thanks to the LGBT community, we have the opportunity to raise a banner on behalf of everyone who feels that they must hide who they are. While not presuming any equivalency in the ways people address their hidden differences, people with hidden disabilities, for example, often weigh whether they should reveal what makes them different from their colleagues. The same goes for caregivers of people with disabilities; parents who have created families through adoption, surrogacy, or other nontraditional methods; introverts who have to fake it to succeed in a world that values extroversion; etc. As we can see, there are many people limiting their potential because they don’t feel free to be who they truly are at work.

The LGBT community has led the way in illustrating both the impact of not being out and the power of being out. It’s our differences that make us stronger and the world we live in better. The way forward is to recognize that coming out isn’t just about the individual. The environment we create affects the coming-out experience and, for many, the decision of whether to come out at all. This is particularly true in the workplace. Unless there is an inclusive work environment (for example, one where LGBT employees feel free to put pictures of their partners on their desks, disabled employees feel free to discuss the help they need in addressing their disabilities, and introverted employees feel free to reveal their preferred introverted ways of sharing key insights), employees will continue to check an essential part of themselves at the door each day when they show up for work.

On this Coming Out Day, ask yourself: Where is it that you are complicit — in your language or silence, behaviors or inaction — in keeping people, including yourself, in the closet? It’s time to stop being bystanders and start pressing more forcefully for nurturing, welcoming environments that draw people out of their closets. And for those who are feeling trapped, as these environments begin to change, it’s time for the courage to push the door open from the inside and step out of the shadows.

How to Influence Real Inclusion

by Andrés T. Tapia – 

stock-photo_20206875XSmall.busteamsunsetNext generation diversity and inclusion calls on us to go beyond just measuring the diversity within our organizations. This new landscape requires that we also measure inclusion.

In an earlier posting, I talked about engagement being the first of three key metrics in measuring inclusion. The other two? The strength of the diverse talent pipeline and the degree of influence and decision-making power among leaders to make way for the diversity of talent to rise to the highest levels. In this post, I address the latter one.

Measure Inclusion by Assessing Whether Leaders Are Truly Serious

Many companies today can claim to reflect the available labor force – at the entry level. But even in the best companies for diversity, the glass, bamboo, concrete, rainbow, you-name-it ceiling is more obvious than ever. Below it? Tons of diversity. Above it? Not so much.

Therefore, one key metric of inclusion is not how diverse the organization is as a whole but how diverse it is at the top – on the board, on the executive team, at the senior-management level. The strategies and programs to address this are not shrouded in mystery waiting for some diversity Houdini to conjure some great escape. It’s simply about the will – and therefore the accountabilities – to make it happen.

It’s time for CEOs and their executive teams to prove their commitment to diversity and inclusion by holding hiring managers accountable for results in this area. This is a measure of the leaders’ own degree of influence and decision making power in this arena. Why? Because there are all kinds of reasons (some valid, others not) why leaders are uncomfortable with efforts to measure results.

Legal counsel bears down with frightening scenarios. After-work golf partners “tsk, tsk” during foursomes about the slippery slope of political correctness. HR balks at issues of enforceability. These are not trivial objections. But since when have executive leaders not had to deal with objections about things they care about, that require culture change – new incentives, putting aside long-standing tradition, or working with attorneys and colleagues to find creative and legal ways to achieve objectives. In other words, if they believe it, truly so, they find a way.

Sodexo has. At this French-headquartered food services company, 25 percent of leaders’ bonuses are tied to how well they are doing in advancing women into leadership. And get this: they do so regardless of their business numbers. The result? The representation of senior women leaders has been steadily climbing. This accountability is making a material difference in creating inclusion at the influence and decision-making levels.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has, too. In the past, many senior leadership positions were filled by talent that the hiring manager had developed and groomed for advancement. Recently, the Bank has been posting and competitively filling more senior level positions. Instead of leaving hiring and promotion decisions solely to the discretion of one person, the Bank enlists a cross-section of leaders to serve as a hiring panel. As a result of these steps, senior leaders have been exposed to candidates they did not know and candidates who had skills they were unaware of. And the result? In a recent round of promotions, three of the four selections were from traditionally under-represented groups. And hiring management, who was skeptical at first, now supports the new process. 

At both Sodexo and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, these accountabilities are making a material difference in creating inclusion at the influence and decision-making levels.

So how to better impact the degree of influence and decision-making power of leaders in creating more diversity and inclusion at the higher echelons? A few tips:

  • Equip your leaders with the most compelling business case possible. Show them how lack of diversity in leadership is both a threat and an opportunity to achieving their business goals in the marketplace and as an employer of choice.
  • Don’t accept their hand wringing. Show them examples of companies that have surmounted the classic objections.
  • Find allies among the employment lawyers who can help you discern between the truly high-risk ideas and those that are low risk. Get in the habit of asking: “So, on a scale of 1 to 10, what is the risk of X?” You will quickly find out that not all risk is created equal.
  • Look your leaders in the eye when they say they are committed to diversity and ask them, “How much?” Would they be willing to hold their leaders accountable in specific ways? Be ready with your ask!

This last point really works. I remember when the CEO of Hewitt Associates, Dale Gifford, asked me to be the first Chief Diversity Officer at the company. He told me it was the right moment. He told me he wanted me in the role. He told me he was committed. And right there, we had that moment of truth. I looked at him and asked the question that implied a query about his influence and power with me and his leaders. I needed to know that as I stepped out with new ideas he would have my back. The answer was, “Yes.” He was true the whole way through.

With that “Yes,” I knew that at least on this measure of influence and power, we had one key ingredient for moving the needle on inclusion. And we did.

In a future post, I’ll share my thoughts on the other critical measure for inclusion: the strength of the talent pipeline. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you about this topic. Do you have a story about executive-level influence and decision-making power on inclusion? Share your thoughts in the space below.

Latino Growth Signals Need for Change

by Andrés T. Tapia –


Companies are missing opportunities to connect with the rapidly growing and influential Latino population. Check out my article on DiversityExecutive.com, Latino Growth Signals Need for Change, to read my perspective on this pressing matter. Also, be sure to read the article’s sidebar, The Problems of Power and Identity, where I delve a bit deeper on the topic.

Tattoo Barbie and the Power of Pop Culture

by Andrés T. Tapia –TatooBarbie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race Still Matters

by Andrés T. Tapia –blkbusinessman_iStock.000011150050l

It’s a period that Charles Dickens could have written about if he were still alive today: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was an age of wisdom; it was an age of foolishness.” Or, as Rev. Jesse Jackson describes in a recent Newsweek article, “As we celebrate events that recognize Dr. King’s impact and legacy, we’re filled with both hope and hopelessness.”

Best and worst, wisdom and foolishness, hope and hopelessness are the competing dynamics of our current political, economic, and social landscape. So when the conversation predictably turns to the supposed post-racial period we live in, as some say evidenced by the election of President Barack Obama or the unveiling of a memorial to Dr. King on the National Mall, or even the wealth of media moguls Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, I simply want to shout, Race Still Matters!

Without a doubt, there has been remarkable racial progress from 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Many African Americans who were in their 60s, 70s and beyond spoke with great emotion and often with tear-filled eyes at being alive to see the nation elect our first African American president, Barack Obama. Yet Roslyn Brock, in her first speech before the NAACP as its chairman, aptly described the dichotomy facing our nation while debunking the myth of a post-racial society as she described a nation rocked both by racial progress and racial stagnation.

“Today’s civil and human rights challenges are far different from those faced by our predecessors. Yes, we can … drink at the public water fountain, but the drinking water in our homes may not be safe because of lead toxins. Yes, we can … move into sprawling multi-million dollar homes in the suburbs, but the terms of our mortgages differ from our neighbors. Yes, we can … send our children to public schools, but in some states the textbooks … are 20 years old and school boards have decided to rewrite history by removing all references to slavery and its devastating impact on our society.”

Race still matters when the current economic crisis hits the black middle class much harder than whites and other racial groups. Today’s economic mess has been described as a full-blown depression for the black middle class. In a New York Times article, author Ellis Cose said, “Instead of a middle class, we now have a median class–people who are at or above the median income level, but who, for the most part, are only a few missed paychecks away from disaster.”

And the statistics bear this out. On almost every economic indicator, African Americans fare worse than any other racial/ethnic group, with Latinos running a close second. For example, while the national unemployment rate hovers around 9.5%, since April, the black unemployment rate fluctuates between 15.4 and 16.2%, which is about twice the rate for whites. Black teen unemployment is around 35-40%, while the national teen unemployment rate is around 20%.

The crisis goes beyond employment. When we look at the saving rates of various groups, race still matters. Nearly 80% of middle class Americans did not have enough savings to meet three-quarters of their regular household expenses for three months (the minimal amount needed to get through unexpected situations like a layoff or sudden hospital stay). According to research by Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy of Brandeis University, for blacks, the figure was 95% (almost all) and for Latinos, it was 87%. Race still matters.

When wealth is examined, the disparity between groups is even more startling. According to the Pew Research Center, the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black household and 18 times greater than Latino households. Let’s look at those statistics in another way. The typical black family has $5,677 in wealth, compared to $6,325 for a typical Latino family and $113,149 for a white family. Nearly $6,000 compared to $113,000. The study goes on to show that nearly a third of black and Hispanic families had zero or negative net worth, while only 16% of white families had similar levels of “non-wealth.” The report says, “These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these three groups for the two decades prior to the Great Recession that ended in 2009.” Race still matters.

Even with wealth, African Americans experienced discrimination and segregation in far greater numbers than other racial/ethnic groups. A joint undertaking by Brown University and the Russell Sage Foundation reported that ethnic/racial identity trumps income as to where people live. Black and Hispanic families with relatively high incomes tend to live in communities where their neighbors are of the same racial/ethnic background and with many more poor people. The study’s authors wrote, “Residential segregation is an insidious and persistent fact of American life. Discrimination on the basis of race, while on the decline according to some estimates, continues to pervade nearly every aspect of the housing market in the United States.” Race still matters.

Even in our schools, according to the Center for American Progress, spending on black and Latino students is about 90% of what is spent on white students. And when it comes to punishments, black youngsters are disciplined more severely and more often than whites or Hispanics. A study by the Council of State Governments of Justice Center found a significant disparity between out-of-school suspensions and other punishments handed out to African American students compared to students from other backgrounds. For instance, 83% of black males in Texas schools had an out-of-school suspension for an offense that the school could exercise discretion on whether to suspend or not. Roughly 74% of Hispanic males had one of these discretionary suspensions; but only 59% of white males had similar suspensions.

Even with a college degree, black grads are finding that what is a tough job market for most recent grads is an exceedingly harsh one for them. Politicians denigrate government and public sector employees and unionized workers, which were the stepping-stones to the middle class for millions of African American and other minority families, making these conduits for social mobility less available.

In practically all aspects of society–from education to expectations, from politics to prison–race still matters. It’s as if W.E.B. Dubois’ prescient statement in the early 1900s, “for the problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the color line,” continues to resonate well into the 21st Century.

Researchers and pundits can debate the causes and effects of this fact of American life, but until we can have frank and honest conversations about the issues that divide us, until we can talk about the paradox of inclusion as suggested in the Inclusion Paradox, we will continue to experience the many ways that race still matters. This discussion must be a national and corporate conversation that addresses race, class, wealth, and culture.

And no one is better equipped to facilitate this discussion than diversity practitioners. Are you leading the way or sitting on the sidelines?

Much depends on your answer. Because how you choose matters.

Alzheimer’s and the Basketball Coach

by Andrés T. Tapia –Alzheimers Concept

She has won more basketball games than any other Division I coach – male or female. And with plenty of more wins still in her sights, the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She is 59 years old.

How much our lives and careers can change suddenly and without warning. In the turn of a moment, anyone can become disabled. Yet many are able and willing to remain productive. Coach Summitt is one of those.

But Summitt is up against formidable odds. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million people in the United States have the disease — including 200,000 younger than 65 — and it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country. Every 69 seconds, another American is diagnosed with this disease. There is no cure and treatment involves managing the disease’s symptoms

Here is Coach Summitt’s video statement about her condition.

According to a Washington Post article, Summitt’s coaching assistants will take on more of the day-to-day and game-day coaching responsibilities, as her role will transition into more of function of leading and teaching.

As sad as this news may seem, Summitt said, “There’s not going to be any pity party, and I’ll make sure of that. I feel better just knowing what I’m dealing with. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s not going to keep me from living my life, not going to keep me from coaching.” She made these remarks in an interview with The Knoxville News Sentinel.

Living her life is important for Summitt and for the 16 million Americans who are projected to get the disease by 2050. Societies across the globe will have to adjust to the increasing numbers of seniors with Alzheimer’s as its toll hits family and governmental budgets. For instance, the cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s will be $183 billion in 2011, an $11 billion increase over 2010. These figures don’t include the $203 billion in value of the unpaid care provided by family members and friends.

Employers will have to figure out how to deal with the increasing number of employees who are diagnosed with the disease or those who are also caregivers for affected seniors. Some victims, like Pat Summitt, will be able to continue working for a while. Others may have to resort to various public or private programs for their care. That’s the financial side of the ledger, but all of us are more than our ability to make a living.

In the Lisa Genova novel, Still Alice, readers follow the decline of Alice, a Harvard professor with early onset Alzheimer’s. Told from Alice’s perspective, the novel illustrates how everyone around the person with the disease has to adjust to the disease — her family, friends, and employer.

Alzheimer’s disease, like many other disabilities, is an illness that no one really likes to think about. It’s scary and much too real of a possibility. It attacks the very concept of who we are and ultimately robs its victims of their identities and sense of purpose. This fact was brought home by a group of homeowners in Minnesota who vehemently opposed an assisted living center that specialized in caring for people with Alzheimer’s. More than the angry opponents realized, their fury did not hide their fears. Yet facing the possibility of Alzheimer’s enables us to face the eventuality of the disability, should it come to that, and to be better prepared to adapt and adjust.

Neither Summitt, nor her doctors or colleagues can predict how the disease will play out in her life. However, Summitt has committed to play it out to the final buzzer.

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