Cristina: A Latina Comedian Lands Prime Time TV Show on ABC

by Andrés T. Tapia –Cristela.980.16x9

Below is a special message from Juan Andrade, president of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, that I’m passing on to you. The USHLI is a national organization that promotes civic responsibility and empowerment by conducting voter registration initiatives and leadership development programs across the country.

On Fridays, America will see a Latina law school student and her multi-generational family on network television! CRISTELA, a family comedy co-created, co-executive produced, written by and starring Cristela Alonzo is loosely based on the life and stand up routine of the Mexican American comedian.

As advocates for the Latino community, this is a moment that we can come together to combat so much negativity against our community. Whatever your roots, this is a story all Latinos can support. This is our story. It’s about an American family that happens to be Latino. Make no mistake, this is a big deal for us and a lot is at stake.

Cristela Alonzo is uniquely aware of the influence her show can have on the viewers. She is dedicated to sharing our stories (real stories) and tackling the issues that are important to our community like only a show like Cristela can do. She chose the profession of her character (Law school student) as a means to be able to bring light to the issues as an intern in a law firm in Dallas.

The power of media to change hearts and minds is very real. It is a well- known fact that media influences how white people view people of color. It won’t surprise to know we are grossly under represented on TV – save the negative images we see on the news. The very fact that this show is on the air will combat the onslaught of negative images we see every day.

In Cristela’s family – Americans will see a Latina going after her American dream to become an attorney, a small business owner working hard to support his family and a Latina Mom juggling career and children. Then there is the traditional “old school” mom that had the courage to bring her family to this country.

Cristela is the FIRST Latina to co-create co-executive produce, write and star on a network show. Her writer’s room consists of 6 Latino Writers and 2 women. This is unheard of in Hollywood.

We have a unique opportunity to come together to support portrayals of positive Latino images that are the focus of the family comedy. We have the power to make this our COSBY SHOW.

What is at stake? If we do not watch and support on social media we send a message to the halls of power in HOLLYWOOD that we don’t think it’s important to see our stories and ourselves on network TV. We know this isn’t true, but it’s just like GETTING OUT THE VOTE! If you don’t show up your not counted.

 

A Discussion on the Global Relevance and Potential of Hispanic ERGs

by Andrés T. Tapia –  Check out this video spotlight where Dr. Robert Rodriguez, president of DRR Advisors, and I discuss the global importance of Hispanic Employee resource groups (ERGs). Diversity professionals are well aware that ERGs play a crucial role in helping organizations improve diversity in recruitment and retention, talent development, management, and reach a broader group of consumers.

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.

With World Cup Over, Brazil Faces Its Toughest Opponent

by Andrés T. Tapia –  fortaleza2-300x198

FORTALEZA, Brazil – Nearly three thousand kilometers north of São Paulo sits the city of Fortaleza, the commercial capital of Brazil’s phenomenal, if sputtering economic boom. In this city of two and a half million, fronting the Atlantic and host to five World Cup games, tales of boom and bust jockey for position as the overriding narrative of the nation.

Despite the official outcome of the games, this is the game to watch.

For Fortaleza’s residents, Brazil’s economic ascent has meant that hundreds of thousands have been pulled out of poverty. They are the basis of a new and aspiring middle class. The signs of their presence are everywhere: the latest in fashion trends adorn city streets, as do dogs on leashes, shopping as therapy, and the latest fitness craze.

The transformation is notable for a city that was once seen as a sleepy beach town attractive to adventure tourists and not much else. The city center today is awash with commerce. A stroll down the main boulevard, Praia de Meireles, offers views of the hip and kitsch. Trendy restaurants and hotels look out over the hourly parade of the Trem da Fantasia (the Fantasy Train) being rocked by local Mickey and Minnie Mouse knockoffs.

Even the foreign tourists in town for the World Cup are outnumbered by Brazilian tourists, from cities both near and far and flush with disposable income. Many come to claim their stake in the booming real estate market along Fortaleza’s shores, or in places such as tradition-filled Morro Branco and Canoa Quebrada, two hours to the north and south of the city.

“People have money to spend,” says one cabbie who goes by the name Derry. “Especially the poor. Education has made the difference.”

Like many in Fortaleza, Derry left his rural home to come to the city hoping to tap into the rising economic tide. Later, over a cup of tapioca gelato, he points out that even Americans are beginning to discover the place, noting that he’s begun taking English so as to better communicate with potential clients.

Still, not everyone in the city takes as rosy a view.

As in other major cities thousands here took to the streets in the days and weeks prior to the World Cup to protest the billions spent on infrastructure for the games, money they say came at the expense of more pressing needs. For these, the pageantry of the World Cup only served to reinforce a collective feeling of neglect.

Edson (who only gave his first name) works as a waiter in Fortaleza’s main square. We talk as he clears the table before me. He says he can’t understand how people can pay $750 for a scalped quarterfinal ticket or $450 a night for a hotel while his whole month’s rent is $250, leaving little room for his wife and two kids.

“It’s only for the outsiders,” he says resentfully of the beefed up security presence accompanying the games. “Once the Cup is over we will face the same dangers on the street we always have faced daily.”

Outside, street vendors, cleaning ladies, and the homeless rub elbows with swanky urbanites ready for a night on the town. It was one thing to be poor when the entire country was not prosperous, I muse. Quite another to see it get rich without you.

And so it is, back and forth in Fortaleza and much of Brazil, between the newly well off, those who have always been well off and are doing even better, and those who are being left behind.

One Brazil can proudly say that as much as this and other large cities were electric during the World Cup games they hosted, a place like Fortaleza is long past needing a World Cup boost to put it on the map. It has at its shores the Praia do Futuro (the Beach of the Future). There are now direct flights to Miami and Lisbon. And if Fortaleza’s name was originally derived from it being a fortress to protect Portuguese colonizers from the indigenous natives, it is now an economic fortress that has come into its own and is extending its reach.

At its foundations, however, lie the corrosive effects of inequality, the other Brazil. As FIFA took its ball and went home in July, it is not the nation’s sad national soccer seleção that residents must reckon with, but themselves.

World Cup Fervor Shows How USA Has Assimilated to Immigrant Cultures

by Andrés T. Tapia 

Watching the World Cup in Brazil got me to thinking about how World Cup fever has exploded  in the States. From sports bars and airports to public arenas, a cross-section of Americans have joined with the rest of the world to watch in rapt attention.  It just goes to show how assimilation has turned into a two-way phenomenon. Check out my recent Huffington Post piece on how World Cup Fever Shows How USA has Assimilated to Immigrant Cultures.”

 

 

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.

 

 

Diversity Fast Facts — Immigration

Diversity Fast Facts – Hip Pocket Stats for the CDO on the Go

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Every once in a while, I’ll publish Diversity Fast Facts on different topics to provide Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) on the Go with stats and information they can use to reinforce the realities of diversity and inclusion. It’s my intention that these news abstracts will add to the conversation and encourage our thinking about how diversity plays out around the world. Here, we look at global immigration trends.

  • The world’s population is on the move. Following are global trends: The largest population of contractual migrant workers comes from Asia. In Asia, movement within China and India accounts for large population shifts. The predominant trend in the Americas is migration from the south (Latin America and the Caribbean) northward and even into Europe. The United States and Canada tend to host permanent migrants, but increasingly need temporary workers. In Oceania, Australia and New Zealand play host to growing populations of migrant workers from smaller islands. Source: International Organization for Migration.
  • The United States is home to more migrants than other countries. The United States was by far the largest host country for migrants in 2010, hosting 42.8 million migrants. Following the United States: Russian Federation (12.3 million), Germany (10.8 million), Saudi Arabia (7.3 million), and Canada (7.2 million). Top three sending countries: China (35 million), India (20 million), and the Philippines (7 million). Source: International Organization for Migration.
  • Migrant workers are a diverse lot. Other quick facts regarding immigration: three percent of the global workforce consists of immigrants; one-third of the world’s migrant workforce lives in Europe; women migrants focus primarily on short-term work and tend to go to the Middle East; industry, construction, and services are the leading industries for migrant workers; some countries in the Gulf region consist of up to 40% migrant workers. Source: International Organization for Migration.
  • The number of workers in India and China is growing. By 2030, it is projected workers from India and China will account for 40% of the world’s workforce. Source: International Organization for Migration.

Do Immigrant Workers Hurt or Strengthen the Economy?

illegal-immigrant-signby Andrés T. Tapia

OK, so there are tons of polarizing debate on documented and undocumented immigrants in the US and whether they have a positive or negative impact on our national economy.

While tempers simmer or boil over around both sides of  the Arizona SB1070  debate and other similar legislation targeted at deporting those who are undocumented, there are some recently released studies that show that immigrants – both legal and illegal – actually strengthen the U.S. economy.

First, a look at the estimated number of undocumented workers. A recent Pew Hispanic Center study says that although 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants were estimated to be living in the United States, the growth of undocumented immigrants had actually stalled after 2006. According to the US Census, by 2008, there were 8.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. workforce. Based on this data, unauthorized immigrants make up 4 percent of the U.S. population and 5.4 percent of the workforce.

At the heart of the immigration debate is the concern that immigrants — undocumented as well as documented — take jobs and benefits from government and community resources meant for U.S. citizens, and further weaken an already ailing economy.

Let’s see what recent studies say.

The Benefits of Immigration to the Economy

A new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, by Giovanni Peri, an associate professor at the University of California, Davis, and a visiting scholar at the Fed, points out the scarcity of evidence that proves immigrants take jobs from native-born workers. And instead of draining our financial system, immigrants may actually help grow our economy, stimulate investment, and encourage productivity-boosting activities like specialization.

In coming to this conclusion, Peri compared productivity per worker and unemployment statistics in states with a steady influx of immigrant workers to those states with few immigrants. States with growing, active immigrant populations actually have greater productivity, pay higher wages, hire more workers, and create more jobs than states with few immigrant workers. Each time a state’s employment increases as little as one percent due to immigration, the result is an increase in per worker income of .4 to .5 percent. In other words, more money in workers’ paychecks.

Immigrants Give More Than They Take

The Pew and Peri’s findings are not isolated results — there’s other evidence to support their claims. Research by Francine Lipman, Professor of Law at the Chapman University School of Law, found that despite widespread belief to the contrary, undocumented workers contribute more to our economy than they cost in social services. Along with boosting the economy through the purchase of consumer goods and by filling essential worker positions, immigrant economic activity ends up creating jobs, increasing productivity, and lowering the costs of goods and services for all of us. Furthermore, their contributions to Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance programs often go unused adding to the pool of money available to legal residents.

As hysteria reigns, some data to consider. I’m just sayin’.

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For more stats on immigration, see Diversity Research: Immigrant Workers — Contradictory Trends in a Debate That’s Getting Hotter.

Hispanic Access Foundation – Using New Media to Link Latinos

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

Imagine looking for a daycare provider, or the nearest national park, or help with a medical concern, or maybe even, help with immigration or child support. Where do you turn for the information, especially if you’re Latino and want to deal with organizations that are sensitive to your background? You can turn to the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF).

Employing both traditional and new media, this non-profit organization provides key information to Latinos on issues like healthcare, the environment, legal assistance, and other social services. It does this by using its searchable online database to link Latinos with more than 17,500 community-based Hispanic serving organizations. The organizations provide bilingual, affordable and culturally appropriate services throughout the country. And HAF encourages other non-profits to list their organizations in the database.

One of the most user-friendly aspects the website is its address locator function. Simply enter a zip code and a desired service, the site then provides a list of organizations to meet your needs, all within a distance that you determine, say 5, 20, or 500 miles. Well designed, novice computer users can access information as easily as those who have more advanced computer skills.

HAF’s website explains:

We design and implement data-driven initiatives that combine the strength of new and traditional forms of media with grassroots outreach to transform information into action.

…We are dedicated to providing greater access to vital information and community resources to the US Hispanic population to improve their health and quality of life. HAF brings a unique and effective process of grassroots education outreach that can mobilize thousands of individuals in virtually any city in the US and Puerto Rico.

Helping HAF visitors turn information into action is what can happen when you bring together innovation, diversity, and technology. So far they have helped 100,000. That’s called, making a difference.

Dora the Explorer, Cultural Change Agent?

Dora the Explorerby Andrés T. Tapia

The Associated Press reports that it’s been 10 years since the Latina Dora the Explorer made her debut on TV. Credited with being the first bilingual heroine for children’s TV, Dora has become a multibillion-dollar franchise, viewed in 151 markets around the world and translated into 30 languages. Depending on the dominant language of a particular market, Dora teaches either English or Spanish to her preschool fans. In English speaking countries such as in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada, youngsters learn Spanish. In other markets, Dora teaches English.

According to Nickelodeon, “Dora” has generated over $11 billion in worldwide sales since 2002.  While originally slated to be a forest animal, as Nickelodeon paid more attention to the growing diversity of their audiences and a study reported on the lack of bilingual characters on children’s television, the network suggested that creators consider making the title character a Latina. But more than just being bilingual, the producers worked with experts in history and multiculturalism to make sure that Dora and her friends reflect a distinctly Latin flavor through the show’s family values, culture, and settings.

Dora’s unintended influence extends far beyond her preschool audience, having crossed over to other larger issues, like the immigration debate. A drawing by Sarasota, Florida resident Debbie Groben of Dora’s mug shot as a suspected illegal immigrant went viral on the Internet with the announcement of the recent Arizona law.

Will Dora’s fans be more enlightened about different cultures and people as they grow up?  “I think that the fact that kids are identifying with a kid with darker color skin that speaks another language (shows they are more open),” said Chris Gifford, one of the show’s creators and executive producers.

“I am delighted with the way ‘Dora’ has come out, particularly the impact it seems to be having in young people,” Carlos Cortes, who served as cultural consultant to the show, told AP.  Cortes, who is also professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Riverside and author of “The Children Are Watching,” added, “The Latino kids take pride having Dora as a lead character and non-Latino kids can embrace someone different.”

Because a 5-year-old viewer in 2000 is now 15,  Cortes believes that fans could affect America’s political future. “You can’t be certain, but our hope is that young people of all backgrounds will be more open. If Dora can do that, her impact is unimaginable,” he said.

That’s a lot to expect from any 10-year-old. Still, we should not underestimate the power of a Latina. Happy Birthday, Dora!

A Fresh Voice in an Ancient Land: Take Five with Yvette Jarvis, First Black Public Official in Greece

To meet Yvette Jarvis is a happening. I first met this multifaceted, talented, committed, and passionate person at the European Union World Diversity Leadership Summit in Vienna, Austria this past March. The hours we spent talking, debating, and strategizing only scratched the surface of how much she has to offer. Brooklyn-born Yvette came to Greece in 1982, the first Black to play in the Greek Women’s Basketball League, as well as the first salaried female athlete in the league. She simultaneously launched a professional career that spanned more than a decade in modeling and television. In 1989 she embarked on a flourishing career as a vocal artist, which she continues to this day (hear her vocals in her video biography).

As a human rights activist, Yvette participated in many Greek NGOs and helped establish many other organizations that emphasize the rights of immigrants, women, and people with special needs. As a result of her political involvement, in October 2002, Yvette became the first Black to be elected to the City Council of Athens, Greece. During her four-year tenure on the Athens City Council, she focused primarily on women’s rights and domestic violence, immigrants’ rights, assistance for people with special needs, and important initiatives in youth and sports. Her important achievements include being instrumental in implementing a directive to increase the municipal hiring of people with disabilities by 5%, organizing a Greek language school for immigrants, establishing a domestic violence hotline, and spearheading the Football Against Racism Campaign.  Currently Yvette serves as Special Advisor on Immigration Issues to the Mayor of Athens.

With so much to say, this really was a Take 200. But here, for your enjoyment and learning, we give you a taste as we Take 5 with Yvette Jarvis.

Take 1: You are the first Black person to be elected to public office in Greece. How has your presence on the Athens City Council changed the dynamics of politics and governance there?

YJ: Yes, I am the first Black to be elected to public office in Greece. Unfortunately, eight years later I remain the ONLY one! Having said that, I can affirm that my presence has opened the eyes of many to the fact that Greece is no longer only inhabited by ethnic Greeks. Finally, immigrants and people of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds have had a voice in public office, and a very loud one at that!

From my first council session to my last, issues concerning immigrants have been a focal point. Incidents of blatant racism–neighborhood councils that denied granting store or residency permits to immigrants, public facilities restricting access to immigrants, and many other situations–became issues for vote in the council because I raised them as problems. As a result of my initiatives, immigrants now benefit from athletic, cultural and language learning programs. After years of lobbying, the government has finally passed a law solidifying citizenship rights of second generation immigrants born or educated in the country; so for the first time, immigrants may play a vital role in this year’s municipal elections. I cannot take full credit for these changes, but I have influenced the decision makers at the party level and in the government by heading up committees on immigration and by participating in municipal government. Hopefully with the new immigration laws, the balance of power will swing in favor of immigrant participation in local elections, thus assuring that issues especially relevant to them remain in the forefront.

Take 2: Like the rest of Europe, Greece has become much more ethnically diverse in recent years due to immigration. How is this affecting what it means to be “Greek”?

There has been an ongoing discussion for the past few months about precisely that: “What does it mean to be Greek?” The newly elected PASOK party and our new prime minister George Papandreou ran on a platform that supported giving second generation immigrants citizenship rights at birth. When the campaign rhetoric took legal form, it became apparent that what was seemingly a tolerant society was not so tolerant of difference. Fear of diluting Greek bloodlines, expressed in chants of “you are born a Greek, not made a Greek,” were heard at demonstrations, and many expressed the belief that children who were born and raised in Greece of immigrant parents should have rights, but not citizenship! Of course this is not the opinion of all Greeks, but those who opposed the new law were the most vocal.

Greece has a tremendously long uphill battle to fight for diversity issues. As of yet the term “diversity” is not in Greece’s political vocabulary. Once the new law takes effect, it will become increasingly apparent that Greeks will have to deal with non-ethnic Greeks integrating into society as they apply for civil service jobs as police officers, fire fighters and teachers. The fact is, however, that there are more and more nontraditional looking Greeks, in part because of mixed marriages, and the challenge will be how we begin to understand that.

Take 3: Although you are native to the U.S., you have lived outside of the country for a long time. From your perspective, what seems significant about how diversity issues have been unfolding in the States?

I find it very significant that most companies are now actively involved in diversity issues and that diversity has become the topic of the day in the U.S. A niche has been created and a new job market: diversity specialists and conferences are increasing in number as more and more organizations respond to an increasingly diverse  global market.  It’s an exciting time, actually–especially for someone like me who lives outside of the U.S. With Obama as president, I think we may have the most diverse cabinet in the history of the United States. Women, African-Americans and other minorities have catapulted to the upper echelons of the highest offices in the country. Very exciting indeed.

Take 4: In Greece and/or Europe as a whole, how are women advancing in terms of leadership, and how are women being held back?

I think there is no doubt that women are advancing in politics. Around Europe for the first time ever, many women have been elevated to the posts of president or prime minister. But even so, women still remain underrepresented  within governing bodies. In business the picture is even more bleak. The percentages of female CEO’s is disproportionately low in Europe, and many women cannot claim equal pay for equal work. The glass ceiling may certainly have a million cracks today, but it has not shattered by any means!

Take 5: In the U.S., much has been written about the generation of Millennials who are just beginning to enter the workforce. In your experience, how are Greek Millennials similar to or different from their counterparts in the U.S. or other parts of the world?

I think youth around the world possess some basic shared desires–to get the job of their choice in their field of study, to make money, to be independent, and to make their mark on society. Where Greek Millennials may most differ from U.S. Millennials is in how possible it is for them to realize those hopes and dreams.

For the past few years unemployment among Greek youth has been steadily rising, and it has become increasingly difficult for Millennials to find jobs in their field of study. The riots in Athens in 2008 were a clear message to the establishment that hope for the future was dismal for Greek youth. In 2007 we began hearing the phrase “Generation 700.”  Generation 700 refers to the employment conditions of college graduates who, although possessing multiple degrees, are condemned to a salary ceiling of 700 euro monthly. These jobs were also often contractual and not permanent, creating a very unstable outlook for their future. As a result, more and more 20- to 30-year-olds are still living with their parents and have no plans for marriage or family in the near future.

The recent financial crisis has made the situation worse. The austerity measures which Greece has taken in order to satisfy the EU and the IMF will take a tremendous toll on the average worker and the retiree. The average wage in Greece is one of the lowest of the EU member states. Workers already burdened with a soaring inflation rate and increasing costs for utilities are finding themselves having to cut back on even the bare essentials. Generation 700 has now become Generation 500! Pundits exclaim that Greece may see its first wave of 21st century immigration out of the country, and consequently experience an enormous brain drain that will worsen the deficit of an already overburdened social security system. I remain optimistic, however, that the cycle of depression will come to an end, leaving behind a more resilient and resourceful society. After all we are Greeks and through the thousands of years of the existence of this great nation it has stayed the test of time!

To follow Yvette Jarvis on twitter, click here. For some more of her thoughts on the current Greek financial crisis, click here.

When It Comes to 21st Century Families, Individualistic American Worldview Bending Toward Communal: Multi-Generational Homes Make a Comeback

by Susan Welch, Hewitt Research

multigenerational_EuropeanAmThe “traditional” nuclear family may seem like an American ideal. Indeed, starting just after World War II and continuing to its peak in the 1980s, the nuclear family was the norm. But an early 1940s trend that faded, yet started a slow resurgence in the late 1990s, is gaining steam: multi-generational families.

Increasingly, two generations of adult family members are sharing a roof. Some of you may say this reflects an increase in elderly parents moving in with their adult children, where they are poised to help raise grandchildren and even contribute financially to the household. Some of you will attribute the trend to an increase in young, unwed mothers whose parents are willing and able to help raise their grandchildren as part of their household. Others will point to “Boomerang” Millennials, who return to their parents’ home to take up residence, often due to economic struggles particularly during this Great Recession. And still others of you will note that rising rates of immigration—particularly among Latinos and Asians, who highly value families and respect their elders—are responsible for this trend.

All of you are correct.

multi-generational-family_AfAmThe trend toward multi-generational households is multi-faceted, and shows several social trends converging. A difficult economy, increased immigration, greater longevity, delayed marriage, and even work-life struggles (working moms seeking reliable care may prefer a parent to a day care center) are all factors in the rise of many-generation families.

According to this Pew Research Center report, Boomerang adults are most responsible for the rapid increase in multi-generational households. In 1980, 11 percent of young adults (between the ages of 24 to 35) returned home to live with their parents. By 2008, 20 percent of young adults returned home. Interestingly, this age group is the only one in which men make up the greater share. Among the elderly, the reverse is true: Women are a larger portion of those in multi-generational homes. Overall among the elderly, the same percentage as young adults (20 percent) enjoy a multi-generational home, up from 17 percent in the 1980s.

Multi-generational_LatinoCulture and ethnicity contribute to the trend. According to Pew, “Hispanics (22%), blacks (23%), and Asians (25%) are all significantly more likely than whites (13%) to live in a multi-generational household.” This is a natural behavioral interpretation of the communal worldview of these racial/ethnic groups. Even so, multi-generational households increased across all populationsbetween 2006 and 2008. Why may this be for European Americans? As we indicate in our Hewitt crosscultural training, worldviews are significantly influenced by what is required for a community to survive and thrive. And changing conditions for European Americans plus the influence of a greater number of communal diverse groups in American society, are leading to new interpretations of family that bend somewhat away from an exceptionally strong individualistic bent to a more communal one.

The lifestyle implications of multi-generational households are abundant, ranging from increased grandchild/grandparent interaction to increased strife among in-laws. But these lifestyle changes also make themselves felt in the workforce, where they are less likely to be acknowledged or addressed. For example:

  •  Women—and men—who are sandwiched between caring for their children and their older, in-residence parent, often struggle with work-life balance.
  • According to this PBS article, they also may need health care emphasizing stress relief.
  •  Older, but still working-age, women—and men–who are rearing their grandchildren may need increased health care for themselves, and also may struggle to secure health care for those grandkids (particularly when the parent is unemployed).
  • These same grandparents may require legal support to ensure guardianship of their grandchildren if needed.

Multigenerational_AsianThe benefits of multi-generational households can greatly outweigh its challenges. Employers savvy about this trend can look for creative ways to support members of multi-generational households, thus helping preserve a strong and growing kind of family unit.

Immigrant Workers Test Europe’s Self Image

by Andrés T. Tapia; Research by Susan Welch and Leonardo Sforza, Hewitt Research in US and Europe —

A massive demographic tectonic shift is rattling Europe — its unsettling tremors reshaping the European Union’s human geography; the aftershocks splintering European notions of egalité, fairness, and nationality; the fear of a cataclysmic population earthquake polarizing the citizenry.

The first set of waves of a tsunami of change crashing against Europe’s shores looks like this:  while the European population, due to is rapidly aging workforce is declining, 80% of its population growth in the past decade has been due to immigration which slowed down but not stopped the population slide. The Telegraph reports that 0ver the past 30 years, Europe’s Muslim population has doubled; it is expected to double again by 2015.  By 2050, 20% of Europeans will be Muslim. Eastern Europeans have flooded Western Europe as the EU has reduced restrictions on the flow of labor within the Continent.

While Academic research suggests immigration’s net effect on the economies of EU countries has been positive, immigrants arriving in search of work are triggering a polarization of attitudes by the native born. They now often find themselves the targets of a new wave of resentment that threatens to derail the self image many Europeans have of being grounded in the soil of the Enlightenment.

As I prepared through research and interveiws for the keynote address I delivered at the World Diversity Leadership Summit-Europe in Vienna  earlier in March, it was clear that a perfect storm of rising immigration rates and declining economies brews throughout the European Union. Overall, unemployment in the EU has risen steadily, from 7.5% in 2008 to 9.5% in 2009. Latvia and Spain have been the hardest hit, with unemployment reaching 22% and 19% respectively.

The counterwave to the rising tide of outsiders is showing up in various forms. The BBC News reports that tensions between native-born workers and immigrants have steadily grown.

  • Statistics published by the Italian government blame immigrants for rising unemployment.
  • Spain recently launched a program to encourage unemployed immigrants to return home.
  • Polls show British citizens cite an influx of immigrants as a leading cause of unemployment.
  • In Germany, a new citizenship application has been denounced as a “Muslim test,” designed to keep that immigrant group from growing further.
  • In 2005 Paris experienced rioting by its Muslim-based immigrant population; today, France, 9% Muslim, is seeking to ban headscarves in various public venues.
  • Switzerland, currently 4% Muslim, has banned minarets on all new construction.
  • In the Netherlands, nearly 5.8% Muslim, the murder of a Dutch filmmaker by a Muslim in 2004 is still a rallying point for anti-Muslim feeling.
  • The EU has taken steps to help ease the situation, issuing both the Racial Equality Directive and the Employment Equality Directive, adopted in 2000. The directives require member countries to build support structures that allow legal support against discrimination. These regulations not only serve to offer protections but they also have become a rallying cry for the many, many Europeans who despite changes all around them, are committed to diversity and inclusion.

    Employers who do buck current scapegoating trends to pursue business savvy diversity and inclusion efforts find themselves in good company–successful European companies such as Danone, Sodexo and Accor have been leading the way in recent years.  In 2008 anticipating this time, Siemens CEO told the Financial Times that the management in his German-based company was “too German, white, and male.” They and other leading companies see that their futures lies in being able to embrace and practice a much fuller and complex diversity and inclusion approach.

    The World Diversity Leadership Summitconference, hosted by the Austrian Ministry of Finance and attended by 300 leaders from corporations, government, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and which at one point had 30,000 hits on its live video web stream, had the stated goal of “Leveraging Global and European Diversity in 2020.” 

    The tsunami of change is inevitable. Which are the companies and countries that do what it takes to ride it rather than be swept by it?


    Canada’s Open Arms Immigration Policy: A Stark Contrast with US and Western Europe

    by Andrés T. Tapia; research by Susan Welch

    Canada faces an unprecedented labor shortage. In Calgary, Alberta McDonald’s is paying $15/hr and bookstores are forced to close at 3:30 pm because there are not enough workers to keep the stores open. A Globe and Mail report announced in 2008, that due to its aging population, the growth of Canada’s workforce is slowing down considerably each year, and by 2016 its workforce growth will be zero. This spells economic and societal trouble for Canada in the years ahead, which according to demographers and economists will lead to lower living standards as the ratio between workers contributing to state pensions through payroll taxes and retirees gets increasingly unbalanced.

    The bright spot in this demographic shift is the youth and vitality new immigrants continually bring  to Canada. And it’s Canada’s Open Arms policy to newcomers that keeps this labor pipeline flowing. In fact, in the developed world, Canada has the highest rate of immigration. This in turn is dramatically transforming the face of Canada.

    Check out these eye-popping stats. While, by 2001 the census had already crowned Toronto the world’s’ most diverse city, with half its population born outside Canada, here’s what the  picture is going to look like by 2031 as reported in The Globe and Mail:

    • one-third of Canada’s residents will be visible minorities (what Americans refer to racial/ethnic minorities)
    • one-fourth of Canada’s residents will be foreign-born
    • 63% of Toronto will be visible minorities
    • 60% of Vancouver will be visible minorities, with a majority from China
    • 30%+ of Montreal will be visible minorities, most will be Blacks and Arabs
    • 28% of visible minorities will be South Asians from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka; 21% will be Chinese.

    Canada’s foreign-born boom is rooted in an immigration policy change enacted in the 1960s. Following World War II, Canada opened its doors to European immigrants (later closing them to Eastern European immigrants as the Cold War began). Eventually, as racial and ethnic discrimination increasingly was discouraged, Canada eliminated racial, ethnic, and religious barriers to immigration. By 1971, a majority of immigrants to Canada were non-European.

    Today, Canadian leaders such as John Barrett, Ambassador to Austria and whom I heard speak at the World Diversity Leadership Summit held in Vienna in early March 2010, believe their country is poised to reap the benefits of its open immigration policies: “Immigrants are welcomed to Canada,” Barrett said.  But listen to how he then captures Canada’s open-arms policy in an extraordinary and simple statement: “We see immigrants as future citizens.” He then goes on to explain the rationale: “We believe that bestowing the honor of full citizenship on them begets full participation from them. We say to the new arrivals, ‘Welcome to Canada. Make it better.'”

    Canada’s welcome provides a dramatic contrast to current attitudes toward immigrants elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe, where the presence of the foreign-born elicit for many a spectrum of negative feelings anywhere from discomfort with their different looks and ways to fears that lead to outright hostility. The US and countries throughout Western Europe face contentious and controversial debates around immigration policy that, unlike Canada’s stance, reveal a lack of social consensus as to whether immigrants are welcome or not, or whether or not they are good for the economy.

    In the meantime, Canada has made up its mind: immigration is good for us. It has bet its future on it.

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