In the summer of 2011, Eric Deggans, now NPR’s first full-time TV critic wrote an interesting piece in the St. Petersburg Times clarifying the difference between prejudice and racism.
I’ve often found Deggan’s view on prejudice and race simple and thought-provoking. According to him, prejudice is something that you observe in the moment. “You are walking home and cross the street to avoid an individual because you fear a mugging. Racism is internalizing as a core value the idea that some races are superior or subordinate to others,” he says.
We often use the word racism incorrectly when we prejudge someone because of their race or color. Someone might prejudge another individual but she/he may not believe that any race is superior to one another and cannot be called a racist.
“Many times when talk turns to a suspicion of prejudice, the word racism is used, incorrectly and unfairly,” Deggans says. We have our own prejudices and a single mistake doesn’t equal racism. However, a long history of prejudice will definitely make us a racist.
Prejudice is everywhere. The only way we can sort this out is by being vulnerable and engaging in honest conversations with one another.
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. 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.”