You are currently browsing the Talking Cultural Diversity blog archives for June, 2013.

An Open Letter to Paula Deen

By Jean Mavrelis - 06.29.2013

This open letter by Janus Adams, an African American, is so beautifully written.

The response reveals the strategy we try to teach white folks in our seminars who find themselves accused of the “r” word: racism.

Janus Adams wrote to Paula Deen in her open letter, “Do you understand that millions of hard-working people only want to hear you say: ‘I said the things I said. I was wrong. I’m willing to learn and to grow?’”

White folks react to the “r” word as if their moral character has been attacked, and anyone who uses it has done something worse than whatever they did to bring on the accusation.

There’s a strategy here that we share with Caucasian folks in our seminars: African Americans are amazingly forgiving if you admit you said or did something that adversely impacted them regardless of your intent.

If you admit you were wrong, and are willing to learn and to grow, there will be forgiveness.

As my husband and co-author of Corporate Tribalism, Thomas Kochman, says, “With African Americans, honesty works for you more than prejudice or ignorance works against you, especially if you are seen to be sincerely working to correct the problem.  What African Americans hate most is denial.”

What does it mean for men and women to be evolved?

By Jean Mavrelis - 06.19.2013

Sheryl Sandberg got it partly right in her book Lean In.

Tom Kochman (my co-author and husband) often says, “white men can be for themselves without shame or guilt”.

I agree with Sheryl Sandberg that women aren’t so good at that.  We often lack the ability to know what we want, and to pursue what we want with confidence and entitlement, but we have a strength that may be better suited for the way business will succeed in the future.

Women are programmed biologically and culturally (I can cite the research) to protect the well-being of the group and to get everyone to cooperate for the good of the whole.

Women may need more agency, but men need to develop the ability to build relationships with others: to ask questions, ask for help, and be willing to help others, especially other men, when they ask for help.

So, while I admire Sandberg’s work, it is incomplete and doesn’t speak to the long- term holistic thinking where women excel.

It would be a shame if women were to learn to be white male identified in their style (the term I use in my book Corporate Tribalism) instead of becoming evolved.

Evolved men and women (again in Corporate Tribalism) can be for themselves, while still being mindful of the well-being of the whole.

Hard work is not enough for LGBT employees to get ahead

By Kimberly Lord - 06.07.2013

As June rolls around this year, we have much to be excited about with regard to advances for LGBT individuals across the U.S.  In light of these advances, it’s also important to look at the hurdles and inequities that continue in our workplaces.

A coalition of leading LGBT organizations, policy experts and business advocates have released a report documenting these challenges: A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates reminds us of five key areas where American businesses need to create equity and the need for federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers.


  • Lack of nondiscrimination protections. No federal law and only a minority of states provide explicit protections for LGBT workers, even though protections exist for other workers based on factors such as race, national origin, religion, ethnicity, and disability. Progress has perhaps been impeded by the fact that 89% of Americans mistakenly believe that it is already illegal under federal law to fire someone simply for being LGBT.
  • Family and medical leave. LGBT workers are denied equal access to unpaid leave to provide care for a same-sex spouse or partner. Transgender workers are often denied medical leave for transition-related medical care.
  • Family health benefits. An employer that extends family health benefits to married opposite-sex couples can legally deny that same coverage to married and unmarried same-sex couples. When LGBT workers do receive these benefits, middle-income families pay an estimated $3,200 in extra taxes on them, although heterosexual workers get the same benefits tax-free.
  • Spousal retirement benefits. LGBT workers are systematically denied Social Security spousal benefits designed to protect workers’ families during their retirement years. This costs retired same-sex couples up to $14,484 per year, and a surviving same-sex widow or widower up to $28,968 per year. Same-sex partners also may also be denied pension survivor benefits.
  • Death and disability benefits. If an LGBT worker dies or becomes disabled, the worker’s same-sex spouse-and in some cases, his or her children-will be denied Social Security disability and survivor benefits, costing a surviving spouse with two children as much as $29,520 in annual benefits.


Reflections: Problems to be solved/Situations to be accepted

By Thomas Kochman - 06.01.2013

An article by Nancy Adler identified a culture clash at one hospital between Filipino nurses and mainstream U.S. doctors that had a direct impact on doctor-nurse communication as well as the kind of treatment patients received.

Filipino nurses, in the instances Adler described, saw the medical condition of some patients as “situations to be accepted”. The doctors saw it as a “problem to be solved”.

How one approaches a problem or situation of course, is critical to the kinds of decisions that are made. Problems, as one boss put it, “can be solved.” Situations “beg to be managed.” They don’t go away “but the disruption and unpleasantness can be controlled.”

We can probably think of any number of various problems/situations which, depending upon one or the other outlook, dictate what happens next.

Some years ago a friend of ours was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His response to the news had a mixture of “problem to be fixed” and “situation to be accepted.” Read more »