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General Topics

Why isn’t it Working as Well as it Should?

By: Howard Ross, Cook Ross Inc.

As diversity professionals, we put our hearts and souls into our work.  We are deeply committed as an industry to creating a breakthrough in age-old patterns of discrimination that have plagued us for a millennium.  We have been at this now for generations and have made tremendous inroads.  There is no question that things are better than they used to be.

And yet, despite all of the diversity and inclusion trainings; all of the diversity and inclusion departments; all of the chief diversity and inclusion officers, books, and conferences; despite all the Oprah shows about diversity, there is evidence that progress has stalled in an important way.

Post-racial America?  It doesn’t appear so if we look at the racial attitudes that have surfaced in reaction to immigration, in our political campaigns, and in countless other ways.  Gender equality?  If we look at the statistics collected by the United States Office of Accounting and Budget from 2000-2010 (arguably the most active period of diversity work in our history), women’s salary relative to men’s rose from 79% to 81% and women in leadership positions rose from 40% to 41%.  At that rate, we won’t achieve parity until past 2100!

The exciting news is that the need for a constructive approach to diversity and inclusion has never been clearer, and the business case never more obvious.  Yet as many organizations begin to develop more comprehensive strategies for addressing their diversity and inclusion dynamics, they are realizing that a diversity training, Black History Month Celebration, and International Food Day in the cafeteria do not change the culture of an organization. They are realizing that simply exposing people to diversity and new cultures does not result in inclusion.

What are we doing wrong?

The diversity and inclusion “movement” has generally operated out of a “good person/bad person” paradigm.  There are the “good people,” like those of us who care about these issues and work on them, and then there are the “bad people” who our job is to find and fix.  But there is in fact every reason to believe that our current approach overlooks a key function of our thought process. Failing to address this oversight will only contribute to the “stuckness” we are experiencing. Scientific evidence shows that when we approach people with a mind to “fix” them, the brain triggers a threat response that makes them more likely to dig in their heels, or head for the hills!

I do not mean to be discouraging, and I haven’t lost even an ounce of my passion and hope for the future.  Nevertheless, we as an industry have to look beyond the tendency to simply blame others for not changing and ask ourselves whether we are approaching this issue correctly. If not, we may be missing the boat if we are going to take our work to the next level.  After all, isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

It is time for us as diversity and inclusion practitioners to realize that if we are going to move our work to the next level, we are going to have to start by looking at ourselves.  We are going to have to understand that we are as susceptible to biases as everybody else.  The content of our biases may be different, but the reality of them is the same.  We are going to have to understand how automatic the mind is and that we can no more force somebody to embrace diversity than we can force them to go on a diet if they don’t want to.

And that is where the hope for the future lies.  In our understanding that we are not that much different than the very people we have been trying to “fix.”  That by learning how our minds work, we can understand better how theirs do, and then meet them not on the battlefield, but in a different context.  And that when we can approach each others with greater understanding and compassion—even those who believe things that we don’t—we have a far greater chance of being successful in our quest for inclusion.

When we are willing to do that work with and on ourselves, our chance of creating true inclusion becomes a greater possibility.  And it is a possibility worth pursuing with every fiber of our being.  As the great Sufi poet Rumi wrote:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.  I will meet you there.”

I look forward to meeting you at the Multicultural Forum Conference, and to creating this new paradigm for diversity and inclusion—true inclusion—together.

General Topics

Building Authentic Leadership for Gender Inclusion

By: Leslie Traub and Rosalyn Taylor O’Neale, Cook Ross Inc.

Individuals, corporations, academics, and other institutions have been making the business case for women in the workforce for the last three decades, and it is well known that a diverse pipeline in employee demographics leads to a stronger and more robust team. How and why, then, is this topic still alive today?

Why is it that while we have made strides in gender equality in the workplace and in talent management, we still see statistics showing us that women are far less likely to become top leaders in a company, are paid less than their male counterparts, and experience more obstacles to their career than men do if they leave and re-enter the traditional workforce?

Studies have shown an invisible barrier between women and a career path with truly equal opportunities.  Beyond the glass ceiling, we know that there are deeper challenges that we as gender-focused practitioners should be cognizant of.  Building a truly gender inclusive culture requires strong and authentic commitment from everyone—women and their male colleagues—but especially those at the top of an organization.

Many organizations’ commitment to gender equality in the workplace take the form of policy statements and targets, accompanied by an investment in women’s leadership development programs and networks.  Doubtless there are many who do benefit from these efforts, yet such actions without authentic leadership can give the impression that as long as someone else is doing something, then leaders don’t need to pay attention.  This patterned approach can lead to cynicism and a feeling of tokenism on behalf of women, and contributes to the “fatigue” that many feel when a gender issue is evoked.

Authenticity must originate from the top. Having a strong, personal voice of endorsement from leaders can alter the perspectives of line leaders and managers. This culture of authenticity and commitment can reinforce why an organization is committed to gender equity, and what steps everyone can and will take to examine personal or systemic barriers to inclusion. Most importantly, it will bring a topic that is spoken in third-person, even by women, into a personal and relevant space.

Our experience with CEOs and other executives shows that a personal commitment makes a difference.  When we work with leaders to examine their relationship to gender equality based on their life experiences, framed in their own words, we have seen them take a clear leadership stance, holding themselves and others accountable for doing the same. They inspire their leaders and their organizations towards positive actions that create an environment where true equality, partnership, and collaboration can take place.

We hope to see you in our session, S3-E, at the Multicultural Forum Conference. Together we will explore in greater detail how these leaders identified and communicated their authentic commitment, and the results that they’ve created.

General Topics

Convergence of Social Justice and D&I

By Steve Humerickhouse, director

Martin Luther King Jr. Day always reminds me of how far we have come, but also how far we have to go. So much is so different for the better, but as long as some of us are oppressed we are all oppressed. As the Forum celebrates 25 years of conferences this April, we celebrate the changes we have seen and been a part of: inclusion and engagement as new watch words, finding and applying the ROI of diversity, the globalization of everything. But the focus of the 25th Forum is not on the past, rather the focus is on leadership for the next 25 years.

Dr. King spoke with the long view in mind—the arc of history bends toward justice. I dare say there is a convergence that is coming, that has been long needed, when diversity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility and social justice come together in a seamless continuum. When corporations realize that they benefit most when all of us benefit. When government and business come together with nonprofits in collaboration to solve society ills. That’s what I believe will be the next 25 years of leadership for diversity and inclusion. The Forum will do its part. Will you lead with us?

General Topics

Ignite the Leader Within

I am excited to announce that registration is now open for the 25th annual Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity!

The theme of this year’s conference is: Our Time to Lead.

This is an amazing time. We are at a threshold in history that signals unprecedented opportunity.

The 2012 elections signaled a shift. Globalization is demanding new ideas and new points of view. The business need for cultural competence has never been greater.

Diversity and inclusion used to be at the organizational fringes. Now we have a seat at the table. Our voices are strong. And together, we’re moving our organizations and businesses forward.

Join us at the premier diversity and inclusion conference in America as we celebrate 25 years of leadership and, together, create a shared vision for the work ahead. It’s time for each of us to ignite the leader within ourselves and to explore new ways to lead the way.

The next 25 years are up to us. This is indeed our time to lead. Make it yours.

Learn more about this year’s conference program:

General Topics

2012 Diversity Awards Winners Announced

Four champions of workplace diversity will be honored during the 24th annual Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity, the nation’s leading conference on diversity and inclusion, taking place March 20-22 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The forum is designed for professionals who manage a diverse workforce, are responsible for diversity within their organization or work with a multicultural clientele. The Diversity Awards are given to individuals or organizations that show exemplary effort in addressing workplace diversity issues. Recipients will be honored during a special luncheon on Thursday March 22 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Recipients include:

  • Emily King (Wings of Change, Individual): King is a nationally recognized expert in the transition of military veterans to the civilian workforce and author of the first ever guide for civilian organizations, “Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing & Retaining Veterans.” She is a highly sought after speaker who has been featured in segments on CNN and NPR and sits on the board of advisors for the G.I. Jobs Military Friendly Employers Top 100. King’s passion for veterans and the challenges they face as they return home and to work is palpable and she is clearly the trendsetter for introducing companies and organizations to this pressing issue.
  • ConAgra Foods (Wings of Change, Organization): ConAgra has had department and staff dedicated to inclusion for just five years, but during that time, there has been significant work accomplished, including a rapid and strong implementation of highly engaged employee resource groups and a more inclusive benefits package for employees; an increase of women in management positions from 19 to 30% and minorities from 7 to 10%; development of a summer camp for minority high school students focused on creating a pipeline in science, technology, engineering and math; and in partnership with local Bellevue University, the creation of a D&I certification program, inviting professionals from around the U.S. to participate.
  • The City of Brooklyn Park’s Human Rights Commission (Wings of Change, Organization): At a time when volunteer human rights commissions are taking a beating from elected officials and paid staff of cities through the state, the City of Brooklyn Park’s Human Rights Commission has the full support of city government. In a diverse city where just over 50% of citizens consider themselves white, the Commission challenges city government in recruitment, engagement and retention policies and practices to ensure that city workforce demographics mirror those of city residents. The Commission also promotes active engagement in governance by residents with individual commissioners working to build inclusivity and break down barriers in race, ethnicity, country of origin and language. The Commission’s strategic plan focuses on education, community building, public policy, accountability and handling of complaints.
  • Lyle H. Iron Moccasin (Friend of the Forum): Iron Moccasin is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation of South Dakota. After growing up in Minnesota and New York City, serving in the U.S. Navy and the New York City police force, Iron Moccasin returned to Minneapolis to put his life experiences to work for the Native community by joining American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center (AIOIC). During his employment at AIOIC, he has worked in juvenile justice, ex-offender, employment and education programs addressing the issues the Indian community faces. Since 2003, Iron Moccasin has been the Forum’s guide for addressing the issues of displaced communities, the Native community and youth education and employment. He is the go-to person to get things done, whether moving crowds of people or multiple heavy boxes.

Registration is still open for the conference, including the diversity awards luncheon. Participants can choose to attend either the full three-day conference from March 20-22, 2012, or single conference days. Special rates for travel and accommodations are available. For more information and to register, visit


General Topics

Changing the Game: Innovative Strategies For Harnessing the Power of Female Talent

By Trudy Bourgeois, president and CEO, The Center for Workforce Excellence

The first question that may come to mind when we read this title is:  WHY?  Why change the game?  Why now?  Why women?

The answer to those questions is based on boatloads of research and factual data surrounding us today.  Research found in the book by Bridget Brennan entitled, Why She Buys, reports that women in America make over 80% of the buying decisions and spend approximately $5 trillion annually – over half the U.S. GDP. In addition, in 2010 women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history.  For every two men that got a college diploma last year, three women did the same. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women now hold 51.4% of managerial and professional jobs—up from 26.1% in 1980. They make up 54% of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America’s physicians are now women, as are 45% of associates in law firms—and both those percentages are rising quickly.

In addition, research proves that organizations that are intentional about building a workforce from top to bottom that reflect the face of the consumer (the majority of which are women as we saw above) are more profitable.

A recent Pepperdine study ( tracked the performance of Fortune 500 companies with a strong record of promoting women to the executive suite and compared their performance to that of other firms in the same industries.  The results were astounding.  For every year between 2001-2007, the companies identified as being the best at promoting women outperformed the industry median on all three profitability measures  (i.e. overall profits 34% higher when calculated for revenue, 18% higher in terms of assets and 69% higher in regard to equity).  Furthermore, the 10 firms with the very best records of promoting women showed greater profit results than the firms that were merely very good.

After studying these facts, the question in our minds must now be:  HOW CAN WE?

HOW CAN WE harness the representative power and value that women bring to the equation?   HOW CAN WE authenticate gender talent management strategies and thrive in today’s global business world by fully leveraging the majority workforce available to us?  HOW CAN WE experience greater profit results by doing so?

Join me for a highly-interactive and fast-paced session on March 21st from 10:15-11:45 a.m. as I share insights and in-the-trenches strategies on HOW TO harness female talent – and fully reap the results of doing so.

My featured guest will be the Chief Diversity Officer of General Mills, Kenneth Charles.  General Mills is a 2011 recipient of the cherished ‘Best Places to Work’ award.  They are a leading global company that is achieving breakout results because they have been intentional about deploying meaningful talent management strategies.  This includes being deliberate about leveraging their female talent.

Come collaborate and learn how your organization can build new talent management strategies that are guaranteed to create newfound success.

A Time for Innovation, General Topics

T-minus one month: Making the case for the 2012 Multicultural Forum

By Sue Plaster, M.Ed., Owner, Sue Plaster Consulting

The 2012 Multicultural Forum for Workplace Diversity is now six weeks away. Have you registered, or are you still working on how you’ll approach your supervisor to ask for the money and time to attend?

I’ve worked in both corporate and nonprofit settings and know how recession and budget problems can make conference attendance seem “nice to” rather than “must do.”

Some thoughts for you if you are making your case this week for Forum attendance:

  • Make use of the Forum’s program tracks to plan your attendance. Think about your organization’s needs, as well as those of the clients and ERGs you work with. Crossing over tracks may be your best strategy, based on your needs profile.
  • Dig into not just the keynote speakers, but Institute and workshop presenters. Read their program descriptions and bios. Once you get the go-ahead to attend, you may want to contact a couple of speakers to arrange to meet them while at the Forum. Build even stronger connections in our field by seizing the opportunity.
  • Maybe you can’t attend every session you want to.:)  Find a colleague from your organization or another one, arrange which sessions you will attend, and brief one other in person afterward. Speaker handouts are often available in session or on the Forum Website.  Your supervisor will be able to see that you are getting greater value out of your ticket by “super-attending” the Forum.
  • Create your “share plan.” How will you personally ensure that what happens at the Forum doesn’t stay at the Forum?  Create your list of those with whom you can share key insights, data, tools and inspiration from the Forum. Plan how you will share so it is meaningful and timely for them. When is the next meeting of your Diversity Council or ERGs, or your HR department?  How many people can you reach? What channels will work best for them?
  • Don’t forget your supervisor. Find a way to distill a “Best of the Forum” package for your supervisor in whatever medium she or he will find most useful.  Make it easy for your supervisor to see the value of your attendance by sharing the value.  One of my staff members briefed me thoroughly, with handouts, after attending major national conference. We both gained from her attendance.
  • With your supervisor’s support, you may also prepare an “executive briefing” for leaders and diversity sponsors in your organization, to share a few key insights from the Forum and tell what impact they had on you or what they could mean for your organization.

Have I helped you prepare for your conversation about your Forum registration? Post your reactions or questions, or email me at  I am excited to be presenting at 3:30-5:00 on Thursday, March 22 in Session W6G.  Our topic is “Creating Space for That Learning ‘Moment’:  A Practicum for Diversity Educators.” Our attention will be on one of the most exciting and fulfilling aspects of diversity work:  facilitating and leading diversity education.

Can’t wait to meet you at the Forum!

Sue Plaster

Register today at

General Topics

What About the White Guys? Five Reasons to Engage White Men/Five Risks If You Don’t

 By Chuck Shelton, Author, Leadership 101 For White Men & Managing Director, Greatheart Leader Labs

White male leadership development is emerging as an area for significant innovation through global diversity and inclusion (D&I). The basic facts:

  • 32 million white men hold leadership jobs worldwide
  • the percentage of white men increases with leadership level
  • many white guys feel excluded by diversity and inclusion, and they tend not to include themselves.

So it is useful to consider the reasons and risks behind white male engagement.

1. Position Power

Trends in population, education, and recruitment now produce diverse and rising talent. Yet white male executives are still the norm, and for many years they will continue to lead at senior levels beyond their proportion in the population. The obvious strategy: equip white men who lead to succeed through global diversity and inclusion. The risk in not doing so: self-marginalization, from weak bridging to leaders with position power.

2. Inclusion with Integrity

When  “inclusion” was added to “diversity” as the common label for our efforts, a powerful promise was turned loose – the idea that everyone is in. While white male privilege still exists, the future of white men will not be as well arranged as their past. Integrity requires the commitment to seek 100% involvement from the white guys. The risk in not doing so: the distrust of white men, when inclusion excludes them.

3. Growing Allies

Many white male allies travel a common D&I journey, passing from resistance to intrigue to self-interest to support to sponsorship to mutuality. These champions partner with diverse colleagues to move D&I forward, and the white guys who wonder what’s in diversity for them closely watch the white men who have figured that out. The risk in under-investing in such allies: white male resistance continues to limit D&I traction and results.

4. Funded Credibility

Every business unit must wield a defensible value proposition to hold its own during budget decisions. Simply put, D&I budgets can thrive when:

  • Inclusion effectively includes white guys, who are many of the decision makers
  • D&I leaders hone the return on investing in diversity with business unit leaders
  • Diversity is measurably aligned with business strategy

The credible ROI secures funding. The risk of a questionable ROI: a languishing budget.

5. Competitive Advantage

In 2022 we will assure emerging leaders that, yes, in 2012 it was not commonly understood that white guys are not only included in diversity and inclusion, but they will contribute uniquely to its value. My firm now has two corporate clients who must not be named (but not in the same way as Voldemort), because these companies intend to invest in white male leadership development to win the battle for global talent and market share. The risk in not including white men: squandering the opportunity for a key competitive advantage in human capital and organizational success.

What about the white guys? There’s good news as we include them: new power, integrity, allies, funding, and a competitive advantage to boot. Such inclusion is a very powerful commitment.

General Topics

Supporting Persons With Disabilities in the Workplace: The Why is Important but the How is Critical

Nadine O. Vogel, President, Springboard Consulting LLC

When it comes to supporting persons with disabilities, the largest and fastest growing minority segment in the world, in today’s corporate workplaces, today’s CEO’s are looking to their Diversity executives to take the lead in the mitigation of risk along-side the enhancement of productivity, retention and related profitability. Although understanding the ever-changing legislative requirements of the EEOC, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the OFCCP, Office of Contract Compliance Programs for U.S. Federal Contractors is important, it’s the practical applications and best practices of such applications that are critical to effectively and sustainably supporting this segment in a way that positively impacts business results.

Initiatives such as those listed below have become best practices for those employers desiring to become an Employer of Choice for this population, now the largest and fastest growing minority in the world–cut.

1.    The identification and removal of physical barriers via the use of a Barrier Assessment Survey.

2.    Making reasonable accommodations fair and equitable across the footprint of an organization by establishing a Reasonable Accommodation Committee.  Such a multi-touchpoint committee includes a documented, consistent process of protocols, time-limits, resources, etc.  Once established, its success is ensured via enterprise-wide communication and training on its’ use.

3.    The establishment of a disability employee resources group with a stated mission, vision, objectives and activities that are directly tied to business goals and objectives rather than established as a company sponsored support or networking group.

4.    The delivery of enterprise-wide disability etiquette & awareness training relative to the communication and engagement of candidates, employees and customers with disabilities.  This initiative has become a number one global best practice when delivered from a social justice perspective, utilizing everyday examples across the spectrum of disabilities.

Many more examples of the “how”, those practical applications and best practices to support this large, loyal segment will be discussed in the live session at the Forum so mark your calendar now as it will be a session you will not want to miss.

Nadine Vogel is President of Springboard Consulting LLC.  Springboard ( and is considered a global expert; working with multinational corporations to mainstream disability in the workforce, workplace and marketplace. Nadine is also the author of DIVE IN, Springboard into the Profitability, Productivity and Potential of the Special Needs Workforce. 

General Topics

How to Reduce the Education and Attainment Gap for Hispanic Students and Employees

By Mariela Dabbah, author and founder and CEO of Latinos in College

I often hear educators say that Hispanic parents are not involved in their children’s education and that’s why they don’t go to college. Corporate executives frequently make a similar comment — Hispanic employees are not interested in advancing in their careers as much as others. On the other hand, I also often hear Hispanic parents say that their children are not afforded the same chances as other students, and I hear Hispanic employees complain about not being offered the same opportunities for advancement as other groups.  What gives?

It’s hard to change attitudes when you keep looking at a problem through the same lens you’ve always used. The truth is that all groups could use new distinctions (definitions of concepts that enable them to see things they couldn’t see before) to understand what’s happening and to make appropriate adjustments to get better results for everyone involved.

If you consider that everyone sees the world through the distinctions they have, then not having distinctions in a particular area will limit your ability to act in that area. For instance, if parents and students don’t have distinctions for acronyms such as SAT, ACT, AP, GPA and IB, they won’t hear these acronyms when guidance counselors or teachers mention them. Unless somebody specifically defines for them the meaning of these acronyms and their importance in the students’ future, it is unlikely that the students will be prepared to apply to college when the time comes. When schools assume that parents and students know things they truly don’t, the schools fail to make distinctions that would enable these parents and students to act in ways that would produce positive results.  When educators assume that, because parents don’t show up for parent-teacher conferences they don’t care about their child’s education, these educators act according to their assumption and very likely stop caring about that student.

But if educators were to realize that Hispanic parents are involved with their children in different ways – through providing good moral values, a strong work ethic, family stability, a strong culture and tradition – educators might begin to work with parents and their children differently. If guidance counselors understood that not all Hispanic students want to go to a local community college or need to contribute financially at home, and that those who are academically talented might be better off financially attending a four-year private school, they would start suggesting options to seniors that they tend to offer only to more affluent students. This change of attitude in turn would produce better results in terms of parent involvement and college readiness.

Something similar happens when companies look to develop their professional pipeline.  When corporations ignore the fact that Hispanics tend to be first generation college graduates and the first in their families to work in a corporate environment, they fail to offer customized scholarship and internship programs to support them. By not connecting these young people with mentors who can guide them through the unwritten rules of their organizations, they miss the opportunity to retain and promote top talent.  These are people who may be a bit rough around the edges because of the environment in which they were raised, but they can become loyal employees who contribute greatly with only a small effort from the corporation.  And this effort will result in much greater diversity at senior levels in the organization.

Acquiring valuable cultural distinctions that enable educators and corporations to adapt their programs and advice to Hispanic students and employees is a very effective way to reduce the performance and attainment gap. The key is that in order for things to change, both sides need to commit to changing the lens through which they see the other.  Strive to learn as much about the Hispanic community as possible so you can avoid letting your personal filters get in the way and you can provide the appropriate guidance to those who are not yet well versed with the education system and the corporate environment.

Mariela Dabbah is an award winning best selling author of several books that help Latinos succeed through education and empowerment. Some of her titles are Latinos in College: Your Guide to Success, and The Latino Advantage in the Workplace. Her new book Poder de Mujer (Woman Power) comes out March 6. She’s also the founder and CEO of Latinos in College.