The short version of this post is a summary of the workshop I presented today at the C-E-O conference for collegiate entrepreneurs in
We covered the “Why” budding entrepreneurs need to be able to communicate and engage with people of all backgrounds:
1. If you look at US Census Statistics to 2040, the population is shifting. By 2040, caucasians will no longer be the majority. As people of color make up the majority population in the US, one’s ‘multicultural competence’ becomes critical. The population is changing, it’s a question of being prepared.
2. As Entrepreneurs, you will be hiring staff. Data shows that diverse teams where participants are engaged consistently outperform homogeneous teams. You can get the broadest range of creativity, performance and execution from diverse, engaged, inclusive teams.
3. As Entrepreneurs, you want to maximize your client base. People of color represent over $1 trillion in buyng power.
But, unconscious bias and a natural tendency to enagage within one’s cultural comfort zone, sometimes can prevent people from reaching out across supericial characteristics of difference, such as race, ethnicity, gender, orientation and ability.
From here the remainder of the workshop focused on activities such as a Personal Identity worksheet, that captured how views of oneself can differ from how we believe others view us (e.g. most important identifiers to me might be ‘mom,’ ‘jewish,’ ‘marketing/diversity professional.’ Others who look at me might say ‘white,’ ‘woman,’ ‘middle-aged’). Seeing the disparity in how we see ourselves vs. how we think others see us is an entree to empathy.
Next we did a “Dimensions of Diversity” exercise to explode the idea of diversity beyond the ‘low hanging fruit’ of race, ethinicity, etc., to diversity of ideas, lifestyles, or other factors. It’s nice because it gets people up and moving around, as in, Go to this corner of the room if you are always early, this corner if you are always late, this corner if you are pretty much on time, and this corner if it depends on how important it is. People self-segregate by habits. Another one is “go to this corner if you are the oldest, this corner if you are the youngest, this corner if you are somewhere in the middle, and this corner if you are an only child.”
My friends, if you only read to here, I will say “Thank you very much” and summarize that I am brilliant and know everything.
If you have to read further, well, not so much. Or, rather, how we model language and how interactions work vary based on the participants. I did this workshop last month for JEN, the Jewish Employment Network. Well, guess what. It was brilliant and everyone loved it. But everyone looked like me. This workshop today was well-received, but the language sounded different. And, the issues are different.
This group was extremely diverse. In fact, of the 30-40 people in the room, only 5 of us were Caucasian. When we did the Dimensions of Diversity exercise and self-segregated by birth order, the five participants from China ended up in the “only child” corner. “One Child Policy,” they explained. So suddenly my exercise to transcend ethnicity still divided by national origin.
The exercise was designed to get people up and moving around the room. But for the first time, I had someone in the group who was a person with disability. So, basically, I was leading a workshop on engagement and inclusion, but I’m not sure that he felt included.
The final exercise, on “Circles of Influence and Linchpins to Community” where we looked at who ‘serves’ us in our lives–our Doctor, Dentist, Hair Stylist, Mail Carrier, etc. opened the deepest discussion. Some found their circles to be very diverse. Others noted that the professional services seemed to be caucasian, others people of color. It also opened up conversations about access and who is educated and ideas about who is near us in the communities we live in, and how that connects more deeply to access to resources from an institutional perspective.
I spoke to the final student who lingered after the workshop about unconscious bias and how we form stereotypes from images in media all the time, and how important it is to question and embrace multiple perspectives. “It sounds exhausting,” she said.
It is, I thought, but you can bet that I’ll be a better person for it. And you can bet that I’ll have solutions and alternatives the next time to better remove my own bias and structure when working with amazinging and wonderfully diverse groups. These young future CEO’s, full of passion and ideas are ready to engage and change the world. Heck, who said the future is 2040? It’s now!
Have you ever delivered the same messages to different audiences. How did the meaning to the same words change, based on who was listening? How would you change it if you did it again?