The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year. Sunday, June 21st marked the 2015 Summer Solstice. I feel a bit mixed about this day. On the one hand, I love as much sunlight as possible. On the other, I know that it is also a marker for the days getting darker.
An analogous experience appears to be true in cultural diversity work. As soon as we feel secure in believing that things have changed for the better, new events remind us of just how far we have to go. All I can say is don’t get discouraged. Your work is meaningful and has an impact.
Most of us who are committed to promoting a just, culturally diverse world have very high hopes for the world. It would devastate us to believe that the world is not becoming a better place. Forming the European Union is certainly one of the greatest cultural diversity experiments of our time. It will succeed in time.
Daisaku Ikeda, president of Soka Gakkai International, states that America is the greatest test for any religious movement due to its cultural diversity. We know that all too well after attacks on mosques and the recent killing during worship at a South Carolina church. In the meantime, Canada is considering creating an law against wearing a burqa in public.
Most diversity professionals are religious or spiritual. That is one of the reasons we care so much. One of the ways we can move things forward at a greater rate is to model religious tolerance. It is very difficult for many devout Christians to embrace other religions for example. That would be blasphemous. Devout Muslims are challenged similarly. The diversity professional can be both religious and embracing of differences by rising above the rhetoric and choosing to focus on what we all have in common—a need to be happy.
When we talk about creating more tolerant, inclusive organizations in which individuals can bring her or his whole self, we are doing no more than advocating for the happiness of mankind. That is the reason major corporations are now focusing on engagement. Sure they want to do more with less, but they are also acutely aware that people are increasingly less willing to sell their souls to a soulless organization. The job of the diversity professional is to create a compassionate space in which both the needs of the organization and the worker are met so that both contribute to a more perfect society.
It’s very hard to engage employees when an organization is perceived as more focused on profit more than its people. Even harder when the organization hires you to simply perform work to meet the legal requirements of a lawsuit brought about by a grieving employee. But, that is the very moment we need to step up our compassion towards all parties involved.
When a young man sits in a church for an hour without being sufficiently moved by spirit to stand down from his intent to bring harm to the parishioners, we know that society has lost its way. Diversity professionals can help society finds it way if and only if we can do our work at the highest level of compassion.
This week’s newsletter focuses on the importance of executive level diversity leadership. One takeaway is that organizations must have competent people in the C-suite who can hold the leadership accountable for promoting inclusion in making decisions. A diversity professional reporting to the HR leader instead of the CEO, relegated to compliance, or expected to similar conduct trainings is poorly positioned to effect organizational change.
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