The Great United States / North Carolina Diversity Divide

Three recent events at federal USA and state of North Carolina governmental level starkly highlight a major divide in how the country and my state executive branch governments understand and value diversity.

US Vice President Joe Biden references the historic USAID / NGLCC partnership at an LGBT Pride Month reception at his residence.

US Vice President Joe Biden references the historic USAID / NGLCC partnership at an LGBT Pride Month reception at his residence.

First, two events in June at the USA executive branch level:

• On Monday, June 16, President Obama announced that he soon plans to sign an executive order giving workplace protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity (that address LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people) for federal contractors. Link to article.

• At the end of June, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced a new partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) to encourage and support LGBT business owners and entrepreneurs in developing countries. Link to details.

Second, follow these national items with an executive order issued by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory on June 30th. In his statewide executive order #55 (link), Governor McCrory addressed equal opportunity for employees in the state government regardless of “race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information.” One glaring omission – nothing referencing sexual orientation or gender identity! It would appear that for NC State Government jobs, treating people unfairly is perfectly OK if they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

What most of our country’s Fortune 500 companies and the federal government understand is that all people must be treated fairly in the workplace for all to work at peak capacity and to achieve the best results. Still too often in the United States, LGBT people are looked down upon, scorned, demonized or even bullied, and if any group needs workplace protection, it is this segment.

Sadly enough, many political leaders often speak of providing a business-friendly environment to help stimulate economic growth, but then at the same time fail to protect and empower all in the workplace. Three large employers in the state of North Carolina have already told me in my role as a diversity consultant and trainer, that they are having serious issues recruiting the best talent to their locations in North Carolina because of our lack of progression on LGBT equality and protections at the state level.

It is time for all people across all states in our country to advocate for the equal and fair treatment of all Americans in the workplace, both in the private and public sector, so that all can work at their very best and help grow our country’s economy and deliver government services more effectively and efficiently.

Alignment and partnership between business and community

In last week’s blog, I summarized a workshop I presented on September 22 at the Carolinas Conference on Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement. The workshop and blog reviewed the growing need for competencies around diversity and global awareness for leaders in today’s fast growing diverse global economy.

In addition to the workshop, I also was one of six panelists on a “Leadership Panel Discussion” along with other business and community leaders. One of the questions posed to the panel was “Is there a need for alignment or partnership between community and business organizations in our constantly changing local or regional landscape? Any recommendations for fostering these partnerships?”

I offered four points:

1. Traditionally, corporations have taken the lead in community partnerships and promoting diversity. For example, IBM provided equal opportunity and equal pay for African American and female employees at least a decade before it became federal law. Today, many corporations include sexual orientation and gender identity / expression in their diversity policies, as well as offer domestic partner benefits whereas our federal government has been unsuccessful in providing these protections and benefits. Especially with the log jam in Congress today, corporations will need to step up and lead.

2. In today’s economy, corporate wealth continues to increase while personal wealth is decreasing. A recent Associated Press article (link to article) reported that in the past quarter, personal wealth declined by 0.3% while at the same time corporate wealth (cash stockpiles specifically) increased 4.5%. It only makes sense that along with corporate wealth increase comes additional responsibility to lead within the community utilizing these resources.

3. A very important way for corporations to help the economy and local community is to focus on business development projects in traditionally poor areas with high levels of unemployment.

4. Finally, corporations, as they participate in corporate projects should continue to encourage employees to individually get involved in their community. This can involve not overworking employees so they have the time to get involved in their communities, providing additional time off for participation in projects, and continuing programs like matching grants where corporations provide matching donations to their employee community contributions.