Expand Beyond Your Current Culture: Diversity and Inclusion for CEOs and Leadership

Expand Beyond Your Current Culture: Diversity and Inclusion for CEOs and Leadership

by Leslie Short


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Successful diversity and inclusion requires D&I programs that are strategic and proactive, with unlimited vision, part of an overall organizational culture. Unfortunately, most approaches to diversity and inclusion haven’t been successful — half of all workers from underrepresented groups experience bias every day at work even though their organizations have diversity programs in place. So what should organizations do?

In Expand Beyond Your Current Culture, Leslie Short examines the continually evolving D&I challenges that organizations face and shows leaders how to ensure that all employees have opportunities to express who they are and are comfortable doing so. In an engaging, conversational style she offers tips on how to think differently about diversity and inclusion to achieve a sustainable, diverse and inclusive workplace.

In this inspiring new book you’ll discover:
  • Why many D&I programs haven’t worked and what you can do differently
  • New ways to think about cultural differences and how unconscious and implicit bias affects the workplace
  • The understanding of Nothing About Us Without Us
  • How to identify D&I needs and measure progress in meeting them
  • How to engage in meaningful conversations about diversity and inclusion with others in the organization
  • Ways to ensure that your company culture matches what it says about diversity and inclusion
  • What your organization needs to do to clearly demonstrate its commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • How to educate and sensitize not only senior leaders but all employees
  • What tools that senior leaders, D&I directors, and employees need to succeed
  • How organizations in other countries are approaching corporate diversity and inclusion

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781947540132
Publisher: Maven House Press
Publication date: 01/12/2021
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 1,158,477
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Leslie Short is Founder and CEO of The Cavu Group, which focuses on diversity and inclusion, creating new solutions to old and new issues. She is also CEO of K.I.M. (Keep It Moving) Media and founder of Ascend Bereavement Management. She was formerly COO and Corporate Operations Strategist for various celebrities and companies including ABC’s Shark Tank star Daymond John and his companies. Leslie is a chaplain, activist, certified mental health aide, certified mediator, and conflict coach, as well as a dignitary and keynote speaker for United Nations and European Union events around the world. She has been honored by Ebony magazine as an Outstanding Woman in Marketing and Communications and New York Business Journal selected her as a Woman of Influence.

Read an Excerpt

They & Them. When’s it gonna be We & Us?

It’s gonna be We & Us when you stop making the same mistakes over and over and over!

Nothing About Us Without Us has many meanings to me. Let’s start with the first one, which should be obvious, but judging by the news stories I’ve seen lately it clearly isn’t.

You Need the Right People in the Room

For all that is right and righteous, if you’re creating a program, shooting an ad campaign, or doing a role-play, and everyone in the room looks like you and sounds like you, then you’re already headed down a black hole. I’m not saying that you need to include people of all cultures, ages, weights, etc., but you need to have people in the room with the same life experience as the people you’re trying to reach. No exceptions, no excuses!

Here’s another way of saying it. If you’re doing a role-playing exercise, and everyone in the room looks like you, then you’re really doing a high school play, not a role-play. A role-play gives you feedback on feelings. Until you have lived, not walked, but lived, in someone else’s shoes, you may have an understanding, but you cannot have the same feelings.

If you’re speaking about or planning something regarding someone who isn’t like you, then you need to consult with appropriate cultural groups to get a better understanding of the people you’re trying to deal with!

If you have a D&I officer, bring them into the meetings when issues are being worked on; don’t wait until things have been decided. If you’ve hired that person to run your D&I department, make sure that they’re in every meeting where you’re working on new products, policy, programs, packaging, and cultural outreach. They also need the power to pull in others. They should be part of your C-suite team!

If I’m working on something about the LGBTQ+ community, you better believe I’m calling plenty of friends and friends of friends in that community to ask questions. Take a moment to think before you leap into a project, because it’s clear whether you’ve made the effort or not made the effort to research and respect a culture. Just because you’ve seen it or done it in the past doesn’t mean that it’s right for this moment. If you don’t know, ask! (Maybe that should have been the title of this book!)

When you’re starting a project, you need inclusion of thought as well as cultural inclusion. Having a personal relationship with someone from a culture that’s not yours may give you insight into that culture, but it doesn’t make you an expert. It’s not the same as being on the inside.

You can hold internal focus groups, but only if your staff is diverse. (It’s sort of a Catch-22 – if you don’t have diversity in your company you can’t have an effective internal focus group on diversity.) One option is to hire a company to conduct a focus group for you, but you’ll need to give them the proper information to conduct an effective one – one that will give you the information you need for your project. This means that you’ll need a focus group for the focus group. Another option is to hire consultants who can help you reach out to the diverse groups you’re trying to reach out to. For example, if you’re trying to speak to black folks during an election, there are educated black folks and points of contact outside the church. Just saying.

I hope that I’ve made one meaning clear. If not, call me. We’ll go for coffee or a drink and I’ll be happy to break it down further.

Avoid Mixed Messages

What’s happening internally in your company? Does Public Relations know what Advertising is doing? Does Advertising know what Marketing is doing? Do Social Media and Sales have the concept and context of the goal of the mission and campaign? This is where I see things go awry. I’ve read your press release. I’ve see your ad. I’ve seen your post. I’ve seen your products in stores. But it’s obvious that somewhere a breakdown in communications happened! Why? Because you are clearly sending mixed messages! And now you’re in a mess!

Communication is the key. How is your message being said? Who’s saying it? Where is it being said? Who’s in the ad? Just because it’s a celebrity and you think it’s cool doesn’t mean that he can be dressed as an Indian chief. It’s not cool – it’s a mess if you haven’t researched your market or if all your departments aren’t on the same page. What-A-Mess!

Someone on the inside should have pointed the mess out to you. PR, Marketing, Advertising, Staff? If you don’t have diversity of thought you won’t understand cultural references and meanings. Now you’re in trouble!

See the Pattern?

I love stories. When I came back to America I modeled as my side gig, and I landed a large national campaign. Having lived out of the country for thirteen years I was in the habit of asking about hair and make-up. I always brought wigs and makeup with me because more times than not the people running the campaign weren’t prepared, even though they told me not to worry. If I hadn’t been prepared, I would have been sorry.

Client: We would like to test adding extensions to your hair.

Me: Does the hair stylist know how to work with black hair?

Client: Yes, he does tons of 7th on Sixth Shows (New York Fashion Week).

Me: Hmm, OK.

Client: We’ll do a test for styles.

Me: Great, I’ll be there. [Arrive at client office with their staff, hairstylist, and several executives present.]

Hairstylist: I’ll add a few extensions just to mock the styles for this evening.

Me: That’s great. Please keep in mind my agent mentioned that I’m booked for a job tomorrow, so please make sure that whatever we do tonight can come out and that we’re not gluing.

Hairstylist: I have glue that will rub out.

Me: You do see I’m black, right, and with black hair nothing rubs out, and we’re in the office and not a salon.

Long story short, the hairstylist didn’t work on the final campaign because the glue didn’t rub out. I had to be paid to have my hair redone and for the job that had to be pushed back (fortunately they switched me with another model at the last minute so I could have an extra day to find a stylist who could help), all at the cost of the client.

I should have spoken up sooner, but, like many people, I didn’t want to cause trouble. and yet we often end up in worse trouble when we keep quiet. I will never hold back again. Remember, if you want to cross over into other cultures, hire people who can do the job and listen to them!

The moral of this story also applies to women and those with disabilities and LGBTQ+ folks and so on. I don’t want you to think that this is just a color issue. Stop assuming that you know it all about the people you’re trying to reach. Bring those educated about the topic into the room and together you can make informed decisions.

You might be thinking that diversity and inclusion require a lot of time and money, and you’re right. You may have to add a line item called research to your budget, unless you want to add a line item called additional legal fees.

I speak from experience. It was my job. I’ve been They & Them in the room, and I’ve been the consultant hired to be in the room to insure that They & Them in the room had a voice. If you call us into the room, don’t do it for show, do it because you’re invested in getting it right.

I asked the following question in my questionnaire: If you could tell leadership anything about Nothing About Us Without Us, what would it be?

Include Us in the conversation.

— Promotion, Marketing & Event Planning

No policy should be decided by any representative without the participation of members of the group affected by that policy.

— Auto Industry

Leadership should know that ideas, especially those on a massive level, should be heard by a diverse group in order to ensure sensitivity and improve overall appeal.

— Media

As a member of the Latinx community, I have to say that no one person can make the decision for the entire community, since we are really a multi-colored, multi-cultured, multi-dialect group. We need to be consulted as individuals before implementing anything that may affect us.

— Garment Industry

Do not ignore or be obvious about the need to take a comprehensive approach when making changes. Being proactive in taking the necessary steps to foster full representation and participation of all groups being impacted by the changes considered is what needs to be accomplished.

— Higher Education (University)

Equal pay should be for all races, genders, and the genderless.

— Construction Risk Management/Insurance

I want them to listen to us because we know our culture and we need to be part of any decision when it comes to our culture. 

— Motion & Photography

Include a diverse selection of voices in decisions that affect the company policies, culture, benefits, and strategic plan.

— Education

They should get involved and get their hands dirty at the grassroots level, not just sit in their ivory tower and make decisions without even being physically present among their staff. Regular forums should be held, even on a one-on-one basis (since many staff would be uncomfortable being completely honest in a group setting), on what staff like and don’t like, what would cause them to leave or to stay, etc. People need to have candid conversations with no fear of judgment or of losing their job.

— Financial Services

Before we move on to the next chapter, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms. I’m a true believer in tech and that it can be used for good. It can also be used to oppress those who don’t understand it and have a hard time using it.

AI is used for hiring. The “experts” speak about it as if it’s magical, like the Wizard of Oz. But if you pull back the curtain, you’ll see there’s a person programming the mysterious black box of AI, and what’s programmed in determines what the algorithms give back. So, if white men are giving other white men directions for hiring, and that’s what’s programmed into the box, where’s the diversity?

You’ve probably heard of the studies on AI hiring. You take two copies of the same resume, and you put an ethnic-sounding name on one copy and a non-ethnic-sounding name on the other. One resume gets tagged for an interview, the other doesn’t. Guess which one gets tagged.

If you’re going to use algorithms as part of your hiring process you need to have diverse people on the committee that decides what qualifications you’re looking for (Nothing About Us Without Us!). If you’re not involving diverse people in your process, you can’t just shrug and blame the AI – “Hey, the machine gave us what the machine gave us.” Non-diverse input means non-diverse output. Garbage in, garbage out. No excuses!

There are no excuses for not including diversity of thought in your decision-making, and anyone in the room who doesn’t speak up is responsible for that lack of diversity.
Here are some important questions to ask yourself for your cultural check-up:

  1. Have we expanded beyond our current culture to get additional opinions as we develop the project, policy, whatever?

  2. Do we have the right people in the room to help us make decisions that will benefit the majority? (You can’t please everyone.)

  3. Have we researched the culture we’re trying to reach? (This includes your company culture.)

  4. Have we brought in others to review the project before releasing it, just in case our research is off?

  5. What’s the meaning behind this outreach?

  6. Have we done all we can do to make this successful?

  7. Have we had everyone at the table? Head of D&I, Public Relations, Advertising, Marketing, Social Media, Consultants?

  8. Does everyone understand the What, How, and Why?

  9. Is Human Resources up to date on what to ask for from algorithms? Do they know how to direct the companies being asked to handle the search before it reaches HR?

  10. Is this a true representation of my company and the message we’re trying to share?

  11. Have I moved beyond reporting the numbers?

  12. Has this been reviewed as a Zero Risk bias?

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Preface: A Note to CEOs and Leadership 1

Chapter 1 What's in Your Bag? 5

Chapter 2 Does Diversity and Inclusion Matter to You? To Your Company? 15

Chapter 3 Checked Boxes Aren't Good Enough! 25

Chapter 4 With Diversity and Inclusion Comes Responsibility 37

Chapter 5 Aspiration vs. Operation: Making Diversity and Inclusion a Reality 49

Chapter 6 It's Time to Think Differently! 69

Chapter 7 Diversity and Inclusion Should Not Be Built in Silos 83

Chapter 8 Nothing About Us Without Us! 93

Chapter 9 Be Committed to the Work 107

Chapter 10 Create an Authentic Company Culture 115

Chapter 11 Be the Ripple in the Pond of Change 135

Chapter 12 It's Not Always About You 141

Appendix A Global Diversity and Inclusion Efforts 149

Appendix B Diversity and Inclusion Monthly Calendar 153

Appendix C Facing Race and Racism During a Global Pandemic 179

About the Author 189

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Expand Beyond Your Current Culture

Leslie Short provokes a dialog that must be had in every board room, every C-Suite, every organization, every home. Her ability to honor the resilience of anyone who has experienced exclusion and diagnose the illness it causes is powerful. Her ability to tackle the disease head on then with surgical precision, find the root cause and extract it, has the ability to heal us all. Heed her words, they will forever change you.

Kim Smith, Global Vice President IBM

Expand Beyond Your Current Culture is a boot camp guide on how to have a diverse and inclusive work environment. It is an easy and frank read and if you put in the work, you and your company will come out wiser and more powerful.

Michele J. Bianco, Managing Director & Associate General Counsel, Americas Head of Prime Brokerage Legal/GBAM

The book is a must-read for anyone who is serious about helping move the needle on Diversity and Inclusion. As Leslie mentions in her introduction, she wrote the book “as if you and I were sitting in a café or bar, having a conversation on what’s working in your organization and what isn’t.” What her introduction fails to mention is that it will be the most entertaining and informative café experience you’ve ever had, full of laughter and tears, gut-punches and brain-benders. The entire book is chock-full of very specific, practical advice, as well as many thoughtful points that will force you to put down the book and reflect on what you just read.

Paolo Gaudiano, Co-founder, Aleria PBC

Anyone can come up with brilliant ideas; only a few can bring ideas along with thorough execution steps/plans. Without that, ideas will just stay being “ideas.” Obviously, steps were laid out clearly throughout this book on how Diversity and Inclusion can be achieved.

Grace Lee, former Director of Asian Marketing, Remy Cointreau USA

Leslie’s book is filled with information, tools, and relatable stories for you as a leader and your organization to take a realistic assessment of the culture while providing helpful steps to improve. It is a great source to keep your corporation on the right track or to begin your corporate journey of diversity and inclusion.

Sharon Price John, President and CEO, Build-A-Bear Workshop

Investing in “getting it right" is at the heart of Expand Beyond Your Current Culture. Leslie does a masterful job of including real life situations that highlight the importance of forward thinking in a way that protects your bottom line. Addressing D&I from a "it's just good business" perspective takes away the uncomfortableness of a company or project manager doing their due diligence on topics - race, culture, gender identity etc. - that they would instinctively shy away from.

Phil Jones, Senior Director, Lime

Customer Reviews