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Sunday, May 7, 2017

New Diversity Challenges in the Workplace

Immigrants in the U.S. are the bedrock of its economy.  Diversity has been one of the country’s hallmarks, being a nation of immigrants. This has contributed to the growth and progress of the nation, for as Gary Shapiro wrote for the US News, Immigrating to the U.S. to create a better life is a mindset that encourages our best and brightest, regardless of their backgrounds or birthrights, to rise to the top. The diverse histories immigrants bring with them to our shores contribute new perspectives and great ideas.

However, diversity has also been a perennial issue, specifically in the workplace, despite huge efforts by private, government and business organizations to keep diversity working in the American society.

Discrimination and racism remain persistent problems hounding minority job applicants and employees. The USA Today recently reported that, based on a study made by the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll, toxic workplaces — where harassment, stereotyping and bullying occur — are driving away women and people of color, undercutting technology companies' efforts to increase diversity and costing an estimated $16 billion a year.

This report describes the situation in the tech field, but these negative behaviors do occur in other industries, too.

Considering now the anti-immigrant stance of the current government, what new challenges to workplace diversity are there that need attention and resolution?
*The administration’s anti-immigration policy is affecting immigrant workers, many of whom are employed by diversity companies;
*White people feel marginalized too, mostly older, non-college whites supported Trump, for they felt immigrants and minorities were taking jobs away from them;
* Although not exactly a new challenge, but generational diversity in the workplace challenges companies to think of new ways to practice inclusion as part of their diversity efforts

First, specifically, this is how the Trump immigration policy is impacting one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the U.S. As of 2016, there were 21 million Asians in the United States. Their population grew at 3.4 percent between July 2014 and 2015, with migration responsible for the majority of the growth.

For most Asians coming to the U.S., becoming an American citizen is the utmost goal. American citizenship is the pathway to a brighter future, not only for themselves, but also for family and relatives back home. Armed with citizenship, Asian Americans can bring over relatives or get federal government jobs.

Now with the government cracking down on illegal immigrants, more so has American citizenship become like a safe harbor, free from being deported.

But for the undocumented who fear that their great American dream will be taken away from them, the government’s visa crackdown is one nightmare of uncertainty.

So what happens to workplaces when a great number of immigrants for that matter, are deported? What challenges does this situation bring about?

As an example, the restaurant and food services industry stands to lose a lot of immigrant workers, being a sector said to depend much on the labor of undocumented aliens: Eleven percent of all U.S. restaurant and bar employees are undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center. At current industry employment levels, that translates to roughly 1.3 million people.

It is suggested then that immigrants who work hard, pay their taxes, and abide by the laws should be assisted in legalizing their stay in the country:
“The restaurant industry may be the most ethnically diverse industry there is, in large part because of immigrants who have brought culture, food, and flavor to our communities and neighborhoods. When these immigrants are hard-working, tax-paying, productive, law-abiding individuals, we should help them succeed by providing a path to legalization,” Jot Condi, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association said in an emailed statement, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.

If most immigrants are to be deported, the restaurant industry will collapse. This was clearly demonstrated by “A Day Without Immigrants” protest last February, when most businesses, not only in the restaurant and food services sector, shut down because their immigrant workers and owners refused to work in protest of the new government’s anti-immigration stance.

Just one day without immigrants cost the restaurant industry a huge hit to its profits, and some experts predict that without undocumented labor, the price of food will increase up to six percent... or worse, that there won’t be enough food for us all to eat due to labor shortages. “Immigrants feed this country,” says Noelle Lindsay Stewart, a former D.C. line cook and the communications manager for Define American, a media company focused on immigrant rights and identity. “They cultivate our produce; they cook our food. The food industry wouldn’t be possible in the way it is without them.”

Other industries that rely heavily on undocumented workers, based on 2014 data from the Pew Research Center, include:
*Construction, with 1.3 million unauthorized immigrant workers;
*Building services – 300,000;
*Landscaping – 300,000;
*Agriculture, crop production – 275,000
Together with 1.1 million in bars, restaurants and food services, that makes up a total of 7.9 million illegal immigrant workers.

A big challenge for workplaces has always been how to balance between employing immigrants and not running afoul with the law. See this regarding what employers need to know when hiring foreign workers

In line with this is also the ever-present challenge to heed the call to promote diversity and inclusion.

But the problem now becomes more complicated with Pres. Trump’s sweeping immigration enforcement directives which will allow for far more expulsions, and unleash the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

Most people tend to think of diversity mostly in terms of people of color and women as the oft-marginalized sectors, but as the recent presidential election showed, the white working-class, many of whom are non-college graduates, have also long felt being marginalized. Workplaces in the time of Trump are faced with the burden of ensuring that everyone feels included, regardless of race/ethnicity, skin color, disability, gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, religious and political affiliation, and the like.

However, with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission having as acting chair someone reported to have a history of voting against a number of anti-discrimination lawsuits, the future looks uncertain:
*Would the EEOC continue to provide an opportunity for victims of workplace discrimination and harassment seeking redress?
*Would there be a rise in discrimination against the oft-marginalized sectors: women, people of color, LGBTs, disabled, and veterans?
*Would there be freedom to create policies potentially beholden only to the American workers who put Mr. Trump into office, as one opinion article suggests?

Victoria Lipnic, designated by Pres. Trump to be EEOC’s acting chair, voted against a quarter of the 77 lawsuits that came before the commission since 2010. Other cases involved discrimination against African immigrants, a young man with an intellectual disability turned down for a Salvation Army thrift store job and men who have beards for religious reasons. Half of her no votes came in disability cases, a news report by Reveal News shows.

The same news also reported that Ms. Lipnic had said she’d like to see more of the commission’s cases come to a vote before they are brought to court. That means more cases could be killed.

Ms. Lipnic announced in her 1st speech she hoped that EEOC would increase its focus on age discrimination and equal pay issues and on job creation.

Indeed, age discrimination is a problem many mature workers experience, so it is only fair and right that this issue be given enough attention. Not only do mature workers find it difficult to get a new job, especially when out of work, but they are also bypassed for promotions. Prejudice and false notions about their skills and capabilities are a common reason for this.

Which brings us to the third challenge in the workplace: that of making generational diversity in the workplace work for everyone involved. And so, according to this article, forward-thinking workplaces are addressing generational differences through training and open forums.[…] In addition, companies are also taking action by making impressive changes to employment policies, performance management programs, recognition programs and benefits. Their focus is not about pleasing any particular generation but enhancing the work environment to improve the probability of attracting and keeping top performers across all generations.

An article by Forbes suggests that diversity and inclusion must be seen as an investment and be placed where it belongs – in the center of all growth strategies.

True. Diversity and inclusion have been shown to drive businesses to economic progress. It is time, indeed, to treat every individual worker as deserving and capable of work, no matter what their backgrounds, perspectives, beliefs and opinions may be. More than just merely complying with the law, and meeting quotas, workplaces should do their utmost to sincerely cultivate and keep a just, safe, equitable work environment, sans harassment, racism, sexism, and other ills.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Will Racism Ever Be Overcome by Unity in Diversity?

One big obstacle to diversity and inclusion is racism. An important question is whether racism will ever be overcome by unity in diversity. How can racism be dismantled?

Racism is a centuries-old social ill that plagues different societies around the world, not only in the United States. Racism may be of different types, but the most common understanding of it is that of a “whites vs. blacks” or fair-skinned vs. dark-skinned/black-toned people” kind of war.

Many still subscribe to the belief the white race is superior over any other race, and that comes at an economic cost. Blacks and other minorities have more difficulty in their job search, so they have a higher unemployment rate than whites

Can people of color be as prejudiced as the whites? People regardless of race can be prejudiced, though not necessarily because they are racist.

Racism and Racial Discrimination

For clarity, racism and racial discrimination are defined as follows:

Racism – any action or attitude, conscious or unconscious, that subordinates an individual or group based on skin colour or race. It can be enacted individually or institutionally.
Racial discrimination - To treat differently a person or group of people based on their racial origins. Power is a necessary precondition, for it depends on the ability to give or withhold social benefits, facilities, services, opportunities etc., from someone who should be entitled to them, and are denied on the basis of race, colour or national origin.

So back to the topic of racism – racial supremacy leads to racial purity. Humanity should not forget the unspeakable atrocity brought about by Nazi racism – the belief propagated by Hitler and his Nazi regime that the Aryan race is the master race, so must remain pure at all cost.

An excerpt from an article by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum shows how such belief is promoted:
When Hitler and the Nazis came to power, these beliefs became the government ideology and were spread in publicly displayed posters, on the radio, in movies, in classrooms, and in newspapers. The Nazis began to put their ideology into practice with the support of German scientists who believed that the human race could be improved by limiting the reproduction of people considered "inferior."

As put forth, the idea of superiority of one race over another is NOT innate in human nature. It is just an unfortunate human reality that there are individuals/groups overcome with delusions of themselves.

And great suffering it brings to human society when this delusion of supremacy takes control of the elite who holds the reins of power and authority over a nation – the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest, to borrow the words of George W. Bush.

This is why the human race has been troubled for centuries with racial bigotry.

Today, belief in racial or ethnic purity, based on religious and cultural beliefs still persists. Racial/ethnic purity is an extremist view, but it contributes a lot to the current wave of hatred, violence, disunity in the world. Modern-day versions of the Nazi's ethnic cleansing under Hitler continues to happen in different parts of the world.

Another factor for racism is believed to be rooted in capitalism and slavery.
Rather, racism originated with capitalism and the slave trade. As the Marxist writer CLR James put it, "The conception of dividing people by race begins with the slave trade. This thing was so shocking, so opposed to all the conceptions of society which religion and philosophers had…that the only justification by which humanity could face it was to divide people into races and decide that the Africans were an inferior race."

Its existence is said to have stemmed from the long and complex history of western Europe and the United States that [...]influenced by science, government and culture—that has shaped our ideas about race.

Looking to history, one can see that aside from science, government and culture, religion also plays a role in the construction of the idea of race and racism.

Here is an excerpt from Racial Equity Tools, a website that is designed to support people and groups working for inclusion, racial equity and social justice:
During the reformation (16th Century [1500s] & 17th Century [1600s]), a key question among Christian religious hierarchy was whether Blacks and “Indians” had souls and/or were human. In this time period, Europeans were exposed more frequently to Africans and the indigenous people of North and South America, and the church vacillated between opinions. The Catholic and the Protestant churches arrived at different answers to the question at different times, which created significant differences between the two systems of slavery. [...]With the increasing importance of slavery, religion was used as a means to justify racist divisions, classifying people of color as ‘pagan and soulless’.

Religious beliefs remain a justification for the persistent problem of racism, among others.
However, [...] racism does not require the full and explicit support of the state and the law. Nor does it require an ideology centered on the concept of biological inequality. Discrimination by institutions and individuals against those perceived as racially different can long persist and even flourish under the illusion of non-racism.

Unity in Diversity

The concept of unity in diversity means 'unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions.

How to Overcome Racism

Living out the value of unity in diversity is important for diversity working in society. It is one way for people to help destroy racism in our midst.

Institutional racism is certainly hard to dismantle, but ordinary people can start doing better to change the world for the better – and that is making a conscious effort to reduce racial bias in their own spheres of influence.

One insight worth pondering is this excerpt from an article by Nico Koopman, Vice-Rector for Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel at Stellenbosch University in South Africa:
To overcome racial discrimination we need to conscientise one another about the subconscious pictures with which we live. The words we use subconsciously betray our subconscious racial pictures and prejudices. […] Words are creative. They can either create a new reality of justice, or perpetuate old realities of injustice, discrimination and dehumanisation.

*Do not label people

Indeed, labeling people is not a bright idea, for it connotes separation. As the article above shows by an example, calling others on campus who are not white as diversity students and non-whites is to perpetuate racist thinking, and making white as the norm.
Likewise, using black as norm, and calling those who are not black as diversity students promotes racist attitude.

Classifying people according to their race or skin color, inspires segregation, rather than promote unity. All are human; all are of the same human race, regardless whether one's skin is black, white, brown, red, yellow. There is much beauty in diversity – just as seen in Nature itself.

*Understand where people are coming from

Research backs this idea of not labeling people. Vox reported last year that researchers came upon a radical way to reduce another person's bigotry. Although the study concentrated on anti-transgender attitude, it can also be applied to reducing racial anxiety and prejudices. Researchers found that labeling someone as racist is not good.

Rather, empathy is what helps. And as much as it might seem like a lost cause to understand the perspectives of people who may qualify as racist, understanding where they come from is a needed step to being able to speak to them in a way that will help reduce the racial biases they hold.

*Confront Your Racial Biases and Prejudices

The first step toward overcoming a problem is to face the problem, not denying its existence. Uncomfortable though it can be, acknowledging your biases and prejudices helps overcome these.

*Expand Your Horizon by Meeting People from Other Races and Cultures

Ignorance of others leads to close-mindeness, fear, intolerance and bigotry. So to better appreciate others, learn more about them by making friends. Build bridges of friendship, not walls of hatred and fear. Learn to understand what makes others tick despite their differences from you.

*Put More Love into Action. Help Others.

Sometimes, people become too focused on their own struggles, especially those who have to face discrimination. As a result, they become angrier, distrustful and weaker. Look for ways of how you can contribute to your community, school, workplace. Help others in difficulty no matter what their background is. By doing so, you develop strength of character and greater understanding of others.

Racism can be overcome, yes. It make take time. But it can be done. Unity in diversity is what the world needs, especially in post-election America where the wounds of political division are needing to be healed.

Monday, March 20, 2017

How Trump Policies Impact Hispanic American Jobs, Diversity

President Trump's policies must have the most chilling effect on the Hispanic/Latino American community, of all the different demographic groups in the United States. Trump's immigration plan are instilling fear in many Hispanic/Latino citizens, green card holders as well as undocumented immigrants, as they face the uncertainty of the future, including the possibilty of family separation, and continued pressure in their job search.

Due to the president's hard stance on immigrants and the border issue, many have come to fear the negative impact this will have on efforts to keep diversity working in American society.

Research shows that it is affecting their faith life as well. America’s Hispanic churches feel the impact of President Donald Trump’s immigration initiatives in their pews each week. […] Trump’s immigration plan does away with earlier exemptions for residents here illegally, putting more undocumented workers up for arrest, detention, and deportation, the Department of Homeland Security announced last month, according to a report by Christianity Today.

Natalia Aristizabal, working with Make the Road, a non-profit organisation in New York dealing with Latino and working-class communities, said in an interview with Aljazeera, undocumented immigrants are "yearning to fight back. "Our basic model right now is that we're here to stay and we're not going to go out without a fight." Arizitzabal noted that resistance is strongest among so-called Dreamers; unauthorised youth who were brought to the US as children, some of whom were granted temporary relief from deportation under President Barack Obama. "Those are the folks I hear even more of a defiant tone of I'm not going anywhere," she said.

In the employment field, illegal immigrants A Pew Research Center analysis of occupational profiles as of 2012 revealed that the U.S. unauthorized immigrant workforce now holds fewer blue-collar jobs and more white-collar ones than it did before the 2007-2009 recession, but a solid majority still works in low-skilled service, construction and production occupations.

A comparison between unauthorized immigrants and US-born workers, also by Pew Research, found disparities: In 2012, fully a third of U.S. unauthorized immigrants in the workforce (33%) held service jobs such as janitor, child care worker or cook, nearly double the share of U.S.-born workers (17%) in those types of occupations. An additional 15% hold construction or extraction jobs (mainly construction), triple the share of U.S.-born workers who hold that type of employment. Overall, 11%, compared with 6% of U.S.-born workers, are employed in production jobs, which include manufacturing, food processing and textile workers, among others.

To see how significant immigrants, specifically from Latin America, impact the country's economy, here are some figures gathered by the Migration Policy Institute:

* In 2015, approximately 27% of immigrants in the US were from Mexico, which made them the largest foreign-born group in the country.
* In 2015, 19.5 million people or 45 % of immigrants said they were of Hispanic or Latino origins.
* While majority of U.S. Hispanics are native born, 35 % of the 56.6 million people in 2015 who self-identified as Hispanic or Latino were immigrants.
* Most Mexican immigrants are in the West and Southwest, and more than half are in California or Texas.
* In 2015, about 69% of the 11.2 million immigrants from Mexico 16 years and older were in the civilian work force.
* From 2010-14, most unauthorized immigrants in the US came from Mexico and Central America, with an estimate number (by MPI) of7.9 million people, or 71% of the overall unauthorized population.

More facts on immigrants from Mexico, from a Pew Research survey:
* There has been a drop by 1 million in the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico since 2007, but even with the decline, Mexicans still make up about half of the nation’s 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants (52% in 2014).
* Mexican illegal immigrants are more likely to become long-term residents – but with the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal staying aliens, this would no longer be the case.
* At least 75% of the total unauthorized immigrant population in 3 states are from Mexico:
New Mexico - 91%
Idaho - 87%
Arizona - 81%

With their sheer size, there will be a big dent in occupations normally held by unauthorized Hispanic/Latino immigrants, if they are to be deported.

Adverse Effect of Immigrant Deportation

According to one expert's view (Kent Smetters, Wharton professor of business economics and public policy), deportation of illegal immigrants will not result to more job opportunities for native-born workers.
Trump’s plan assumes that if these workers were deported, native-born workers would take over these jobs. “That’s just simply not empirically true,” Smetters says. “When you export undocumented workers, those [typically low-skilled] jobs really aren’t replaced by native born workers” but by automation. Moreover, the presence of undocumented workers raises the wages of those who can legally work in the U.S. - Read more at:

Other analysts are of the same view that mass deportation of illegal immigrants will hurt the economy even more.
* It would immediately reduce the nation's GDP by 1.4 percent, and ultimately by 2.6 percent, and reduce cumulative GDP over 10 years by $4.7 trillion, according to the Center for American Progress.
* The agriculture and construction industries would suffer in case of widespread deportation.
* Deportation would cost the federal government between $103.9 billion and $303.7 billion.

On the other hand, some do believe allowing illegal immigrants to stay is an economic burden,
in ways such as lowering wages, putting financial strain on the federal, state and local levels of government, and burdening law enforcement and local school districts, among others.

Why Immigrants come to the U.S.

The great American Dream is often invoked by people coming to the United States seeking greener pastures. But also, many immigrants from Mexico and Latin America only want to escape the dire conditions in their home countries: poverty, drugs, and political instability. They see the United States as a promised land with plenty of job opportunities.

On the average, Hispanics/Latinos, together with blacks, have higher unemployment rate than whites and Asians. For example, the average unemployment rates from January 2000 to December 2016 for blacks and Hispanics were substantially greater than those for either non-Hispanic whites or Asians.
Even with the same level of educational attainment with whites and Asians, Hispanics and Latinos still have far greater unemployment rate.

The BLS report on the employment situation for Hispanic/Latin Americans, for the month of February 2017 shows minimal decrease of .3% in the unemployment rate, from 5.9% in January to 5.6%. Problems such as limited job opportunities and long term unemployment still face Hispanics/Latinos..

Here is an overview of their employment situation, in statistics, in January 2017:
* 5.9% unemployment rate, remaining above the national unemployment rate of 4.8%
* 66.1 Hispanic participation rate, compared with the 62.9% national participation rate
* 1 out of 5 Hispanics were looking for work for more than 27 weeks
* 7.81% Hispanic millenial unemployment rate
* 1.10 million Hispanics were forced into part-time jobs

According to this report, one of the long-term problems in the economy has been a lack of entry-level opportunities, as government regulations and mandates make it costlier and more difficult for small businesses to hire new staff. These opportunities are often critical for Latinos, and for workers who need to acquire and develop new skills.

Immigrants contribute a lot to the country's progress, including the illegal ones. The Center for American Progress, in a report made last year, noted the positive effect of immigrants on the business community and the country's economy.
Although immigrants’ economic contributions are significant, they could be even greater. If Congress enacts a legislative reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, then more unauthorized immigrants could participate in the formal economy. - Read more at:

Integrating undocumented immigrants via a comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full and equal citizenship was a measure supported by then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

If the present administration pushes harder on its hard stance on illegal immigrants, then there's more to lose. As noted by an article (last year) by The Nation, undocumented immigrants contribute more than $11 billion to the economy each year, and it is more beneficial to grant them a means to become permanent residents.
Though they would pay more taxes, it’s estimated that many of the undocumented would willingly get “on the books” if it meant shielding their families from deportation; there’s an immeasurable benefit to keeping families intact instead of tearing them apart through deportation and detention.

More importantly, immigrants contribute much to the diversity of the country; there is strength in diversity. As Hispanic/Latino immigrants form a large part of the US population, they have economic and political power.

It is hoped the Trump administration policies focus more on how to keep leveraging the gains already being realized from this important segment of the American society.