A Follow Up – Innovative Diversity Leadership for the US Armed Forces

Last week I published my annual review (link to blog) of progress in the US Armed Forces around LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity following the ending of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) at the end of 2010. I now follow up that article by sharing some great

Dr. Adis Maria Vila, United States Air Force Academy Chief Diversity Officer

Dr. Adis Maria Vila, United States Air Force Academy Chief Diversity Officer

resources from one of my Linked In connections, the Diversity and Inclusion Leader of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Dr. Adis Maria Vila.

Two key points to start with:
1. Fostering diversity and inclusion initiatives at the US Service Academies is an outstanding and critical emphasis since these academies develop many of our military and national leaders.
2. The excellent methodology that Dr. Vila deployed at the US Air Force Academy is easily transferable and applicable to all kinds of enterprises: educational, business, non-profit, etc.

Here are the links to these two well-written, well-organized clear articles, authored by Dr. Vila::

“Building a Culture of Inclusion at the U.S. Air Force Academy,” in the Spring, 2012 National Civic Review.

“Next Steps for Building a Culture of Inclusion at the U.S. Air Force Academy,” in the Winter, 2013 Insight Into Diversity (once the entire magazine comes up go to pages 6-8)

Some of the key sharings from Dr. Vila fom her last two years of experience in her diversity and inclusion leadership at the USAFA that are transferable for all of us in this field include:
• The importance of understanding the history and culture of the organization to assure developing a diversity and inclusion strategy that is relevant and that will resonate with leaders.
• Extensively collaborating across the organization to create a plan that clearly articulates the core importance of diversity and inclusion to the organization’s strategy.
• Building a core of advocates across the organization who will assist with the communication and execution of the strategy
• Deploying the strong combination of top-down direction setting, board-based bottom-up performance improvement, and cross-process process redesign.

Finally as a diversity consultant with a specialization in LGBT diversity, I am very pleased that Dr. Vila did explicitly include LGBT diversity in the mix. In one article when writing about the composite of individual characteristics included with diversity, she wrote, “This description of diversity is broad and is likely to expand even more as lesbians and gays openly serve in the Air Force.”

Do study these two articles and use them to make your own diversity and inclusion efforts more effective!

My annual visit of DADT and LGBT Diversity in the US Armed Forces

It seems that I write a blog on this subject about once a year. This would be appropriate since I am in North Carolina, a state with one of the highest concentration of military establishments and business. We have two major bases in our state: Camp LeJeune for Marines and Fort Bragg for the Army. In fact in 2011, when the US Figure Skating Nationals were held in Greenboro, NC, Men’s Champion Ryan Bradley,

Ryan Bradley wowed the NC crowd at the Greenboro Coliseum with his spectacular "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" short program enroute to winning the 2011 US Figure Skating championship

Ryan Bradley wowed the NC crowd at the Greenboro Coliseum with his spectacular “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” short program enroute to winning the 2011 US Figure Skating championship

who is always known for choosing numbers that resonate with the home state crowd wherever he competes, skated his winning short program to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” dressed in appropriate attire (see photo).

In early 2011, I wrote a two piece blog about the demise of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (aka DADT) that Congress passed in late December, 2010. In Part 1 (link), I wrote about why this move was good for the US Military and in the long run would result in a more effective military with the very best of diverse talent. In Part 2 (link) I wrote about the training and work needed ahead to implement a military consistent with the new inclusion policy. Then at the end of 2011, I revisited this issue and wrote a blog on the overall positive impact in the first year after the removal of this discriminatory ban.

Now it is two years later. There have been many positive and heartwarming stories of how the US military has adjusted well to the inclusion of same gender couples. Many of us saw and celebrated over the beautiful article (link) and photo

US Marine Corps Capt Matthew Phelps proposed to his boyfriend Ben Schock in the Grand Foyer of the White House (Credit: Mike Tapscott, American Military Partner Assoc.)

US Marine Corps Capt Matthew Phelps proposed to his boyfriend Ben Schock in the Grand Foyer of the White House (Credit: Mike Tapscott, American Military Partner Assoc.)

of a male US Marine proposing to his boyfriend at the US White House at the conclusion of his tour of duty. Personally, seeing a loving couple positively glowing in the love for one another warms my heart no matter what the gender mix (man and woman, man and man, woman and woman). Other articles and studies have shown that the much ballyhooed possible morale decline never incurred; in fact studies point to a more effective military. (Link to Hoffington Post article.)

However, even with the positive progress, negative episodes occasionally crop up. One recent example (link to article) happened here in North Carolina when a military spouses group denied membership to the wife of a female Army lieutenant colonel.

Ashley Broadway (left) with her wife Lt. Col. Heather Mack

Ashley Broadway (left) with her wife Lt. Col. Heather Mack

This illustrates that continued diversity and sensitivity training is required, especially for enterprises associated with and providing services and supplies to the US military. We certainly do not need the hard feelings, negative publicity and public outcry that occurs from these episodes. Fortunately, a later report (link) indicated that so far at least the US Marine Corps has quickly addressed this issue.

Diversity and Inclusion across all sectors of society has a compelling positive rationale and business case, so let’s all continue to push for this same inclusion and the accompanying benefits in the US military.