How Diverse Are We? (day 2)

Mt. Battie just after sunrise.

Mt. Battie just after sunrise, shrouded in fog.

Day #2 began early, very early, with blogging and then a run into Camden at sunrise. It ended much later, visiting and old friend in Rockland. In-between, my second day at the Samoset for the #MEHRC2013 convention brought the following:

  •  Cy Wakeman and reality-based rules for the workplace and leadership

  • Diversity and HR’s role facilitating that journey, with Shilpa Pherwani (my favorite workshop)

  • Networking with old friends

  • Pamela Green unleashing HR’s power

  • Networking with new friends

  • A late afternoon swim

  • Visiting with an old friend in Rockland

From the deck of the Samoset.

From the deck of the Samoset.

Your name, please?

Your name, please?


Feeding the Twitter.

Feeding the Twitter.

In-between, there were a few more things, but this post is really more about my posting my pictures and less about me talking, except…

Shilpa Pherwani’s presentation and workshop, “HR as a Strategic Diversity Partner” was an important one.

Diversity is bandied about all over corporate America. There’s a push to make our companies more friendly to people of color, gender orientation, and in my role with the Maine BLN, we’re focused on a peer-to-peer model that recognizes that hiring people with disabilities is good for business. Yet, our companies often continue to look and act the same as before. There’s to much maintenance of the status quo. If you don’t think so, then you’re not paying attention, or you’re mollifying yourself with happy talk.

The convention is probably a great one if you’re in HR, a good one, if you’re not. But as far as diversity is concerned, a cursory glance around any of the conference rooms or after-hours events at the Samoset shows the attendees aren’t very diverse at all, at least in the way the word is used in HR circles and with groups promoting greater diversity in the workforce. Is that too reality-based for a blog post on the conference? 

If you say the reason is because we’re holding it in Maine and Maine’s the 2nd whitest state in the nation, I’ll give you a gold star to place on your forehead for noticing the obvious; I’ll also tell you that Maine has pockets of diversity represented by people of color, gays and lesbians, and people with disabilities—I guess they’re just not sitting in positions in HR.

You might be reading this and saying, “who the hell does he think he is?”, or, “he’s not in HR,” but if that’s your reaction, you’re missing my point, or perhaps I placed my drive well (actually, I’m not much of a golfer). 

We’ve made some strides forward to make our companies a tad more diverse, but we can do so much more. For decades now, there’s been a lot of talk, some token attempts to create workplaces that look like the cultural landscape of the country, but very little to shake things up, which is what I believe we need if diversity and inclusion will ever resonate as loudly as they should and if power begins to truly to be shared across our diverse population of people that make up 21st century America.

Ms. Pherwani made an airtight case that diversity is good for your business. She cited data, and data in fact makes my case that hiring people with disabilities makes good business sense. Data is also another smokescreen that some hide behind, asking for more facts and data so they can continue to maintain the same old, same old.

Here’s some data; 35 percent of people with disabilities who are of working age are employed, compare that to 79 percent of the working age population without any identified disability. Maine’s numbers a slightly lower than the national average, but the national average is nothing to get terribly excited about. In fact, these numbers have not improved and have rolled backwards slightly since the passage of the ADA back in 1990. Work is who we are as Americans and if you’re shut out from employment, then you’re not reaching your full potential. It seems few in HR are reading the memo on this.

I loved the following definition for diversity and inclusion by Ms. Pherwani:

  • Diversity is about counting heads.

  •  Inclusion is about making each head count.

 I’ll go back to my pictures and stop talking now.

Gorgeous view out my side window.

Gorgeous view out my side window.