A Local Breakthrough in Diversity Training

In October, there was an unfortunate incident at a local shopping center in Raleigh when a security officer asked two lesbians who were sharing a brief kiss to leave, citing their “inappropriate behavior.” These two brave women spoke out publicly about the incident, and the shopping center management apologized and committed to assuring that the security staff received appropriate sensitivity and diversity training.

In November, I was hired to provide this training to 32 security officers. Instead of “going through the motions” and scheduling the training to only to appease others, the management team was truly committed to providing meaningful and relevant training for the staff. The senior manager worked throughout the day to assure that all 32 officers attended one of the training sessions, and he personally kicked off each with how important it is for his team to pay close attention and participate so they can grow their skills as security officers in dealing with the diverse people they interact with.

In all three sessions, which had between 10-12 officers, each participant was engaged and participated in the sessions, exhibiting sincere desire to learn from this unfortunate incident and gain stronger skills to improve interaction. In the evaluation, all participants stated that the diversity training material would be helpful to them in better performing their jobs.

Photo: Lesbian pioneer activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon who were partners for 56 years before Del passed away in 2008.

Lessons I feel we can all learn from this experience:
• People who speak out when they feel their rights have been violated help us all move forward. We owe them a big “Thank You!”
• When there is inappropriate action based on a lack of understanding around diversity, people can be sincerely open and can be trained to improve interactions with the diverse people of our community. We need to be slower to judge others and more open to educating others.
• Good can come from unfortunate situations when people work together to address them.
• It is important for leaders (in this case the senior manager of the security team) to set the tone by emphasizing the importance of diversity.

Take my GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity Test and see how strong your enterprise is in this area. Perhaps some LGBT specific or general diversity training can benefit your enterprise. Diversity Test Link.