Ferguson & the Gay Rights Movement

This Black gays for justiceweek Ruth Bader Ginsberg drew an important distinction between the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement – and she’s not been alone in her assessment.  The gay rights movement, which gained dramatic momentum following the protest at The Stonewall Inn in 1969, has had notable success.  It is less than 40 years later and people who couldn’t even say the word ‘gay’ back then now support legal gay marriage.  Everyone says it’s just a matter of time  before everyone will be able to legally marry.  National organizations and LGBT organizations across the country are scrambling to figure out what the next major gay rights cause will be – a new mission and purpose.  I use “gay rights” here on purpose because transgender rights are still woefully hard to find and certainly have not enjoyed the success that gay rights have enjoyed.

They say slavery ended nearly 150 years ago, yet this country still imprisons 30% of young black men.  Black and brown people are several times more likely to live in communities riddled by poverty with no access to opportunity.  They are more likely to drop out of their under-performing school, and be arrested or stopped by police – often landing them in jail.  As we have seen in Ferguson (and in many other cases), young men like Michael Brown are more likely to be killed.

The reason the gay rights movement has moved ahead so quickly is because gay and lesbian people live in families all across the country.  In every city, in every town, in every suburb.  Every time someone comes out, it forces the entire extension of people in that person’s family and friend network to question their assumptions about gay people.

People who have been at odds with “the gays”, found them sick, wrong, unqualified parents and undeserving spouses now have children that fall into that category.  And their personal knowledge of their son, their daughter, brother, sister, aunt, best friend, their relationship with that person, conflicts with the societally-driven stereotype they have always known.  It forces them to confront their biases in a very personal way.  And love is winning out.  People are renouncing their bias.  As people know someone who is gay, they become supportive of gay rights.  This is backed by ample research.

Research also shows that lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of color are at greatest risk for poverty, unemployment, incarceration, HIV/AIDS infection, and premature death – whether due to health access issues, suicide, violence or racial profiling.   LGBT people of color are not benefiting from the gay rights movement the way that white gay and lesbian people have.

People in the LGBT movement have an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure that all of our brothers and sisters are protected – especially those who are most abused by our system – our brothers and sisters of color.   If you’re white – you can take a hint from the gay rights movement.  Make some new friends.  Expand your family.  Get to know your existing friends and family who are people of color – ask them about their experiences.  This call extends to the transgender community. If you’re gay or lesbian, make some friends in the transgender community.  The killing of the Michael Brown is personal and it should be personal for all of us.  Including those of us who have white skin and are cisgender.

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Kathleen LaTosch at NCRC Annual Conference 2012Kathleen LaTosch is a diversity and inclusion consultant specializing strategic planning for organizational change at nonprofit organizations. She works in Michigan and nationally, assisting organizations in making systemic and lasting change.  For more information, visit www.LaToschConsulting.com.
 

Diversity Recruiting Strategy – First Steps

who-what-where-when-why-howMany diversity conversations start with the question, “how do we recruit more people of color (or more women or more ________ people)?” and while recruitment is certainly a worthy area to address, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the inside map of your current staffing patterns first.

Getting a good handle on what’s happening right now will help you pinpoint specific areas for improvement and it’ll help you avoid common pitfalls and missteps.  For a working example of looking at existing staffing patterns, let’s use racial diversity.  Some key questions to be asking include the following:

  1. What racial demographics are you targeting? For nonprofits, this is sometimes answered, “representative of our region” or “representing those we serve.”  If this is your case, you need to gather baseline data on the racial demographics of your region or your constituency.  For the former, this is easily found through Census Data; for the latter, you’ll need to collect your own data on your constituents.  Keep in mind that even if you have a sense of where your target should be, laws govern the setting of written targets – you’ll need to consult an attorney on this one.
  2. What are the current racial demographics on your staff? A simple breakdown will suffice only if you have a very small organization.  Otherwise, for medium- to large-sized organizations, you need to break down the racial demographics by hierarchy.  If your staff is 50% people of color, but white people make up 90% of your leadership positions, that’s an area for concern and you’ll only be able to look at this if you gather the correct information.  A couple of other considerations:
    • You may want to look at payrate and race together, to get a sense of how equitably your pay structure is playing out. Are people in the same levels getting paid equitably?  If not, this could be affecting both your retention rates and your recruitment efforts.
    • Look at your staff racial demographics by department. Are some departments noticeably more or less diverse?  Why might this be?  What are the causes and what are potential solutions?
  3. How did your current staff come into their jobs? This is an especially important question for strategic recruiting.   Were they “warm” leads from friends or colleagues?  Were they promoted from within?  Were they former volunteers or interns?  Were they purposefully sought out?   Did they come in cold from a job posting?  Where did they find out about the job?  Look for trends and patterns broken down by race.  This will provide valuable information to direct your future recruiting efforts.
  4. How long have people worked at your organization? Look at this question in terms of racial demographics and also check for promotion/demotion history.  If there are race-based patterns, this provides for further areas of exploration.

This blog is based in part on a four-year racial diversity and inclusion initiative at Affirmations, Metro Detroit’s community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  In 2009, we took a close look at all of these questions and uncovered key areas requiring specific attention:

  • While the staff was relatively diverse (64% white; 36% people of color), leadership positions were held mainly by white people at the time (80%-20%). People of color were primarily employed in positions with less authority and were more likely to hold part-time or hourly positions, as opposed to full-time salaried positions.
  • Retention data was alarming. The average white person stayed on staff more than 5 years.  The average person of color stayed on staff less than one.  We were recruiting and hiring, but people weren’t staying.
  • Even though a small organization, programs were nearly always more heavily populated by staff of color, as compared to development or administrative positions.

Gathering this information was crucial to forming a solid recruitment strategy and for informing our retention efforts.  On recruitment, we needed to do two things: 1) target efforts to non-program areas of the organization – development and administration, and 2) target efforts on leadership positions.

On retention, it pointed out deeper problems and a need to gather additional information about why staff of color left the organization, on average, after less than a year.  Great recruitment strategy only works if people want to stay once they get on the job.  Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels.  For more on this, check out a previous blog entitled “The Cost of Diversity Without Inclusion,” on the risks associated with diversifying your staff before making inclusive culture shifts from within.

Part 9: 5 Action Steps for Nonprofit Diversity & Inclusion

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This is one post in a multi-part story documenting one historically white organization’s journey toward becoming racially inclusive.  The series seeks to document the challenges and successes faced along the way in an effort to provide a learning tool for other nonprofit organizations who wish to do the same.  For a complete copy of Affirmations’ “Blueprint for Change” visit www.GoAffirmations.org and click on About Us.Kathleen LaTosch at NCRC Annual Conference 2012 
 
Kathleen LaTosch is a consultant specializing in diversity and inclusion planning for nonprofit organizations.  She worked at Affirmations, Michigan’s largest LGBT organization, from 2002-2011 and served as Chief Administrative Officer from 2007-2011.  While there, she was responsible for facilitating a broad-based racial diversity and inclusion initiative.  For more information about Kathleen’s work and availability, email her at klatosch at gmail.com
 

I’ll Show You Mine: Transparency in Diversity & Inclusion Work

truth“The first step is admitting you have a problem,” so goes the old Alcoholics Anonymous adage.  In diversity and inclusion work, it’s important to not only acknowledge this truth internally, but publicly as well.

Disproportionality in hiring practices, promotional opportunities, services delivered – all of these imbalances are obvious to those getting the short end of the stick.  People of color and other historically marginalized populations have gotten short shrift for all of U.S. history and easily recognize it – and the truth of it happening is rarely talked about or acknowledged by those in the majority population, those in charge at most organizations.

Google just turned that on its ear and was then quickly followed by Yahoo just last week.  Google publicly released their admittedly dismal diversity and inclusion metrics because they acknowledged that in order to fix a problem, the problem must first be measured.   Google is the first tech company to publicly acknowledge its poor record of recruiting, hiring and developing women and people of color with 70 percent of its workforce being male and 61 percent white.  Their transparency on this means that their books are open and the public is free to scrutinize – this holds them to a strong measure of accountability.  A secondary roll-down effect is that now all of Silicon Valley is challenged to follow suit and many do not even collect the data systematically.

Public transparency in diversity and inclusion work is key to making genuine, measured change. In a white paper by the Global Diversity and Inclusion Foundation, A Look at Transparency in Sharing Diversity and Inclusion Practices, they assert a number of key areas to consider when considering how to be transparent about diversity and inclusion efforts:

  1. General philosophy on diversity and inclusion
  2. High level overview or listing of programs
  3. Detailed information about workforce inclusion programs
  4. Detailed information about supplier diversity programs
  5. Detained information on efforts in diverse communities
  6. Information on awards won
  7. Demographic information on workforce composition
  8. Demographic information on board members
  9. Sponsorships or partnerships with diverse organizations

At Affirmations, a nonprofit human service agency serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities of Southeast Michigan, our transparency efforts started at the beginning of the initiative and included providing information publicly on all of these areas, except supplier diversity programs which did not apply.  Our transparency efforts began when the Multicultural Advisory Committee was formed and when community members were invited to be a part of the effort.  Further, it contained a number of on-going transparency steps throughout the process, including some of the following:

  1. Public Launch.  At the outset, it was important not to mince words on why the committee was being formed.  Affirmations simply stated, “the Multicultural Advisory Committee at Affirmations was established to address historic racial divisions within the organization and establish best practices for diversity and inclusion.
  2. Regular Progress Reports.  Once formed, the Multicultural Advisory Committee wrote quarterly press releases which were published in Michigan’s LGBT community newspaper, Between The Lines, featuring accomplishments, setbacks and providing information about who was serving on the committee.  Regular progress reports were also provided internally at staff and board meetings.
  3. Ongoing Community Input.   One year after the launch of the initiative, the MAC invited all community leaders to a meal and public forum where members of the MAC presented on progress to date, plans for next steps and invited public commentary on the process.   The public commentary yielded important results, including suggestions related to the city environment in which Affirmations existed:
    1. Do local businesses welcome and support patrons of color or do they drive them away?
    2. Does the local police harass and racially profile people of color?
    3. Consider hosting a town hall meeting with the city to address these concerns as they may be reasons why people of color are less likely to come to Affirmations for services.
  4. Publicly Released Final Report.  In October of 2012, the Multicultural Advisory Committee publicly released the final report – providing printed copies to the community, making electronic versions of it available via the internet and inviting the public to a presentation of the final recommendations

Remember that transparency does not end with a report or recommendations.  Diversity and inclusion work is an ongoing process, not one with a final end point.  Continuing to report out publicly on progress toward meeting goals is crucial to showing continued commitment and dedication to building a truly diverse and inclusive organization.

Read Part 8: Diversity Recruiting Strategy – First Steps

Update: Microsoft releases its diversity stats.  Biz Women Journal, Jan. 4, 2015.

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This is one post in a multi-part story documenting one historically white organization’s journey toward becoming racially inclusive.  The series seeks to document the challenges and successes faced along the way in an effort to provide a learning tool for other nonprofit organizations who wish to do the same.  For a complete copy of Affirmations’ “Blueprint for Change” visit www.GoAffirmations.org and click on About Us.Kathleen LaTosch at NCRC Annual Conference 2012 
 
Kathleen LaTosch is a consultant specializing in diversity and inclusion planning for nonprofit organizations.  She worked at Affirmations, Michigan’s largest LGBT organization, from 2002-2011 and served as Chief Administrative Officer from 2007-2011.  While there, she was responsible for facilitating a broad-based racial diversity and inclusion initiative.  For more information about Kathleen’s work and availability, email her at klatosch at gmail.com