How Diverse Cultures Shape Innovation

by Andrés T. Tapia –

(This article was originally published in Talent Management Magazine)iStock_000012215038XSmall.globeflags.purchased

There is an urgent need for innovation to generate growth in a hypercompetitive global marketplace. It’s a rallying cry in companies regardless of location, industry or organizational maturity. But leaders today struggle to translate this strategic imperative into organizational reality.

This made me think of my recent three-hour walk through the streets of Hong Kong. From the elegant lobby of the Mandarin Hotel, through the quintessentially corporate HSBC headquarters, to the food stalls with cooks washing and chopping up vegetables in plain view at the North Point market on Chun Yeung Street, it’s simultaneously very Eastern and Western. It found a way to harness the diversity of cultures into a rich cultural environment and a highly prosperous economy.

But while cultures can enrich one another in the right conditions, a company culture can be an enabler or a detriment to innovation. Let’s compare and contrast three national cultures and their varied approaches to innovation: Japan, China, and the United States.

Japan has been a hotbed of innovation, particularly in the last half of the 20th century. It brought us instant noodles (1958), the bullet train (1964), the Karaoke machine (1971), digital cameras (1981), the PlayStation console (1994) and DVDs (1995).

China, the world’s second largest economy, is considered the factory of the world and struggles to be innovative. China’s leaders recognize this gap and seek in their current five-year plan to stimulate an innovation mindset.

While both Japan and China are influenced by a similar Confucian, communal philosophy — in Japan, there’s a saying that “the tallest poppy gets its head cut off” — why did Japan surge forward in innovation and not China? Why has Japan stalled in the early 21st century when it comes to innovation?

Now consider the U.S., which was founded on the concept of invention — of things and of new beginnings for individuals and their families in the new world. Many industrial era inventions came from the U.S. It was the nation that landed a man on the moon and now is leading the way in the digital economy.

American individualism helps unleash anyone with a great idea regardless of their status in society to start something big — hello Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. But individualism alone does not explain American innovation because Japan is the opposite but also innovative.

So, what gives? While Japan is a monarchy and one-party democracy, it is still a representative-elected government. This form of democracy pulls Japan toward the right of the spectrum between hierarchy and egalitarianism, which data shows is more conducive to new outlier ideas. In contrast, China’s authoritarianism pulls a predisposition toward hierarchy, and further ensconces it in the rigidity of the status quo.

Given its democratic values, combined with its group orientation, Japan gave birth to the concept of Kaizen, which led to the Six Sigma methodology. This collaborative, non-hierarchical approach allows a face-saving way for all to contribute regardless of status.

The U.S. innovation system is likely thriving more today than the Japanese system because Japan has become the poster child for what happens when there is a lack of diversity. It’s one of the most homogeneous societies in the world and is way behind in including female decision makers into the workplace. As competition surges forward from newly developed nations in a complex world, the inclusiveness of Kaizen is not enough without greater diversity.

Americans, who so much talk about inclusion, must confront the obstruction individualism offers its self-proclaimed quest to include all. The Chinese must confront the opposite challenge if they are to have an innovation breakout.

In short, each of these three cultures has something the other needs.

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.

 

 

Your Strongest Asset—Your Org Culture—Could Be Your Greatest Barrier to Inclusion

by Andrés T. Tapia – Business People Smiling

Our work in diversity and inclusion demands us to manage through many paradoxes. In part this is due to the work of diversity and inclusion having to surf its way through seeming contradictions. Do these sound familiar?

  • Diverse representation is paramount but we don’t want to focus on the numbers
  • Affirmative Action is about the numbers but you can’t make them quotas
  • If you surface a diversity and inclusion gap you are obliged to do something about it, so it may be better not to find out
  • We need to level the playing the field for those traditionally underrepresented but we can’t do it at the detriment of those who have been in the majority
  • Affinity groups are about affinity but must include everyone who wants to join
  • Diversity and inclusion strategy should expand its reach and be holistic. Address severe talent shortages, emerging marketplace penetration, global team productivity, generate greater creativity and innovation, but, oh by the way, do it with fewer resources
  • We must master best practices processes to move change through our organizations while at the same time be able to freestyle via spontaneous invention to arrive at creative and alternative ways to breakthrough.

There is plenty to explore in each one of these, but here’s one more I want to share and explore in this post:

Are companies with strong corporate cultures inherently more exclusionary?

This question came up in a recent conversation with my colleague Lisa Levey, a thought leader on women’s advancement and work-life integration and author of The Libra Solution: Shedding Excess and Redefining Success at Work and at Home, when we were chatting about a couple of clients we are currently working with. She framed it this way, “Enhancing diversity and inclusion within strong work cultures is ultimately a paradox. Strong cultures have a way we do things and a set of norms that dictate behavior. This clarity defines who they are as an organization as well as what—and who—fits. But D&I are about embracing new ideas and new ways of doing things, often challenging the status quo.“

How to address this conundrum that the bold, distinctive culture that has made these companies successful is the same culture that can severely hinder the organization from being truly inclusive?

We’ve witnessed this across the world and it doesn’t matter the industry—retail, manufacturing, managing consulting, pharmaceuticals, finance, and so on. In each of these industries there are longstanding companies with histories more than 100 years old as well as new economy companies barely a decade old that have a palpable and distinct culture that influences the profile of who gets hired, what gets identified as good and poor performance, and in this, of course, who gets developed and promoted.

Adds Lisa, “strong work cultures are typically characterized by a core set of values that influence priorities and bring life to the way work is accomplished.” The end result is that leadership and management is then shaped by these very values and the organization’s narrow interpretations of what the behaviors behind these values should look like.

Clients that have very strong cultures are extremely admirable. It’s easy to find people who have been there 20, 25, 30 years. Their employees have great memories and great pride in their organization—what it has accomplished, what it stands for, and the kind of talent it has attracted and nurtured. These are traits that get you on the Best and Most Admired companies lists.

How ironic then that it can be so painful and difficult that these companies are often the very places where it’s hardest to open up space for people who are different. The very people who are brought in under the auspices of the organization needing greater diversity and inclusion quickly run afoul of the unspoken coda of how to think, how to speak, and how to act.

The organizational system, wired to nurture the coda and conversely reject deviations from it, like a highly effective immune system, treats that difference as a foreign body that must be surrounded by contain-and-reject interventions. Here comes the raised eyebrow, the roll-of-the-eyes, the “we don’t do it that way here” pricks that slowly but surely deflate the confidence of successful-elsewhere talent.

The Achilles Heel of Strong Corporate Cultures

These companies with strong corporate cultures must then face a choice. They can continue business as usual and they may get lucky and for some time may not experience much apparent downside. But they should then be more realistic about how diverse and inclusive they can truly become.

Or, if the case for being more inclusive and diverse has been made forcefully, they can seize this moment to do some self examination, which in this upside down world, is critical as old assumptions are being swept away by the new normal.

To be clear, examining your culture for ways in which it can be inadvertently exclusive does not mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There are ways to affirm and even hold on to those differentiating distinctive aspects of culture, while letting go of things that have been long cherished and valued that are no longer necessary and long obsolete.

How can you go about this? A few things to think about:

  • Distinguish between requirements and preferences. Do an exercise using the honored late Roosevelt Thomas’ guidance. Determine what is really required to do the work and be successful at your company and what is really a preference that is tied to tradition and the people who came before you that really don’t reflect the new generation of work, clients, customers, and workers.
  • Rethink the assumptions around mentoring. Often mentoring in strong corporate culture environments can become the code word for training people who are different to become just like us. While there’s still a place to help people through mentoring that can increase their chances of success by showing them the ropes, until you do the work of distinguishing between a preference and a requirement, you’re not going to be able to know what is inclusive versus exclusionary advice.
  • Make it safe and inviting for alternative voices to be heard, valued, and acted on. Train legacy leaders and managers on how to seek out alternative voices in their teams and meetings. Reward managers who consistently do so. Profile those who have a different approach than has been the norm. Also design reciprocal mentoring programs—companies with strong corporate cultures often suffer from being too insular. Activate the very premise of diversity, which is to bring alternative thinking to the organization. Formalize and channel this diversity to effectively bring new thinking and life to the organization.

Finally, make this message go viral: in today’s global, hyper-diverse, rapidly changing world, those that don’t keep up with the changes risk getting sidelined. All companies are going to need the diversity of thinking of those who have not fit the formula in that past.

If homogeneity of thinking and behavior was the key to survival before, today it’s a vulnerability. Heterogeneity through those who don’t fit the traditional and previously successful culture could really be the very thing you need more than ever in order to sustain your success in this brave new world.

The Metamorphosis of Global Diversity

iStock_000012215038XSmall.globeflags.purchasedby Andrés T. Tapia –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When’s your next trip to another land?

The Not-So-Empty Nest

by Andrés T. Tapia – Portrait of senior couple with adult son

It’s the subject of much Boomer handwringing and comedy routines: the boomerang adult. That’s the kid who on finishing post-high school schooling (or after a brief foray on their own) returns home to live with Mom and Dad.

Boomer parents are not imaging things. Their sons really are coming home to roost. And yes, it’s primarily a guy thing. That’s according to the U.S. Census, which found that from 2005 to 2011 the percentage of men age 25 to 34 living with their parents rose from 14% to 19%, but only increased from 8% to 10% for women of the same age.

If it’s any consolation to American parents, this trend is global. Young people in Europe, Japan, Canada, and other areas are taking longer to transition to adulthood. In Italy, 37% of men 30-years old and up have never left home. There are men in Japan pushing 40 still living at home. And reports from the UK show 25% of young adult males are still at home, compared to 13% of women the same age.

In a Salon.com piece that looks at this phenomenon, author, sociologist and a Johns Hopkins University dean Katherine Newman talks about her interviews with people in six countries in southern Europe, the Nordic states, Japan and the U.S. She explains some of the reasons behind this global trend.

Globalization and the recession are making it harder for new workers to enter the labor force, and the cost of housing is climbing. But other social and psychological factors are at play too. The result is a sometimes rocky, sometimes serendipitous experience for these families as they struggle to redefine adulthood and familial roles in the face of overwhelming global economic forces.

I’m glad that Newman realized that it’s more than economics keeping young people at home. There’s something else going on here and some of it’s cultural. Typically, young people in North American, Japan, UK, and the Nordic countries moved toward independence sooner than in other countries, like Spain or Italy. Newman talks of the cultural differences between countries. How a particular society describes this trend reflects cultural and social attitudes as well as political and governmental policies.

More than just an interesting demographic trend, this development is also an expression of multi-faceted cultural divisions – among countries, among generations, and between genders.

What Boomers believe is the normal transition to adulthood will soon be upended by the experiences of Millennials and Generations X and Y. Depending on where they live, parents from differing regions and countries will welcome, decry, or simply accept the return of their “adultsters.”

How to Influence Real Inclusion

by Andrés T. Tapia – 

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

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

Measure Inclusion by Assessing Whether Leaders Are Truly Serious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heart Attacks in Women – 7 Symptoms to Know

by Andrés T. Tapia

000_Heartattack.rev

Rushing recently through Jackson-Hartsville International Airport in Atlanta I was stopped in my tracks by the billboard above.

With few words and compelling pictures, the billboard’s message prompted me to consider an issue I had not even thought about. Heart attacks. Every 90 seconds someone’s mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, or niece suffers a heart attack. Turns out heart disease is the Number One cause of death for women, outpacing breast cancer, strokes, and domestic violence.

By now, most of us are familiar with the typical symptoms of a heart attack. Crushing pain. Feeling of fullness or squeezing pain in the chest or upper portions of the body. Shortness of breath. Nausea.

The life-and-death issue of this knowledge? These are the typical symptoms that make men hurry to the nearest emergency room. Turns out that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost two-thirds of women who die of sudden heart attacks have had no previous symptoms. And when women do present symptoms, they can be significantly different from the typical male’s symptoms.

It’s another example of the phenomenon I describe in my book, The Inclusion Paradox. And that is, in order to have true inclusion, we have to know how to constructively call out our differences instead of assume similarity.

Dr. Thomas Fisher, an emergency specialist and healthcare disparities expert who has taught at the University of Chicago and who now works for Health Care Services Corporation headquartered in Chicago, explains how calling out these differences can be a matter of life and death. He explains how physicians are trained to think about cardiac episodes as “crushing or pressure more like an elephant sitting on a chest.”

And when it comes to women, this is precisely the problem with the training. These are typical male symptoms. He also explains that there also can be racial differences in how the experience is described. According to Dr. Fisher, older African Americans often describe cardiac pain as “sharp,” which can lead doctors to another diagnosis. “If physicians don’t ask some follow-up questions, or describe it more carefully, that sharp chest pain may, in fact, be the type of pressure/crushing that leads to a cardiac diagnosis,” he says.

These life saving billboards pop up across the country including at a bus shelter in front of Jackson Park Hospital on Chicago’s Southside. It is part of a national public education campaign by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. The campaign encourages women and their families to learn the seven signs of a heart attack and to call 9-1-1 promptly.

Calling out our differences, whether in language or in experiences, can bridge the gap between doctors and patients, between confusion and clarity. Between life and death.

It’s about inclusion as a life-saving strategy.

Engagement: The True Measure of Inclusion

by Andrés T. Tapia –

 

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

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

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

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

A few tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tattoo Barbie and the Power of Pop Culture

by Andrés T. Tapia –TatooBarbie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Economy Booms, China Faces Growing Diversity Challenges

by Andrés T. Tapia and Susan Welch,  Diversity Best Practices —

Truly homogenous populations exist perhaps in only a few tiny regions in the world–in ancient, relatively untouched cultures. Everywhere else, cultures, ethnicities, and genders clash. Here is a look at one country’s, China’s, diversity issues.

China appears, on the surface, to have relatively few cultural issues. After all, its dominant Han population accounts for 91% of all people in China. Mandarin is the official language and is widely spoken. Improvements in health have increased longevity.

Despite this somewhat rosy picture, challenges persist:

Myriad Ethnically and Language Diverse Groups
According to this Wall Street Journal analysis, China faces challenges fully integrating its Han culture, within which there are distinctions between Cantonese, Hakka, Fujianese, and others. Eight different languages make up the Han culture, and while Mandarin is officially spoken, it isn’t necessarily the language spoken at home. The other 9% of the non-Han population is made up of another 55 cultures.  And in a population of 1.3 billion, 9% is equal to 117 million people.

Brewing Ethnic Conflicts
As China seeks to expand its economic growth beyond its Tier 1 cities, minority cultures feel the crunch. In 2009, ethnic tension resulted in bloody conflicts between China’s Hans and Turkish-speaking, Muslim Uighurs. China has invested $100 billion in the remote Xinjiang region where the violence occurred, so addressing ongoing tension will be critical. Unfortunately, as the region grows in importance, so, too, grows the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Gender Imbalance
A more obvious challenge for the Chinese is its ongoing gender imbalance, which threatens to get worse in coming decades. Centuries-old cultural tradition places greater value on male children in China. Under the one-child policy, parents have abandoned or aborted girls. Today in China, 119 boys exist for every 100 girls; in some regions the ratio is 130 boys to 100 girls. It is anticipated that by 2024, some 24 million men in China will have difficulty finding wives. Exacerbating the problem, girls and young women in China are moving to urban areas for work, and often finding husbands there. Thus, the poor, rural men in China are those who will be left behind. As noted here, men in China do not “marry up.” A slew of single rural males will be a population to contend with in the future.

Caring for the Aging
As observed, health–and thus, longevity–have improved in recent years in China. This is a good news/bad news scenario, because, as fertility rates remain low, the elderly population in China is rapidly increasing. Ironically, as noted by the Population Reference Bureau, only 25 years ago China thought it faced the opposite problem: too many children. Today, in fact, China’s youth face a future described as “1-2-4: one child caring for two parents and four grandparents.” Although they fly in the face of Chinese cultural tradition, nursing homes are proliferating. Elderly citizens increasingly will need care for their chronic conditions and diseases. Today, 9 working-age adults exist for every senior citizen in China, but by 2050 that ratio will decrease to 2.5 to 1.

Normalizing Disability
For China, disability is a mixed bag. Even today, disabled people are referred to in discriminatory language: The disabled most frequently are called canji, which literally translates to “deficient/deformed and diseased.” But, according to this BBC article, China is changing, albeit slowly. According to the Disaboom disability website, 83 million people in China are disabled. A 2003 assessment, reported here, found that 84% of China’s disabled population was working. But it was only this past January that China enacted laws to ensure wheelchair access. Other laws, some addressing specific disabilities such as paralyzed or missing limbs, are in the works.

Wrestling with Granting LGBT Rights
Gay rights represent another mixed bag for China. For centuries, relative tolerance existed, but from the 1950s onward homosexuality was forbidden. In 2004, an estimated 5 to 10 million Chinese men between ages 15 and 49 reported being gay. And yet, this analysis projects that 90% of LGBT people in China will marry a member of the opposite sex, due to familial and societal pressure. More than 60% of gay Chinese men had not “come out.” As described in The Guardian, it was only in 2001 that homosexuality was removed from China’s list of state-approved mental illnesses.

Being Equipped to Manage Global Diversity
As Chinese companies go multinational, they’re falling into the same ethnocentric traps other economically expansive countries such as Britain, the US, and Spain have experienced throughout the centuries. Anthropologist Chan Wan, who is also assistant professor in the Department of Chinese at Lingnan University in Hong Kong says that China not tending to encourage or even acknowledge diversity hinders its business growth. “I think it is a barrier to actually operating in the world,” says Chan. “The Chinese find it difficult to expand overseas because they don’t understand foreign cultures. … I think the advantage of [engaging] diversity is when an economy starts to expand outwards and do business with overseas countries.”

From this quick audit of diversity issues in China, it’s evident that despite China’s booming economic strength, and now more because of it, it too must seek to effectively manage the inclusion paradox in order to optimize its ability to create a sustainable  society and sustainable economic growth.

U.S. Women’s Soccer: Not Quite America’s Team

by Andrés T. Tapia –WomensSoccerTeam_2.

This article was published by the New America Media.

What a thrill. What pride. What a show of skill and prowess by the US women’s national soccer team in the 2011 Women’s World Cup even as they lost in penalty shots to Japan on Sunday.

Too bad that this fabulous squad does not yet quite look like America.

Wambach made magnificent header goals. Rapinoe great centers. Boxx streaking shots from outside the box. I cheered them along, as they deserved to be cheered, and relished their hard fought battle on behalf of a nation.

But my feelings were bittersweet. In a roster of 21 players, there are only two Latinas and no Blacks or Asians. In the team picture of bright, young, exuberant, and inspiring faces, the hues and shades of a multicultural America that is 30% racial/ethnic are quite limited.

There is something deeply amiss in the lack of diversity in both the women and men’s national soccer teams. Not only because 1/3 of the nation is missing in their composition, but because when we look at the age range of those who play professionally the gap is even more striking: 40% of this age group are people of color.

Further, given soccer’s popularity, particularly in the Latino community, this lack of diversity can’t be excused. While it can be said legitimately about golf, tennis, and swimming that the pipeline of diverse talent in the game is significantly limited given low participation numbers by minority children at the entry point of the pipeline, the same cannot be said about this most populist of sports, futbol.

Yes, golf, tennis, and swimming must find ways to get more minorities involved, not only for the sake of these marginalized communities, but also for the sake of the vitality of these sports. By limiting the talent pool it draws from, is it any coincidence the US has not dominated in golf or tennis in the past decade? But soccer has a huge built-in advantage over these other sports even as the US Tennis Association (USTA) significantly steps up its efforts to introduce tennis to ten-year-old kids of color. But the massive numbers of female and male participants of color in soccer are getting bypassed by colleges, US Soccer teams, and pro-soccer farm systems.

As one looks at the player roster both in women and men’s soccer, how is it that diversity, in this sport has been whitewashed?

When I played on the varsity soccer team at Northwestern University, I was the only Latino on the team — and a walk-on from South America and not a Hispanic American at that — and Floyd the only black. Granted, NU was not that diverse to begin with, but surely, in the soccer subculture there should have been some sort of over-indexing of diversity.

To increase the diversity of the US teams – not only to be truly America’s team, but also to ensure that US teams remain competitive – an all-out diversity effort must be launched.

First, more minority children must be enrolled in the largest soccer youth programs around. When I coached my daughter’s AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) girls’ soccer team, the $100+ fees were out of reach for many working class Latino families. To Highland Park AYSO’s credit, it began instituting a sliding scale fee funded by local individuals and companies. But while this upped participation some, the lack of relations between the white and Latino communities made it hard to spread the word about the program.

And even when more Latino youngsters did participate, coaches — many new to the sport of soccer themselves — did not know how to reconcile the differing expectations from Latino parents when practice schedules conflicted with work schedules at the family store or other business. And given standard “fairness” principles, the “no practice, no play” policy killed any nascent enthusiasm among working-class and immigrant kids and parents.

The barriers to entry in the more competitive youth travel soccer leagues are even higher given the $1000+ fees and far away road games that assume parents have cars and free weekends to schlep their cleat-clad kids.

But the institutions that truly have no excuse for their lack of diversity on their soccer teams are colleges. Thousands of girls and boys nationwide are playing on public middle-and high school soccer teams. Here participation is free, school busses transport the teams to their matches, and immigrant parents have at least some working knowledge about school culture that they don’t have about para-organizations such as AYSO and travel soccer.

Title IX, which demanded the playing field be evened out for collegiate women in terms of budgets, facilities, and scholarships, is the number one reason women’s sports in the US has risen to the world-class caliber we saw in Sunday’s World Cup. But like in corporate America, women’s gains have unfortunately ended up being white women’s gains, with Black, Latina, Asian, and Native American women conspicuously absent as beneficiaries of powerfully important gender diversity programs.

To break through we need US Soccer, college soccer scouts, and parents to shift their assumptions and behaviors.

In machista societies like the Latino one, girls have to be seen as legitimately able to compete in sports for fun or career just as boys are. Scouts need to get comfortable going into barrio and inner city schools and to suburbs dominated by immigrants just like football and basketball scouts started doing a generation ago.

And US Soccer can up the ante by insisting its scouts and coaches source greater diversity for players considered for the US uniform.

Because that uniform belongs to all of us.

Diversity Fast Facts — Immigration

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

39748906GlobalForum_50_150dpi

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.

Corporate Boards Continue to Miss Out on Diversity

by Andrés T. Tapia –

silhoutte.boarddirectYou would think that by now we would still not be hearing the  clichéd excuses of “we can’t find any,” or “it will take too long to find someone,” or “is it even that important?”

What the excuses are defending is the lack of diversity on corporate boards. Unfortunately, we’ll probably hear these excuses even more as explanations to Janell Ross’ article in the Huffington Post where she reports that  “white men’s already dominant control of the boards that oversee the nation’s largest corporations widened during the last six years,” according to a new report issued by the Alliance for Board Diversity.

For the Fortune 100 between 2004 and 2010, white men gained 32 board seats while African American men lost 42. According to the report, there are nearly 900 companies in the Fortune 1000 that do not have a single Hispanic board member, and of the Fortune 100 only half have a Latino board member. This growing homogeneity is occurring at the same time as the Hispanic population is exploding and the country grows even more diverse. Such an increase in white male representation defies not only common sense but also business sense.

As diversity and inclusion (D&I) champions understand, but the reluctant CEOs and board members in this report don’t seem to realize, the business and financial benefits of diversity can intensify an organization’s competitiveness, innovation, and connection to customers. Just look at these stunning findings on gender diversity on boards:

A 2007 Catalyst study examining corporate finances between 2001 and 2004–a period of boom and bust–found that companies with women on their boards outperformed those without women in several key ways. Among the study’s findings: Fortune 500 companies that ranked in the top 25 percent for female board member inclusion produced on average a 53 percent better return on equity, a 42 percent difference in profits, and a 66 percent difference in return on invested capital when compared to companies with the least gender-diverse boards.

So the low diversity on boards not only causes dismay from an inclusion perspective, but companies with little board diversity make themselves vulnerable to blind spots to threats plus they may be limited in seizing economic opportunities.

Perhaps a key issue concerning board diversity, according to Lissa L. Broome, a professor at University of North Carolina School of Law who researches the issues of diversity on boards, is the tendency for key players to ignore or at least avoid talking about difference. Such hesitancy represents the underlying issue in the Inclusion Paradox, which provides ways to lean into and make the most of that discomfort.

If we don’t find ways to do this, our companies will be forfeiting a major trump card in high stakes global competitiveness.

Keiko Fujimori Loses Peru’s Election, But Diversity Message Struck a Chord

by Andrés T. Tapia –

This article was published by the New America Media.KeikoFujimori_500x279

Keiko Fujimori lost Peru’s presidential election Sunday. But don’t expect the dynamic, if difficult, Keiko–age 36, female, Gen Xer, of Japanese descent, mother of two toddlers, spouse of an American and daughter of a former president, who is now incarcerated–to fade into the shadows of Latin American politics.

Keiko–as she’s known universally in Peru–has been the candidate of the unexpected and a force that likely altered Peruvian national politics for years to come.

At the presidential debate last week with her second round opponent–and Peru’s new president–Ollanta Humala, her opening statement had a greeting in Quechua–the language of the descendants of the Incas in the Andes of Peru. And her closing statement concluded with sign language.

What’s more, Keiko appealed to the youth vote by laying out her “Mi Primera Chamba”–My First Gig–scholarship program and to the Mom vote by promising to create nutrition programs and quality education for children.

This is not just typical political pandering in Peru, but stem from who Keiko is. She allowed TV hostess Magaly to come to her home. After they chatted like two girlfriends, she gave Magaly a tour of her middle-class home. Along the way she showed off Peruvian Andean landscape paintings her imprisoned father has done in jail, and then the pair ended up in Keiko’s kitchen, where she expertly chopped vegetables for that evening’s dinner.

Defying Expectations
Keiko–as everyone calls her–has become adept at presenting herself in visuals that defy traditional expectations.

When her parents split up in a bitter divorce during her father’s presidency, Keiko, then age 19, officially became First Lady to fill in for her exiting mother’s responsibilities.

Despite ample opportunities to go anywhere for college, she headed to Boston University to earn a degree in business administration. She returned married to Mark Vito, an U.S.-born IBM consultant, who did not speak Spanish.

Without a hint of self-consciousness, Keiko projected her Japanese visage on big screens at political rallies surrounded by a sea of dark-skinned indigenous Peruvians. Though her roots are Asian, she appealed to them as one of them, her racial minority physical features presenting a kindred-outsider status to the marginalized people of Peru–just as happened when her father ascended to power.

The elements of her biography don’t merely translate into images defying the status quo; they drive her fusion of a right-of-center and a populist political platform. Her ease with crossing socioeconomic and racial barriers has influenced a right-brain/left-brain, left-wing/right-wing heterodoxy that is both pragmatic and passionate.

Despite deeply held reservations by many Peruvians about her filial links to her father, jailed for corruption and human rights abuses, Keiko’s implicit and explicit diversity and her messages of inclusion, helped propel her into the second and final electoral round having beat out another former president, Alejandro Toledo, and a successful former minister of finance and economy, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski–a graduate of both Oxford and Princeton Universities, no less.

Presidential Candidate Mom
Keiko was also nearly the first Latin American female president with young children and, therefore, the first high-profile role model for work-and-family flexibility. As is typical of middle-class Peruvians, she has live-in childcare help. But her fluid movement in and out of her roles as leader and mother seems remarkably seamless.

After the first-round election results were announced and Keiko was declared one of the two finalists, Keiko handled her press conference with ease.

Afterward as she exited through the phalanx of journalists, her 18-month-old, Kaori Marcela, straddled in her left arm, Keiko took impromptu questions shouted out by journalists. As the child began to fuss, she switched from potential president of Peru to attentive Mom. With a smile, Keiko said, “Ok, it’s time–got to go.”

And with no apology, she left. Whatever else may come for Keiko, that’s what her multicultural country folk will remember. Keiko–young, centered and, without apologies, very much herself.

Now in her loss, she must plot out her next career move while Dad sits in jail with no chance of a pardon and her children continue to make their toddler demands. Meanwhile, she will watch as her rival takes the reins of the future she had been so certain was destined to be hers. 

She has time – a lot of it – to let things play out. Five years from now Keiko’s Magical Diversity Tour still likely to be fueled up and waiting for her to lead the way.

Peru Election 2011: Keiko Fujimori’s Magical Diversity Tour

by Andrés T. Tapia –

This article was published by the New America Media.

KeikoFujimori_500x279Keiko Fujimori–age 36, female, Gen Xer, of Japanese descent, mother of two toddlers, spouse of an American and daughter of a former president, who is now incarcerated–may be Peru’s next president.

If chosen in Sunday’s election, Fujimori would be Peru’s first woman president and one of four today in Latin America—and one of only seven in the region’s history. Like Laura Chinchilla in Costa Rica, Cristina Kirchner in Argentina and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, her gender will influence her agenda. But so will her youth.

At the presidential debate last week with her second round opponent, Ollanta Humala, her opening statement had a greeting in Quechua–the language of the descendants of the Incas in the Andes of Peru. And her closing statement concluded with sign language.

What’s more, Fujimori appealed to the youth vote by laying out her “Mi Primera Chamba”–My First Gig–scholarship program and to the Mom vote by promising to create nutrition programs and quality education for children.

This is not just typical political pandering in Peru, but stem from who Fujimori is. She allowed TV hostess Magaly to come to her home. After they chatted like two girlfriends, she gave Magaly a tour of her middle-class home. Along the way she showed off Peruvian Andean landscape paintings her imprisoned father has done in jail, and then the pair ended up in Fujimori’s kitchen, where she expertly chopped vegetables for that evening’s dinner.

Defying Expectations
Keiko—as everyone calls her—has become adept at presenting herself in visuals that defy traditional expectations.

When her parents split up in a bitter divorce during her father’s presidency, Keiko, then age19, officially became First Lady to fill in for her exiting mother’s responsibilities.

Despite ample opportunities to go anywhere for college, she headed to Boston University to earn a degree in business administration. She returned married to Mark Vito, an U.S.-born IBM consultant, who did not speak Spanish.

Without a hint of self-consciousness, Keiko projects her Japanese visage on big screens at political rallies surrounded by a sea of dark-skinned indigenous Peruvians. Though her roots are Asian, she appeals to them as one of them, her racial minority physical features presenting a kindred-outsider status to the marginalized people of Peru–just as happened when her father ascended to power.

The elements of her biography don’t merely translate into images defying the status quo; they drive her fusion of a right-of-center and a populist political platform. Her ease with crossing socioeconomic and racial barriers has influenced a right-brain/left-brain, left-wing/right-wing heterodoxy that is both pragmatic and passionate.

Despite deeply held reservations by many Peruvians about her filial links to her father, jailed for corruption and human rights abuses, Keiko’s implicit and explicit diversity and her messages of inclusion, helped propel her into the second and final electoral round having beat out another former president, Alejandro Toledo, and a successful former minister of finance and economy, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski—a graduate of both Oxford and Princeton Universities, no less.

Presidential Candidate Mom
Keiko would also be the first Latin American female president with young children and, therefore, the first high-profile role model for work-and-family flexibility. As is typical of middle-class Peruvians, she has live-in childcare help. But her fluid movement in and out of her roles as leader and mother seems remarkably seamless.

After the first-round election results were announced and Keiko was declared one of the two finalists, Keiko handled her press conference with ease.

Afterward as she exited through the phalanx of journalists, her 18-month-old, Kaori Marcela, straddled in her left arm, Keiko took impromptu questions shouted out by journalists. As the child began to fuss, she switched from potential president of Peru to attentive Mom. With a smile, Keiko said, “Ok, it’s time–got to go.”

And with no apology, she left.

Next Page »

inclusionparadox.com