Monthly Archives: April 2010

Random Thought: Inclusion

Joe Gerstandt over at the Time to Act blog poses a great question about how inclusive organizations think they are. Put simply – is there a gap between the rhetoric a company espouses and the reality of what it does? Joe provides a nice overview of how an organization can self-assess their inclusion efforts.

It got me thinking about how this differs from an organization’s diversity efforts. Here are my thoughts: inclusion suggests a feeling of taking responsibility rather than the expectation of being included based on your ethnicity, gender, race, religion, or orientation. I see inclusion as the opportunity and potential of everyone who are able to demonstrate their skills and abilities. This perspective in turn helps organizations nurture the next generation of leaders that come from different backgrounds and experiences – many who would otherwise not be on leadership’s radar screen. Inclusion is about opportunity.

The Economic/Immigration Reality Gap

As illustrated by the latest economic issues facing the United States, we see how economic policy and perspectives are playing an increasing role in public discussions regarding many issues. Educators, business people, and legislators often use economics as a way to explain the impact and effectiveness of a particular policy. However, this economic perspective is often not used when it comes to immigration policy. Immigration is often a topic directed more by fallacy than facts – more by political rhetoric than practical discussions.

Case in point the latest study by the Fiscal Policy Institute which reports that “immigrants are by no means all low-wage workers in the 25 largest metropolitan areas…”  The study conveys that “in many metro areas, there are more higher-skilled immigrants than there are lower-skilled. Surprisingly, these are not the metro areas with the most economic growth; rather, they are areas with low overall immigration, including Pittsburgh, Detroit, and St. Louis.” The New York Times discusses the study as well sharing that “…cities with thriving immigrant populations — with high-earning and lower-wage workers — tended to be those that prospered the most.”

Those informed about the economic impact of immigration would argue that those opposed to increased immigration have an economic self-interest. Ironically, even our political leaders fall short in applying basic economic theory to their analysis and review of current immigration policy.  I understand there are valid arguments in favor of restrictive immigration laws, and I appreciate them, especially those dealing with national security. However, reports like these consistently demonstrate that the so-called negative economic impact of immigration is vague and unproven – and that the benefits of a practical and well developed immigration policy are proven and substantiated.

Thoughts on Media Diversity

Sometimes looking at an issue at the micro-level provides the same insight as looking at the same issue from a broader perspective. Over the last couple days, I’ve noted more blogs and articles regarding the lack of diversity in media and newsrooms. While I tend to focus on the broader aspects of the Hispanic workforce, it was eye opening to note the lack of diverse voices within an industry that provides our country with its news and information. Why is this important?

The way the media operate, content, the images they produce, and the influence they exert can significantly affect social perspectives. The lack of diverse voices leads to the potential mischaracterization, distortion, or labeling of people of color. Cursory research on my part shows that Hispanics and other minorities were shut out of during the beginnings of newspaper, radio, and later TV media industries. The disparity was so great, it led minorities to create their own media companies, hence the rise of many successful minority-owned media businesses today. Yet, despite the growth of ethnic media giants, disparities in the general media still exist.

According to the American Society of News Editors, for example, the number of full-time minority journalists dropped during 2009-2009 dropped from 6,300 to 5,500, a decrease of 12.6 percent. And while this is only one example, the disparities and significance found within one industry can most likely be applied to many others: banking, technology, engineering, or science. With an ever increasing diverse population, many industries are reaching a crossroads and an unprecedented opportunity – and frankly a responsibility – to become more inclusive and representative of the society they serve.

The Broken Pipeline

For your review, a study which discusses the differences between the careers of men and women. Great content includes a revealing look at how despite the rise of diversity and inclusion programs, inequality is still a huge factor in the workplace. While this report focuses on gender, much of the findings are easily applicable to Hispanics and other minorities that face the same challenges outlined in the study. As the report shares, this study should serve as a wake up call to CEO’s and other senior leaders regarding the current state of the corporate workplace.

Number of the Day: $4,600

How much less did women make than men in their first post-MBA job – $4,600. And before you argue it’s related to starting job level or industry – a recent study controls for these factors. In short – the study demonstrates that women are simply paid less than men. Inequality.

Time to Pass the DREAM Act

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act is proposed legislation that addresses a common issue faced by people who were brought to the United States years ago as undocumented immigrant children, grown up, and still attend school. Many of these students are graduating from high school and eligible for college but find themselves without an opportunity to apply for financial aid or scholarships. Many of these students arealso  honors program participants, talented artists, and potential teachers, doctors, and entrepreneurs. Yet, many of these bright minds face the challenges of not being able to attend college and/or work legally in the United States. Unfortunately, the current immigration laws do not address any of these issues; however, the DREAM Act would provide a path to allow these students to thrive and contribute to our society. Find out more about the DREAM Act here.

On Non-Traditional Students & Higher Ed

This an interesting article about how colleges and universities are increasing access to “non-traditional” students but are not in essence changing their internal support structures to help college students graduate. It got me thinking about colleges in general and how they’ve changed (or not changed) to meet the needs of broader society. The article highlights the term “non-traditional student” which has really become the new normal: non-traditional is traditional. Most college students, especially Hispanic college students, begin their college careers carrying other responsibilities: work, family, homes, etc. Yet, what the article aptly points out is that some colleges and universities still work under the same bureaucratic paradigm:

In other words, yesterday’s “non-traditional student” is today’s traditional student. However, with only a few exceptions, higher education looks and feels exactly as it did 100 years ago.

One of the most important challenges facing organizations today is developing the capacity to change themselves. This includes breaking down the processes and structures that inhibit the process of transformation to occur. In a higher education setting, transformation begins by questioning bureaucratic frameworks and appreciating the growing importance of engaging the external environment. A more diverse and knowledge-based economy requires colleges and universities to be driven by the needs of the societies they serve. In short, the question is not if higher education will change, but rather how it should change.

Traditional colleges and universities have dominated the conferment of advanced education degrees; however, changing market (student) demands and technological advances have impacted this long held fact. Technology has expanded the reach of higher education and eliminated the physical barriers that impeded multitudes of students. Competition from private and for-profit institutions has emerged to serve these once overlooked student constituencies. These and other factors are driving higher education to reexamine their classical management structures and adapt to their changing external environment – especially their “new” traditional student.

Is Your Organization Ahead of the Diversity Curve?

A more diverse population means organizations must re-examine their diversity strategies, especially if they’re interested in reaching the Hispanic workforce. Trends in recruiting demonstrate that organizations are changing their approach to attracting and retaining employees based on the needs of a more diverse multi-cultural workforce. And while many organizations are looking ahead changing toward multi-cultural recruiting approaches, many are still engrained in traditional strategies to attract top Hispanic talent. How can forward looking companies be ready to take advantage of the new Hispanic workforce? Here are three broad strategies organizations can use to get started:

1) Is Your Organization Ready to be Culturally Intelligent?

How is your organization perceived by potential Hispanic employees? What is the perception of your organization, for example, at colleges and universities? Gauging and understanding perception vs. reality is an important first step in attracting top entry-level Hispanic graduates. Once you’ve identified potential gaps, get organization executives to step up and get on board to drive the need for change in your recruitment approach. Be ready to articulate the business case for a multi-cultural recruiting strategy.

2) Are You Structurally Ready? 

Be ready what you wish for…. and be ready for success. Once you’ve secured support from your organization, are your recruitment and retention programs ready to manage the influx of professional Hispanic employees? Review your current employee programs to assure they’re culturally responsive and are developed with a more diverse employee-base in mind. If you have an established college recruitment program, is it aligned with your commitment to increasing your Hispanic recruitment efforts? Are you partnering with Hispanic oriented colleges, organizations, and other associations?

3) Are You Thinking Inclusivity?

Once you get this new multi-cultural approach rolling, also build an organizational culture that appreciates inclusiveness based on ethnicity, culture, age, and other factors. Be aware that employees (new and long-standing) are constantly monitoring and evaluating the organization/employee relationship to assure there’s a mutual fit. From a Hispanic perspective, this means leveraging community relationships for recruitment purposes and providing professional developmental opportunities.

True Heroes Remain Under the Radar

The Washington Post has a great article on Maria Tukeva, Principal at Columbia Heights Educational Campus, formerly Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington D.C. The story provides a wonderful overview of Ms. Tukeva’s efforts at this inner-city school, and more importantly, how her leadership approach sets positive expectations for her school’s students. What’s most impressive is this:

The portfolio project is just one of the programs Tukeva has implemented over the years to shape the school into a cross-cultural institution known for transforming poor minority students and non-English speaking immigrants from El Salvador, Ethiopia, Vietnam and about 50 other countries into scholars. Nine out of 10 seniors from the school are accepted into college.

Despite these accomplishments, Tukeva remains “under the radar” remaining focused on the daily needs of her school. While it would be easy to bask in the glow of her accomplishments, she remains committed to her passion. An example of a true educational leader and hero.