I recently had the pleasure of staying at a lovely hotel property near Universal Studios in California. Let me say the hotel chain was terrific. I was well treated, and overall, the customer service was top notch. There was both racial and gender diversity among the frontline staff, and it is clear that the brand is working hard to train its staff and work at issues of diversity and inclusion. But something about the hotel décor stood out to me.
Because the hotel is in Hollywood, California, the lobby area is decorated with pictures of movie and entertainment stars. There were four groupings of images. Three of the sections included no people of color in the posted images, save one actress of Asian descent, Nancy Kwan. Nancy was the only person of color I noticed among the thirty-one photos prominently hung on the display wall at the lobby entrance. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the lobby there was another wall of stars. This wall of sixteen images featured, Sammy Davis Jr., Diana Ross, James Earl Jones, and Gladys Knight. Out of the four display walls, one wall held four out of the five people of color I was able to identify. Noble effort right? I guess if segregation is the primary desire of your diversity and inclusion efforts.I am not suggesting you remove the images or hide them, but think very carefully about the message you want to convey by the images you choose to feature. I wondered if the era was the primary factor used to segregate the walls. Even that is no excuse. It may have taken some effort, but there are images of famous people of color available from past eras. Successfully achieving your diversity and inclusion goals will take a bit of an effort. What is the takeaway that you can glean from the images I encountered in Universal City?
Diversity needs to be dispersed. That means diversity without inclusion smacks of tokenism. Many times marginalized groups are relegated to one department or one sector of the industry. In the hotel and meeting, planning industry, people of color are often exiled to the SMERF market. They are not given an equal opportunity to work in the lucrative corporate market.
Images matter. People want to see themselves in your marketing and promotions. Do you want people to buy your product or service? Then you need to feature them in your marketing and promotional materials. Here is my downloadable guide for culturally competent ads.
Get the right people in the room. As you hire staff, contractors, and you develop teams you need to have a clear understanding of your diversity and inclusion goals. It is more cost effective and efficient to create the right plan of action rather than fix a mistake after the fact. If your planning team is not diverse and inclusive minded, your outcome won’t be either.
The segregating or exclusionary practices of the past can limit us. Many of our organizations are playing catch up. The walls of history are often not very diverse or inclusive. We have to accept our past, but at the same time illustrate how we plan to move forward. If all our past CEOs are grey-haired men, what do the pictures on our boardroom walls or college hallways say about the opportunities for women or younger people? I am not suggesting you remove the images or hide them, but think very carefully about the message you want to convey by the images you choose to feature. What are your #diversitygoals?
What unspoken message is your organization sending? Don’t forget to download the diversity goals checklist if you have not done so already.
Glen works with organizations that want to increase profits & productivity through building intercultural competency. Audiences leave Glen’s sessions equipped with the tools they need to improve cultural competency in their organizations and life. If you’re looking for a dynamic addition to your next event or an invaluable asset to your organization’s team, contact Glen today.