Martin will be speaking on Leveraging Difference at the 6th annual edition of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Seminar in Barcelona. This event is one of Europe’s longest running corporate focused diversity & inclusion seminars and brings together some of the world’s leading minds in the area of diversity and HR. Global Heads, Directors and VPs of Human Resources and Diversity along with Boards Members of some of the world’s largest companies will be presenting alongside renowned authors and professors.
Posts Tagged ‘diversity’
In anticipation of his next book, Martin will give a flash seminar on Embracing the Weird at University of Virginia, Monroe Hill House, Friday, January 25, 2013 from 4:00pm-5:00 pm. The talk will be followed by a wine and cheese reception at Monroe Law Office.
Martin Davidson is proud to receive the University of Virginia’s Equal Opportunity Programs Champions Award, honoring everyday defenders who ‘lift everyone up.’
The 5th EDI conference will be held in Toulouse, Southwest France, 23-25 July 2012. It will provide an exciting forum for encounters and publication projects in a stimulating intellectual, cultural and historical environment. Martin Davidson and colleague Heather Wishik will present new research on Identity and Power. For more information and to register, visit http://www.edi-conference.org/index.php.
This post first appeared on the MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) web site, April 30, 2012.
I had a friend in graduate school, Miriam, a tall vivacious woman who was both gregarious and grounded in a really appealing way. A conversation we had one day has stuck with me over the years. She remarked that she and I might be able to work together in interesting ways because we had complementary perspectives on the “Race and Gender 2X2.” Of course, she meant that because she was a white woman and I was a black man, we held diagonal positions on a 2X2 matrix that captured our racial (black or white) and gender (male or female) identities:
This was one of the first times I had ever reflected on what had previously been an invisible consciousness. I knew I was black and understood my place in the dynamics of race in the U.S. But what surprised me was how that focus prevented me from paying as close attention to my identity as a man. With time, I reconciled this shortcoming by focusing on my fallback position—I was, in fact, a black male! That felt much better. I was giving a nod to my gender but not forgetting the ever-important race struggle that was integral to my U.S. experience.
In fact, I was playing an identity mind game. I was looking for a way not to deal with my male identity. My colleague Heather Wishik and I are working on a new line of research that begins to map what was happening to me as I was confronted with my identity as a man. Our social identities—race, gender, sexual orientation, able-bodied-ness, etc.—are always imbued with a dynamic of power. We call these “dominance” or “subordinance.” In any of these identities, you are generally one-up or one-down in the social order. Subordinance identities in the U.S. include being a person of color, female, LGBT, or lower class. Dominance identities are being affluent, heterosexual, male, or white. (By the way, in our research, these two labels don’t convey value judgments about a person’s character. Being a member of a dominant of subordinant group is just a description of how that group identity is situated in larger society).
Racially, I carry a subordinance identity by virtue of my blackness in the U.S. But by gender, I live a dominance identity. I am the youngest of three boys in my family and over the years, the next two generations of my immediate family are all boys. As I often tell folks, we have to bus women into my family. Masculinity is a deeply rooted part of my upbringing and my background.
And that is precisely why it was so invisible—and so uncomfortable—to me. One of the greatest subtle biases we all carry are connected to those identities in which we carry dominance. And most people have one or more of these dominant identities. It’s almost a guarantee that when we look closely at our dominant identities, our vision about them is clouded and distorted. Most of the time, we have a very hard time talking about them. We don’t have lots of insight into the experiences of being of that identity. With race in the U.S., I often encounter white people who don’t know what to say about their experience being white; they just have not thought about it that much. By the same token, I had a hard time just reflecting on my maleness in response to Miriam’s invitation. I wanted to make it my “black maleness” that was at issue. That was just another way of trying to cling to race and avoid dealing directly with my dominant identity as a man.
Peggy McIntosh’s classic 1988 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” helped articulate the experience of privilege and the role that power plays in our everyday experience. What we have to reflect upon today is how subtle and insidious power and privilege is in the way it shapes our perceptions, relationships, and colleagueship. In my case—like that of many others—my dominant identities hid behind my subordinant identity, pushing race front and center while maleness remained stealthily in the wings. Indeed, it’s no accident that power and dominance are often such difficult topics to address in the workplace. Dominance perpetuates itself by being psychologically and behaviorally elusive. The bias of privilege has a life of its own and no one is immune to its effect. Every man, no matter his race, creed, or color has to come to terms with how the dominance of maleness quietly shapes him.
How do you overcome this bias? There is no better antidote than awareness. By just reading this blog post, you’ve affected the bias by making it more visible. In addition:
- Make sure that people who are conscious of these dynamics are a part of your network. Having social support in identifying, and when possible, counteracting the fruits of dominant maleness is essential. Like-minded allies help you to see biases and can support you and hold you accountable for doing something differently.
- Keep people in your circle who are mostly oblivious to this stuff. Being aware of your dominance is exhausting. Give yourself a break and commune with people who are similarly committed to not being intense about this stuff every waking hour. I don’t suggest this lightly. Remember that dominance is as smart as you are and probably a little more devious. You have to feed it a little to keep it calm. Do so with benevolent intent.
I recently came across an article in Diversity Inc that described racial uproar at UCLA’s School of Medicine. A Black medical professor, Dr. Christian Head, was depicted as a gorilla as part of an annual “roast” by medical students. The racist prank ignited national attention as a petition on change.org, had collected nearly 85,000 signatures.
Being outraged by this stupid behavior is understandable, but not particularly helpful. Nor will some of the recommendations in the article—having CEOs hold people accountable with zero tolerance policies, requiring mandatory diversity training, and promoting resource groups—really change the root causes of this behavior over the long run.
I agree that accountability from leadership is absolutely crucial to fighting this kind of bias, but zero tolerance is not the way exercise accountability. Leaders have to take responsibility for being discerning about what behaviors merit the severest reprimands (censure or termination) and what behaviors can better be served by engaging the perpetrators and other stakeholders in learning opportunities. Zero tolerance can be a cop-out: it allows leaders to abdicate the responsibility for being thoughtful about how they deal with diversity in their organizations.
In addition, “mandatory training” recommendations should always be accompanied by the qualifier “good.” Mediocre diversity training can be more damaging than no training at all. It can heighten resistance to diversity and can stoke resentment toward the people who are different it was supposed to support.
Resource groups are clearly helpful, but only if they are supported unequivocally by leadership and strategically aligned. They must wholly be a part of the organization and must be both a resource for its members and a resource for the organization.
Outrage gets old. Informed, deliberate, and sustained leadership action is what eliminates ridiculous incidents like the one at UCLA.
The following blog was written by Robert F. Bruner, Dean of the Darden Graduate School of Business, and posted on his blog site March 5, 2012.
“Civilizations should be measured by the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity retained.” — W.H. Auden
It’s challenging to find institutions today that harness the diversity of its participants really well. This should be of paramount interest to CEOs and leaders of all kinds because those who harness it well sooner are likely to gain advantage in their competitive space. Such is the gist of a special Town Hall session for students faculty and staff to be held tomorrow, “The End of Diversity as We Know It: How to Make Diversity Efforts Really Matter,” from 3:30-5:30 in Abbott Auditorium. And it is the focus of a new book by Darden Professor Martin Davidson, The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed. I encourage readers to draw on both of these resources.
I see the relevance of this topic most vividly in two spheres: the management of global businesses and the education of the next generation of global leaders. In respect to both spheres, W.H. Auden got it right: success is a matter of embracing the diversity within institutions and doing so in a way that generates strategic strength and focus on the things that matter.
On the basis of results, the former Soviet Union would be a leading example of how not to leverage diversity. So would Zimbabwe—indeed, the potential list is long. Diversity was thought to be a uniquely American problem of dealing with differences in race and gender: “we don’t have a diversity issue here” is a statement I have heard in many countries. Yet, a little conversation will often reveal material divisions in virtually all countries. As I write this, I am in Ecuador, a small nation of about 15 million people, which displays classic issues associated with diversity along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, language, and tribe—this is not to criticize Ecuador, but rather to suggest that leading a constituency that contains material difference is a universal challenge.
So, what is the leader of a diverse organization to do? Stop thinking of difference as a problem and start thinking of it as an opportunity; find ways to leverage difference as a strength.
At Darden, our purpose is to “improve society by developing principled leaders for the world of practical affairs.” Leveraging difference is a conscious element of our strategy. To my knowledge, we were the first business school to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer (he is Peter Rodriguez; his predecessors were Martin Davidson and Erika James). We organized special Dean’s advisory councils on diversity and on global affairs to assess the curriculum and climate of the school in light of best current practice. We partner with a number of organizations that help us to recruit top diverse talent—indeed, for two years, I chaired the Board of Directors of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. We host a range of social events that celebrate the diversity in our community, and learning events, such as tomorrow’s session on “The End of Diversity.” We formally survey faculty, staff, and students on the climate of inclusion in our community—and based on the survey results, we adjust as warranted. I make no claim that Darden is perfect in respect to diversity and inclusion; but I do claim that by pursuing these and other activities sincerely and vigorously, we strengthen Darden’s ability to fulfill its mission. From all the metrics I follow, I conclude that Darden’s strategy on leveraging diversity is working and that the Darden Enterprise is growing stronger as a result.
Faculty, staff, students, and the extended Darden Community are supporting our efforts to leverage difference. As a result, we are creating more compelling learning experiences for our students. We are preparing them to prosper and lead in a world that is only growing more diverse. And we are responding positively to the needs of the business profession that we serve. This is creating a legacy with long positive impact into the future.
I like sports. I like competition, winners and losers, and displays of excellence. But I also like sports because they have been a rich context for talking about differences. There are iconic stories about racial integration, gender parity, cross-national growth, and making the most of disabilities.
Now enter Jeremy Lin.
For those not especially tuned into the professional basketball world, Lin is a player for the New York Knicks team who has performed exceptionally well the past couple of weeks, earning him mad media attention. He is also one of a very small number of Asian or Asian American players to ever play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Adding these two elements together—heavy media attention and Lin’s ethnic background—created a nightmare for the multimedia sports network, ESPN, last week. The company issued an apology for a series of racist actions (probably unintentional, but still racist) related to coverage of Jeremy Lin. They noted “three offensive and inappropriate comments made on ESPN outlets during [their] coverage,” the most infamous of which was the headline under a picture of Lin making a mistake on court that read “Chink in the Armor.” You could argue this was simply an isolated mistake (or actually three) that just happened—essentially the explanation ESPN adopted. But if you did, you would be plain wrong.
The ESPN/Lin story underscores how challenging it can be to build what I call a “Leveraging Difference Capability.” In my new book, The End of Diversity as We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed, I describe this as what happens when an organization becomes so diversity-savvy that everyone in it develops processes for (and habits of) dealing with differences skillfully, even unfamiliar differences. Errors like those ESPN committed are evidence of an organization that lacks the Leveraging Difference Capability. If they had it, they would have created processes and procedures to prevent these mistakes. For example:
- All of the eyes that reviewed any headline would have sensitivity to language and idioms that could be even remotely racist;
- There would have been red flags, thanks to that awareness, followed by channels for information gather and discussion
- There would have been lines of communication with people who would understand the experiences of Asian American professionals
- There would be have been consultation with people who are “firsts” in their industries and organizations
No reputable news outlet would describe a Mexican baseball player’s bases-clearing double as a “Spic ‘n Span” hit. Nor, as one radio commentator I heard suggested, would you likely see an outstanding run by a white football player who barrels over opposing players as a “Cracker Barrel” guy. The reason these would be unlikely occurrences is that most people know better. And if a writer misses it, her editor will pick it up. It’s not about one person being vulnerable for making a mistake. Rather it’s about an organization not knowing how to institute the checks and balances to make sure that mistake just does not happen.
By the way, the corollary here is that the punishments of those involved (firing the headline writer and suspending an on-air broadcaster) were probably too harsh. If this really was about a systems breakdown and not some rogue headline writer, it’s wrong to punish only the writer. That doesn’t properly deal with the cause of the problem (meaning it will happen again). Moreover, it sends the message that “We’re OK; we just had to get rid of the bad apple.” No, you’re not OK.
An Asian-American as a budding star and as media phenomenon is unprecedented in NBA history. There is no good roadmap for what to say and do and what not to. But those are precisely the best reasons to develop a Leveraging Difference Capability, especially in a globally diverse world. People and organizations will constantly be faced with new differences and new challenges. Having a way of operating—a mindset—that skillfully deals with those differences will prevent the kinds of public relations crises that ESPN is dealing with right now.
And it will make for much better sports reporting.
This event will feature conversation and audience involvement. Because of its novel design, the event will provide 1) an opportunity for intellectual engagement on this important topic, and 2) a venue for members of the larger Darden community and business community to collaborate on ways to further diversity and inclusion.
Martin will facilitate the discussion and includes panelists:
- Ed Freeman, Darden Professor and academic director of the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics
- Jeanne Liedtka, Darden Professor of Business Administration and author of The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader
- Charlie Hill, former Exec Vice President of HR, Landmark Communications and former member Darden Corporate Advisory Board
- Rhonda Smith, Darden ’88, Founder at Breast Cancer Partner and President of Rhegal Consulting
March 6 from 3:30-5:30 in Abbott Auditorium at the Darden School, 100 Darden Blvd., Charlottesville, VA. Open to the public. The discussion will be followed by a book signing and reception.