Potential Problem with a Diverse Workforce and a Solution

By Simma Lieberman
We’ve probably all have heard that a culturally diverse workforce is more creative and innovative than a homogeneous one. It’s become the “diversity meme,” so much so that there is hesitancy on the part of many people to question that statement.
In over twenty years, and with at least 100 clients,  I’ve come up with three key potential problems and solutions with a diverse workforce.
Here is Problem #1 with the solution.
Your workforce is visibly diverse but people aren’t talking to each other.
 Your organization has a lot of visible and cultural diversity, but employees stay in their own groups and don’t talk to each other.  People are making assumptions, and talking about each other, but not talking with each other or interacting in a productive way.
Reason: Employees in the organization are used to primarily being around people from the same background when they are not at work, or when they’ve worked in other organizations.
Your workplace is one of the first times they’ve interacted with people  from different cultures. They know little about people from different backgrounds except what they’ve heard from other members of their community or the media.
There may be discomfort and even tension between groups. They’re hesitant to ask people from other groups for help or share resources. Communication styles and ways to express disagreement or resolve conflict are may be different. No one wants to say the “wrong thing.”
 Solution: They need to see people who are different as individuals and not as a monolith. In order to work well  together they have to be comfortable with each other.
Bring people together for problem solving meetings. Break employees into small working  groups with people who are different from each other. Before they begin working, engage them in a dialogue process where they get to know a little about each other as people.
It can be a simple topic like discussing how they came to work at your company, what they enjoy the most about working there, or what they wish they had learned in school.
You can then ask them to talk about a time when they had to collaborate with others to solve a logistical problem and to describe how they solved it.
Then give them a real problem they need to work on in their groups.
This process may seem simple, or you might think it will take too much time when everyone has so much work to do. You’ll actually save time, money and energy.  The sooner you get people talking, sharing information, and interacting, the more comfortable they will be working together, sharing ideas and resources. You will see a rapid growth of innovation, creativity and discover their hidden genius.
Book Simma your diversity and inclusion strategist now to speak at your next meeting, conference or event. Call or email:  510-527-0700 or simma@simmalieberman.com.

Five Diversity and Inclusion Moves to Make Now (or Why There is No Room for Naysayers and Negative Vibers)

By Simma Lieberman

Here are five moves you can make to support Diversity, build Inclusion and make an impact in your workplace and community.

1- Talk about Diversity and Inclusion and how we all benefit. Yes, it’s the right thing to do on the “people level,” but it’s not enough. Companies spend money, resources and  time because it’s in their economic interest. If you want help with articulating the business case, call or email us.

Become fluent in Diversity and Inclusion as drivers for innovation, and better workplaces for all.  Help others see that Diversity and Inclusion is in their interests and  fear, discrimination and exclusion make their lives harder, wastes energy, and imprisons their minds.

2- Pick the person who seems to be least like you at work and find an area of commonality to discuss. A 55 year old African-American client from New York shared how she worked with a 30 year old White man from North Carolina for six months before they had an actual conversation. She said they avoided each other and when they did speak it was tense. ” My parents had grown up during segregation in the South and when I heard his southern accent, it brought up the stories they told me.”

He was uncomfortable because she was older, and he had never had a female boss before. One day he saw a martial arts magazine on her desk, and they  both discovered that they  both had a passion for Tae Kwon Do. This changed their whole work dynamic, and he was one of her best employees.

3- Wear that safety pin. Someone started a movement to get people to wear safety pins to identify themselves to people who may be in danger of harassment because of their ethnicity, religion, race, or sexual orientation. This will also provide an opportunity to talk to people you don’t know who support diversity and inclusion, and educate others.

4- Speak up and out. When you hear people make statements that are against another race, ethnicity, religion, etc. say something and do something. Silence implies consent. Don’t give friends and people you know  “a pass.” You can make a difference.

5- Ask questions and share your stories with people who are different than you. Help people be less fearful  of the “other.” Seek humanity in others, and don’t be afraid to demonstrate yours.

Book Simma your diversity and inclusion strategist now to speak at your next meeting, conference or event. Call or email:  510-527-0700 or simma@simmalieberman.com

How to Appreciate Diversity and Be Inclusive During the Holidays

By Simma Lieberman

Every year, and this is no exception, I get calls, emails and requests for advice on how to support diversity and be inclusive during the November-December holiday season.

Because several publications this week have asked permission to reprint this article from my blog, I decided to share it once again.

Guess who’s not celebrating Christmas this year? Millions of people all over the United States.

That’s right. Tens of millions of Americans don’t celebrate Christmas religiously, either as followers of non-Christian religions (Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews) or as individuals with no religious affiliation.

Because many stores tap into the cash value of Christmas with their plethora of Santas, ornaments, and Christmas fanfare at your nearby mall, we can easily overlook the depth of the diversity present in America during this season.

Read More

5 Ways to Build Your Awareness of Diversity and Create an Inclusive Holiday Environment at Work

1.         Learn about other religious or holiday celebrations. Carve out some time from online shopping or a holiday TV show to learn about another culture’s celebrations during this time. Watch a TV special about other celebrations, do a Google search on a holiday, or check out books at your local bookstore while gift shopping. Share your learning with others, and use it as a chance to expand the conversation at parties and at the dinner table.
2.       Let go of  expectations about other religious or holiday celebrations. Realize that people celebrate a variety of holidays during this time of year, and some people choose to celebrate none. Be respectful of these differences by taking an interest in other people’s traditions and making them feel welcome.

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A Note for Employers about Religious or Holiday Celebrations

Here are a few extra things you can do to make their workplaces more inclusive during the holidays.

  • Consider having a New Year’s party instead of a holiday party. This type of party can get everyone on board with the company’s mission and vision for the New Year.
  • Post-holiday greetings on your webpage and Intranet for many religious holidays.
  • Practice respect for these special dates and plan events and meetings around various religious holidays.

Read More

As a Jewish person in a multi-cultural family who loves celebrations, I accept all invitations for different holidays, especially if food is involved.

To work with Simma ‘The Inclusionist’, call 510-527-0700 or email her at  simma@simmalieberman.com.


The No-Nonsense Guide to Workplace Inclusion


Fact 1      

We wrote this book for you.

Workplace inclusion is a given. It’s expected, required, needed even. You know that. Other people tell you that. So what’s holding you back? We get it. You’re struggling, you’re overwhelmed, you don’t know where to start.

That’s why we wrote this book. For you.

Fact 2

The cover says it all. No-Nonsense. Like that? Well, believe it. It’s true.

This books tells you everything you need to know about creating a culture of inclusion at your workplace. Quick, easy, to the point.

We want you to be surprised by how quick and easy and, ultimately, how effective these tried-and-true tips and common sense strategies really are.

We might say it’s a no-brainer. But we actually want to you use that part of your body to create the best inclusion plan ever. One that’s tailor-made for your organization. That you can be proud of, brag about or just quietly go about your business once it’s in place and actually working.

This book helps you with all of that.

Fact 3

This book can be yours. No, it should be yours. Because it’s going to be the one of the best investments you can make for your organization. And this is what’s called an understatement.

Here’s how you get to own .


Ending discriminatory dress codes

By Richa Sandill

My favourite part about the intersection between employment and human rights law is its dynamism. It is constantly evolving to respond to new challenges — or perhaps more accurately, respond to the important challenges that we may be overlooking. This is exemplified in the increasing debate over gender-based discrimination arising from workplace dress codes.

In the past, human rights decisions regarding dress have been focused primarily on religious grounds, whereby the ability to wear a religious dress or carry a sacred ornament was affected by a school uniform policy, for example. The classic example of this is the Supreme Court decision of Multani v. Commission Scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys.

Employers are generally entitled to establish dress codes for the workplace. What happens however, when a night club employer decides on a “Hawaiian”-themed night that its female bartenders are required to wear bikini tops while its male servers have no such requirements? How about when waitresses at a well-known chain of restaurants are expected to wear high heels and revealing clothing?

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, such gender-specific dress codes constitute Human Rights Code-violating discrimination. In its recently released Policy Position on gender specific dress codes, the commission cited cases dating back to the 1980s where women have taken their employers to human rights tribunals for emphasizing a sexualized workplace dress, with a large proportion of this taking place in the bar and restaurant industry. Other occupations such as massage therapy are also highlighted as being vulnerable to these types of rules.

The OHRC emphasized the pressure that these employees may feel to dress like this for fear of losing tips, clientele, and jobs. Per the policy position, if a uniform dress code policy that is more difficult to meet for one gender than the other cannot be shown to be a legitimate requirement for a job, then it would be discriminatory under the code.

© Copyright Thomson Reuters Canada Ltd., Jan 14, 2002; Toronto, Ontario, 1-800-387-5164. Web: www.hrreporter.com


Demographic Demands: The business case for diversity

By John G. Smith

Recruiters in Canada’s trucking industry appear to be overlooking massive labor pools, and a recent report from Trucking HR Canada is making the business case to connect with several under-represented demographic groups.

“We just want the industry to be aware of the demographics; that these are the labor pools we need to tap into,” says CEO Angela Splinter, whose trucking-focused organization promotes best practices in human resources.

Consider the gender gap that exists. Changing Workforce: The Case for Diversity in Canada’s Trucking Industry shows that women, who represent 48% of the nation’s workforce, account for just 3% of Canada’s truck drivers.

The document also observes that …: http://bit.ly/1TyLCNH

For a free copy of the business case to support diversity, visit www.truckinghr.com/en/content/changing-workforce.

The Path to Executive: What’s Different for Women

By Maxine Clarke and Julie Chesley

Presently, while 66 percent of business undergraduate females (Powell & Butterfield, 2013) and 78 percent of women in upper-level management roles (Vachon & Lavis, 2013) aspire to senior executive positions, women hold only 32 percent of senior management positions in Canada(Catalyst, 2014). Unlike their parents, the Millennial generation is showing signs of being less willing to accept this lack of diversity at the top (Deloitte, 2015).

A substantial amount of research has investigated the differences between what aspiring women and aspiring men experience in their journey to senior leadership. The well known double-bind and glass ceiling phenomena (Sandberg, S., 2013; Hewlett, S. A., 2014) lack of female role models (Bain & Company Inc. 2014; Sealy & Singh, 2009), complications related to being mentored by a male (Hansman, 1999; O’Neill & Blake-Beard, 2002), the choice to pursue career paths that do not amass the requisite experience (Credit Suisse Research, 2014), the career interrupting demands of childbearing and domestic accountability (Hewlett, S. A., 2002) and limiting self-efficacy beliefs (Bandura, 2001; McKinsey&Company, 2007) all contribute to notable differences in experience for females that can result in a lack of equal representation of women and men at the senior levels of organizations.

These differences start at an early age, when women are making decisions about their education and career, and continue throughout their career. As children, women’s career interests and pursuits can be constricted by a sense of inefficacy for occupations traditionally pursued by males, such as science and technology. Because women are disinclined to choose careers in these fields, the occupations lack female role models to inspire and encourage women to enter these career paths (Bandura et al., 2001). In college, while male students have an equally high sense of efficacy for both traditionally male-dominated and female-dominated occupations, females judge themselves more efficacious for occupations traditionally held by women and less efficacious for those traditionally dominated by men.

After vocational choices are made, women face a restricted quantity of potential role models at higher organizational levels (Sealy & Singh, 2009). Successful female role models are highly beneficial for women, both because they provide inspirational examples of success and because they undermine traditional, limiting gender stereotypes (Lockwood, 2006). The lack of senior female leaders to look up to presents an issue in that additional time and effort is spent by female managers ascertaining how they should behave and present themselves at work (Sheppard, 1989). While men get confirmation of their identity through shared maleness with their senior leaders, without sufficient females leaders to serve as role models, women have limited resources (Wahl, 1998).

Women also have more difficulty accessing mentorship and sponsorship. Women can have difficulty initiating mentoring relationships with males due to perceived sexual misconduct (Hansman, 1999). In addition, with a significantly higher percentage of men than women in senior positions, senior women leaders can become overwhelmed and not capable of mentoring all the women who would like to be mentored by them (Hewlett, 2013, pp. 137-153). Considering that it is more important for women than men to obtain the support of legitimizing agents who can lend social capital and credibility to their ascent (Riley-Bowles, 2012) and to develop close network ties and avoid a transactional approach to relationships (Ibarra, 1997), both of these phenomena can create barriers to growth and advancement that women must overcome.

Finally, when navigating their career paths, women frequently get stuck at lower levels of the organization in traditionally female dominated paths that lead them away from line leadership roles that build the necessary experience for senior leadership (Riley-Bowles, 2012). The few women who climb to the highest rungs of the business hierarchy commonly experience social resistance from others and social identity conflict within themselves (Riley-Bowles, 2012). Along the way and in leadership roles, women face double binds, which are no-win stereotypes that men do not face, that label and limit women by imposing seemingly mutually exclusive identities such as whether they are perceived as a feminine or a good leader (Wholdbold & Chernier, 2011; Sandberg, S, 2013). Dweck (2006, p 77-79) suggests that women who perceive their intelligence or capability as fixed, rather than malleable, are most affected by the lack of inclusion, stereotype and criticism, and are more likely to doubt themselves and consider an alternate course when faced with them.

As demonstrated here, the female experience, both on the way to and at the senior level, has proven to be very different from the male experience. The combined impacts of lower self-efficacy, lack of role models, challenges accessing mentors and sponsors, and social resistance offer some unique challenges for females to navigate as they ascend to the executive level. These phenomena suggest that an opportunity exists to explore ways that organizations and governments can reduce barriers and create conditions that allow for women to build efficacy and relevant experience throughout their careers.


Bain & Company Inc. (2014). Everyday moments of truth: Frontline managers are key to women’s career aspirations.

Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G. V., & Pastorelli, C. (2001). Self-Efficacy Beliefs as Shapers of Children’s Aspirations and Career Trajectories. Child Development, 72(1), 187.

Catalyst. (2015). http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-canada#footnote25_hwd8l5d

Credit Suisse Research. (2014). The CS Gender 3000 : Women in Senior Management, (September).

Deloitte. (2015). The radical transformation of diversity and inclusion: The millennial influence.

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York,NY: Random House.

Hansman, B. C. (1999). Reluctant Mentors and Resistant Proteges: Welcome to the “Real” World of Mentoring. Adult Education, 1995, 14–17.

Hewlett, S. A. (2002). Executive women and the myth of having it all. Harvard Business Review, April 2002: 66-73.

Hewlett, S. A. (2013). Forget a mentor, find a sponsor: the new way to fast track your career.Boston,MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.

Hewlett, S. A. (2014). Executive presence: The missing link between merit and success.New York,NY: Harper Collins Publishers.

Ibarra, H. (1997). Paving an Alternative Route: Gender Differences in Managerial Networks. Social Psychology Quarterly, 60(1), 91–102.

Lockwood, P. (2006). Someone like me can be successful: do college students need same-gender role models? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30(1), pp. 36–46.

McKinsey&Company. (2007). Women matter: Gender diversity, a corporate performance driver.

O’Neill, R. M., & Blake-Beard, S. D. (2002). Gender barriers to the female mentor-male protege relationship. Journal of Business Ethics, 37(1), 51–63.

Powell, G. N., & Butterfield, D. A. (2013). Sex, gender, and aspirations to top management: Who’s opting out? Who’s opting in? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 82(1), 30–36.

Riley-Bowles, H. (2012). Claiming authority: How women explain their ascent to top business leadership positions. Research in Organizational Behavior, 32, 189–212.

Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean in: Women, work, and the will to lead.Toronto,New York: Random House.

Sealy, R. H. V. V, & Singh, V. (2009). The importance of role models and demographic context for senior women’s work identity development. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(3), 284–300.

Sheppard, D.L. (1989). Organizations, power and sexuality: the image and self-image of women managers. In Hearn, J., Sheppard, D.L., Tancred-Sheriff, P., and Gibson, B. (eds), The Sexuality of Organization.London: Sage, pp. 139–157.

Vachon, D. B., & Lavis, C. (2013). Women in Leadership – Perceptions and Priorities for Change. Conference Board ofCanada.

Wahl, A. (1998). Deconstructing women and leadership. International Review of Women and Leadership, 4(2), pp. 46–60.

Wohlbold, E. & Chenier, L. (2011). Women in Senior Management: Where Are They? Conference Board of Canada.

This article was reprinted with the permission of its authors, Maxine Clarke, director, Career Education and Coaching, Alberta MBA, School of Business, University of Alberta, and Julie Chesley, director, MSOD Program and associate professor, Organization Theory and Management, Pepperdine University.



The business case for hiring persons with disabilities

Inclusive hiring can help businesses attract and retain skilled employees, and expand their range of customers and clients.

The Province of British Columbia has set a goal to have the highest labour-market participation rate for people with disabilities in B.C. of any province in Canada by 2024. This is one of the goals of Accessibility 2024, government’s 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive place for people with disabilities in Canada.

British Columbians with disabilities are an important talent pool and potential customer base for B.C. businesses, as the province expects about one million job openings by 2020. About 334,000 British Columbians aged 15 to 64 years identify as having a disability.

According to Dr. Gary Birch, executive director, Neil Squire Society, “For many people with disabilities, employment can help them live more independent lives and become active members in their community. As a society, we need to continue to recognize and address the barriers ranging from technological to attitudinal, that people with disabilities can face at work, or when looking for work.”

Quick Facts:

  • Approximately 334,000 British Columbians aged 15 to 64 years self-identify as having a disability.
  • According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, approximately half of Canadians with disabilities aged 15 to 64 years are employed. 55% of persons with disabilities aged 15 to 64 years participate in the labour market, compared to 78% of persons without disabilities.
  • Cost of workplace accommodations for a person with disability is $500 or less, on average.
  • From April 1, 2015, to July 31, 2015, the Employment Program of BC provided personalized case-managed services to over 55,000 people, of which more than 21,000 had identified as having a disability.

To view Accessibility 2024, http://bit.ly/222eIDR


The Cost of Unbalanced Gender Representation

New research presented at the 110th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association showed that women in occupations with 85% male workforces had a dysfunctional release of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, whereas women in fields with more balanced gender distribution had a tendency towards healthier cortisol patterns.

“Women adapt to male-dominated fields, but at a high cost to their health,” says study author Cate Taylor. “It’s not just women being overly sensitive. Women in these male-dominated occupations are actually experiencing a physiological stress response to the negative social climates that they are being exposed to.”

The study examined the cortisol patterns of 443 women in different fields, with male-dominated fields that include engineering, construction and welding. The chemical cortisol is supposed to fluctuate throughout the day, and more fluctuation is actually more healthy than less fluctuation. Cortisol is also more sensitive to stressors of a social nature and not as much to physical stress, the authors say, which adds to the evidence that some of the problems are coming from the social climate that women are working in. When somebody is consistently subject to high levels of stress, the body responds by dulling the system at large — or, to put it simply, the stress system simply stops responding to stressors. Which is what appears to happen when a woman is surrounded by men in the workplace.

In even more cheerful gendered news, female bosses may have greater struggles with their health; and this applies in all situations, whether their colleagues are male or female or still figuring it all out and contemplating surgery. A 2013 study published in Social Forces found that women in positions of power were significantly more likely to develop breast cancer over their lifetime compared to women who had less job authority or who were housewives. Finally, to cap off this flurry of information, a 2014 study in Psychology of Women shows that women in male-dominated fields are better off showcasing traits that are associated with “masculinity” while they are interviewing. (We won’t even go into the problems with that sentence).

It’s a lot of trouble to play the politics game in the workplace, and especially difficult if you happen to have been blessed with breasts in a predominantly macho environment. Please though, if you’re a woman, don’t quit your male-dominated job in terror and go running off to clean the floor and run the errands and do the laundry. We need more women welders and mechanical engineers and high-powered lawyers and constructors to allay this unfortunate effect. “This points to the need to de-segregate the workplace, in terms of gender,”Taylor says. “It would be good for [women’s] health outcomes, good for their personal happiness and their workplace satisfaction.”

Originally published in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue Your Workplace magazine (Vol. 17-6).  Inspired People. Outstanding Results. Reprinted with permission. http://www.yourworkplace.ca.


Increasing diversity in science could be one way to fight inequality

By James Moore

I am a scientist. I am also white, male and middle-class. There are a lot of scientists like me in theUK, and this lack of diversity within the scientific community is a concern.

There are compelling reasons, beyond basic equality, for tackling the under-representation of different ethnic groups, women and those from low-income backgrounds in science. I want to focus on the latter – a group that has received relatively little attention in debates concerning diversity in science.

STEM skills gap

A strong economic case can be made on the basis of a growing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills gap in the UK, with demand for workers with STEM skills outstripping supply. This gap is also expected to widen owing to shifting employment requirements (further increasing demand) coupled with political pressure to reduce migration (further reducing supply). There is, therefore, a pressing economic need to increase the domestic supply of STEM-skilled workers.

Part of the solution to this will be to increase the levels of STEM participation in those from low-income backgrounds. Interventions in schools may be particularly effective. Indeed, it has been estimated that if GCSE science results for pupils on free school meals were to improve to the same level as the rest of their cohort, the numbers of students going on to take A Level science would increase by 3,000-4,000 per year.

As a consequence we would see more individuals with STEM skills filtering into the workforce. Although this is not enough in itself to eliminate the disparity between supply and demand, it shows how addressing under-performance in science among low-income pupils would be beneficial here.

Science and social mobility

Beyond the economic arguments, there are also compelling social reasons why this diversity issue is important. We live in an age of great scientific and technological advancement. This affects us in various ways, from altering the nature of our social interactions to altering the employment landscape by opening up new career opportunities.

Because the reach of science and technology is so pervasive, it is becoming increasingly important to improve science literacy in those from low-income backgrounds. That is, we need to ensure that individuals across the social spectrum have a sound understanding of science (as well as technology, maths, and engineering). Without this there is a danger that individuals from low-income backgrounds will be prevented from full and active participation in society, and as a result, will be further disadvantaged.

Linked to this issue of inequality is the potential role of science careers in promoting social mobility. Although tackling this issue has been on the UK’s political agenda for some time, little progress (if any) has been made. Some data suggests that theUK is one of the worst performers in the developed world when it comes to social mobility.

Those with a first degree in a STEM subject earn around 4.5% more than those with first degrees in other subjects. This would suggest that a career in science could be an effective vehicle for social mobility, adding further weight to the case for tackling the under-representation of individuals from low-income backgrounds in science.

Diversity for scientific endeavour

Science itself also stands to benefit from improving diversity. The importance of the human in the scientific endeavour is often overlooked: the individuals that make up the scientific community heavily influence the way science is done. The lack of diversity within the scientific community will, therefore, result in a narrowing of the kinds of questions we ask, the kinds of problems we think worth tackling and the ways in which we go about doing our work. A healthy science – and one working to its full potential – will be one that embraces diversity.

Finding effective solutions to this diversity issue will not be easy. Moreover, it will require efforts at all levels. Government clearly has a role to play, in both encouraging individuals from low-income backgrounds to study science and doing more to help them then pursue science careers.

But we scientists can also do our bit by doing more to engage with students from low-income backgrounds. Although this is not an easy issue to address, it should be clear that it is in all our interests to ensure that those from low-income backgrounds are better represented within the scientific community.

James Moore is a Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, Universityof London. This article first appeared in The Conversation, www.theconversation.com