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ACE Takeaway: Diversity is a Fact

Posted by: Marion Mann on Friday, May 27, 2016

The goal of the Greenville Chamber’s annual ACE Leadership Symposium is to help spread the message that to advance multicultural leadership, there must be concerted efforts to advocate and collaborate to ensure diverse leaders are successful, so that they will excel personally and in their endeavors to contribute to organizations.

Keynote speaker john a. powell (who spells his name with lowercase letters) is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties and a wide range of issues including race and ethnicity, structural racialization, fair housing, poverty and democracy. He is the director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a professor of law, African-American studies and ethnic studies. He holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion.

Professor powell writes and speaks extensively on a number of issues, such as racial justice, concentrated poverty, urban sprawl, opportunity-based housing, voting rights, affirmative action, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice and the needs of citizens in a democratic society.

He shared the following thoughts about inclusion and leadership at the ACE Symposium:

powell uses the term “othering” to describe what occurs in our unconscious network and can lead to racial, ethnic or religious bias. The human brain processes 11 million bytes of information per second, but we are only consciously aware of 40 of these, at best, he said. Three processes of the subconscious include

  • Sorting into categories
  • Creating associations between things
  • Filling in the gaps when we only receive partial information

You don’t have to see things consciously for them to affect you. We as humans have been primed to notice certain things and not to notice certain things. The unconscious mind is fast, big and disorderly. It doesn’t respond to rational thought or data. It’s not personal – it’s what we’ve been taught by our society over many years and influences and experiences. As we become more aware of them, we can try to acknowledge them for what they are.

Minority vs. Marginalized

The Hispanic population in California now surpasses all other ethnicities, but that doesn’t mean that there will be a Hispanic mayor, mostly Hispanic boards of directors or a movie industry with majority Hispanic casts.

Why do we link minority and women? Women are, and have always been, half of our population. What’s concerning is that, in 2016, there is a controversy over having a woman on United States currency.

Diversity is a fact, and it’s only increasing throughout our societies. Minority/majority lines are blurred. powell notes instead that there are populations that have been historically marginalized. What is important now is to create a culture of belonging that is inclusive and deliberate in its efforts to provide opportunities to marginalized groups.

Managing Fear

Diversity causes anxiety. Anxiety causes fear. What matters is how we manage fear, and that requires leadership.

Creating a culture of belonging requires transformational leadership. Transformational leadership is needed to implement new ideas and continually improve our surroundings. Transformative leaders provide a sense of mission and vision, instill pride, communicate high expectations, provide intellectual stimulation and give personal attention to each employee.

Leaders need to make sure that structures are not marginalizing people. Organizations make better decisions with a culture of belonging and those with different cultures and experiences at the table.

Practice belonging in our everyday lives.

We are all deeply part of each other and connected to one another. We have far more in common than not. It takes communication, collaboration and an intentional focus on bridging our gaps to build a culture of belonging.

Learn more about inclusion and more efforts to advance a globally competitive economy where businesses succeed and people prosper at


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