Archive for October 2014

The Growing Culture of Poverty in the USA

Toward the end of last month, I published a blog (link) about my representing the North Carolina Council of Churches in a meeting of 13 American “faith leaders” with the United States Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to discuss providing greater economic opportunities for all, especially those living in poverty. I promised to write a follow up blog discussing the unfortunate growing culture of poverty in the United States and what business leaders can do to address it.

Sheila Forte-Trammell provided the inspiration and much of the information in this blog.

Sheila Forte-Trammell provided the inspiration and much of the information in this blog.


I thank my long time IBM colleague internationally respected diversity and workplace engagement leader and author Sheila Forte-Trammell for much of the inspiration and content for this short blog (see byline about Sheila at the bottom on the blog.)

An unfortunate cyclical circumstance within the US is a growing distinct culture of poverty, which tends to trap multiple generations from the same families and areas. Statistics show that the number of people officially living in poverty in the US continues to grow, even as we tout ourselves as “the land of plenty.” Some statistical facts:
• The 2010 US Census declared that 15.1% (over 46 million people!) of Americans were living in poverty.
• That Blacks and Hispanics were disproportionately represented in the poverty numbers (Over 28% of Blacks and 26% of Hispanics.)
• The poverty rate for women single head of households was 5 times the poverty rate of families with two parents.

Many people in poverty in the USA live on the streets or in their cars like this man in his 1998 station wagon.

Many people in poverty in the USA live on the streets or in their cars like this man in his 1998 station wagon.


Now add to that some sociological discussion:
• The cycle of poverty continues to perpetuate itself since children raised in poverty have less access to quality education.
• That growing up in poverty often leads to low self esteem, lack of role models, culture of crime, etc.
• That poverty often nurtures the mentality of immediate / short term gratification over delayed /long term gratification and investment in the future.

What are ways corporate America can help lower the poverty rate and help build a country where all citizens have better economic opportunity?
• Specifically open plants and facilities in high poverty areas where the jobs are needed most, keeping in mind that many in poverty do not have the transportation access to locations in the suburbs.
• Contribute corporate philanthropic money to initiatives that improves educational access to those living in poverty. This also helps build a national pipeline of better trained diverse talent.
• Educate your employees about the plights of poverty and what can be done. Perhaps offer opportunities for community service and mentoring programs on company time.

It is absolutely the right thing as a nation to not ignore the poverty here in “our land of plenty,” but instead take action to raise the living standards and occupational readiness of our entire nation.

# # # # #

Much of the content of this blog was provided by Sheila Forte-Trammell, Total HR Services, LLC. Sheila was recognized in 2014 with a Triangle Business Journal “Leader in Diversity – Role Model” award (link) and has co-authored two books: “Agile Career Development: Lessons and Approached from IBM,” and “Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge and Relationships.” Link to Sheila’s LinkedIn profile.

My 2014 Bullying Awareness Month Blog – Introducing a Dynamic New Organization

Tyler Clementi, the young man for whom the foundation is named

Tyler Clementi, the young man for whom the foundation is named


At the end of the summer this year, a good and very respected friend, Sean Kosofsky, moved from Raleigh, NC to New York City to become the Executive Director of a new nonprofit, the Tyler Clementi Foundation. I just knew this would be a great organization to highlight for this year’s Bullying Awareness Month blog.

For those not familiar, here is a link to Tyler Clementi’s story.


STAN: “Sean, first can you tell me a little about the Tyler Clementi Foundation, like its mission and vision?”
SEAN: “The Tyler Clementi Foundation is a national organization committed to ending bullying, harassment and humiliation, online and offline, especially for marginalized youth. Our mission is to promote safe, inclusive and respectful social environments in homes, schools, campuses, churches and the digital world for vulnerable youth, LGBT youth and their allies. We have only been around for a few years but the Clementi family has spoken to well over 10,000 folks around the country and continue to build a strong organization and board through their committed time and energy. In the coming months we hope to expand our programs, increase our visibility and build lasting partnerships that will help us reduce bullying.”


Seans nametag
STAN: “This foundation is quite new. Who started it and why?”
SEAN: “We were incorporated in 2010 but really started to grow in the past year. The Tyler Clementi Foundation was started by the family to provide a vehicle to help stop the suffering of other youth. The Clementi family story is powerful and it captured the attention of people all over the world. Instead of just mourning the loss of their son and then retreating, they decided that something had to be done and if they could build on the public outpouring of support, they should.”


Tyler was a gifted violinist and earned in seat in Rutgers University's esteemed orchestra as a freshman.

Tyler was a gifted violinist and earned in seat in Rutgers University’s esteemed orchestra as a freshman.


STAN: “What is particularly unique about the Tyler Clementi Foundation? What work are you doing that no one really is?”
SEAN: “We want to differentiate ourselves in this sector by developing high quality programs, rooted in research that can measurably improve the lives of young people. We don’t want to create any unnecessary duplication of services. We want to fill gaps in the sector, especially on college campuses and online. We need more research on effective messaging and more tools to get into the hands of parents and people of faith on how to address bullying…even if their child is bullying.”


STAN: “What spoke to you and personally drew you to move now from North Carolina to New York to lead this work?”
SEAN: “Though it finally passed after I moved to NC, I helped author and create the foundation for the anti-bullying law in Michigan. I have been in the struggle for LGBT equality for over 20 years. The issue that drives most of my activism is my undying passion to stop people’s suffering in silence. The isolation and fear of the closet damaged me as a young person and I don’t want it to damage others. When I was given the opportunity to partner with the Clementi family to hopefully save lives and improve our national discourse…I jumped at the chance.”


Current very exciting campaign / auction with the chance to meet superstar Demi Lovato

Current very exciting campaign / auction with the chance to meet superstar Demi Lovato


STAN: “Is there anything else you want to tell the readers of this blog at this time?
SEAN: “Yes! We have a very exciting campaign / auction (link) right now to meet superstar Demi Lovato. Even a small donation helps and enters you in a chance to meet her. Also we have our Upstander Legacy Celebration (link) Nov 17 in NYC honoring Stephen Schwartz (Wicked / Pippin / Godspell) and Gautam Raghavan, formerly of the White House, for their contributions to the movement for LGBT equality and anti-bullying. “
STAN: “Thanks so much, Sean, and I am so pleased you found this position which matches both your expertise in non-profit leadership and your passion for impactful activism. I wish you and the Tyler Clementi Foundation the very best of success.”


Link to my 2013 Bullying Awareness Month Blog about the connection between “playground” and “workplace” harassment and bullying.

Link to my 2012 Bullying Awareness Month Blog which includes links to additional resources and blogs.

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