“Teaching people to be unbiased is hard work”


The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) world is in hyper-growth. A cottage industry rife with consultants, thought leaders, LinkedIn gurus, coaching sessions, books, and new acronyms by the day, it’s hard for the common man to understand what all this means.

Dr. Rohini Anand’s book “A guide for systemic change in multinational organizations: Leading global diversity, equity and inclusion” stands out amid this clutter. She narrates her personal journey and admits the privilege she enjoyed growing up in India before coming to the United States for higher studies. This book is filled with practical advice, anecdotes and her own confessions of making mistakes globally while looking at DEI with a purely US-centric lens.

Dr. Rohini Anand

Dr. Anand emphasizes the importance of culture, diversity and context and its importance in DEI work. She takes us on a global diversity journey similar to how Anthony Bourdain took us around the world teaching us about global cuisines. With humility, Dr. Anand encourages us to take a historical perspective, and learn and understand culture before launching an employee engagement survey or starting off with irrelevant metrics.

Numerous examples highlight the flaws of a US-centric approach to DEI that has been dominated by mostly insular male CEOs with a US marketing perspective. We learn that DEI, like exporting the US-version of democracy cannot be franchised like McDonald’s. Instead, it requires humility, understanding of context and leveraging the power of relationships.

Dr. Anand generously shares what she learned during her her decades-long experience leading global diversity at Sodexo, and explains 5 key principles starting with why global diversity should be inherently local. Identity, context, culture and values vary from place to place. She urges us to focus on a transversal approach to global diversity management, a mix of top-down DEI initiatives mixed with a highly localized strategy. Before starting a DEI program in a particular country, listen to change agents in localized contexts, she warns. The complexities of of race and its shifting social construct are well-explained in this book.

Her second principle about transformative leadership teaches us why leaders must change to lead change in DEI. Change cannot be made in DEI without personal passion and a shift in worldview. The third principle tells us that DEI is good business but warns us that studies based on US empirical data might seem totally irrelevant in other parts of the world. Understanding global and regional trends is key, she adds. The fourth principle “go deep, wide and inside out” explains why change efforts must be deep and wide within a company. They require ” a well-conceived and well-implemented governance framework to include a transversal strategy and to scale the inclusion effort to a global reach (wide)” The fifth principle highlights the importance of metrics and is laced with examples including the Sodexo Diversity & Inclusion Index (SDII).

I’ve had the privilege of learning a lot from Dr. Anand when she gave me an opportunity to understand the fundamentals of DEI. Dr. Anand is solid- thorough, well-versed, disciplined, and purposeful. This book reflects her tireless work in this field and is a must-read for any leader wanting to make progress in our post-pandemic work culture. After all, the business of “teaching people to be unbiased is hard work.”

Oh! How we embellish on LinkedIn!


Hyped words on LinkedIn

So much goodness all in one place!

Thanks to a cottage industry that thrives on hyped up resumes, fakes who we are, and dangles high profile words in front of recruiters, there is now a dictionary of LinkedIn hype out there. Here are some interesting ones… from a pandemic resilient franchisee to a purveyor of sorts!

Bloody Sunday: 50 Years of Injustice


British police killed 14 protesters at a civil rights protest in Derry, Northern Ireland, on January 30, 1972, setting off a four-decade long hostility among the British and the separatists in Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland were asking for the same rights the British enjoyed. Justice has been denied for the families of the 14 who were killed. Nobel Prize winning poet, Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) describes the day:

Coffin after coffin

Seemed to float from the door

Of the packed cathedral

Like blossoms on slow water.


Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

Want new donors? Check out the importance of diversity-related data.


The term “culture of philanthropy” is boring. Instead, let us focus on creating a culture shift by incorporating Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) data in our conversations with donors.

The “culture of philanthropy” has been around for over a decade, repeated in case statements, campaign materials and in conversations with internal and external constituents. I haven’t had any donor ask me what that meant as it still seems a fancy word to me.

Culture shifts happen when strong leaders influence every nook and corner of an institution with a common purpose. This purpose resonates with every constituent regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and other identities that make us unique but part of a whole. DEI-data is critical here.

However, we ignore DEI data and go back to the same old prospect pools, the “wells” as we call them, reaching out to the same constituents again and again.

Retention is good but over-retention wont bring anything new to the fold.

Do we have meaningful insight on DEI data regarding our constituents? How many of our boards have had the same members for over half a century? How many times have we scrambled to check boxes when a grantor asks for the diversity of our board?

The practice of adding namesake women and minorities to boards for the sake of diversity numbers is nothing new to the nonprofit world.

However, the times have changed and in an excellent data guide, the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA) talks about the purposes of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) data, how it needs to be collected, used and stored. The APRA Ethics and Compliance Committee Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Data Guide is a very useful resource that can help us look at donor pools with a different lens.

DEI data can help us diversify our boards, build better donor affinity groups, understand cultural nuances, tailor new types of volunteer engagements and, as the guide says “help further policies of non-discrimination.”

Any collection of DEI data should ask the question “Why” and it must have a business reason. Transparency is key as we design questions, responses are voluntary, and we must include a way to obtain informed consent.

DEI data can provide insights to frontline fundraisers on building relationships with new donor pools, asking them culturally competent questions, and getting to know people in a more meaningful way. This process will also help us reduce our biases, both conscious and unconscious.

While DEI-related data can give us a wealth of information, the APRA data guide teaches us how to use it ethically, for what kinds of purposes and how it needs to be stored.

This is critically important as we live in a world full of data breaches. However, DEI data, if used well can engage and strengthen our relationships with new donor pools.

At the end of the day, we all seek inclusion and belonging. What better way than to harness DEI data to include new constituents we had never thought about?

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Are you radically inclusive?


1


Truth

Your employees can always speak the truth. They have the freedom to tell it like it is.

2


Mistakes

It’s okay for your employees to make mistakes. You will allow them to learn and grow from their failures.

3


Clarity

Your leaders are transparent. They tell you clearly what’s happening inside and outside the company.

4


Usness

You are together. You have broken the silos and you want to work closely, helping one another.

5


Culture

You will work together to change culture inside and outside the organization. And, you know this is not going to happen overnight.

6


Trust

You will always have each other’s back. You wouldn’t need to suspect people within your organization.

7


Policies

You will develop fair policies for hiring, recruiting, pay, onboarding and other HR practices in the most inclusive way.

8


Growth

You will grow together and every individual will have opportunities to succeed and grow.

Unless you see and feel it, you won’t know what enslaved people faced in America


Let’s pray for atonement.

Three years ago, on a hot summer day, I visited Whitney Plantation Museum, the only museum in Louisiana that told the stories of enslaved people. I never knew that such a museum existed until one of my daughter’s friends told her about it.

The Big House. Courtesy: Whitney Plantation.

On arrival, I was greeted by it’s founder, John Cummings. A New Orleans-based trial attorney, he restored the plantation over 15 years before opening it to the public in December 2014. Cummings told me about his journey in owning the property for over two decades and then building a museum that told the story of enslaved people.

As I toured the Museum, I learned about the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery in Louisiana. I also learned how enslaved people were treated brutally as they produced indigo and sugar.

I saw the Big House where domestic slaves performed multiple duties from cleaning, serving food and looking after their masters, always at their beck and call.

I had never seen such a structure in my life and I had never even imagined that such things had happened in America, All I knew about slavery was about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, largely because of his famous “I have a dream” speech that my children learned at school.

After all, why should a non-immigrant Asian on an H1B visa care about the past of this country? You are living in the suburbs in Arizona surrounded by a majority white population and I was in my own ghetto. People never talked about race at any of the places I worked. They still don’t.

Besides conversations about the weather and nice places to eat, Americans seldom talk about race even as they call it the original sin. Not talking about the original sin is in itself a sin.

Fast forward a few years later, I took my citizenship test. I was given a set of pre-ordained bureaucratic questions highlighting the virtues of America’s best export product, democracy, forgetting that the country’s efforts to export democracy to the rest of the world has failed miserably.

The citizenship questions were largely about the constitution, past presidents and their middle names. My Jesuit-school education in India had prepared me well for rote memorization. I aced the citizenship test within minutes, and my interviewer who was already debating where to go for lunch, was so happy. She got me approved in ten minutes flat. The citizenship test was all about rules of democracy that actually changed on January 6, 2021.

The best way to understand your past is to see and feel what had happened and ask the question: why? The lives of enslaved people in America look pale compared to the country’s efforts to promote capitalism, rugged individualism, pseudo-socialism and of course democracy which is being questioned internally.

3 things you can do

1. Immerse yourself in history, take your children with you.

2. Talk openly about race, ask difficult, uncomfortable questions. The original sin will never go away, but we can seek some atonement.

3. Are you a corporate CEO? Instead of hosting another annual holiday party with Covid-19 restrictions, why don’t you take your employees and show them slices of history?

Linguistic racism is a global phenomenon


No one owns the English language anymore.

In my BA English literature class in India, I was first introduced to the Cockney accent, the dialect of working-class Londoners. The Queen’s English came to us later.

I got my first taste of linguistic racism working in a newspaper in the Persian Gulf. Linguistic racism occurs when people are discriminated on the basis of their accent and the dominant culture feels superior in the use of a particular language and in this case, it was English.

The Persian Gulf, fully reliant on expat labor, had become an inevitable breeding ground for discrimination against non-native English speakers.

Newspapers advertised for Native English language speakers alone for all the top jobs. It was common to see a British editor at the top in a newspaper with a global mix of underlings, mostly non-Native English speakers from Asia.

One high-ranking English editor who I worked for had a Cockney accent. Being a native, he had only one task daily- write a 750-page editorial on the Arab-Israeli conflict, a perennial conversation point in the region. He mastered it by cutting and pasting sentences every third day!

Meanwhile, the non-Native English speakers brought out the 32-page English newspaper every morning.

Today, there are 400 million native English speakers and around 2 billion non-Native English speakers. Teaching English is now a multibillion dollar industry and no one owns the English language anymore.

“English is constantly evolving, because of the diverse ways different nations and groups use it. Yet instead of embracing this linguistic diversity, we still rank particular types of English higher than others – which means that both native and non-native speakers who differ from what’s considered ‘standard’ can find themselves judged, marginalized and even penalized for the way their English sounds,” according to an article by Christine Ro in BBC Worklife titled “The pervasive problem of ‘linguistic racism’.”

Linguistic racism showed its ugly head when the global economy shifted to a work from home mode. Those with thick accents found it hard to express their ideas to those who spoke ‘standard’ English.

Linguistic racism has created workplace conflicts due to the unnecessary superiority of the Native English speaker. Employees often felt that Native speakers showed superiority and sometimes insulted them.

I believe the term “Native English speaker” must be removed forever. For centuries, we have discriminated against non-Native speakers and shut their voices down. Many great ideas have been lost in the process because we never had the patience to tap into the additional expertise they had, even though their accent was different than ours.

In a language with no masters, a removal of unconscious bias, some empathy and the ability to listen to people from other cultures will only do your business good, now and in the long run.