Diversity Discussion Group Report

Meeting Details
This group meets the second Friday of the month thoughout the year, from 8:30 to 10:00a.m. Lila has facilitated this group for 15 years! The meetings are free and open to the public.

Location:  The NATURE CONSERVANCY.  The name of the building is River Parkway Place. 1101 West River Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55415. The LOON Conference room on the second floor. Please note that the elevators do not come to the 2nd floor until 8:30 AM, but you can wait in the lobby if you arrive early.
Parking:  Free off street parking is available in front of the building in the visitors’ lot.

If you cannot attend the meetings, you can still join the mailing list (of ~300 people). To view past group emails and join the mailing list to receive monthly meeting reminders and other valuable resources shared with this group, click here.

You may also register to receive my monthly Diversity Integration Newsletter and view archived newsletters here.

This group is co-sponsored by ATD-TCC and HRP-MN. For more information, contact Lila here or lila@lilakelly.com.

Often people have asked about my monthly Diversity Discussion Group meetings — about the meeting format, members, types of organizations, and topics of discussion. Here is a description of the meetings followed by a sampling of the many topics we have discussed over the years.

Meeting Format
Attendees discuss and share diversity-related topics and resources. Networking with others who are interested in this important topic is a major aspect of this group. The meeting atmosphere is informal. If we have late comers, we gladly pull additional chairs into the circle. The meetings begin (and sometimes ends) with moving around the circle of attendees with introductions. This may include an update on something they had shared with the group before, an upcoming diversity event or resource, and/or a question or topic that they would like discussed with the group. This format allows everyone a chance to speak, and small discussions take place during the introductions. Topics on a larger scale are tabled to discuss after the introductions, time permitting. Occasionally we have a short presentation and facilitated discussion on a specific diversity-related topic.

After each meeting, I am amazed at how much we actually discussed…which seems to unfold in my memory over the rest of the day and sometimes over the next several days. I feel enriched from hearing so many topics presented and the exchange of diverse perspectives in the ensuing discussions. This group has helped me keep my finger on the pulse of the diversity movement over the last many years.

Attendees’ Position Titles
Account Executive, Accountant, Assistant to the CEO, Attorney, Attorney/Mediator, Career Counselor, Chief Financial Officer, College Student, Consultant and Teacher of hip hop and graffiti art to urban youth, Customer Relations Manager, Customer Support Supervisor, Director, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee Member, D&I Coordinator, Diversity Consultant, Education Consultant, Employee Relations, Executive Communications Associate, General Manager, Government Relations Specialist, High School Student, HR and Diversity Consultant, HR Specialist, HR Professional, Leadership Consultant, OFCCP Compliance Officer, Program Director, Psychologist, Recruiter, Recruitment and Diversity Specialist, Recruitment and Outreach Manager, Sales Rep, Sign Language Instructor, Talent Acquisition Manager.

Types of Organizations at Meetings
Agricultural, Colleges and Universities, Corporations, Financial institutions, Healthcare, Internet job search company, K-12 school districts, Law Enforcement, National Guard, Nonprofits, State/county/city government, Retail, U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), and more.

Diversity Discussion Group Highlights

Topics of Diversity Discussion Group Highlights include:

  • Organizational Diversity Strategy
  • Definition of Diversity
  • Recruiting / Interviewing / Hiring
  • Changing Demographics
  • Sexual Violence and Diversity
  • Socio-Economic Diversity
  • White Race / Racism / White Men / Men
  • Other Diversity Topics
  • Longer Discussion Topic: Somali Man and White Woman Conflicts – Two Situations

Organizational Diversity Strategy
A women shared with the group the PROCESS SHE USED TO CHANGE THE TURNOVER RATE at her organization from 200% two years ago when she started to ~35% now. She works with a very diverse workforce. One thing she did was clarify four key competencies on which to focus in their hiring and performance management practices.

A Director at a non-profit organization recalled a time years ago when I shared with the group a 10-YEAR OLD DIVERSITY ASSESSMENT RESULTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REPORT for a diversity action plan. At that time, a member of the group said that the report was actually from his organization, that he was hired to develop recommendations such as those on the report, and that NOTHING has changed in the last 10 years there! The Director said that something similar to this recently happened to him at his organization.

Discussed COMPLIANCE VERSUS THE BUSINESS CASE FOR DIVERSITY and the focal points for diversity work.

Much of of the same type of diversity work can cross the lines between corporate, government, healthcare, education, and other fields.

A recent Gallup Poll that showed 70% OF WORKERS ARE NOT ACTIVELY ENGAGED and discussed generational diversity’s affect on it. http://businessjournal.gallup.com/content/162953/tackle-employees-stagnating-engagement.aspx

THEORY X and THEORY Y are theories of human motivation that describe two contrasting models of workforce motivation. With Theory X assumptions, management’s role is to coerce and control employees. With Theory Y assumptions, management’s role is to develop the potential in employees and help them to release that potential towards common goals.

The process of starting EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUPS (ERG) in one organization. One person asked whether a successful existing diversity group in his organization should be forced to become an ERG, even though the group wants to remain as they are.
DIVERSITY IS AN ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ISSUE. It touches everything. For example, to have effective diversity recruitment, organizations also need to integrate diversity into their hiring practices and retention strategies. Also diversity and inclusion efforts need to be supported by other policies, procedures, and practices in the organization. For example, interview questions should be based on accurate job descriptions and written and asked in an inclusive manner.

DIVERSITY JOB RESPONSIBILITIES: We discussed diversity jobs that exist now and how diversity has become a field of its own. 20 years ago, when several of us began doing this work, there were no positions with diversity in their title. Now there are diversity coordinators, specialists, recruiters, managers, directors and even Vice Presidents. What do people do in these jobs? What are the goals of these jobs exactly? Do organizations know the answers to these questions when they create these jobs? Who are mentoring people in these positions?

First we need to ask, WHY does the organization need this position? It should be clearly stated how exactly this position will help maximize organizational effectiveness.

We began to name some specific job functions, but that is when the discussion started falling apart….. Things were mentioned such as, “understand cultures and how to relate to them,” “understand Affirmative Action and work on the action steps related to that,” “identify and work to resolve diversity issues related to all aspects of dealing with customers of services and/or products,” “understand employee’s attitudes—from long-term white employees who may feel that new immigrants ‘should go back to where they came from’ to the new immigrant with different cultural values and beliefs trying to learn the work environment’s culture.”

Definition of Diversity

The MEANING OF THE WORD DIVERSITY. (This is discussed regularly during meetings and is being discussed in organizations across the country.)

If you narrowed it down to one word to describe how we use it, my word is “conflict.” If it is a diversity matter that needs addressing, there is a conflict present, and that is the level at which diversity needs to be addressed and resolved.
Another word that came up is “invalidated.”

Someone talked about the place we are from, e.g. Edina (a wealthy Minneapolis suburb) versus elsewhere as a form of diversity.

Recruiting / Interviewing / Hiring
HIRING PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN CONVICTED OF A FELON was discussed again. (Notice how I said that? I prefer to use person-first terminology instead of referring to individuals as “felons.”)

We discussed the discrimination they face, and that many employers reject an application as soon as they see a felony charge.
That there is some effort to remove the question about convictions from application forms.

Some companies do take the time to determine if the felony is job related, and if not, they will interview the applicant. [Two people from one company said that their company does this. However, another man at the meeting said that he applied at that company and was told they would not interview him because of a felony conviction (unrelated to the job). I believe this was valuable information for the other two people to hear.]

One man mentioned that there are two attorneys here in Minnesota that have taken up this cause, and that he has done some work with them.

Here is a resource of a “List of Companies that Hire Felons.” It includes many comments by individuals who have tested the list! http://www.ranker.com/list/list-of-companies-that-hire-felons/business-and-company-info

We discussed COLLEGE DIVERSITY RECRUITING. It was mentioned that most of one company’s recruiting is done here in Minnesota, and that we have no HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) here. So the question was, where can recruiters find diverse college graduates?

Community colleges generally have much more diversity in their student populations, if the positions require only an AA or technical degree.

Many colleges have student groups or community liaison positions to work with the African American, Latino, American Indian, Asian American, etc. students. Recruiters can develop a relationship with these groups and/or individuals.

Recruiters need to look outside the box of their traditional recruiting methods.

Lila Kelly Associate’s Diversity Recruiting & Resource Directory is a good resource for this.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION RECRUITING AND HIRING, what Affirmative Action includes and resources it offers, even to organizations that do not need to comply.
One person briefed us on an article in the Economist Magazine on Affirmative Action: Unequal Protection. Here’s the link: http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21576658-first-three-pieces-race-based-preferences-around-world-we-look-americas
The University of Texas case of Affirmative Action with a student was referenced. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher_v._University_of_Texas
BAN THE BOX UPDATE: This Amendment to Minnesota Statute 364 goes into effect January 1, 2014. See details, FAQs, and occupations that are excluded at: http://mn.gov/mdhr/employers/resources.html. The discussion included:
Conviction/crime has to be job-related to use as a reason not to hire a person. e.g. a driving offensive and driving school bus, or a financial offense and working at an accounting firm or as a cashier.
What can applicants do if they see this box on an application form?
Complaints can be filed with the MN Department of Human Rights
The process that was mentioned is that up to three warnings will be issues to the offending employer, then a fine will be issued.
“Why a Mobile Career Site is Vital to Reaching Diversity Candidates” is an article shared by Jeff Perry. Given what the statistics tell us, is it overstating it to say if you don’t have a strategy around mobile, you aren’t serious about diversity recruiting? What if you built a diversity website, marketed it, but no one showed up? Thanks Jeff! Here’s the link: www.ere.net/2013/10/09/why-a-mobile-career-site-is-vital-to-reaching-diversity-candidates/?goback=.gde_3768434_member_5794629496082546688#!

Many work environments will be changed dramatically over the next 5 to 10 years. We discussed the emerging need for cultural competencies in recruiting and hiring. The baby boomer generation is beginning to pick up speed in the wave of retirements from the workforce. Many organizations do not seem prepared to deal with the turnover, let alone the diversity of the applicant pool from which they will be hiring.

One person who works at a county said that within the next five years 50% or the counties entire workforce and 70% or the managerial staff will retire. Those figures are staggering! Another person said that at her organization, 25% of the workforce will be retiring in the next 5 years. Most of these employees are white male and management level.

Some strategies for recruiting were mentioned, such as for specialized areas to not only target colleges with those programs, but try to drive K-12 students into those programs with a promise of an internship at your organization.

The Diversity Recruiting Directory offers hundreds of resources for reaching out to diverse communities, and the book, Integrating Diversity & Inclusion into Recruitment, Interviewing & Hiring, along with the corresponding online training on these topics, can assist organizations through this transition. (For more information, see http://diversityintegration.com/

Changing Demographics
IS THE WHITE RACE DISAPPEARING? I believe this is a fear for many people.
I brought this up because I have been asked this, and upon searching the Internet, the question is definitely out there. I think this fear was magnified by the news in 2012 that babies born in the U.S. were over 50% non-white births—for the first time in history, and the number of white babies born will continue to drop.

The answer? No. The mathematician (by training) in the group offered some numbers to explain this.
Someone commented that it is more about stratification of power in the U.S. than skin color. (For more information, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_stratification)

Sexual Violence and Diversity
Kathleen McDowell discussed her work educating healthcare professionals about treating sexual abuse survivors. She trains on ways for them to be more understanding and sensitive to patients’ fears and needs, and to develop cultural competencies to provide quality health care to those individuals. http://www.minnesotamedicine.com/PastIssues/PastIssues2011/December2011/TalkingtoSexuallyAbusedChildren.aspx

SEXUAL VIOLENCE: A few group members mentioned that they have worked with victims of sexual violence, including in healthcare, the military, schools, at the legislation level, and in communities.
This is a much more prominent problem than many people realize.
It is one of those subjects that is so uncomfortable to talk about, that often it just is not… which helps allow it to continue. Even though it is uncomfortable, it needs to be discussed and dealt with.
You can search and find information on studies showing that about 1 out of 4 people in the U.S. have been sexually abused (1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males).

Socio-Economic Diversity
POOR PEOPLE DON’T EAT HEALTHY: We discussed how many people who are poor eat unhealthy foods for a number of reasons.
There is much about this on the Internet, and here is one link with some comments about it. frugivoremag.com/2012/01/3-reasons-why-the-poor-cant-eat-healthy/.
This discussion led to brain development, that unhealthy diets contribute to the achievement gap in our K-12 school systems, and that many kids start school at an advantage or disadvantage. Again, there is much about this on the Internet. As stated in one article, “Children who grow up in poor families are exposed to food with lower nutritional value. This can adversely affect them even in the womb.” www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may13/vol70/num08/How-Poverty-Affects-Classroom-Engagement.aspx

Some communities are attempting to remedy the problem with nonprofit agencies that supply pantries and administer community gardens in as part of its anti-poverty programs. host.madison.com/news/local/eat-local-give-local-gardeners-grow-produce-for-pantries/article_4003c3e6-bac1-11df-9efa-001cc4c03286.html

White Race / Racism / White Men / Men
THE N-WORD: An incident was shared where WHITE STAFF WAS USING THE N-WORD, because others in the workplace who were African American were using it. A white staff asked the question, “Will the N-word ever become just a word?” Different versions of the word and their meaning were presented related to the way the word ended, e.g. in “er” [negative historically] versus “a” [term of endearment among select groups in a community]. This discussion goes beyond our Diversity Discussion Group:
www.salon.com/2013/02/21/is_it_ever_okay_for_white_people_to_say_the_n_word/ and madamenoire.com/283736/its-all-about-the-context-ciara-defends-use-of-the-n-word-on-access-hollywood/

CRITICAL WHITENESS STUDIES: A course of study was mentioned that is offered in some colleges titled “Critical Whiteness Studies” In Academia. Many of us were skeptical of that at first!….. A couple of sources for more information are:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiteness_studies and


CHEERIOS COMMERCIAL: We discussed and watched (via smart phone-thanks Mitch!) the controversial Cheerios commercial that had been in the news, since some participants had not seen it. It shows a mixed race couple and their child. The main question from the group was, “So, what’s the big deal?”
HIGH SUICIDE RATE OF YOUNG MEN. We discussed the high suicide rate of men in their twenties and suicide rates in general.
Young men are isolated and expected to be tough and “suck it up.”
They have less access to mental health systems. We need to change the stigma of mental health issues.
Suicide clusters (or copycat suicides).
Questions discussed included: What can we do? What should be done? What tools are given to teachers and parents? What interventions are taking place?
White men have the highest suicide rate and black women have the lowest.


Other Diversity Topics
BULLYING IN ORGANIZATIONS and creating a respectful workplace. How anti-gay marriage has led to bullying in some cases.
GAY MARRIAGE and how the younger generation is more open to diversity and helped tip the scale to pass the law in Minnesota (and elsewhere).
Generational diversity: how the DIFFERENT GENERATIONS VIEW DIVERSITY DIFFERENTLY. A tenth grade high school student in the group said about the diversity around her, “It is just the way it is.” It’s the new normal for the younger generation.
DIVERSITY EDUCATION IN PRE-K – there is more now. This is where it needs to start, with diversity and communication skills. One woman mentioned her work with young kids in schools and the use of Persona Dolls as a tool to teach about diversity. www.persona-doll-training.org
NEW TERMINOLOGY for some of us: Pansexuality, or omnisexuality, is sexual attraction, sexual desire, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of all gender identities and biological sexes. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pansexuality

Longer Discussion Topic:

Somali Man and White Woman Conflicts – Two Situations

We discussed the following two situations involved a man who was Somali, from a male-dominated culture, and a white female coworker in a more senior position (there were different people in each situation).

#1 work situation: The man left much of the cleanup and the more menial tasks of the job to his female co-workers. One woman was the only co-worker who dared confront him. She asked him to do his share of the work. He got angry and accused her of being disrespectful and harassing him. She did not back down and continued to insist that he do his part of the job. Both of them ended up complaining to HR. The white woman felt like his complaint was heard more than hers, and that she was not being supported while dealing with this difficult situation at work. HR and management seemed more willing to listen to his story than hers. They seemed to be tip toeing around the issue and trying to avoid legal trouble related to racial discrimination.

#2 work situation: A female facilitator was teaching children of new immigrant families, and she connected well with the children. A young male of the same culture as the children was brought in to assist in the class. He proceeded to undermine the teacher by changing scheduled activities, yelling at and shaming the children for wanting to stay with the teacher’s scheduled activity, defending his actions and disagreeing with the teacher in front of the children, and failing to show up without notifying her. He refused to problem solve the situation with the teacher, and eventually he reported to management that she complained about him every week. She could tell that the children felt intimidated by him. However, upon her being fired, the children spoke up and in a petition that they created stated that if the teacher is fired, they will stop attending, and that the male assistant should be fired. (Related article: www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2013/10/31/mpls-park-board-candidate-hashim-yonis-case-study-failed-refugee-integration-and-rol)

In both cases, words describing the male employee’s behavior included intimidation, manipulation, defensive, lying, anger, and explosive to cover up his inadequate job performance. This behavior seemed successful in keeping the focus on the fear of cultural bias and not on the quality of work performed, and in the process missing the issue of sexism.

Related Discussion Points:

Diversity issues involved were sexism, racism, and cultural values and beliefs.
It was felt that HR staff are often not culturally competent to deal with this type of situation, and they should be!
From a cultural perspective based on cultural values and beliefs, the African man may have truly believed that he was in the right to let the women do the more menial tasks of the job.
The job description states the job duties, so it should be clear whether he is doing the job or not. However, even if a job description clearly defines the duties of a job (which many do not), manipulation and intimidation can be used to keep others from complaining to HR.

HR’s Role in Diversity Conflicts:

One person said that HR must have known this was going on, because that is HR’s role.
HR’s role should be supportive in cases like this. However, HR is often not trusted by employees that are dealing with subtle inequities in the workplace. So incidents may continue for a long time without HR being aware of them. [Reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microinequity]
HR is busy. To learn about and develop the cultural competencies to effectively deal with the multitude of potential cross-cultural and other diverse employee situations takes a lot of work. HR staff members decide whether they are going to put the effort into learning these cultural competencies.
If someone in HR is not going to deal with a diversity-related conflict, then HR should know who in the organization will.
Situations like this need to be dealt with effectively, and someone needs to be responsible for that in organizations.
This type of situation will increase with the increasing diversity in the workplace.


Copyright ©2015 Lila Kelly Associates. Your Strategic Partner in Diversity Integration – Since 1992. Not to be reprinted without written permission from Lila Kelly. More information on books and online trainings on diversity in recruiting, interviewing & hiring at DiversityIntegration.com. To stay up to date on all the latest from Lila Kelly Associates and Diversity Integration, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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