USF Muma College of Business Certificate: Session 4: Future of Your ORG Through D&I

USF Muma College of Business Certificate: Session 4: Future of Your ORG Through D&I

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Good evening and good day, and welcome back to the fourth module of the diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace certificate. So happy to see all of you, the 130,000 of you, and let me share with you some good news. Yes, about half of you, almost 50% of all participants, have completed the quizzes thus far. But please remember all seven quizzes must be completed by May 19, 2021, exactly 11:59 PM Eastern time if you want to earn that wonderful certificate, that amazing batch.

All right. Let's remember, please, we're on this journey together. The purpose of this certificate is to help us help our organizations move through that journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. It's not a destination, it's a journey. And if you may remember, the first three modules focused on awareness and education, and we did everything we can to bring big issues to you. Now, starting module four, starting this evening, we will be shifting from awareness and education to actions.

And we have an incredible instructional session today to be facilitated by El pagnier Hudson and Terry Boyd, and the purpose today is to share with you-- that's what El pagnier and Terry will do a great job in helping us shift that mindset on how just understanding it and appreciating D&I within the workplace to actions and how do we prepare our organization for a very bright future throughout that journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. So it's about shift from awareness to action. But as always, we have two great first segments for you. So excited about the first one, and the second one.

The first one will be facilitated by Jenny Lay-Flurrie. She is the chief accessibility officer at Microsoft, and she will share with us how our organizations should and can hire and retain and support people with disabilities. And I really hope you had a chance to read about Jenny and her disabilities, which is so inspiring. It really inspired me. And please, if you have a chance, read her story, and she will talk about it too.

I love this quote from Jenny. She said, "It takes a village, an army of passionate, incredibly talented people to drive the change." And guess what, we have 130,000 people of this passionate and talented people that hopefully will drive that change. Jenny has kindly accepted to reserve a little bit of time to answer all your questions. So please remember to tweet your question at #USFDEIcert.

The second segment is also so important and so interesting. It will be facilitated by Dawn Siler-Nixon, and she's going to talk to us about why it is so important for all of us to work hand in hand with the legal team in planning the future stages of D&I in our organization. It is so important for us to understand the laws and policies in place so that our D&I effort is successful and worry-free. And now what we will do is go to Jenny and you can enjoy this. And I cannot wait to see you next week.

But for this evening, Jenny, thanks again for being with us tonight, and the floor is yours. Thank you. Thank you, folks. And hello, my name is Jenny Lay-Flurrie. We're going to be talking about disability today, and I'm going to walk you through, soup to nuts, everything that there is to do with disability, the demographics, and what this means for the world of technology. I am the chief accessibility officer at Microsoft.

My job having been here now for 16 years and 5 years in this role, is really to drive a culture of inclusion and a culture of accessibility. So let's get stuck in, folks. We're going to start with some basics. We're going to start by looking at what disability is in the world.

There's a few key points that I think are really important to wallow in. Disability is part of being human. It's something that you can join at any point in time in life, whether it's born with a disability or acquired through accident or injury and disease. It is something that is prevalent as you get older. In fact, the percentage as you get older does dramatically increase.

And the biggest statistics that we see actually date back to what was collected in the census in 2010, which put us at a billion people in the world with disabilities. A billion is not a small number, but there's a couple of key things about that. One is that about 70% of disability is invisible. You would not know if a person has a disability or not.

It also could be anything from vision, sight, mobility, right the way through to neurodiversity, dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, ADD, and mental health. It's got a wide range and it doesn't often come in ones and twos. Disability can be complex, such as the nature of the human species.

And do I think that a billion is where we're at today? No, I don't. That number was from 2010 and we're a global, aging population and a growing population, and that was even before the pandemic. What I do know is that there's disparities and there are issues and there are gaps. There's a couple that are on the page here. The World Health Organization stated that 1 in 10 have access to the products they may need to be successful. They qualify that by talking about areas like canes, glasses, hearing aids.

I would also say that most people don't have what they need when it comes to digital accessibility. The unemployment and underemployment rate for people with disabilities is double that for people versus not. All in all, there is a lot that we can and should be doing. And I mentioned the pandemic. Let's look at 2020 for a second, because a lot happened in the last year, but there's a couple of things that I think are very important to wallow in.

One is that the pandemic clearly has had an impact, a direct and indirect impact on disability. But there was also some pretty amazing moments as well. One is we've seen an uptick and an increase in amazing stories being told and recognizing some significant moments. Last year was the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We also saw an incredible documentary, which is up for an Oscar, people, called Crip Camp, which if you haven't watched, put it in your Netflix queue right now.

On the other hand, we also saw the impact of the pandemic have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. Not only did it impact employment, it caused challenges with education and a lot more besides. There is one positive. People with disabilities have been asking to work from home for decades, and overnight that became the standard. And now, understandably as we move to this hybrid world, and hopefully, fingers crossed, touching wood, moving into recovery, there is an onus for us to not forget those learnings and to continue to empower people with disabilities. But I think the key point is that there is a lot more we can do.

One of the most exciting moments for me was actually in January. All political affiliation aside, there were a couple of key points that I think reflect the opportunity that we have had. In the inauguration here in the United States, we had three significant things, and a lot more besides that happened in just one day. We had an incredible military leader signing the Pledge of Allegiance while speaking the Pledge of Allegiance, bringing American Sign Language to the center stage. We had an amazing poet who captured all of our hearts and minds, who is also a person with a disability, with a speech disability, and very publicly so.

And the website that went live that day had a bar of accessibility that hadn't been seen before. If we sum this all up, accessibility has never been more important than it is today, and it's even more important as we go forward. Accessibility is the means to access, whether it's a ramp into a building, or it's captions on a video, or it's making sure that your website is navigable to everyone who wants to use it. It's never been more critical to think about this before you actually launch something. Now, the good news here is that we, as Microsoft, have been in this game for quite some time.

In fact, if you look at the history of Microsoft, we've actually been in the area of disability and accessibility and investing here since the 1990s. Some of our first features were actually tailored to people with mobility. Some of you will know the feature Sticky Keys, which actually comes up if you enter too many times because it thinks you want to make a shortcut.

That was created in 1994 for people with mobility. Over the years, we've learned a lot, but there are some key things that I think are really important in that learning journey. We had very much two separate strands for many years.

One strand was very technical, looking at the engineering and inclusion of technical principles into some of our earliest software and current software. And also, we had a very powerful community of people with disabilities. In fact, that's how I got into this gig. I joined the company in London to work on a little product called Hotmail. I joined, sharing that I couldn't hear a little bit, but I didn't share the full extent of my deafness. I ultimately needed to, and that caused me to join the deaf community.

It then caused me to join every other community, and ultimately create a Disability Employee Resource group at Microsoft, which I then had the honor of chairing for 10 years. In that time I got immersed in the world of not just disability inclusion, but accessibility. And five years ago, I had the opportunity to create a new center of excellence when it comes to accessibility. Our approach now has evolved and our structure has evolved. Our principle at Microsoft is to think about this as a part of every single person's obligation.

In fact, the mission of Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization to achieve more. We have over 150,000 employees all around the world, and no one person or no one team can do that. So organizationally, we've really had to think about how we were going to embed those principles to ensure that we were learning from the experts who are people with disabilities-- employees, customers, partners, advocates-- and making sure we were pulling that expertise into everything that we do, whether it's a piece of code, it's a marketing campaign, or it's an app.

We call it the hub and spoke model, and what we have is core excellence in the middle, but every team works with me in partnership as part of my accessibility leadership team. It's evolved over the years, but this has given us the opportunity to scale. But at the core, it all starts with people. And there's been a few key trends that I'm going to walk through that give you and illuminate some of the learnings that we've had. The first of those is about representation. Now, representation is a word that's used across many domains.

Let me qualify what I mean. I mean in having people with disabilities in the core and fabric of everything that you do empowered and safe so that they all feel comfortable and able to share their expertise and keep you grounded, to make sure that what you are producing is not just meeting a bar of legal compliance, but is driving a usable, productive experience. We have learned quite a lot about representation. A couple of the key learnings is one you've got to build, and this is particularly about corporate enterprise. You have to empower and build a strong employee resource group. Ours is incredibly strong.

It's one of the eight in the company. It has an incredible list of groups, 22 of them. Most of them right now are in the invisible or non-apparent categories. And the experts in each domain share issues, problems, ideas, innovations that they want to build. We are a nerdy company at the end of the day.

And they share those and collate those. The second learning is to really focus on thinking about accessibility as a business with people at the core and the fabric of it. We went so far as to build our own maturity model at Microsoft.

We took some of the industry models from Carnegie Mellon and from an accessibility expert level access, and took the wisdom of this accessibility leadership team to build a five-step model that would really help us to understand how are we doing if we have all of the right things in place to drive the future. What we learned from doing this is that there were some key steps that we had to take. One of those was to make sure that the door was open to talent. And bluntly, we found out that in places, we were not open. We were not open when it came to hiring and empowering employees with autism. And we came to this realization through a data analysis piece of work that we did a few years ago that identified that this was an area that was talent-rich, had high STEM talent, pretty good density of two- and four-year degrees, but high unemployment and high underemployment.

What we were able to do with this was to reimagine the interview process. In fact, we ditched it, and instead we bring folks in for an academy. It's a virtual academy.

It uses Minecraft these days. And through that academy, we're able to not just source talent, but identify and see talent in action. It removed the blocker, which was the one-on-one interview process asking questions where a person wasn't empowered. With autism, your world can be very black and white, and a lot of interview questions are very gray. It didn't empower success. We've been able to see through this program, which we've just expanded to include more than autism, but really focus on neurodiversity that you can open doors to talent.

The other was to open doors to feedback and to make sure that our support channels were open. Eight years ago, we created the disability answer desk. I call DAD. I have no mom, but I definitely have a dad, and DAD it's about making sure that, as a company that provides technical software and hardware to people around the world, that people with disabilities have a channel to ask questions that mattered to them and have an expert at the other end that knew that language, whether they were asking about incredible software like JAWS, or NVDA, or dragon, which is a speech recognition technology, or they were asking about what features would work for someone who was blind or someone who has mental health, they will be speaking to someone who is an expert in those areas. It takes around 13,000-14,000 calls a month these days. We have multiple channels of people to be able to ask us questions, whether that is in sign language or, if you're blind, using a tool called Be My Eyes.

Ultimately what we've learned is that by offering this service, we have an incredible business model that's come out of it because we're able to help and empower people that may be dealing with an issue or a technical, or coming new to the world and wanting to know how technology can help. But we also get really rich feedback on where we can improve and where we can do more. We also believe that this is an area that should be learned and educated on. We train every single one of our employees. I cannot stress how important that is. Every employee is asked to take training.

It's mandatory. They also have an option to go further and take a badge, and we put the details of that badge online so that you can see some of the details. We took out some of the Microsoft notary, but a lot of it remains there. The bottom line when it comes to this trend is that it really is about one core principle. Nothing about us without us. It's a saying that means so much in the disability world, but I think really captures the heart of it.

If I flip to a couple of the technology trends, let me cover a couple of those for a second. First one-- personalization. Technology, actually there's far more at your fingertips than you may realize. What we've learned by investing in people, by investing in representation, training, learning, support is we've been able to prove our product and make it more usable to people.

One of the key improvements we learned about was making it easier to see your screen, making it easier to find your mouse, to make your font bigger. We put those features right into the heart of Windows, and they're really easy. In fact, if you want a bright, pink, large mouse pointer, go in the core window.

It's right there. It's one button and it's everything that you could desire. The other one was making accessibility easier.

If you're sitting there and going, hmm, I don't know if my stuff is accessible or not, it's likely not, and that's something that is really important to remember. You may have images in your documents. You may have images in your PowerPoint. Do you know if, as you send that or share that, it's accessible and inclusive? No. What we did was put a key feature in Office called Accessibility Checker. If you hit the button, it will use artificial intelligence to try and fix things for you.

Like, look at your image and put a description in. You can then check it out anything else that you think will be helpful. And follow the steps, ultimately making sure that not only is your document gorgeous, but it's inclusive.

We also looked at affordability. In fact, one of the key principles that we have listening to our employees, our customers, to our community, is that there's a cost to being disabled. Many call it the disability tax.

So one of the cool things that we have to do is make sure that we're not adding to that. Microsoft Teams is what I use every day. It's my communications vehicle. And in that, I'm using captions, transcript, and also my sign language interpreter.

Those three things help me to be successful. If I miss any one of those things, my jigsaw puzzle falls apart a little bit. There's no additional cost for that. There should never be an additional cost for that, because affordability shouldn't be the reason between access and not. Moving forward, another key learning is about how we shift left.

You'll hear this time a lot in our world, and it's making sure that if you're producing any piece of anything, that you are building accessibility and by design. The easiest way of thinking about this is if you were building a building, would you put a ramp on 10 minutes before you cut the red ribbon? No. You would make sure that that ramp was embedded into the original architect outlines.

The same thing works with whatever you're producing digitally. We've tried to make this easier by putting key technology online, again, free. It's in GitHub could Accessibility Insights.

It goes into your toolbar and as you're looking at a website, you can hit a button and you can replicate the lived experience of a person with a disability and see if it flows through the page in the right order, which is collected to, for those that are a little bit more geeky, gather the bugs and issues. Ultimately, there's an incredible future, and this is where I get really supremely excited. One of the key features of my last trend for today is about the data desert. A lot of technology is moving towards artificial intelligence and machine learning. It's an amazing environment.

In fact, many of the features that I've shown you today that have come out of feedback from customers, employees, and more have been also possible because of the just revolution that there's been in speech and language processing and image recognition and more. However, data from people with disabilities, it needs to be part of those libraries. It's a bit of a desert, and we need to change that. It's something that's so integral. We've been partnering with the city of London to work to make image recognition better by capturing pictures from blind individuals and making sure that those are captioned appropriately.

That's really important. Not everyone who takes a picture takes a good picture, but those images should be absolutely captioned appropriately. We've also been looking at how we can embed a lot of our insights and data to empower people with mental health, whether that's through [INAUDIBLE] or MyAnalytics. There's multiple different products we have out, but I think the key point is this data can actually help you to manage your life in a better way, which is incredibly important if you are living with a mental health condition. AI is an incredible force.

We also have a program to help spur innovation here-- AI For Accessibility. We're giving away 25 million in grants right now. We're in the third year of this program. And some of the just amazing ideas that are coming through get me really excited about the future. Ultimately, we're going to be talking about this and a lot more in coming weeks. One to put on your calendar is the Ability Summit.

This is the 11th Ability Summit. It's an annual conference that we run. You will see me in a studio, not in my living room here with my piano behind me, but in a proper studio with video cameras on May 5 and 6, and more importantly, a lot of amazing people talking about what I've touched on here and a lot more. If there's one key thing I'd love for you to take away before I turn to questions, it's that together and only together can we accelerate the journey of accessibility and tackle the disability divide. Thank you for your time, and I'll turn it back for questions.

OK, so let's hit some of these. First one on here, "How do you persuade management to allocate additional financial resources to improve accessibility efforts to do more than the minimum required?" My gosh. OK. Well, first I'm going to tackle that sentence by saying I don't like it, because this isn't about additional resources in many ways. Accessibility should be included into every single budget. If it's not, that's actually a problem.

This is not something that's additional or on top of. This should be something that's core and integral to release of anything. Now, I say we've tackled this. If I look at our events, and Microsoft has run several events, very big events, and I'm going back a decade or more, in the beginning there was a question of, well, should we make sure that every event is captioned? And how are we going to include that into our budget? Should we ask for additional money? And I would say that the first year we did ask for additional. We had the conversation about how we wanted to be more inclusive of our employees and more inclusive of our customers, and we didn't want to exclude.

Exclusion is a very powerful term, and I use that far more than falling into any ROI trap. And let me be clear, there is a trap here. The trap is that, well, why would I do this for 1%, 4%, 5%, 15% of the population? The more powerful question is, why should you not do it? Why would you ever want to exclude people? That first year, we added some additional budget to make sure that event was successful. The following year, accessibility was a line item in budget and has remained so ever since. For anyone that's attended any of our events, you'll see that there is a sign language interpreter, just standard audio descriptions are provided, and captions. That is the standard, and that is what we will continue with.

So think about this additive one time, but one time only. Number two-- critical for accessibility, building in an employee resource group. Why are so many companies still fighting this? You know, that's a fascinating question. I don't get the sense that many are fighting it, but I do think that many are still evolving this. Disability in many ways is one of the final frontiers of societal inclusion.

I'm a very proud person with a disability. I say the word. I do not use any terms like diverse ability, different abilities, special abilities, anything inability. No. I am a person with a disability. I am disabled.

I am deaf. I am proud of that. Now, that's my journey. I've been on that journey for many years and I see every day how my disability helps me to be more successful in the work that I do as a leader, as a mom, as a wife.

Many are on that journey. In fact, there have been times where I've been on that journey where I've been worried about self-identification, where I've been worried about talking about disability as strongly and as vehemently as I do today, and I do think that that's core to why people are still pulling together. I think if we think about disability as a strength, as an expertise, as a talent pool, as the power and the impact that can happen to any business if you do empower all of your talent and you make it sell for people to bring themselves to work, all of themselves, then things will change.

But I would stop giving disability anything that minimizes what it is. Disability is not a bad word. It's a strong word, and so I encourage anyone and everyone to use it. Next question. "I work with young adults diagnosed with autism.

Big challenge is getting students to disclose. Is there an understanding from employees to offer before accommodations ask?" Is there an understanding from employees to offer before accommodations? I'm not sure that I understand the last part, but let's just talk about autism and self-ID for a second. I kind of touched on it a little bit. So autism-- one of the unintended consequences of launching the autism program a few years ago was not something we thought through at the time, but might illustrate some of this. At Microsoft, we have two groups designated for autism. One is employees with autism.

The other is parents of children with autism. And we do that because there are different conversations that happen. In the parents group, there's a lot of conversations about providers and best practice and schooling and education and medical. With employees, it's a lot more about how do you talk about autism, disclose to managers, ask what you need to be successful, and best practices. And so a lot of great conversations happen in both. What we did do when we announced the autism program is we saw that there was an immediate-- in fact, my inbox flooded with people asking me, wait a minute, I didn't know that you saw autism is a good thing.

I've had autism I've never told anyone. What do I do? And again, I think this is illustrative of a few things. If you paint a message that you see disability as a strength, if you then go on to illustrate that with programs, technologies, products, whatever your company is, then you will stop to see the culture of safety grow to which people start to see their identity as something more-- something that can be shared and something that is considered a strength.

What we did is we took it to the next level. In fact, in October last year, we started to share publicly how our disability representation numbers. And we share for the first time that 6.1% of our US population has so far identified with a disability. About 50% have taken the quick survey.

And I do expect that number to rise. In fact, it already has. Again, unintended consequence, a month later, that number had a very positive uptick.

People not realizing that, again, we saw it as the strength that it is. I think we need to continue to talk about this. I encourage any company to be transparent about the numbers. They do not have to be awesome, but they do need to be talked about. They do need to be managed and measured. And we do need to, most importantly, encourage self-identification, tell stories, put role models online, lead the way.

What resources info might be helpful to small companies who are looking to support employees dealing with mental-- and I'm not going to use with illness, I will call them conditions. So there's a lot and a wealth of resources available from multiple different sources. I do recommend one of the [INAUDIBLE] nonprofits that I've had the honor of being chair of the board of for several years is Disability [INAUDIBLE] They have an enormous wealth of resources for every size company.

They also have a lot of best practices. You can take the disability equality index, which is a survey that tells you how good or not you are. And by the way, bad school doesn't mean bad things. It just means that there's opportunity to lean in and lean into the best practices that are out there today. I would always recommend going and checking out their resources. They cover every industry, every discipline.

All of Microsoft resources are broadly-- we've published our playbook when it comes to autism. We've published our playbook for managers. We published a playbook for justice and inclusion practices.

We are a complete open book on what we've learned, and we've learned many things. And I will tell you internally, this year, one of the impacts of the pandemic has been a growing conversation on mental health and well-being. Internally, that's caused us to really focus in, to talk about well-being in a very different scale. Every employee is given five days for their own well-being to take as and when they want. But also, to make sure that resources are clearly, plainly, and bluntly there, whether you're an employee with, a manager of, or a friend and colleague.

It is OK to not be OK. And it's never been more important to make sure you're educated, because mental conditions, mental health can impact at any time. What do you think of the term special needs regarding individuals, children who have disabilities? I don't like it. Now, I have to qualify this a little bit. I am a mother.

In fact, I'm a mom and a step mom, and every single one of our kids has a disability of some form. I have two with autism. And there's good conversations with both of them about language. One, my youngest, who is quite blunt and beautiful-- I don't know where she gets that from in any way, shape or form-- she goes between person-first and identity-first language. Some days, she's autistic and some days she has autism. She's very bold about it.

She's an extrovert autistic and talks about it vehemently. Someone said to her recently that she had special needs, and she's like, no I don't. I'm autistic.

Now, she's my daughter. There's a lot to be said there. But I think we have to think about the words if we want disability to be seen as a strength. Having a disability, does it make me special? Do I have superpowers because of my disability? No, I don't.

I mean, I'm smart. I'm sassy. I'm very modest.

I'm not special, not because of my disability. I may be because of who I am. And my parents will try to take credit for that, I'm sure. But I actually think we should breed more confidence in our kids to talk about disabilities in a way that allows them to be their best self-advocates when they hit college and when they hit the employment-- and when they start going down the talent pipeline. I want my daughter to be able to go to college and asking bluntly what she needs to be successful.

I don't want any hesitation in that. And based on what I'm seeing right now, I don't think she will. It's really important, I think, to breed this in society today and talk more about the words, and be careful and mindful about what we believe those to be.

How do we ask people with visible disabilities about their needs without it seeming to be prying? How do we start the conversation about meeting their needs if we don't know? Well, one of the things about disability is that it's not yours. [LAUGHS] And actually, from a legal perspective, we don't ask people if they have disabilities. What we do is make it safe for someone to self-identify and make sure that they have all the resources that they may need and have available. One of the biggest things that I recommend to any manager, leader, colleague to talk about is as we talk about diversity, as we talk about the spectrum of being human, we include all the different identities that are part of that. We say the word disability.

We talk about where accommodations are, how to find them, how they work, how they are to empower everyone to be successful, how disability is seen within your company and corporate and your community, which is hopefully as a strength, and to really talk about disability in the way that you can feel proud of. What you will find by doing that is that people will feel safe to identify. There will always be times when an individual who may have a blunt and obvious disability may not want to discuss or share. The number one principle is to ask. And I'll give one quick example. I recently-- a couple of years ago, actually-- had a blood clot issue with my leg.

Unforeseen genetic abnormality. Part of getting old. And I get it. We gave that clot a name. We called it Jerry.

And what I found as I was returning to using my leg after the surgeries was that my leg didn't work very well. I had to use canes and I had to use different mobility aids. It was a very fascinating journey.

It was my first time with a really blunt and obvious physical disability. Because while I'm profoundly deaf, looking at me, hearing me, you wouldn't necessarily realize that. Using a cane, everyone saw it. Everyone would try to open doors, would ask me how I got the injury, would tell me about their skiing accident.

There was one time where somebody just saw me, bluntly opened the door, not realizing that I was leaning on it for my balance, which was part of my physical therapy, and I went flat on my face. In fact, it happened twice. And their intent was beautiful. I would never change it for the world.

But what I said to them is, I love your intent. Ask me next time. Asking is, how can I help? It's the most clear and obvious and easiest thing to do. To close. Comment to close. I'm grateful to understand more about these trends and considerations are going into improving accessibility for all.

You know, I do think that as we look at the future of accessibility, it's incumbent on us to embrace the learning from the last year, from the last 18 months, from the last three decades, from the last century or more. What we know with that is that accessibility is the route to innovation. Just think about audio books for a minute.

[INAUDIBLE] or talking books for the blind. And I think it's incumbent for us to think about how disability, mental health, neurodiversity is a core part of our society. And if you find yourself hesitating before saying any of those words or saying the word disability, I would encourage you to take time to learn the language. It's not hard to ask the questions, to be confident, and to say the word. Because from an accessibility perspective, our future is investing more to make sure that we deliver on the needs of human, all of human, and intersectional use.

It's an exciting time. The notary is there. We've just got to get the right use cases and hopefully empower people with technology, with accessibility, and see some amazing new features. Thank you so much for your time, folks. Thank you so much, and good luck with the rest of your course. Thank you very much, Jenny, for a wonderful presentation.

I am very excited to introduce you to Dawn Siler-Nixon from Ford Harrison. She's going to be talking to us about staying within legal bounds with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Welcome, Dawn. Well, I'm excited to be with you here today to talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace through the certificate that's offered by USF. So as you think about engaging in diversity initiatives in your workplace, including discussions around race or unconscious bias, microaggressions, code switching, affirmative action, we all need to think about striking a balance between achieving your goals and really protecting your organization under the law.

And that means balancing our desire for aggressively pursuing diversity with the legal requirements for non-discrimination. As you likely know, federal law prohibits workplace discrimination and harassment based on some of the very same types of characteristics that we're seeking to gain in the workplace, including race and color and gender and disability, and many others. Those protections have been expanded even by state and local laws as well. So in aggressively seeking to implement diversity initiatives or to jumpstart your diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, it's critical to fully engage with your legal counsel or your outside lawyer who's got experience with legal issues in the DE&I space. Often, those that are on the front lines, the ones that are in the DE&I offices or in HR positions that are responsible for these functions or even leaders that are in the C-suites think that lawyers slow them down, keep them from getting where they want to go quickly, or often just say no when they want to do something that's proactive.

What I want you to do is think about lawyers in the DE&I space as your partner to help you get where you're going without having an accident or without running a red light along the way. We want to collaborate with you to ensure that the initiatives that you're contemplating or that you're rolling out are not unintentionally violating any law, rule, or regulation, because the laws in this area are rapidly changing. I'm sure as many of you saw late last year with the executive order that was entered governing the types of training that you might give or companies might provide. And it limited training, including certain diversity concepts like privilege and others. And companies had to pivot very quickly, and their partnership and collaboration with the legal partners in that instance was key to maintaining their government contracts and the momentum that they had already gained through their diversity initiatives. What I want to talk about today is one specific area where we know that there are opportunities for significant advancement and growth, but they're also minefields for potential problems, and that's the area of recruitment.

This is an area where we've seen an increase in legal action as it relates to hiring, especially when it adversely affects one person or a group of individuals. But it's taken pursuant to a policy that's aimed at achieving or maintaining your workplace diversity. Now, following the death of George Floyd and many others, we saw corporations come out and step forward to lead the charge against hate by coming out with statements that denounced Mr. Floyd's murder, and so

many others. But many organizations, maybe even your own organization, did what I called initiating or doubling down on their commitment to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace following this BLM movement. Many employers even published specific goals related to race or gender parity that it would achieve by a certain date with firm commitments to moving the needle forward in terms of workplace diversity. At the same time, we saw the Department of Labor and the OFCCP, which is the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, they questioned more federal contractors that outlined or put out there these specific goals in their diversity pledges, claiming that they were seeking to ensure that companies were not engaging in racial preferences or quotas in an effort to reach their goals. Microsoft and Wells Fargo have been two of the larger companies that have been widely publicized as being invested by-- investigated by the DOL after launching initiatives to diversify their mostly white leadership ranks. You may have seen that Microsoft pledged back in June of 2020 to double the number of Black managers and senior employees by 2025.

And Wells Fargo announced its aim to double Black leadership over the next five years, and went even further by pledging to tie their operating committee members' diversity efforts to their pay, which a lot of companies have followed. After Wells Fargo and Microsoft drew this line in the sand, it really did have a domino effect. In the weeks following, Mastercard vowed to increase Black leadership by 50%. Visa pledged the same thing, Goldman Sachs, HSBC.

All of them pledged-- made a pledge, a specific numerical or percentage pledge of increasing the number of Black staffers by a certain year. Most of them are 2025. But just as those commitments came rolling in, the letters came shortly thereafter from the DOL. The government suggested that the initiatives might be a violation of the Civil Rights Act because they appear to imply that employment action might be taken on the basis of race, and directed both companies to really prove that the actions that they were taking to improve their opportunities were not illegal, race-based decisions.

You can see that there's a lot of speculation in these allegations or these statements. And ultimately, both of these inquiries were concluded with no action against either entity. But they did provide us with evidence that these goals-based initiatives will draw the attention of the government, and we need to be very careful that we're doing this in the right way. So you want to partner with your legal department or outside counsel not to stifle your momentum or your programs, but to collaborate on the most effective method of achieving the results that you want. And oftentimes, the results that you need to obtain in order for your business to go forward without violating the law. Now, under statutory language of Title VII, which is the law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace, race-conscious employment decisions are not typically defensible.

So private sector employers have to be very cautious about whether their diversity initiatives support or could be viewed as supporting concrete employment actions that could adversely affect non-minorities, as compared to being specific policies that are responding to carefully identified, documented, remedial goals and policies that are limited and temporary. So I want to give you seven lists or seven points of do's and don'ts as it relates to hiring. Number one is do set goals and not quotas. Goals are not prohibited in the US. Quotas are. An even though it's risky, articulating goals of doubling the number of Black managers or senior employees by 2025, for example, is not per se illegal.

It's risky, because you are committing to specific hires based on race or gender or other characteristics by a certain date, which puts pressure on your leaders, and it might end up inadvertently forcing your leaders to make decisions based on protected characteristics in order to meet those goals. And what does that look like? That looks like quotas. And so that leads to my second hiring tips for do's and don'ts.

Don't direct your recruiting department or your outside headhunter or your managers to make decisions based on race. If you have or if you're thinking about asking your recruiters to send you only female candidates or only minority candidates, don't do it. Giving this type of instruction is likely going to run afoul of Title VII, which expressly covers the referral practices of both employers and employment agencies, and that includes temporary staffing agencies or recruiters. So you can't ask your headhunter or your recruiter to segregate applicants on your behalf to get around that potential violation. And I have the Supreme Court here, because the Supreme Court in Fisher versus The University of Texas did leave the crack open in the door here. In that case, the University of Texas used race as one of the many factors that it used in deciding undergraduate admissions.

UT's goal like many of our goals and probably some of yours was to achieve an academic environment that offers robust exchange of ideas, exposure to different cultures, preparation for the challenges of an increasingly diverse workforce, and the competencies required of future leaders. It had a multi-tiered approach, race being one of those tiers. It was a special characteristic along with the applicant's academic qualifications or essay scores or letters of recommendation or background, all of those things that were considered. And the court said that the consideration of those factors were legally acceptable, because the consideration of race was contextual.

It didn't operate as a mechanical plus one or a reason why that person was selected by the University. It was a factor of a factor of a factor. So using that Fisher decision as a guide, some have argued that private employers should be permitted to use race, gender, or other protected characteristics as one factor of many in making employment decisions.

But there's still risk with that, because you are using race as a factor. And so it comes back to that. So I remember and recommend sticking to number two of my do's and don'ts, and not making your hiring decision based on race. Number three is to do conduct demographic analysis of your workforce. You need to know what your numbers are in order to determine if you have a problem or where you need to go from there.

I often hear a response to this, well, the information could be discoverable later on if we have litigation alleging discrimination in hiring. The fact is that your data is what it is, you know, whether you have those statistics, the numbers on paper or not. And ignorance is not a defense. So once you know what your demographics are, you can do something about it. You can measure your progress.

You can tweak your programs. You can determine if you're going in the right direction or if you need to course correct. In addition to having a company-wide demographic analysis, which you'll do, I would recommend that you sort the data by department or position or location so that you can evaluate the needs of each department separately instead of grouping all the employees together as a whole and then trying to make decisions based on that. What you might find might surprise you, because it's likely that one or more of your departments, your positions of your locations might be doing better than the others, and you might be able to use what that group is doing as an example to create initiatives going forward. The number four of the hiring do's and don'ts is to develop or implement a hiring plan or a program. If you have evaluated your demographics and you've determined that there's a need for certain demographics in your workplace, then develop a plan to meet those goals.

Ensuring that you have balanced slates is one way of meeting those goals. Asking or offering your recruiter an incentive to bring you a more diverse group. Not drilling down on a specific group, but a more diverse group of individuals for consideration is another way. Or implementing a variation on these two roles that I have listed here, the Rooney Rule or the Mansfield Rule.

You may have heard of these or you may not, but they are being implemented widespread throughout the country now. The Rooney Rule is named after the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was adopted back in 2003 by the NFL, and has trickled down to many other-- the NCAA. It's trickled down to many of the other organizations as well.

And it initially required teams to interview at least one minority candidate before filling head coach positions. That's now been expanded to senior coach positions and line coach positions or managerial positions. And in 2020, it was increased to two interviews, because the studies have shown that where there are two or more underrepresented candidates interviewed for a position, it's more likely that one will be hired.

And the Mansfield Rule is similar to that in that it requires at least 30% of the candidate pool for legal department leadership positions to be from unrepresented populations. And the rule also provides that at least 50% of the applicants considered for internal roles and outside counsel that you hire be from underrepresented groups. There's no quotas. There's no hiring preferences in either one of these rules. But they're policies that force employers to look harder at a broad range of capable candidates before interviewing and before making a hiring decision.

Expanding opportunities for everyone within all levels of the organization makes sense from a financial, legal, and moral perspective, as we know. The question is, how do we achieve those financial and moral goals without running afoul of the law? And this is one way to do that. So number four is do evaluate your current hiring process. When we talk about unconscious bias, we often focus on a person instead of a process. We have many processes in our organizations that are fraught with bias, and our hiring practices are one of them.

So take a look at your hiring process and revamp it. Are you still going to the same schools or places to recruit that you were using 10 or 15 or 20 years ago? Consider looking at schools and programs that have demonstrated commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, like USF and others make sure that you've looked at your processes, your job descriptions, your interview teams. Does the language in your job description deter candidates from applying? Does it require a master's degree when someone with 15 years of experience would be a better fit for the role? Are there unwritten rules in your organization that you'll only consider the top 10% of their class? Give some thought, some real thought as to the skills and experience that you really need for the position, and rewrite your job description. And from a legal perspective, include in your job descriptions or your job posts that you are an equal opportunity employer, and that people from minority groups or underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply. And I would also say for you to consider who is evaluating and interviewing the candidates. Do you have a diverse group of individuals? Do you have a training program for about hiring in that interview team that includes a component of diversity? I'd also recommend that you consider a panel to interview individuals for positions.

Have them make their own selections and then confer with others on the panel before they make a final determination as to who will be selected for the position. Number six. Don't discount affirmative action. And I know when we think about affirmative action, we automatically construe it as something that could be negative, where someone is being selected only because of their race or their gender. And I would say that that's thinking from the past. Affirmative action was a policy under which racial minorities that were historically subjected to discrimination were given certain preferences in education and employment.

The affirmative action of today is now designed to level the playing field to ensure that everyone is considered based on their qualifications and not discounted because of their race or their gender or some other protected characteristic. And those companies that are under an affirmative action plan mandate, they have to routinely evaluate their process and their progresses towards their stated goals that are stated in their plan. Now, that sounds strikingly familiar to many of the things that we've been talking about, right? So I'd suggest that you can use many of the precepts from the requirements of affirmative action plans or voluntary affirmative action plans in developing your own diversity action plan. Now, a voluntary affirmative action plan requires an analysis of the challenges that you're facing, a comparison of those challenges between the employer's workplace and the appropriate labor pool. It also requires that there be a limited labor pool of qualified minorities or women for these particular promotions.

For private employers, the Supreme Court has recognized an exception to Title VII protections from discrimination in industries where employers can establish a historical imbalance or disparity in the workplace. So first, do what we were talking about before. Evaluate your demographics. Identify if and where you have opportunities, where there's an imbalance possibly, a disparity.

And compare that with the appropriate labor pool or labor force in your area. You can then create diverse slates of individuals that would be designed to remedy that imbalance. And then once you have reached the parity that you want, you can discontinue the plan.

I can tell you that the Equal Opportunity Commission, the EEOC, which is the gatekeeper for federal discrimination claims, has affirmative action guidelines that encourage employers to adopt voluntary affirmative action plans or voluntary programs that would provide for gender or race-conscious actions, but it's only after the employer or the organization that has conducted some reasonable self-analysis, and they have a reasonable basis for concluding that the actions they need to take with regard to diversity are appropriate. So make sure that your plan-- you have a plan in place, and that plan has these components, and it should pass the EEOC's scrutiny. Finally, number seven is to do be careful when establishing minority internship programs. I've gotten a lot of questions recently from clients and potential clients about this area. It may seem counterintuitive, but when you're hiring individuals for positions within your organization for your paid interns and you have a minority internship program where only minorities are considered, then you're directly excluding white men, potentially white women.

And that could be considered a violation of Title VII because you're making decisions, again, based on race. There's been at least one case against the Getty Foundation in California that's currently making its way through the court where this happened, where a white female filed a lawsuit, claiming discrimination over a minority internship program. So one thing that I recommend is that you coordinate with local colleges and universities and establish a scholarship potentially or a program for a scholarship for minority students that would include an internship component as a part of that award. And if you're interested in pursuing something like that, collaborate with your legal counsel or give me a call. One thing that I'll leave you with is this. I want you to continue to think outside of the box.

Push the envelope. Be creative. There's nothing that I'm saying here that means not to be aggressive in your approach. Don't be afraid to be the first to do something like providing a bonus to your employee resource group leaders for all the hard work that they've done, or establishing a recruiting initiative award that pays your employees for referrals.

But make your legal department or your outside legal counsel a part of that process. They can help you achieve your goals. They can help you exceed your goals while avoiding any setbacks that you might have in your program that would come due to litigation or claims of discrimination or harassment that could have been avoided.

So I've provided you with some resources as well that should be helpful to you that will be on USF's website along with my presentation that you can go to and find out more information about making sure that your programs are legally sound and they're not going to get you into any trouble. And I'm available to you. If you'd like to talk for any issues that you might be facing or discuss any initiatives that you'd like to pursue including training programs and policies, just give me a call. I want to thank you for joining us, and thank you for your time today.

[MUSIC PLAYING] I'm Terry Boyd, and it's my pleasure to be your co-educator for Module 4. Presenting with me today is a very strong operator in this space, El pagnier Hudson. She has worked in the DE&I space for several years.

And in fact, she's held prominent positions for several organizations. But now she serves as Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Vice Provost for Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion for a large institution here in the state of Florida. El pagnier, why don't we share our expectations for this module? Absolutely.

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much, Terry. You know, we're excited about having the opportunity to discuss the why of diversity, equity, and inclusion in this discussion today. And we can't go any further with this whole journey without talking about policies and practices. You're right. And we're going to highlight some research studies that are going to give some insight into this work that we're doing.

And we must deliver what we think is a strong strategic alignment for any organization. And listen, whenever you talk about strategic alignment, you're talking about change, which is the only constant. So we're definitely going to talk about resistance to change. And creating that strong DEI strategy for all organizations. And how we do that, we'll talk about inclusive leadership, which is going to be helpful in moving that initiative forward.

So El pagnier, why don't you take it away? Thank you. Thank you so much, Terry. But before I do that, I do want to take a moment to appreciate and applaud Dean Limayem and Dr. Alexis Mootoo, and the entire Muma College of Business for this impactful program. It really is an honor to be here with you, Terry, and to engage in this important conversation.

I want to start with the why of DEI. And when we think about why we're engaging in this diversity and inclusion dialogue with such great emphasis today, I think we can all agree that with the twin pandemics of 2020 being health and racism, we were really shaken to our core and forced to rethink our intents and actions around what most of us already had in place. You know, we were forced to retrospect and introspect around what was in place within our organizations. You know, what was working and what was not. We also had to contend with what our true efforts were around diversity inclusion actually versus what was posturing, right? To check a box around this impactful work. When I think about the future of our organizations through a D&I lens-- diversity and inclusion lens-- what's certain is that we can't go back to what we've always done, simply because it'll yield what we've always had.

And I really marvel even now at the opportunity that this certification program is affording our global community. Imagine, as we're becoming more enlightened through the amazing speakers and content that we're gaining from this program, each one of us, the over 130,000 of us, taking it back to our organizations, imagine the scale of impact it'll have by applying the concepts we're gaining here. Yes. It's absolutely staggering when we collectively commit to infusing these transformational elements into our organization.

Today, our efforts have to be strategic, though. Again, we're talking about the why of D&I. So creating a true strategy around your D&I work really gives credence to the organization's commitment. A strategy guards against arbitrary attention to off-the-cuff efforts that are siloed with low-scaled impact. Organizational strategy can be connected to organizational resources when it's supported by leadership as the north star for the organization's efforts. There are several models for strategy to be incorporated into an organization, and some organizations create a distinct and separate strategy around diversity, equity, and inclusion that outlines its own goals and efforts with its intended outcomes.

Other organizations embed DEI strategy within the organization's strategic plan. At our institution, the latter is our preferred model. And in my opinion, it really does help to-- especially around resources, right? When you're prioritizing resources and you're having to look at budget cuts, that which is going to be cut is likely that which is outside of the organization's strategic plan. So it really offers greater protection to your DEI work when it's infused rather than, ethnics-- you know, an external document. Now strategy alone, however, will not yield true transformational change without a cultural shift.

And Terry's going to talk a little bit later about organizational change. But combining our organizational strategy around diversity will likely require a shift in organizational culture, right? So that the practices of our employees can reflect the values that we espouse around diversity. Listen, when there is no clarity in our organizations around diversity and inclusion strategy that is permeating throughout our organization, and when our employees are not embracing our D&I work as our collective commitment, it can result in costly litigation that is avoidable. Let me share, Terry, because-- OK.

A couple of case studies that will really drive this point home. OK. There's an instance right here in our great state of Florida where an organization, a municipality of Brevard County, was found to have violated discrimination laws against an employee. And it was an instance where the suit alleges that the county violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it fired an employee, an African American woman, communications specialist, in its Space Coast Tourism Office.

Title VII, of course, is a federal statute that prohibits employee discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, and religion. According to the department's complaint filed in the US District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the employee had an excellent work history, including positive evaluations and no disciplinary actions throughout her eight years of employment with the county. According to the allegations contained in the complaint, however, shortly after a new director was appointed as manager of the office, this employee's work came under unjustified scrutiny not apply to other co-workers performing similar duties. That director fired the employee in April of that year, and six months-- and that was six months after he was hired. The director never expressed concern about the employee's work performance prior to terminating her employment.

As the complaint alleges, he told the employee that she did not fit his vision of the office without any further explanation. After her firing, the director replaced that employee with two white employees. And around the same time, the complaint alleges that the only other minority employee in that office was forced to resign. So the departure of two minority employees resulted in an all-white Tourism Office. So think about it.

Having a clear strategy around hiring, promotion, and termination would serve any organization in reducing disparate treatment of employees within that organization. I have one other case I want to share not related to race, but about different abilities, because that's important too. That's included in diversity, equity, and inclusion. And this happens to be my beloved Starbucks.

I absolutely love Starbucks. This has happened in the UK. Starbucks is a global organization. They had an employee who was accused of fraud with the employer, Starbucks, claiming that she was falsifying documents after she mistakenly entered incorrect information when recording temperatures and a duty roster. As a result, she was given lesser duties, taking away vital parts of her supervisory position, and was told that she needed to retrain before she could continue with those responsibilities, which made up the job that she loved. In an investigative interview, the employee expressed-- listen to this-- that she was made to feel like a fraud and was on the verge of wanting to end her life.

This is important work. The only thing that held her back was the thought of

2021-04-21 12:46

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