Reaching Latinos: Marry marketing psychographics to multidimensional demographics

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

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

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

Strategy 3: Marry marketing psychographics to multidimensional demographics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adult choices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Promising future For Latinos—and the companies who hire them

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

Reaching Latinos: Become self-aware of how corporate cultures are and are not attractive to Latino talent

 

By Andrés T. Tapia –

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

In the last post, we started talking about the second of three strategies corporations can use to seize the opportunities offered by the growing Latin talent pools. In this post we’ll cover two more points that support this strategy. If you missed any of the previous posts in this series, click here.

How cultural assumptions get embedded in talent systems

So what is actually happening in today’s businesses? Let’s look at just one current talent management philosophy commonly adopted among highly successful and knowledgeable human resources professionals that may inadvertently have an exclusionary impact on Latino talent: “Everyone owns their career progression.”

This talent development philosophy gets operationalized through mechanisms such as career maps, online universities with “developmental maps” that employees can read, follow, and fill out as they chart their own course. Then there are conversations for them to initiate: How did I do? How will I be rewarded? What do I need to do next? It all then gets codified in the performance and development review.

This has worked quite well for many and this is not inherently a bad or good thing. It’s actually a good thing—if your workforce is homogeneously reflective of this particular worldview.

But too many have been left behind through this approach, which via unconscious bias gets codified right into the talent system and for different cultural preference reasons. Latinos are among the groups that are negatively affected disproportionately by this approach. The problem emerges with a lack of awareness of the cultural bias in this seemingly “fair” approach to development and advancement. It is premised on an individualistic, internal control, sequential, task-oriented worldview.

Latinos face additional differences with corporate America’s (European-American) archetypical worldview. When choosing between employers, many Latinos prefer companies that show cultural competency and sensitivity toward people like themselves. They value opportunities to network, grow professionally, give back to the community, and achieve work life balance. Interculturalist, Brenda Machado Koller, describes a Latino sensitive workplace as one that promotes “familia and simpatía,” one that is family-like and warm and friendly. Such an environment can be leveraged to promote greater loyalty, trust, and engagement.

With such disparate views of how to get things done, it should come as no surprise that Latinos have made very few inroads into leadership positions in corporate America.

Navigating a new worldview

When companies wake up to these differences and obstacles in their current efforts to attract Latinos, it can quickly become an exercise in futility. Conversely, organizations with the courage to truly assess where culture change is necessary and then make the changes will be well-positioned to win the Talent War by attracting their unfair greater share of Latino talent.

Yet, even as I plant a cultural flag of difference for the sake of Latino identity where corporate America needs our differences, I also plant another flag regarding European American and other cultures within the corporation: we need theirs.

With this stance, those of us who share archetypical Latino worldview also need to choose to learn the skills and ways of a linear, sequential, task-oriented, European-American-dominant culture—not only to better understand, and by that get along better, but also to add more tools to our professional toolkits.

I can thank both my Latino worldview and the exposure I’ve had to the European-American worldview through colleagues, with their individualistic task-oriented, internal-control approaches. As I adapted it has made me a better and more effective professional because I have diversified my skills toolkit.

Conversely, many colleagues have told me that they have come to more greatly value the times when a more improvisational, communal, and holistic approach has led to different and, at times, better results than had we followed the directives of a more structured worldview.

But note the phrase “adapted to it.” The line in the sand for many multicultural Latinos is right here. One can adapt without losing one’s cultural identity. “Assimilation,” on the other hand, is where the loss happens—which is to give up those things that have made us unique, to bury them alive, and to only operate within the confines, rules, and expectations of the majority culture we are in.

But what has to stop is the expectation that the full responsibility of adaption is on Latinos. We must have reciprocal adaptation or else, game over.

Reaching Latinos: Become self-aware of how corporate cultures are and are not attractive to Latino talent

by Andrés T. Tapia –iStock_4746494XSmall.HispBusTeam

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

So far I have written about the first of three strategies corporations can use to seize the opportunities offered by the growing Latino talent pools. In the next two posts, I’ll share about strategy #2.

Strategy 2: Become self-aware of how corporate cultures are and are not attractive to Latino talent

Latino and European American cultures differ in some pretty fundamental ways, and corporate cultures often follow suit. Simply put, the average European American corporate world is not all that inviting to many Latinos.

According to a 2013 poll 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. We can’t continue to ignore the I-can’t-believe-it’s-still-true-in-2015 reality of pernicious discrimination.

But, there are also problematic cultural differences that create barriers to healthy Latino representation at all levels of an organization even when ugly discrimination is vanquished.

Cultural differences are more an Issue than most admit.

In Latino Talent: Effective Strategies to Recruit, Retain and Develop Hispanic Professionals, Dr. Robert Rodriguez, president of DRR Advisors, writes, “Along with discrimination, Latinos are also the victim of common negative stereotypes including being perceived as being too passive and lacking the conviction necessary to be a good manager, and of being too emotional to fill leadership positions. These stereotypes often are the result of a lack of understanding about how cultural principles and traditions common in the Latino community impact actions and behaviors.”

Let’s unpack Dr. Rodriguez’ assertion about cultural differences. But first, let’s have a crash primer on how to talk about culture comparisons. We are going to compare archetypes—the general tendency of a particular group to behave in certain ways without falling into stereotype, the assumption these tendencies are true for every member of the group. Sociologists and interculturalists have been able to trace the normative, bell curve behavior of groups fully recognizing there are many who, for a variety of reasons, do not adhere to these group norms.

So, archetypically speaking, let’s compare and contrast some of the many ways the normative behavior of Latino and European American cultures differ:

  • Sense of identity. For European Americans the value of individualism, where their sense of identity will more likely come from the self, contrasts with that of many Latinos who tend to be more group or community focused, where their sense of identity may come more from whom they belong.
  • Ascribing status. Latinos can be more hierarchical compared to the more egalitarian European American approach.
  • Getting work done. European Americans can tend to focus more on the tasks at hand to get the work done versus Latinos who tend to place greater importance on relationships.
  • Managing emotions. We all have them but Latino culture tends to value showing emotions while European American culture tends to value restraining the display of emotion.
  • Determining what is fair. European Americans tend to seek reassurance in the rules, while Latinos tend to be more comfortable with exceptions as they seek to address the uniqueness of each situation.
  • Belief of what can be controlled and managed. There is a prevalent European American belief that one can dominate the environment and external circumstances (“God helps those who help themselves”) versus the more common default stance by many Latinos that things may be out of our hands (“Dios quiere” or God willing)
  • Time management. European Americans tend to be ruled more by the clock whereas Latinos more by the event they are in.

These then are some significant differences that, at their most benign expression, lead to interesting cocktail reception conversation. But, applied to business, these points of view actually become the assumptions on which talent and leadership program competencies, development, and performance assessment get built.

For example, the career advancement assumption that each employee owns and can manage the creation of their own development plan. (I will elaborate on this on upcoming posts.)

 

Reaching Latinos: Understand and Embrace the Multidimensional Diversity Within the Latino Community

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

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/0_2GLbzz5IxAOAl4u7o72q9a?trk=prof-sm)

In my previous post, I mentioned three strategies corporations can use to seize the opportunities offered by the growing Latin talent pools. We’ll begin by discussing the first strategy in more depth.

Strategy 1: Understand and embrace the multidimensional diversity within the Latino community

First, we need to understand Latino diversity.

Though grouped together as Latinos or Hispanics, there are many layers of diversity within this population. Some are the same layers that every group faces, with their own unique twist, including:

Generational—For predominantly English speaking Latino Millennials, only 16 percent of them see themselves as white compared to twice as many older Latinos. They are less likely to have assimilated than their first-generation parents, who—as they faced discrimination due to their limited or accented English—chose not to teach their kids Spanish.

Plus you can add the dynamics of the creative tension among the generational diversity of Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z also shows up in Latino communities.

Language—There are Latinos who are Spanish English or Spanglish dominant. Seven in 10 young Hispanics report they regularly blend English and Spanish into a Spanglish hybrid.

Identity—Many Latinos straddle the fusion of more than two identities. Millennial Latinos are more likely to be in mixed ethnic and racial backgrounds and they self- identify with the blended identities of “Blaxican,” “Mexipino,” or “China-Latina” and more. These young Latinos epitomize the new Latino-American multidimensional identity.

History in the USA—Latinos in the USA can be recent immigrants or be fourth or fifth generation. Latinos in the USA can either be economic or political refugees. Or be ancestors of families that were of that part of Mexico annexed by the United States in the Spanish American war.

Country of origin—Latinos come from 27 different nationalities with a wide range of races and ethnicities. Spanish speaking Blacks come from the Caribbean, Colombia, Perú, Panama, and other countries. Millions of those characterized as Latinos come from indigenous backgrounds from Tierra del Fuego in the farthest southern reaches of Latin America to the Rio Grande border with the US.

 Given all this variety, Latino identity cuts across a wide spectrum of choices, so individual Latinos face complex choices of how much of it to embrace. This cultural identity spectrum can go from the fiercely nationalistic to the fully assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture.

Next, embrace this diverse multidimensionality of Latinos in talent and marketplace penetration.

We need to differentiate among the various Latino talent pools and segmented markets. There is no one Latino market in the same way there is no one Latino talent force; therefore, we must be wary of jumping to conclusions about your talent attraction materials. In order to have effective strategies for sourcing, attracting, hiring, engaging, advancing as well as selling to Latino talent, we must differentiate and define whether we are targeting the first, second, third, or fourth-generation Latinos. The Boomer, Xer, or Millennial Latino, The English-, Spanish-, or Spanglish-dominant Latino.

Be crossculturally agile. Ensure you don’t inadvertently use slang, cultural references, and pictures that are meaningful to say, Puerto Ricans, when you are trying to reach those who are mostly Mexican.

Don’t be paralyzed by fears of offending. By feeling you have to guess what the identity choices are of Latino talent or consumers. Watch, study, observe. And then, when necessary, which will be often, ask.

Be Latino diversity savvy by grasping the vast diversity among what often gets lumped under the simplistic umbrella of “Latinos.” Learn this and shape your talent attraction and marketplace penetration strategies accordingly. Just by doing this you will go a long way in enhancing your attractiveness to this highly desired talent pool.

My next post will zero in on “Strategy 2: Become Self Aware of how Corporate Cultures Are and Are Not Attractive to Latino Talent.” Stay tuned.

What Does the Latino Boom Mean for Business?

by Andrés T. Tapia –

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

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

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

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

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

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

The Latino Talent Boom and How Not to Miss Out

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

(This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/18562142)

Latinopalooza is a multi-stage, multi-ethnic, multi-age phenomenon that is already having great impact in the marketplace, political landscapes, and talent.

Organizations that don’t anticipate the implications of #Latinpalooza will miss out in many ways. Here are some facts you need to know:

  • Latinos are projected to be one-third of the U.S. population by 2050 with Latinos today already accounting for 21 percent of the Millennial number. This is not a niche market; it is the market.
  • Twenty-five million eligible Latino voters nationwide and over six million in places like California. This is not a side constituency; it is the margin of victory.
  • Sixty-nine percent of Latinos are currently going to college, the largest percentage of any ethnic group including whites. This is not just a student body ratio; it is the future workforce.

In this series of posts, #Latinopalooza, we will share strategies corporations can start doing now to capitalize on as Latinos become one of the biggest societal and talent stories in 2016.

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

by Andrés T. Tapia

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

U.S. Capitol Dome

U.S. Capitol Dome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Up To Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diversity of One

by Andrés T. Tapia –DiversityBusPeople.dreamstime_xs_54345011

(The following article was originally published in the Korn Ferry Briefings on Talent & Leadership.)

As minorities become majorities, organizations must rethink the conventional dimensions of identity and inclusiveness.

Deep in the pristine laboratories of pharma giant Roche in Basel, Switzerland, molecular scientists are experimenting with and achieving breakthroughs on a new understanding of diversity. Not that they would characterize their quest for blockbuster designer drugs in terms of understanding diversity. But their work is now guided by a scientifically evolved understanding that human beings are so genetically diverse that the future of curative and palliative care lies in moving away from the manufacture of mass-application drugs, in favor of drugs that are personalized to each individual patient’s chromosomal profile. In their parlance, this is “precision medicine”—in essence, it is individualized medicine.

What the scientists are witnessing at the genetic level is also taking place in society. Demographic changes have been so massive in the past generation—in nearly every country in the world—that while diversity is more relevant than ever, the way we think about it is obsolete. The stalwart paradigms of group identity based only on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability no longer cover the scope of our multidimensional identities. No one is just black. Or Latino. Or female. Or gay. Or blind. We are much more complex than that. We have entered the age of ultradiversity.

This ultradiversity leads to intersected identities such as GayVeteranXer. Or an ElderlyPersonwithaDisability. Or a MillennialIntrovertedFemaleManager. Or a BoomerAfricanAmericanGeneralManagerMalewithAdultKids. Or a LesbianSingleMother.

Or …

In this era, we need to invent “precision talent” strategies applying principles analogous to what pharmacologists are doing with drugs. We must be ready to address the “Diversity of One.”

But there is a counter-force that seeks to minimize differences. The intentions may be benevolent or sinister, but either way they have a damaging effect on societal wellness as well as talent strategies. If we ignore the reality that these differences exist and are only getting more complex, and that they must therefore be addressed, we will contribute to mounting social and work force pressures. Think #Ferguson#BlackLivesMatter. #ArabSpring. #GlassCeiling. #HigherTurnover.

As we grapple with Diversity of One, we must rethink basic assumptions about diversity. What does “minority” mean when “minorities” are majorities? What does it mean that those who are young have more experience with the supernova-hot trends of digitization, social media, and globalization than 25-year careerists do? What does it mean that it’s still a “man’s world” when two-thirds of undergraduates in the U.S. are women and by 2025 in the U.K., for example, women are expected to possess 60 percent of all personal wealth? What does “disability” mean when there are plentiful examples of people with disabilities outperforming those who are supposedly able-bodied? What does it mean to be “closeted” in sexual orientation when Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, the biggest, most valuable and arguably most influential company in our daily lives, comes out as a gay man? Or that the president of the United States is biracial?

The answers to these questions also challenge many current talent strategies that are failing to address the implications of ultradiversity. Let’s look at some of these new aspects of diversity within three well-established dimensions (race/ethnicity, gender, and disability) and what new and innovative human capital strategies are needed to address them. These then can serve as templates for exploring the implications for a much broader set of diversity issues such as globalism, nationality, faith, generational thinking styles and personality, to name just a few.

 

Why Corporations Need to Pay Attention to #BlackLivesMatter

by Andrés T. Tapia –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a moment and reflect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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

by Andrés T. Tapia –

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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.

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