I was working with a large Fortune 500 company considered to be one of the diversity and inclusion leaders. The CEO was championing diversity. He had all the right policies and procedures in place. Senior management was more diverse. Culture at that level was starting to change. A young African-American man pulled me aside to talk. He said he was the only black person in his work group. He several of the other team members telling racist jokes, and had asked him if he was an affirmative action hire. His manager said he was just being sensitive and that was the other employees’ way of “including him.” His manager, told me that she supported diversity and inclusion but not people ‘whining about it”.
During one of the case studies that involved a Native American man, a group of managers decided that they would paint their faces “for realism”. They had a hard time understanding why that would be offensive. In the room with 25 white managers they also complained that people of color were taking their jobs.
A company that got high marks on LGBT Inclusion policies, a woman told me she didn’t feel safe with people knowing she was a lesbian.. She told me that where she worked, the other employees hadn’t gotten the news that it was ok to be a lesbian in the organization. Her manager was very uncomfortable with any discussion about LGBT equality, same-sex marriage or condemning homophobic remarks.
Some people think there is a big gap between what their organization says about diversity and what their organization actually does. In other words their organization doesn’t walk the talk.
If this sounds like any part of your organization, don’t sit by silently. Voice your concerns to people at the highest level that say they support diversity, inclusion and equality in the organization. Instead of just talking, ask what you can to do influence the culture and develop working relationships with other people who want the same. From the highest level to the lowest, people need to work together to make diversity and inclusion real and move it from the world of just quarterly “lunch and learns,” that move nowhere.
Simma Lieberman is a Diversity and Inclusion strategy consultant, speaker and coach with a serious sense of humor. Invite her to speak at your next conference, meeting or event. Simma@simmalieberman.com or 510-527-0700.