Whatever your thoughts are on Hillary Clinton, her nomination for President of the United States by a major political party is a powerful piece in history. While research shows that women compete equally with men on the political playing field, we’re now watching a female candidate compete for the highest position in the country for the first time.
What makes this so powerful?
Most of us have some personal understanding that positively representing different types of people in our media, politics, and workplaces is a good thing. When we nominate a woman for president, we prove to the ambitious school girl that a future as our country’s leader can be real for her. When Laverne Cox takes a public platform, we tell transgendered people that their conversations are not only valid, but important and valuable to us as a society. And when our companies have strong workers and leaders who come from diverse backgrounds, we send the message that success is not limited to one specific type of person. Not only does representation empower those who have traditionally been denied a voice, it encourages all of us to learn about people we might not understand, or who are different from us.
And in an increasingly global world and economy, learning from and communicating with people who are different from us is by no means logistically difficult. It’s also proven to make us better workers, communicators, and teams.
When we look at the benefits of workplace diversity, it becomes clear how much representation really matters. A 2012 study by Dow Jones compared gender makeup of leadership in successful and unsuccessful companies, finding that a higher percentage of women in senior executive roles was tied to greater financial success. A McKinsey analysis found that companies with greater gender diversity were 15% more likely to outperform more homogenous companies, and those with greater ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to outperform. If we apply these statistics to any one of our organizations, our organizations come out stronger – and smarter.
Different Perspectives Make Innovative Teams
The fact of the matter is, pairing diversity of expertise with social diversity makes for diversity of information: creative thinking, stronger problem solving, nuanced decision-making, and perspectives capable of unearthing opportunities that might never have seen the light of day. If you want an innovative team, you need those perspectives. If you want to continue attracting – and keeping – the best talent, it’s not about filling a quota, although those targets may be in place. It’s about knowing what qualities you need and when you need them, and then considering ALL of your best candidates for both their skills and the valuable perspectives they bring to the table. And it’s about letting those candidates use their voice.
As a leader, you have the unique opportunity to not only build up diverse, qualified teams, but to give your organization the competitive advantage in our increasingly global world. The decisions you make in hiring, promoting, and utilizing your employees’ skillsets and knowledge not only go a long way in promoting dignity and respect, they put you in a position of promoting truly successful business.
These decisions always begin with dignity and respect, which encourage us to seek out and recognize the ability and potential in those you bring into your organization. If you’d like to learn more about the importance of representation and diversity in the workplace and how to Lead the Way, we offer workshops for leaders with these goals. The sharp, innovative organizations of the future are only possible when ALL of our differences are taken into consideration – and when the minds we seek to hire someday can see themselves in the shoes of someone who is already there.
Another day, another news story flashed across the TV screen. The computer screen. The phone screen. Through technology, the world is with us more than ever before.
On one hand, this connectedness is crucial. Widespread publication of violent and unjust acts can help show what patterns of violence exist, or how inconsistencies occur in receiving justice. Violence and prejudice that were once brushed under the rug are now being brought to light. On the other hand, technology’s role in displaying this evidence across our news feeds can make bad news feel overwhelming, even inescapable. And it is hard to know what we can do, individually and as organizations, to make a change.
Finding Common Ground
We can start to work towards change by finding common ground. Each of us feels a different level of personal hurt and degree of responsibility to the violent events we see played out across the news. Even though no one processes the world in the same way – we each have unique lenses and filters dictated by our personal experiences – every one of us is still processing. By learning about and understanding the lenses and filters that others process the events through, we can develop a richer understanding of why people feel and act in certain ways. While this may not explain the causes of violence, it can certainly help to explain the varied reactions people take, and help us all find ways to grieve and heal as a community.
As a human resources team member, executive, or business owner, you know that the shock and emotional reactions to community violence don’t always stay at home. The tools we use as individuals to piece through those emotions are hugely valuable in the workplace, where diverse minds have the potential to come together for good. Coming together doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing, but it does mean providing space for discussion, learning, and listening. Not only do these things promote positive change, they promote a safe, caring, and productive work environment for all. So how can you, as a leader, facilitate individual and organizational healing following an episode of community violence?
Help Your Organization:
- Listen. Help others to see listening and gaining awareness of new viewpoints as a crucial learning tool.
- Promote honest sharing. Encourage team members to be honest about how events affect them, or how they don’t.
- Reiterate that it is not one person’s responsibility to question the validity of another person’s experience, particularly if that person feels hurt.
- Stress to your team that recognizing each other’s differences is a strength. It is a way to understand how to work with one another for the good of each person and for the good of the group.
- Designate spaces appropriate for conversation. As a leader, determine how to facilitate, or whether facilitation is necessary.
- As appropriate, provide resources or resource outlets for further education.
From the Workplace to the World
Finding common ground isn’t accomplished without difficulty. But if we can agree that the solution to injustices is to respect one another and find where our values overlap, we are one step closer to achieving dignity and respect for all – in the world, in the home, and in the workplace.
Every news catch-up and Internet search is a reminder that there is work to be done – so much of it.
But each of us is in a position to respond, help ourselves, and help our fellow citizens heal and become stronger. As a leader, you have the unique power to promote these skills and values that benefit more than just your organization. Do your part. Learn from your colleagues and help them to learn from each other. Healing begins with you.
When breaking stories go viral and flood both news outlets and social media, our first reaction is usually to form an opinion. We read about the situation and often pick a side, maybe even by sharing our beliefs across our own feeds. The wonder of the Internet is that we can engage in heated debates using hashtags and memes. We’re free to share and defend whatever stance we want.
But what happens if these heated news stories leak into the workplace? Are we free to share our beliefs there? How do we talk about these issues?
The World We Live & Work In
When it comes to how each one of us sees the world, we all have different filters that are dictated by our personal experiences. According to D&R Founder and CEO, Candi Castleberry Singleton, these filters are “the lenses with which we see the world.”
“I see the world through my life experiences,” she explains. “In fact, some of these experiences aren’t even my own – they’re stories that my parents told me, they’re things I’ve seen on the news. They might not even be a real example of what happened if I were in that situation.”
Our filters are unavoidable, and are particularly important to be mindful of in a work environment, where conflicts can easily arise. And even though differences in opinion or lifestyle should not affect the workplace, they very often do. In fact, according to one study by Accenture, a shocking 35% of employees are dissatisfied at work due to internal politics.
What You Can Do
For business owners, executives, or human resource team members, it’s crucial to ensure that your workplace is a positive one. Things like employees’ ethnic and cultural differences, age gaps, and lifestyles can easily affect how individuals relate to one another. Creating a space where your employees can communicate respectfully is key to maintaining a healthy environment.
The Dignity & Respect Campaign believes that differences – particularly in the workplace – are only barriers if we allow them to be. As Candi says, “It’s a choice we get to make, that I’m going to allow your difference to be a problem.” When we choose respect over conflict, we make the world we live in a better place.
And because D&R is about creating a world a better place for all to live, we want to help you get your organizations and businesses on track. Using our various solutions, we teach individuals to find common ground, build cultural awareness, and to learn to work with others through their differences.
To learn more, contact our Campaign Manager for more information. Also, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to continue receiving information on the Dignity & Respect Campaign!
For the month of June, the Dignity & Respect Campaign has focused one of our initiatives on LGBT teenagers. We’ve developed both reading lists and discussion guides in order to better understand how we as a community can reduce bullying and make the world a better place for this population to live in.
However, our nation was recently shaken by the devastating tragedy in Orlando – a shooting that killed nearly 50 individuals in a gay nightclub. In the wake of such an occurrence, it’s easy to be met with a range of emotions. All across social media, people from varying backgrounds are posting and sharing their diverse beliefs and feelings about the matter – everything from stances on Islamophobia to the ever-controversial matter of gun control.
But regardless of the issues that have arisen from this event, one thing is very clear: now, more than ever, we as a country need to focus on how to treat one another with dignity and respect. We need to remember that our differences are only barriers if we allow them to be.
So in the spirit of removing barriers, we feel that one of the best ways we as a campaign can honor the victims of Orlando and the LGBT community as a whole is to continue talking about it. We recently interviewed Alison Taverna, a young, up-and-coming writer who is a member of the LGBT community and writes frequently on the topic. Taverna is from Massachusetts and was gracious enough to talk to D&R about her experiences as a teenager and coming to terms with her identity:
D&R: What was it like growing up as an LGBT teen? What were some of your struggles?
AT: I never considered myself an LGBT teen. I didn’t come out until I turned 19 and was attending an all-women’s liberal arts college in a city far away from my own. I grew up in a small farm town about forty minutes west of Boston; the Charles River trickled through the back woods, and that was about the extent of any real movement I ever saw. I didn’t identify as gay because I didn’t have the space to, but the real problem was I didn’t know I didn’t have the space to. The summer before my junior year of high school, I traveled to D.C. for a ten-day leadership conference. It was the first time I had ever been on my own. My roommate came from Texas and brought with her a stuffed animal. I remember teasing her about it, asking, “Did your boyfriend give that to you?” over and over until finally she said, “No, my girlfriend did.” That was the moment I realized I was perpetuating this assumption of a heteronormative life that, if I was being honest, wasn’t something I even believed in. After that summer I really started being skeptical of what I thought and who was making me think that way.
D&R: Did you have any role models during the time? Who and why?
AT: I wrote letters to that same D.C. roommate for over a year after we went back to our respective towns across the country. We never talked about my sexuality outright, but we talked about hers and I was quick to ask questions about her girlfriends, the hard conversations she had with her mother, and gay pop culture. Looking back now, those letters are what got me here. I never saw her as an LGBT role model; I saw her as a [fellow] kid struggling to grow up. But at the same time, I knew she was free in a way I wasn’t. And in her I saw a life where I could be open and my friends didn’t become afraid of me, my parents would still keep me, and I’d be able to be a bold voice in a community I cared about.
D&R: What resources could have benefited you as an LGBT teen?
AT: Any type of public immersion into the LGBT culture. I would have loved to see some LGBT writers or artists come into our school to lead workshops, do readings, or have a conversation. I remember sitting in dark auditoriums where people talked at us from a stage about drunk driving and drugs. But what would have happened if we turned on the lights? If we sat facing each other? I needed successful, unapologetic, talented members of the LGBT community in the classroom. I needed teachers who taught about the worldwide persecution of human beings because of their sexual and gender orientation. We needed a Gay-Straight Alliance, a gender neutral bathroom, a higher level of policing those students who spat insanely ignorant comments based in hate.
D&R: What do you wish someone would have told you growing up?
AT: I wish someone would have told me being “other” can be a gift. I have to fight every day to continue being a person many people, often openly, reject. I think when you fight for who you are that ruthlessly you validate your life. And at the root of that validation has to be the idea that breathes you are worth it. I spend most of my days standing in front of a classroom, a classroom that looks almost identical to the ones I sat in when I was 16, and I know what I represent now. I know what people think when they look at me. I’m at a place in my life where it feels like the most important thing I can do is to keep standing there. Without shame. Because I know so many people didn’t and won’t get that opportunity. And man, I wish someone would have told me how beautiful my skin could feel standing like that.
For more information on Alison Taverna’s latest book of poems, please click here. And to learn how your organization can take active steps to better include and interact with the LGBT community, contact our Campaign Manager to learn what D&R can do for you.
The unemployment rate in the United States might still feel like a major concern to many Americans, but perhaps especially so for those with disabilities. People who have disabilities are employed at a significantly lower rate- 12.5%, in fact, compared to the 5.9% unemployment rate of those with no disabilities.
This much lower rate of employment is likely due to a combination of factors, but one thing is certain: many employers are hesitant to hire people with disabilities. In the eyes of the average business owner or CEO, employees with disabilities can mean additional costs due to laws that protect those with disabilities in the workplace. But what exactly do these laws dictate, and how do they affect business owners?
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (also known as ADA, or the Rehabilitation Act) prohibits employers from treating people with disabilities differently, or less favorably, from other staff members. It also requires employers to provide adequate accommodation to any employees who have disabilities. These accommodations can include anything from work environments to equipment, but can also encompass removing policies that create barriers for these individuals.
The ADA does exclude certain businesses from its legislation, but only if they meet certain criteria, like if accommodating a person with a disability would place an excessive difficulty or expense on the employer.
Additionally, the ADA prohibits discrimination when it comes to hiring decisions. Potential candidates who have disabilities must be given equal opportunity to able-bodied candidates.
What Disabilities in the Workplace Actually Means
It’s likely that because of the ADA, business owners worry about hiring employees with disabilities because of potential costs. And just because a law is in place to prevent discrimination doesn’t mean that employers aren’t still hesitant about people with disabilities in the workplace. However, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, hiring those with disabilities is actually good for a business’ bottom line. In fact, employers who hired and met the needs of employees who had disabilities reported benefits such as retaining valuable employees, improving the company’s productivity and overall morale, and even reducing both workers’ compensation and training costs. As Judy Owen, co-founder and COO of Opportunity Works, Inc., explains: “The report also found that other accommodations had an average cost of $500. How much is that cost compared to the cost of employee turnover? It is clearly much less expensive to provide the accommodation than to have an employee leave.”
What Business Owners Can Do
As a manager, business owner, or member of an organization’s executive team, it’s your job to ensure that the workplace you lead is an environment in which ALL of your employees can work together- with ALL of their differences. Making accommodations for employees with disabilities not only sets a high standard for your organization, but it also has the potential to bring about rewarding and positive change in the workplace.
If you’re considering other ways to further incorporate dignity and respect in your work environments, be sure to contact our Campaign Manager for more information. We can provide various solutions- between training kits, workshops, and speaking engagements- to help bring together the individuals who make up your workplace, and build both trust and community.
No matter who is part of your team, differences are only barriers if we allow them to be. Learn more today!
You’re probably used to seeing handicapped parking spaces in front of stores and restaurants, or perhaps even familiar with the growing number of automatic doors into public buildings that are handicapped-accessible. And to someone who’s never had the experience of being disabled, these small conveniences might seem almost like a luxury. Did you know, however, that nearly one in five Americans has a disability – and that more than half of them identify it as severe?
For people who live with a disability, simple things like parking spaces and door buttons are not a convenience, but a necessity. Many disabled people struggle to do things like housework or even fixing meals. They often have difficulty lifting items like grocery bags or grasping a glass of water. But aside from overcoming physical challenges of daily life, many people with disabilities also suffer from discrimination.
What is Ableism?
The term ableism refers to the “practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities.” When we talk about ableism, we’re talking about not treating those with disabilities as whole people. Ableism assumes that able-bodied people are superior to anyone living with a disability.
If you’ve never heard this word before, you’re not alone. Unlike racism or sexism, which are two types of prejudices that are widely referenced and discussed, ableism is not as mainstream. Does this mean that ableist beliefs are not as harmful or negative? Absolutely not. Discrimination towards people with disabilities is just as damaging. And because ableism is not talked about as commonly as other inequalities, it may actually be harder to know when you are contributing towards ableist tendencies.
What Can You Do to Stop Ableism?
The world might be predominantly built for able-bodied individuals, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t simple ways to make a difference. Read on for a few easy ways to help do your part to stop ableism:
Watch what you say. It’s easy to brush off using certain words as “no big deal,” but to people living with a disability, these terms can be both disrespectful and hurtful. And maybe it’s a no-brainer that a word like retarded is not okay to use, but things like crazy or spaz or psycho also have harmful effects. Be sure to refrain from using any sort of language that targets someone with a disability (and for a helpful, more detailed guide – click here).
Be considerate. As an able-bodied person, you might forget that you have access to just about everywhere – and that someone with a disability might not. Places like handicapped bathroom stalls and the front seats of public transportation were put there for a reason. Though you might not be intentionally discriminating against people with disabilities, you are inadvertently doing just that by utilizing the resources there for them. So instead of taking the elevator and crowding it for someone who needs it, take the stairs or the escalator.
Always ask before assisting. One of the worst assumptions that an able-bodied person can make is that everyone with a disability is incapable of helping themselves. People living with disabilities know how to ask for help, and will when they need it. However, if you see someone who seems to be struggling, be sure to ask permission beforehand. Even if they decline, they will likely appreciate the gesture.
In addition to these simple ways to do your part to fight ableism, take the time to learn more about people who live with disabilities. Participate in the Dignity & Respect Campaign’s Building Cultural Awareness Initiative and download our discussion guide and reading list for this month. Ask yourself questions about living with a disability, such as how you talk about disabilities or who should be responsible for supporting disabled persons.
Remember: differences are only barriers if we allow them to be. Do your part and learn how you can help to make this world a better place – for ALL to live.
Imagine it: you work for an organization that you love and that pays you well. You love the team you work with and even though the work is grueling and difficult, you enjoy it immensely. You dedicate yourself to both the company and your peers. You rise in the morning ready for the day’s challenges and you go to sleep at night feeling fulfilled.
But then you learn that another team in your organization – who does the exact same work as yours – is getting paid more. Significantly more. In fact, you are compensated only a quarter of what the other team is.
What do you do? How do you react? Do you fight for equality?
The Harsh Truth
This scenario might sound outrageous, but it’s a reality for the players who make up the US women’s soccer team. Despite their global success (three World Cup championships and four Olympic championships, for instance), these women are paid less than half of what the members of the men’s team are paid. According to goalkeeper Hope Solo, the men’s players “get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
Some people might attempt to explain this wage gap by making the argument that the men’s US soccer team draws in more dollars than the women’s since typically, more people watch male-dominated sports. But in 1999, when the women played the World Cup in the United States, they set records for both attendance and viewership. Then last year, the final World Cup women’s match between the US and Japan was seen by 25.4 million viewers on Fox, which broke yet another record for a men’s or women’s soccer game. Additionally, just last year alone, the women’s team raised $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team did. So why the difference in wage?
Ladies Leading the Way
Because of the consistent wage disparity between the women and men soccer players, five women on the team filed a lawsuit on behalf of their entire team. They are charging U.S. Soccer, the sport’s governing body, for wage discrimination; their case has been submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Carli Lloyd, the team’s MVP at the World Cup, stated in an interview: “We have been quite patient over the years with the belief that the federation would do the right thing and compensate us fairly.” Now she and a few of her teammates are bringing the issue to the public’s attention in order to call out the U.S. Soccer federation for allowing the wage gap to persist.
How You Can Lead the Way
By stepping up and filing a complaint, the five players of the US women’s soccer team are serving as champions – not only for their fellow team members and for other professional women athletes, but also for women in general. On average, women in the United States to date still make around 78 cents for every dollar that a man earns. Only by rallying together to talk about these disparities can progress be achieved. One way to participate in this specific issue is to sign this petition to voice your support for the US women’s team.
But aside from wage gaps, what other discrepancies are present in the workplace? What other inequalities are worth confronting – and are you, as an organization, prepared to do it?
This is what the Dignity & Respect Campaign’s Lead the Way initiative is truly about – both challenging and recognizing organizations, institutions, and even communities who treat others with dignity and respect. To join this initiative, be sure to sign up for our newsletters and stay current with our monthly projects and objectives.
Your organization can help to make the world a better place. Start today.