A Local Resource to Area Businesses
The Chamber's Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Task Force is comprised of approximately 30 representatives with a passion for sharing information and learning best practices about diversity, inclusion and minority business development to improve our workforce.
Goal Statement from the Chamber Business Plan:
Toward One Wisconsin
Publications to Educate and Broaden Knowledge in Areas of Diversity & inclusion
Volume One: Networking events can be “transactional,” according to Mai Xiong. There are unspoken rules and expectations, and one must understand what they are in order to make connections with others. It can be a very high-pressure environment, especially for people who are new to the area or those who come from cultures that have only been in the United States for one or two generations, Xiong said.
Xiong is the president of Hmong American Leadership & Economic Development, an organization that aims to promote economic prosperity for Hmong Americans through education, networking, and elevating social equity.
“It’s who you know and your initiative to really talk to people,” Xiong said. “It’s really challenging because in marginalized communities and communities like ours where networking is so new – it’s 40 years new to us … It’s very intimidating.”
"It’s really challenging because in marginalized communities and communities like ours where networking is so new – it’s 40 years new to us – it’s very intimidating." – Mai Xiong, president of Hmong American Leadership & Economic Development
The organization, known as HALED, is in its early stages. Presently, it is focusing on providing structured, fun, and diverse networking opportunities in the Eau Claire area. Events are free to attend, breaking down one potential economic barrier, and feature icebreaking activities to ease attendees into their new relationships.
“The main purpose of why we do these is so that we can help folks expand their networks beyond their current circles and really take the initiative to learn about other folks, other communities, cultures, and all that good stuff,” Xiong said.
In the coming months, HALED will begin to offer low-cost or free classes and workshops in financial literacy. Offerings will focus on taxes, business lending, savings, homeownership, retirement, investment, and more, and will do so in a way that relates the skills and practices necessary for success in the Midwest to cultural practices and values of Hmong people.
Not every approach to financial growth works for every person, Xiong said, so HALED’s classes will help find approaches that function for Hmong people.Classes will be open to anyone, providing the general Eau Claire population to learn financial literacy skills while developing awareness of other cultures and communities in the area.
All of these efforts are designed to address what Xiong and the organization’s treasurer, Mai Houa Moua, have identified as an increasing number of young Hmong college graduates leaving the Eau Claire area because of a lack of opportunity. Many Hmong, Xiong said, find it difficult to transition from a manufacturing or front-of-house role into a supervisory position or higher, and providing resources to develop networking and financial skills will help bridge the gap.
HALED is in the process of developing a membership program with an annual donation in order to fund its efforts. It complements the efforts of the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, Xiong said. While the association provides support for Hmong residents to meet their essential needs, HALED focuses on promoting prosperity among them.
“Essentially this is the foundation for our newer generation,” Moua said.
“We want to be able to help elevate our past, which is our parents, continue to grow our present, and then support the future, which is our kids, to be able to thrive and be great citizens,” Xiong concluded.
Proposal to Deport Hmong and Laos Residents: Local Action Taken
City to vote on anti-deportation Stance - March 7, 2020 Leader Telegram
Eau Claire leaders are hoping the city’s voice can be heard in Washington, D.C., to oppose a proposal that has thousands of Hmong and Lao people worried about being deported.
This week the City Council will take up a resolution that condemns the proposal that would send longtime U.S. residents who don’t have citizenship to Laos.
“We are not supporting the Trump administration who are working with the Laos government to deport Hmong and Lao people back to Laos,” said Councilman John Lor.
The council will hold a public hearing Monday night on the resolution before taking a vote during its Tuesday afternoon meeting.
Should the council approve that resolution, it would send a letter to Gov. Tony Evers, members of Congress who represent Wisconsin, Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and President Donald Trump to express the city’s stance on the issue.
The resolution is a reaction to reports of a Jan. 28 meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith. That meeting was cited as evidence of a proposal by the Trump administration to send more than 4,500 Hmong and Lao residents who are not U.S. citizens and have previously committed crimes or deportation orders against them to be sent to Laos.
About 300 Wisconsin residents who are Hmong, Lao and other ethnic minorities who originated in Laos have been served deportation orders, according to the proposed Eau Claire resolution. Most of them have lived in the U.S. for at least a decade.
While they may have made mistakes in their younger years, Lor said that deporting these people would tear apart families that have become established in the U.S.
“Hmong families have been separated enough,” he said.
In some of the cases, Lor said the people facing deportation weren’t even born in Laos, but in refugee camps inside Thailand as they awaited to be resettled in America.
And the fate of people who could get deported is a concern for the Hmong community.
Many do not have family ties left in Laos, do not speak the language and have never lived there, the resolution asserts. And with the Hmong’s history of aiding U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, there is worry about still facing retribution from Laos’ communist government. Based on stories of retaliation that Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees faced when they were deported back to those countries, the Hmong and Lao fear the same could happen to them. That could include marginalization, violence or death in Laos, the resolution stated.
In addition to sending a message to federal officials, Lor said the local resolution is also intended to show the city’s support to the local Hmong community.
Eau Claire has a sizable Hmong population that numbered 2,146 people in a 2017 estimate from the American Community Survey.
Last week the Eau Claire school board approved a resolution supporting the Hmong community and urging leaders to reconsider any proposal that would lead to deportation.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., introduced a bill that would halt any deportations to Laos for 72 months and reopen the immigration cases of those with final orders to be removed from the U.S.
She introduced the bill in the House on Feb. 28 and it has since been in the House Committee on the Judiciary.
The resources below have been shared with me via Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce members, receiving articles, and newsletters on a regular basis has helped me to expand my knowledge and understanding of inclusive environments. If you have resources that you would like to share or see here please email to: email@example.com
The Winter's Group
To create transformative and sustainable solutions for individuals and organizations in support of their efforts to create more equitable and inclusive environments.
We believe the road to inclusion and equity is paved with cultural competence. We create partnerships with our clients and apply a developmental approach to “meet people where they are.” Under this approach, we work closely with our clients to cultivate the most effective, long-lasting D&I solutions possible.
At The Winters Group, we define diversity as the differences and similarities in people, functions, and processes. Diversity exists naturally in every organization, but inclusion is only achieved when the culture is open to change, willing to adapt to difference, and embarks on a journey to become more cross-culturally competent.
Over the years, The Winters Group has produced several resources rich with data, analysis, and recommendations surrounding DEI. Many of these resources are available for purchase or download.
The big Business of Unconscious Bias
By Nora Zelevansky of the New York Times
Recently, a story circulated within the diversity, equity and inclusion industry (D.E.I.), one that somehow didn’t go viral on social media: At an unnamed company, co-workers were taking their seats before a sensitivity training workshop began, when some white male employees entered as a group with targets pinned to their shirts — a sartorial statement about their anticipated persecution.
Apocryphal or not, “the story is powerful for two reasons,” said Laura Bowser, the board chair and former C.E.O. of TMI Consulting Inc., a D.E.I. strategy company in Richmond, Va., named for its two founders, but also the abbreviation meaning “too much information.” “One, it shows that there is still an utter lack of empathy and understanding about privilege and power dynamics. Second, it demonstrates how many diversity and inclusion trainings in the past have failed.”
Of late, the D.E.I. (also known as D & I) industry is booming, creating new career paths and roles. Institutions and businesses are trying to correct power imbalances, which means a growing need for experts who can help address and define issues like unconscious bias.
“I’ve seen a difference in people’s level of engagement and desire to stretch themselves since the 2016 election,” said Michelle Kim, the C.E.O. and co-founder of Awaken, an experiential D.E.I. workshop company in Oakland, Calif., whose program is popular with the tech industry. “We’re seeing employees demanding action, not just lip service.”
Awaken’s sessions, taught over the course of months, combine large group activities, self-reflection and small group conversations, and focus on themes like exploring identities, overcoming microaggressions, thoughtful ally-ship and, most recently, inclusive language.
According to data from Indeed, a job-search engine, D.E.I.-related postings were up more than 25 percent from August 2018 to August 2019.
“We’re receiving more organic calls now,” said Kenneth L. Johnson, the president and D.E.I. recruiter for East Coast Executives, a recruitment firm in New York City. “Organizations are more aware — and there’s accountability — about having diversity.”
From Hugs to Likes
The old way of approaching these issues with perfunctory, so-called sensitivity training is no longer acceptable. Today, no one is going to “hug it out” after a single lecture about embracing difference.
According to a 2016 report from the Harvard Business Review, traditional sensitivity training can be ineffectual and can breed resentment. Even the term itself has fallen out of favor.
“Sensitivity training became popular in the ’80s and ’90s,” Ms. Bowser said. “It focuses on the negative: what not to do or say. But one-off training doesn’t shift culture in the direction we want to see it go: building empathy.” Inclusion is an ongoing process. Pay equity, language, marketing and hiring practices are all now subject to scrutiny.
Even at a well-intentioned company that espouses progressive values, there will inevitably be slips of the tongue and insensitive emails: the wrong pronoun, an outdated term, an assumption about how a person identifies him, her or themself. The glossary of appropriate terminology and inclusive acronyms and abbreviations is constantly evolving.
“Our world is changing so fast and language is changing so fast, it’s counterproductive to expect perfection,” said Jennifer Brown, the founder and C.E.O. of Jennifer Brown Consulting and the author of a new book, “How to Be an Inclusive Leader.” (She also hosts a podcast, “The Will to Change.”)
Missteps along the way are “to be expected,” she said, “because it signals that we are building new capabilities. People are showing courage by getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Even the experts are learning on the job. While running a recent panel, Ms. Brown asked the participants to indicate their preferred pronouns when they introduced themselves.
She forgot to say her own, which, in turn, tripped up audience members, who fell back on expressions like “you guys” for fear of getting it wrong. “I do this for a living and am literally learning in real time, in front of audiences,” she said.
Ms. Bowser also recalled a slip-up: She was at a conference with a woman (post-gender transition) whom she had originally met as a man. In conversation with this person and others, Ms. Bowser accidentally referred to her as he instead of she. The D.E.I. expert was mortified and later sent an apology email.
“Her response was very gracious,” Ms. Bowser said. “She said, ‘You’ve known both of my identities. It means a lot to me that you’re trying.’”
“There’s an inclination to pretend it didn’t happen and hope someone didn’t hear — but they heard,” she added. “Own it and apologize.”
For many younger people, gender fluidity and the pronouns that go with it are automatic, but not so for those who grew up with just two choices, neither plural. “For millennials, the conversation is about having grace, recognizing that this is a shift for other people,” Ms. Bowser said. “For older generations, it’s about opening their minds a bit.”
Millennials’ expectation of inclusion is part of what is driving C.E.O.s and directors to bring in D.E.I. consultants. That generation will make up 75 percent of the work force by 2025, according to Brookings, the nonprofit public policy organization.
“The younger generation expects the company to be walking the walk to retain and attract the best talent,” Ms. Brown said. “If they can’t see diversity in leadership, they’re likely to struggle to envision their own trajectory and, eventually, leave.”
According to McKinsey & Company, the consultancy, businesses in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to be more successful financially; executive teams with gender diversity are 21 percent more likely to outperform their peers.
But it’s also important for public relations and brand identity. “D & I has transformed from a compliance function to a cultural transformation accelerator for companies who want to establish themselves as relevant,” said Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, the chief diversity officer at Microsoft.
The company strives to generate inclusion with initiatives like featuring personal stories from employees on Instagram and selling rainbow Pride laptop skin. “It’s become an integrative piece of how companies engage in their broader ecosystem,” she said.
A New Profession
How does one break into the D.E.I. field? Some universities, including Cornell, Georgetown and Yale, are beginning to offer certificate programs and online courses on the subject.
For now, industry leaders have a range of backgrounds: social justice, sales, marketing, political activism, minority studies, writing and more. Some, according to Ms. Bowser, just have a natural gift for navigating difficult conversations or defusing tension in a room.
Whether consultants, recruiters, in-house D.E.I. executives, workshop leaders or manuscript readers in publishing, the positions demand emotional intelligence. Often, people enter the profession after personal experiences with prejudice at school or in the workplace.
“I identify as a member of the L.G.B.T.+ community and a woman business leader,” said Ms. Brown, whose company originally focused on more general leadership training. “I realized this was an important cause to support and a niche with growth potential.”
The job can be challenging, she said: “People only sign up because their passion is so deep that they want to fix the world.”
That is true for Nat Razi, one of the early sensitivity readers (now known as “authenticity readers”) for the publishing industry, a job that arose out of We Need More Diverse Books, a 2014 hashtag-turned-movement.
Authenticity readers — most commonly used for young-adult manuscripts — scan for bias about identities and conditions they share, including ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, disabilities, PTSD, depression and more.
This corner of the new diversity industry also has drawn detractors. The growing prevalence of this oversight practice in the publishing world has spurred cries of “censorship” and arguments that the process can be detrimental to the books themselves.
Others began to feel that the authenticity readers themselves were being used as shields against potential attacks and excuses for appropriation instead of being hired because of a genuine desire to get it right.
Justina Ireland, a writer who once maintained the primary Writing in the Margins Sensitivity Reader database, a list of authenticity readers and their specialties, stepped away in early 2018, writing in an open letter that the readers were being exploited and scapegoated instead of empowered.
Ms. Razi has found the work difficult but rewarding. “When I was a kid, the books I read with Indian protagonists were racist and told me that I should be looking up to white people,” she said. “Books with queer protagonists told me that I was going to die. I can at least do my best to ensure that kids are going to see better representation.”
Sometimes consultancies like Ms. Brown’s and Ms. Bowser’s are called in, like cleanup crews, after scandals and bad publicity. But businesses are obviously trying to help avoid these in the first place, as well as keep up company morale.
The investment can be considerable. According to Ms. Bowser, diversity support can cost $25,000 to $450,000 a year, depending on the client’s needs. Businesses also have to factor in the time employees spend away from their desks during training.
Tech, and Talk
The process can take anywhere from three months to a few years. Fortune 500 companies with existing diversity departments may only need educational refreshers, while companies starting from scratch may require thorough examinations of mission statements, employee reviews, airing of past grievances and more.
Consultants talk to employees about their day-to-day experiences, redline handbooks and intervene with coaching and conflict resolution.
Despite, or perhaps because of, Silicon Valley’s reputation for diversity gaps, tech tools are blooming to help. TMI’s founder, Tiffany Jana, is developing Loom, an online assessment and reporting platform that looks at an organization’s culture and identifies inclusion gaps.
Currently, Textio software can scan thousands of documents for language bias. “This new tech is going to create a leap in consciousness,” Ms. Brown said. “Maybe you’re a father with daughters and you say, ‘Of course, women here feel there’s equal opportunity and no pay gap!’ The tech may find information to the contrary.” Data forces people to face facts.
But sometimes only the human touch will do, as Eve Campan, a human resources site manager for Porex, a large filtration company, can attest. Just before she was hired, a group of female executives — miffed by their heavily white and male leadership — created a proposal, demanding a women’s resource group, mother’s room and more flexible hours.
Ms. Campan hired TMI Consulting to help “wrap people’s minds around the idea of unconscious bias,” she said. “If you’re not proactive, your culture will define itself.”
At the first D.E.I. seminar, she was doubtful about the corporate jargon, and more than one employee scoffed that the whole thing was unnecessary. But, after each additional workshop, she began walking the floor of the office, talking to people about their reactions. Each time, she said, more of the original dissenters came around.
According to Ms. Bowser, the key is to make everyone, from assistants to C.E.O.s, feel as if they are part of the conversation. “If you’re not making people aware and holding them responsible at the upper levels of your organization, then you don’t have a chance,” Mr. Johnson said.
In some cases, the term “diversity” itself may need to be redefined, so that it encompasses not only race, gender, religion and sexual orientation, but also veterans, people with disabilities, ageism, economic disparity, past trauma and more.
“The question isn’t about whether it’s effective,” Ms. Kim said. “It’s about how to make it effective.”
After all, everyone brings their own complex back story to the table, and offenses can go both ways. Melissa Roth, a Jewish writer recalled an incident that occurred in a fiction writing class in Los Angeles, when she used the word “gypped” and a white woman in class reprimanded her.
“I got called out for being offensive to Gypsies,” she said, “by someone who couldn’t pronounce the word ‘chutzpah.’”
How to Outsmart your own unconscious Bias
The human brain is a remarkable achievement in evolution. Unfortunately, the brain activity that kept the human species alive for millions of years is the same brain activity that keeps us from achieving equality today.
Author, speaker and CEO, Valerie Alexander, explains how the human brain instinctively reacts when encountering the unexpected, like saber-toothed tigers or female tech execs, and proposes that if we have the courage to examine our own behavior when faced with the unfamiliar, we can take control of our expectations, and by doing so, change the world.
Valerie Alexander is the Founder and CEO of Goalkeeper Media, maker of communication bots to amplify happiness, including the Happy Couples Bot. Valerie has extensive experience in corporate and start-up arenas, but left Silicon Valley to find success as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. Valerie wrote, produced and directed more than 50 shorts, commercials and PSAs, including the award-winning, anti-bullying short film, “Ballpark Bullies”, and the groundbreaking commercial, “Say I Do”, in support of marriage equality. As author of the Amazon #1 seller, “Happiness as a Second Language”, and a nationally known speaker on happiness in the workplace and the advancement of women, Valerie is a recognized expert on the topics.
In addition to “Happiness as a Second Language”, Valerie’s books include “Success as a Second Language” and “How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace (Despite Having “Female Brains)”. She holds an honors certificate in the Science of Happiness from the Greater Good Science This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Immersion gives blugold new appreciation for, understanding of Hmong Culture
“The immersion taught me a lot about my people and how I can apply this knowledge,” Thao says. “I will let others know who I am, who my people are, and how I identify myself as being of Hmong descent.”
Interested in getting involved with the Chamber's Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce? Email Kaylynn Stahlbusch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-858-0615.
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.