Diversity, Inclusion, and Organizational Culture

It is never too early or too late to think about the organizational culture that you work in. While we live in the 21st century and many of us claim to be “woke” and attune to the needs of our ever diversifying global community, the fact remains that few of us do more than express good intentions.

So where are the RECEIPTS?!

I mean really, ask yourself, when was the last time you and your co-workers or team members got together as a group and talked about the environment and organizational culture you want to create so that everyone feels that they can bring their whole and authentic selves to work? **Note: This assuming that this is your intention.**

As many of our Cite A Sista readers move through the ranks and secure high-level positions, I want to use this post to help frame our thinking and provide resources to start a conversation on organizational culture. Most of the following is what I shared with my staff as we began to think about the possibilities the new academic year could bring for us. I hope this post can inspire you to do the same for your group.

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What is organizational culture?

Organizational culture includes an organization’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. It is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid.

Why is organizational culture important?

  • Transition of leadership within our organizations
  • Increased diversity of social identity within organizations
  • Socio-political landscape of the U.S.
  • To remain current with industry trends
  • Important consideration for education and training
    • Education: building awareness and understanding.
    • Training: skill-building
  • Maintain competitive edge

Here is the 1, 2, 3 of assessing your organizational culture!

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With these assessment steps in mind, I wanted to offer some critical reflection questions for your consideration…

  1. What are the values, behaviors, and culture of your organization?
    • Where are these values stemming from? (ie. strategic planning, organization mission & vision, org. history, donors)
  1. What does diversity, inclusion, and/or social justice mean to your organization?
  2. How would you describe your current organizational culture?
    • What are the strengths of this culture?
    • What are the challenges of this culture?
  1. What needs have you identified for yourselves and the organization as a whole
    • What identities are highlighted or overly represented?
    • What identities are marginalized or underrepresented?
  1. In a perfect world, what would your vision be for your organization culture?
    • Are there any shifts that need to be made to achieve this culture?
    • What training elements are needed to promote this culture?
    • What are the behavioral markers of this ideal culture?
    • What is your plan for instilling the importance and role-modeling behaviors you have outlined?
  1. What are the performance elements that will ensure that these elements are embedded into the organizational structure?
    • What is your plan of action when students fall short of the expectation?
  1. What skills do you need as leaders of the organization to empower your staff to be inclusive?
  2. How do you plan to transition new leadership team members to ensure that this culture of inclusion is passed on?

As Black women continue to pursue and attain higher education degrees faster than any other demographic in the U.S. I expect us to do the same in the workplace. This means taking the necessary steps to be good leaders and facilitate strong office and organizational culture.

Taking time out to assess, and follow the guidelines presented here, should help you and/or your organization take a hard look in the proverbial mirror to determine if you  really are “about this life.” Are you doing what you say you’re doing? Answering these questions will provide receipts or proof that you are doing just that.

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Fret not, if you find your organization needs work. Everything identified here may require you to shift your organizational practices, mission, vision, goals, and strategic plan to be in alignment with those values. Change can happen– but only if you let it. IT IS 2017 and the world is only going to become more diverse–for our non-Black readers out there perhaps this is the time to realize you cannot beat them, so YOU MUST JOIN THEM… Or suffer the consequences of failing to do so.

Have you thought about improving your office or workplace culture? Got questions? Got Answers?

Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think.

#GirlsTrip: Is #SquadCare the new #SelfCare?

Over the past few days, there’s been a LOT of discussions about #girlstrip, #squadcare, and overall #BlackGirlMagic. If you haven’t made it to the theaters yet, don’t worry. This post won’t provide any spoilers for you about #GirlsTrip, the movie. It will, however, get you thinking about what a #girlstrip may mean for you and for Black women in general.

For centuries, Black women have relied on our #squad (Black women teachers, preachers, grandmas, auntie-nems, etc.) to get us through good times, bad times, and everything in between… And that’s exactly what we get in #girlstrip. From the previews, we know that the story involves a group of 4 dynamic Black women, who became besties in college but for a variety of reasons, haven’t seen each other in 5 years.

We are taken on a wild ride as we learn each character’s back story. The sacrificing mother, the public figure with a chaotic marriage, the wild, care-free spirit and the entrepreneurial dreamer. They are 4 Black women that we know, that we love, and that many of us may be.

While I definitely laughed during the film and LOVED seeing beautiful, talented Black women on the BIG SCREEN without needing a tragic or racist back story, #girlstrip left me feeling… isolated.

So, here’s the thing: I didn’t go see the movie with one, two, or three of my good girlfriends. I went alone. Truthfully, going to the movies solo is one of my favorite forms of #selfcare. Further, as an #IntrovertedBlackGirl, group trips don’t happen often (if at all) for me. And to be honest, I prefer it that way.

However, there’s this notion of #squadcare that’s been circulating on social media recently that challenges how introverts (and just people in general) may choose to care for themselves. Melissa Harris-Perry shared an article on elle.com that literally said, “I refuse to believe that self-care is necessary for health and well-being”.

You can read that direct quote for yourself, here: http://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/news/a46797/squad-care-melissa-harris-perry/.

Now, in all fairness to MHP, she was talking about how her own bestie-ship saved her life when she was at a low point, and what this friendship has meant to her over time. However, her disregard for how some of us have to be intentional about loving and learning ourselves seems harmful and lacks nuance.

We can, as beautiful, ever-changing, well-connected Black women, practice both #selfcare and #squadcare. After all, aren’t both practices part of why we love #citeasista so much? We don’t have to abandon one for the other. BOTH matter and they are both important to our survival. For me, as an #IntrovertedBlackGirl, #squadcare ALONE doesn’t help me. It doesn’t sustain me. In fact, it does the exact opposite. I can count on one hand how many good girlfriends that I have. My friendships are intentional, individual, deeply personal and require a lot of time to develop. So, the notion of #squadcare kind of left me feeling like, “well, this clearly isn’t for me”.

I can attend brunches, movies, sleepovers, and birthday dinners all day (well, not really, but you get the point). Truthfully, there’s nothing that I want more for my next birthday celebration than to have a slumber party with the few Black women that truly know me. I’m talking onesie pjs, junk food, classic Black films, karaoke… all of that simple, fun, #carefreeBlackgirl stuff. But at some point, I have to reconnect with me. I have to spend intentional time by myself, with myself and for myself.

Practicing #squadcare without a balance of #selfcare can be dangerous for a lot of us. We are already over-committed, over-depended upon and under-appreciated. Adding the extra duty of caring for others without caring for ourselves FIRST can be a disservice.

Now, please don’t take this as me saying that #selfcare cannot be practiced in community and within kinship bonds. Because it absolutely can. For my extroverted friends, it’s how they keep their energy going and I respect and understand that. But for some of us #introverted and #sociallyanxious Black girls, #squadcare can be exhausting.

We can engage in #squadcare and love being in community with other Black women (like #citeasista), but we shouldn’t have to choose between the two.

Take your #girlstrip. Travel with your #squad. Enjoy your community in whatever way YOU choose. Love on your crew and allow them to show love to you, too.

But remember that it IS okay to practice good, intentional self-care. It’s okay to focus intently on who you are, what you need, and what you want. Whether you choose to do it in community with your #squad or at home alone with your journal (or both), take care of yourself, sis.

Love Always, Dr. Mini Me

A year ago this week, a fellow #PDAProtégé and I flew to Dallas to be with our mentor turned friend Dr. Pamela D. Anthony. We wanted to spend time with our friend as she battled an illness that would ultimately take her from us. What we didn’t know was that our visit would be the last time we saw her. Her absence stings (present tense). I’m convinced that it always will.

If you knew her, you loved her. Everyone loved her. She affectionately called me Mini-Me, and I was too happy to have that nickname. I mean, she was Pam, Dr. PDA. She hadn’t birthed me, but Lord knows she helped raise me. We had met at Georgia State University when she was Assistant Dean of Students and a NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Mentor and I was an undergraduate business major who didn’t want to do business lol. She scooped me under her wisdom, sent me off to the University of Georgia (her masters alma mater), and mentored me as a student affairs professional and young adult. Always with an open ear, nonjudgmental but tell it like it is response, and love to cover a multitude of differences, she had guided me through professional, personal, relationship stuff, life transitions, curiosities, and WTH’s.

I’ve lost a significant person to me just months prior to completing each degree: Grandma Sarah in undergrad, Grandma Johnnie Mae in grad school, and Pam with my doctorate. I’ve really struggled with her transition. Pam was a winner. Pam had always won, but this time, it felt like she lost. I take comfort in our shared faith that she is at rest now, AND I’m still low-key (perhaps not so low-key) struggling with her absence.

Cognitively, I know that grieving is a process that takes its time. That said, the weight of this grief continues to weigh heavily on me. Pam’s transition occurred during the data collection phase of my dissertation. Grief and sorrow sat with me then, holding me captive for several weeks. I didn’t write, analyze data, or revise anything for almost a month. Antagonizing the pain was the realization that I wouldn’t get to write up the rest of my dissertation in Dallas with Pam like we had planned the year before. I had shared all major life transitions with Pam since I’d known her (e.g., college graduation, masters graduation, first grown up job, heartbreak and first dates). So, her absence from my dissertation defense, graduation, and job search have been acutely painful.

I promised family, friends, faculty, and mentors that I would take care of myself. So, I let myself cry and be sad when I needed to. I reached out to my other mentors for help me navigate processes and situations that I’d usually touch base with Pam about. I took time off from my dissertation process to be present with my emotions. I did all of that, AND I still cry when I think for too long about the fact that she’s gone. Pam was in a dream of mine earlier this summer. It was so good to see her. I cried the entire day. I just couldn’t pull myself together.

A good friend told me recently to take time to celebrate Pam when I think about how sad I am that she’s gone. I’ve been trying to do that along the way too. I wear her favorite color (purple) from time to time on purpose. I wear amazing lip stick because she told me that your lips gotta be poppin’ lol. I even wear heels (for 45 minutes at a time lol). More importantly, I do my best to celebrate her by honoring her and the lessons she taught me in her living.

In her living, Pam taught me to live my best life, remain grounded so that your elevation doesn’t take you places you don’t need to be, and be gracious because we all need some grace. Living my best life translates into spending quality time with loved ones, challenging myself to do things that frighten me (but aren’t dangerous lol), and being gracious and kind to myself and others. In practice, that has looked like weekends with friends, leisure travel, and making my tongue less sharp in response to people.

Pam and I are/were both Christians. She was an ordained minister of the gospel whose most visible ministry was the way she reflected God’s love and loved out loud. Faith had always been central to our relationship. We petitioned God on each others’ behalf often. She reminded me often to ground myself in our faith so that I wouldn’t be tossed to and fro like a ship without a sail. She believed that our professional elevation and personal egos could be catalysts for unhealthy habits and practices if we didn’t remain grounded in our faith. In practice, that translates into developing a womanist Christian ethic as praxis, making faith practical for people who’ve given up on faith, and framing professional and personal opportunities as venues to be love in a harsh world.

Pam was always gracious with me, especially when I messed up (because we don’t always get things right). She would say things like, “Help me understand what you were trying to do”, or “Now Pumpkin, (insert statement about how you need to get your life together)”. I don’t know if she would have identified as a Black feminist, but her epistemology (way of knowing) aligned well with Black feminist epistemology that requires us to be responsible with and accountable for our words and actions, caring in thought and action toward one another, and emotionally and interpersonally intelligent. In practice, that has translated into me being more intentional with mentoring younger professionals, women, and femmes, shelling up extra measures of grace when wronged but unharmed, and applying that love and accountability to myself.

I miss Pam a bunch, almost daily. She was my girl, my friend, my mentor, my soror, someone who knew me well enough for me to talk cash money sh*t with without judgment (and often some encouragement to “live a little Joan, you might like it”). In her living, she taught me more than I ever knew I needed to learn. I recognize that I’m not the only person whose heart still aches for Pam on this side of time. This writing is simply my attempt to articulate the reconciliation of ongoing grief and the life I am living. As with my experience in Ghana, the fullness of my knowledge and experience with her can be best articulated by my actions to honor her than with mere words. I am transformed by having known her.

May my achievements honor her investments in me. May her memory live on through me and those who loved her and were elevated by knowing her. May those who love her take comfort in the love she shared with them and for them. Asé. Amen.

Love always,

Dr. Mini Me

My #1 Tip for Amazing Sister-Friendships

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in community with Black women in what can only be described as cultivating and nurturing friendships.  I’ve gathered with girlfriends, old and new, for the sole purpose of communing based on our commonalities and agreeing to grow through our differences. I’ve danced the night away in celebration on birthdays and nuptials. I’ve stiffened my neck to talk through things on the phone call that my girlfriends…or I…really needed to talk through. And truthfully, I consider myself lucky to have women in my life with whom I share the bond of sisterhood. As they say, if you have one true friend, you have more than your fair share. It got me thinking about how I came to be so lucky. How did I end up with such amazing friendships with women?

It’s not easy.  As a child, I often heard women say, “I can’t be friends with women because…”.  It made me wonder if had the capacity to see beyond the cattiness and ‘man-stealing’ that I often witnessed on television and in my community.  At the same time, I wondered:

“How can women not find commonality with other when, by definition, the have so much in common”?

But what I now understand is that sometimes it’s not that we can’t find commonality with other women. It’s that friendship isn’t born out of commonality alone. Friendships grow out of a shared desire to be friends and a commitment to remain friends. In other words, be a friend to have a friend.  But we’re not talking about any old run of the mill friendship here.  We’re talking about amazing, life-changing, ever-evolving sister-friendships.  We’re talking about the kind of friendship that you can depend on whether to storms, celebrate the triumphs and stand the tests of time.  So, my #1 tip to have amazing sister-friendship you desire is to demonstrate being the kind of sister-friend you desire. That’s it.  Easy, right?

Wrong! Embodying the type friendship you want with the women in your life is easier said than done. Personally, I fall short of this standard quite often. In fact, my friends will tell you about me is that I don’t call enough. I can be selfish. I can be mean. But what they will also you, almost without fail is that I show up, I offer my best self (whatever that means at any given moment), and I remain committed to nurturing healthy friendships.  These things are important to me so I try my best to demonstrate them.  And somehow, I am granted these same virtues when I need them.

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So, I encourage you to spend some time thinking of the exact kind of sister-friendship you want and need seek to embody that within yourself. After all, we attract what we already are.

On Agency, #Jayz444, #443chat, & a Woman’s Burden

I’m a Jay-Z fan. I will argue anyone nine ways til’ Sunday about why the Black Album is one of the greatest albums ever made—not greatest rap, not greatest hip hop, but actual factual greatest albums ever. Before 4:44 dropped, I found myself debating the same concepts across differing communities… For some reason, marriage and loyalty were topics of discussion in two different GroupMe spaces within the same 24-hour time span: One a community for Black singles and another a community for people interested in sex positivity and minimizing sex shaming.

And somehow across groups, space, time, and now since the release of 4:44 I’m finding myself screaming the same story about the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing not coming down on the person someone cheats with as much as it does the person who’s committed. Follow me, here, please? What I’m about to say has been said before. It’s MYE (sic) opinion and mine alone (so don’t be yelling as if Cite A Sista is a monolithic subcommunity), but it follows a long history and tradition of thought logic by women before me. Black feminists have said it. My mother has said it. My friends have heard it somewhere. I’ve read it, repeated it, and here I am rehashing it again:

No one owes monogamy to a relationship but the two people in the committed monogamous relationship. Period.

Now let me be clear– I’m speaking here specifically about Black on Black relationships and cis-het companionship. Why? Because those are the relationships I know intimately and because I have no business talking about how queer folks love. That said, I’m not rationalizing cheating. This is not about “#HoesStayWinning.” And this certainly isn’t a hot take on Jay-Z and Bey or Blac Chyna and her ex, per se. But Jay does provide an interesting example of why I say and feel no one outside of your commitment owes you–

“Yeah, I’ll f*ck up a good thing if you let me / Let me alone, Becky / A man that don’t take care his family can’t be rich / I’ll watch Godfather, I miss that whole sh*t” -Jay-Z, 4:44

Jay is being praised for this album. Black men everywhere are reaching out to say sorry to former lovers. People online are writing heada*s articles showing appreciation for the fact that a cis-het Black man is baring his soul nevermind the fact that queer black artists have shown how possible this is forever, admitting he’s wrong, apologizing, and committing to being a better spouse and father. And the subtext here, for me, is still: Jay-Z wants other women to let him be rather than make a conscious decision to say no.

The word for the day kids is Agency. A-G-E-N-C-Y. 

When we as Black women, and men themselves (hi, Jay), reduce Black men to beings who cannot say no–to these hypersexual individuals who need not be tempted rather than exert their right to walk away, we infantilize them and minimize their agency and decision-making ability in the process.

Jay-Z made a choice.

Men who cheat make a choice.

Deciding to step out, whether “tempted” or not is a decision.

This same reduction is done to Black women who are complicit in the affair (or in Jay-Z’s case Becky of a race unknown?) when we pretend as if people outside the structure and confines of a marriage owe monogamy, trust, and honesty to people within them. Becky doesn’t owe Bey (sorry, fight me). The other woman doesn’t owe a wife. The idea of whether it’s right or wrong to be with a person that is married or committed is a moral one and I’m not in the business of making moral judgments because I’m probably the least judgmental person half the folks in my life know… But I write all of this to say that it’s high time we start holding Black men accountable for being full-grown responsible human beings.

I’ll never forget the day one of my friends pointed out how “we love our sons and raise our daughters”. This is exactly why a man old enough to babysit Beyonce when she was a child could go on record and admit she matured faster than him.

Dear Black Women: if we love and are committed to Black men we have to hold them responsible. Let’s stop making this about being woman to woman, about she should have known better, and many other countless phrases that pop up when we learn about and discuss infidelity.

Dear Black Men: make a choice, sit with it, and be real. Your prefrontal cortex is fully developed–the idea that someone made you do it (at least in my life) ends here.


Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments or join the discussion on Twitter using #CiteASista!

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