Posts Tagged inclusion

Diversity & Inclusion Data in Netflix Productions

Netflix shares D&I data in its productions

Netflix, Computer, Snacking, Cushion

What has entertainment got to do with diversity and inclusion? Actually plenty. As a Diversity & Inclusion training provider, I was thrilled to see Netflix keeping track and providing D&I data in its productions. Diversity promotes inclusion, appeals to a larger audience, and gives people a chance to learn about different cultures. Recently, the streaming giant Netflix commissioned a study to look at its own 2018 and 2019 productions. The study analyzed 126 movies and 180 series released during 2018 and 2019.

Findings are not only striking and breath-taking but inspirational. The study found that fifty-two percent of Netflix films and series in 2018 and 2019 had girls or women in starring roles and 35.7 percent of all Netflix leads during this time came from underrepresented groups, compared with 28 percent in the top 100 grossing theatrical films. 

An example is #BridgertonOnNetflix that not only casts women and under-represented groups but also tackles race and gender in interesting and contrasting ways. In this period drama series, set in Regency England, a color blind society emerges in sharp contrast to a gender biased one.. Following a wedding between their white king and black queen, the society has achieved true racial equality. On the other hand, gender is left alone. So here, “a wayward touch or heaven forbid a kiss would banish any young lady from a society in a trail of ruin” and yet all the delicate issues pertaining to women’s honor are considered men’s affairs and it then becomes men’s duty to solve these issues, sometimes through deadly duels. Sarcastic wit is both entertaining and illuminating.  My review is at link .

Or consider Never Have I Ever, coming of age drama series. Fifteen year old heroine, Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is an insightful teenager. Stereotypes are tackled with sarcasm. When she tells her therapist that she wants to have sex with a hot kid in the class, in order to join the grownup world, her therapist assures her that he may be hot but he still has problems. To that Devi replies, “Hot people don’t have problems. I have seen people in your waiting room — they are mostly uggos”.  Clever use of sarcasm in another netflix serial, Kim’s Convenience also helps break down stereotypes and stars as Korean family, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Jean Yoon, Andrea Bang, and Simu Liu. 

And then there are other films like the movie “Sir”, starring Tilotama Shome & Vivk Gomber. With understated dialogues and masterful use of silences, the movie brings in the forefront crucial issues of class and caste in Indian society. Here is link to my review . In Hillbilly Elegy, (link to my review,  light shines on the chief divides in the USA, poverty and its accompanying scourges, social isolation, lack of medical resources, drug use and religious and political divides.  

Movies and serials on Netflix still do have glaring deficiencies in achieving better gender and racial parity. For instance, 96 percent of stories did not have any women onscreen who identify as American Indian/ Native Alaskan, 68.3 percent of the content evaluated did not include a speaking role for a Latina and LGBTQ characters were often marginalized.

Group of children smiling and looking at the camera diversity Group of children smiling and looking at the camera Child Stock Photo

What is interesting however, is that the streaming site is paying close attention to the issues of diversity and inclusion in entertainment and acknowledges the importance of its role in changing things in society.  Netflix’s film chief, Scott Stuber acknowledged its importance and Netflix’s chief executive Ted Sarandos said, “the company is committed to releasing a new report every two years through 2026”. He further said, “our hope is to create a benchmark for ourselves, and more broadly across the industry”.

This is leadership. And I can’t wait to hear Netflix co-founder, chairman and co-Chief Executive Officer, Reed Hastings speak at #TiEcon2021. I hope he will speak to the issue of the importance of diversity and inclusion in entertainment. I hope he will also share how and  in what other ways Netflix is taking this seriously in how it weaves in D&I internally. Register for for the virtual tiecon and May 6-8, 2021. With an exemplary lineup of keynotes, speakers and panelists, you will not want to miss the virtual conference. 

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Entrepreneurs set to converge at TiEcon 2020

PeterDrucker has famously said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And that is the central core of the theme at TiEcon 2020.

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If you are an entrepreneur then TiEcon 2020 is the place where you want to CONVERGE. There’s plenty here for entrepreneurs. You might find just find the right idea, timely advice, meet a mentor, pair up with a partner, or perhaps connect with an interested investor. Very likely an entrepreneur is likely to find something here that will be a catalyst for them to begin to CREATE the environment to bring that innovation to fruition. TiEcons have always offered an environment to ELEVATE innovation from earliest idea stage to its fullest potential.

TiEcon 2020 tracks are announced and they are extremely relevant to current environment and very exciting. In the coming weeks, you will hear a great deal about the tracks, speakers, and keynotes. There are tracks and events that may offer something for all attendees like entrepreneurship and startup bootcamp. And then there are tracks that we all hear about and are on the cutting edge of new developments like cloud, security, IOT and ML.  There are also tracks and events that feature the human side of an organization and soft mentoring side of this conference like diversity and inclusion and global and mentor connect, and young entrepreneurs.

With convergence of well over 4500 attendees, 220 speakers, 13+ tracks, 1300 industry leaders, from 22+ countries, there is something here for every entrepreneur to sow the seeds for creation of that innovative idea into something magnificent or elevate it to something amazing. If you are intrigued, remember it all starts with convergence at TiEcon 2020. Registration is open at early bird price at .

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Critical Attributes in Leaders at Various Stages of Leadership Journey

EPPIC, an entirely volunteer driven, non-profit organization, found with a mission to create a forum to leverage entrepreneurship, mentoring, and networking opportunities in life sciences, celebrated its 15th anniversary, at TiE office, in Santa Clara.  The event, sponsored by Genentech, was attended by 110 life science professionals, and served as an early introduction to 2014 Eppic Annual Conference, scheduled for February 1, 2014, at Westin, South San Francisco.  The agenda for this anniversary event included 3 excellent panels and concluded with a keynote by Ann Lee, Senior Vice President of Global Pharma Technology Development at Genentech/Roche.

Here is the brief synopsis of the keynote.  Lee shared her own personal leadership journey and discussed the critical skills necessary at various stages of leadership for anyone following a similar career path.  During entry into the professional world, as a research fellow, it is critical to have technical expertise and grit to take the initiative and making contributions of value.  On the next step in the leadership journey, at the level of Director, one assumes greater share of managerial responsibilities and providing effective leadership to the teams.  At this time, hiring the best, becomes a critical responsibility.  As one progresses to Senior Director level, ability to communicate effectively with the seniors, becomes crucial.  This is a transition from technical mindset to be able to hone in on key points and communicate them effectively.  It also becomes important to focus on providing guidance and developing others as it is increasing not about you along, but increasingly it is about others in the team.  Lee emphasized that authenticity becomes critical as people will watch for congruence between what you say and what you do.  Greater self-awareness will enable greater authenticity, said Lee.  At VP and Senior VP level, one requires courage because one may be called on to make many tough decisions including work force reductions, killing a multi-million dollar project that may be eating up resources and so on.  Principle centered approach can effectively guide a person in making those critical decisions.  And just as one influences an organization with their decisions, organizational values also play a key role and guide the decisions, of its leaders.  For instance, Genentech takes great pride in being patient-centered company and decisions are often made after considering the impact on patients.  At this stage, leaders also have to focus on strategy and change and have to lead with a long-term vision, as opposed to fighting fires.   People look to the leaders for inspiration.  Mindfulness or daily meditation can help a leader be more effective, said Lee.

Lee then discussed Genentech/Roche’s commitment to diversity.  (In addition to recruitment for biotech and medical device companies, I also offer corporate trainings on diversity and global inclusion and in 2010, I did training for almost 400 Medtronic employees in India, and this part of Lee’s talk was very interesting to me.  Here is a link to my interviews ).  Lee said that her company employs 2200 people, at 4 different sites, with a lot of functional diversity. Working across cultures is frequently challenging, because there is often distrust, preconceived notions, and logistics challenges, including ill timed phone calls, that exacerbate problems.  Instead of delving immediately into work, it is often more productive to set aside time for getting to know people and develop personal relationships, with team members at remote locations.  When working through preconceived notions and unmet expectations, it is important to maintain a balanced perspective and give credit for positive intent, and to seek to understand before being understood, said Lee.  Genentech/Roche has a commitment to increasing the number of women in the workforce and make opportunities for advancement, available to women.  However, it is not about quotas, said Lee.  A diverse workforce enhances and enriches the entire team and increases the diversity of thought, which in the end always leads to better problem solving, greater creativity and higher productivity, she said.

Lee also touched upon importance of work-life balance and flexibility in an individual and within an organization.  In the end, it is always about relationships.  Relationships with colleagues, allies, coaches, and sponsors are all different and need to be maintained differently.  For instance, coaches may talk to you but mentors talk with you and sponsors may talk about you, sometimes even when you are not present.  Summarizing and sharing the learnings from her own leadership journey, she said “be authentic, have greater self-awareness, and play to your strengths”.  Additionally, “you need to pursue your passion, do what you love, be resilient and face challenges head on”.  And finally, “remember that relationships matter and define your own path to fulfillment”, said Lee.

A sign at Genentech headquarters in South San ...

A sign at Genentech headquarters in South San Francisco, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EPPIC will host its Annual Conference on February 1, 2014 at the Westin in South San Francisco.  Mark your calendars for a great conference with excellent keynotes and panels on a variety of topics and watch out for preview blogs on the event.  Register early at, before the event gets sold out.

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Design, delivery & impact of Diversity & Inclusion Training at Medtronic, India location – A case study

This case study was shared in a panel at Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity, 2012, where I was one of the panelists.  (I delivered the training at Medtronic’s various locations across India, in 2010).

A panel moderated by Linda Stokes, President and CEO of PRISM International ( discussed the Implications of D&I for the Global Workforce through the case study of Medtronic’s initiative to integrate Diversity and Inclusion into their locations across India. The panelists, Tonya Hampton, HR Director with Medtronic (, Dr. Kizzy Parks, Assessment and Measurement Consultant, and Dr. Darshana Nadkarni (, Diversity Facilitator, shared about the diversity training initiative that was rolled out in India, in July 2010.

Hampton shared about Medtronic’s vision to anchor the diversity and inclusion initiative with the business case. There are over 32 M people with diabetes in India and CHD (coronary heart disease) has risen 4-fold over the past 40 years. India and China represent $5B market for Medtronic.   It is also an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the patients, since diabetes and CHD are manageable diseases, with timely intervention, said Hampton.  She partnered with her colleague, Titus Arnold, in India, to roll out the training initiative.  The survey response from the Medtronic India team, during the initial data gathering and assessment period, was amazingly high, said Parks.

Based on the responses received, Stokes designed the training and Nadkarni helped customize it for Medtronic, India.  The training was delivered at Medtronic’s five different locations, across India by Nadkarni.  Nadkarni shared some highlights.  The training was anchored in the Medtronic business case and began with providing the attendees with a broad awareness of diversity.  The participants got an opportunity to self examine perceptual screens and stereotypes and then expand it to examine cultural differences.  As opposed to low context Western and corporate culture, as a country, India represents a high context culture, where the meaning of the communication is often embedded in the context in which the communication occurs, not just in the words.  For instance, if a US boss emphasizes to the employee located in India, that it is critical that the project is ready as soon as possible and then asks if it would be ready by a specific date, the response from the Indian employee may not always be accurate.  For instance, even when an Indian employee might be aware that the project is not likely to be ready by the requested date, it is likely that the Indian employee might not say that but instead may give a weak answer like “I will do my best”, in an attempt to not displease the US boss.  In the end, when the project is not delivered at the promised date, the US boss is perplexed as to why they were not informed earlier.  In interactive audience participation model, Nadkarni explored the action steps that can be taken to enhance and leverage global partnerships and work relationships, keeping in mind such cultural differences, which if not well managed, can derail global partnerships.  Participants indicated that they walked away with tips and concrete approaches for integrating Diversity & Inclusion into their global locations.

For another blog on other Diversity and Inclusion panels at the Multicultural Forum, please click on the link below. . For information on Diversity & Inclusion training for Effective Global Business Practice, please contact Dr. Darshana Nadkarni at penmealine at yahoo dot com .

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Women in Biotech

Women in Biotech

EPPIC is an organization that promotes networking, entrepreneurship and mentoring for life science professionals, and is dedicated to creating US-India life science synergy and partnering opportunities.  EPPIC annual meeting will be on January 6, 2013 and to register, please go to .

Recently EPPIC held an interesting event “women in biotech” to hear the perspectives of the prominent women leaders from the industry. As a Diversity and Inclusion Trainer, I found this event very enlightening.  Anula Jayasuriya, Managing Director with Evolvence India Life Science Fund and Invascent Advisory moderated the event.  Jayasuriya shared some interesting stats.  For instance, do you know that 7.1% of successful companies have women executives versus 3.1% of unsuccessful companies?  Jayasuriya asked some pointed questions of the panelists and the responses were equally insightful.

All the panelists talked about the importance of some really good mentors, in their career progression.  Their mentors helped them see their true potential early on in their careers, and guided them during key phases in their careers.  When asked, if they felt excluded from existing networks, the panelists seemed to agree that they frequently experienced being excluded, during early stages in their careers.  Debra Riesenthel, Consultant and Former CEO of Novasys Medical, shared that while men frequently had activities like golf that they shared, during company events, their wives went on shopping trips, and she was often mistaken for an admin.  While “men get promoted on potential, women often get promoted on performance”, said Reisenthel.  Karen Drexler, Founder & Chair of the Board at Cellscape, agreed and said, women often feel they have to be better than men to be recognized”.  According to Sara Kenkara-Mitra, Vice President of Development Sciences at Genentech, there is a subtle bonding and camaraderie that exists among men because of their ongoing banter and playful competitiveness, whereas women do not do well, in that area.  She advised, women find their voice and get comfortable in speaking up.  Janet (Jian) Xiao, Partner with Life Science Group at Morrison & Forester, Palo Alto (host for the evening event), said, often when men say something it looks real but when women say something it has to be real.  According to Daria Mochly-Rosen, Senior Associate Dean and George D. Smith Professor of Translational Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, women often cannot afford the time to hang around and engage in small talk.  However, this also gives an advantage to women, she said.  Women have to disengage and switch off to focus on other priorities like picking up children, thinking about meal preparation and that often gives them an ability to approach the task with renewed perspective and sharper focus.  Kenkara-Mitra observed that while exclusion can be a barrier, things are changing rapidly and women should not consider it a major barrier.

The panelists discussed issues like differences between male versus female bosses in terms of how they relate to their bosses and the bosses’ perceptions of them.  They also shared the role of their life partners or spouses, in their career.  It seemed, almost all of the panelists had a strong and steadfast spouse who strongly supported them in their careers in various ways, including handling meals, childcare, and at times, even taking a back seat in their own careers.  The panel ended with panelists sharing their observations on how diversity of perspectives and styles enriches the workplace and makes the workplace better for everyone.  The panelists shared advise and tips on how women can progress in their careers.  These included, seeking guidance from a mentor to becoming a good listener to finding a voice and speaking up to being a keen observer.

For more information and to register for EPPIC annual conference, go to .  For information in “Diversity & Inclusion Training for Effective Global Business Practice”. please contact me at wd_darshana@ hotmail dot com and please click the link below for other similar article on diversity and inclusion in medical device company, Medtronic — .

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Post – US 2012 Elections – a mandate to create true inclusion

Post – US 2012 Elections – a mandate to create true inclusion

As a corporate trainer in “diversity and inclusion to effectively achieve global business objectives”, I was heartened to see the results of the current presidential elections, in the US, which seemed to be a clear mandate for the belief in the slogan, “diversity pays”. However, many challenges are obvious, not only for the President but for us as a nation. Diversity from afar is mysterious and attractive, but up close, it is challenging and mystifying. Let us prepare to meet the challenges.

We must put our own house in order

That means, we must have clarity of vision and values and make informed choices, in alignment with these values. While his opponent flip-flopped on issues, President Obama remained true to the issues he holds dear. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, four years ago, he said, “The only thing you carry into this office is a moral compass. If you start making decisions based on what’s convenient at the time, then you would be lost”. Moral compass of values of diversity and inclusion must continue to be our guide as we put our house in order.

We must recognize the need to be broadly inclusive and find common ground and communication platform that is not narrow and limiting. We cannot choose diversity and inclusion, when it is convenient. For instance, we must reach out to older while men, understand issues of concern to them, and recognize the diversity within this group, even as we oppose the singularly older while male vision for our future. How do we do this? Even as we tout the “diversity pays” mantra, we must not be derisive of the many contributions of this group on whose hard work and broad shoulders the country was built. President Obama must reach across the aisle and make more determined bipartisan efforts to understand the concerns, fears, and issues important to those who are not socially very far to the right.

Maine and Maryland passed landmark legislation that enables gay and lesbian people to marry. But this same proposition was defeated in the last election, in California. How hypocritical it would be for our decidedly blue state to celebrate victory on the platform of diversity and on more enlightened view of immigration, while continue to discriminate against gay/ lesbian population? Attitudes are shifting, however, and it is imperative that we continue this trend and California jumps on board. A similar ballot measure in Washington state is pending, and in Minnesota, voters rejected a measure that would have banned same-sex marriage. Additionally, Wisconsin elected America’s first openly lesbian senator, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, and President Obama became the first president to openly support same-sex marriage, and get re-elected. As a resident of California, I will say once again, we must continue on this path and ensure absolutely the same rights for gay and lesbian couples, everywhere, as straight couples.

The Latino community is steadily growing and it is amply clear that the politicians may neglect this fact, at their own peril. Businesses have long recognized the contributions of immigrants from various backgrounds. But in politics, we have been slower to accept this new perspective, holding on to the antiquated notion that America is for white people, even as the face of America has become more and more a blend of red, yellow, black, brown, and white. This nation of immigrants must continue to embrace people of various ethnicities and backgrounds, even as we focus on making the nation secure from terrorism. We can and must achieve both those objectives and recognize that immigrants want to be as safe and secure here as non——— well, aren’t most of us immigrants or the descendents of immigrants? Additionally, we must recognize the many issues sadly still stacked against African-Americans. I was glad that we had Mitt Romney, a Mormon, running for the highest office, in the nation. We must continue to respect and welcome all faiths and move away from theTea Party conservative agenda that frequently promotes issues, under the umbrella of faith, which pit one faith against another.

Once and for all, it has become clear that women are a force to be reckoned with. They showed it in the ballots, jumping out of the “binders”. Why would we entertain a discussion regarding whether insurance may or may not pay for contraception, when in fact, insurance has been paying for years for Viagra? Obviously this was an issue in the minds of men. But 1.5M women in the US take birth control pills for reasons other than preventing pregnancy and over half a million women who take these pills have never had sex. Additionally, it is estimated that 47 million women will now be able to get preventative services that they previously could not. This is excellent. We need more widespread education on the health impact, away from ideology based battles over contraception coverage and abortion choice.

What was not mentioned by either candidate, in any of the discussions, was the issue of poverty and increasing class divide. Most of the data below is taken from the Atlantic magazine, September, 2011 issue. According to one poll, the richest 1 percent households in America earn as much as the bottom 60% put together and the rich 1% possess as much wealth as the bottom 90%. Recovery has increased the divide. According to Gallup, while the daily consumer spending was completely flat for majority of Americans, between May 2009 to May 2010, among those Americans earning more than $90,000 a year, the spending rose by 16%. This is a country built on an ability to pursue the dream, work hard, and be rewarded for it. We should not begrudge those who do just that. However, when the playing field is not leveled then it becomes a whole another story. Many millionaires and billionaires including Gates and Buffett are now speaking out against the outrageousness of the system where the odds are increasingly favoring money’s ability to attract money. Buffett, famously appeared with his secretary who reportedly paid higher taxes, while Buffett was able to use tax loop holes. We have to bridge this divide and level the playing field so that hard work can once again be valued and people find the incentive to pursue their dreams. The looming tax cliff, at the end of the year, when Bush era tax cuts expire, will test us on our readiness to understand and confront this class divide, while trying to reach a bipartisan agreement on the issue.

It would be morally repugnant if we send some of our citizens in harm’s way, to guard our interests and when they return from wars, they find themselves left behind in the daily struggles of life, including jobs, shelter, and medical care. We have to ensure that our vetetans get the care and all the help they so rightly deserve. Even as we ensure care and comfort of our vets, we must also not adopt a cavalier attitude towards infants and other innocent civilians killed by our drones. These are contradictions we must balance.

Globally, we cannot continue to be singularly Israel focused. Middle East is a big region. There are other nations with other agendas and issues. For instance, (if we peek into history), on account of thoughtless actions of powerful nations, Palestinian people have endured immense suffering. As a powerful nation, we cannot continue to be partially blind and one-sided. Similarly, we cannot be bashing China or India, which are powerful forces, simply given the sheer size of the population. But if we consider their determination, the motivation to strive and do better, their global recognition and increasing clout than we will have to learn to work with these nations as well as other emerging economies and even guide them to become better world citizens, even as we focus on growing jobs at home, keeping them from being outsourced, and protecting our interests. Similarly, we must pass legislation to protect the environment and join the good world citizens club.

Does this mean that we become more partisan?
No. Having clarity around values means that we do not embrace inclusion only when it is convenient but truly become inclusive and broaden the base. The results have indicated that changing face of the nation is closely tied to changing perceptions around gay issues, around environment, around women’s issues and so on. Embracing diversity will be an assurance to all that their issues will be heard.

Managing waste and running an efficient Government
Conservatives who are extremely far to the right, may never find anything to their liking in this dialog of diversity and inclusion. Their agenda per se, may be perhaps exclusive and derogatory towards women, discriminatory towards gays and lesbians and demeaning towards immigrants. But such extreme conservatives are diminishing steadily in numbers. However, we have a whole base of fiscal conservatives, whose issues need to be heard. Many of them have concerns over inefficiency of the Government and concerns over managing waste. We can do a better job here. We have seen two different faces of FEMA. During Katrina, FEMA was arrogant, primarily operating as a cop to control looting and lawlessness, rather than a disaster relief organization. During Sandy, we saw a different face of FEMA, an efficient, speedy disaster relief organization, reaching in real time to the help of the people. Now that the campaigning is over, we can acknowledge that no one would endorse the FEMA of Katrina but we could barely do without the FEMA during Sandy. The change in FEMA was partly on account of the lessons learned, during Katrina. It has become evident that during disaster, people come to each other’s help, rather than focus on looting, for instance. However additionally, FEMA was different, during Sandy, because of the clear mandate under the expert leadership of Governor Christie. Further, Governor Christie was able to operate at full capacity and better efficiency because of clear channels of communication with the President.

What prompted me to write this article

President Obama’s clarity of vision won us this extremely viciously fought election. But many challenges lie ahead. I implore the party that fought on the platform of diversity, to not be selectively inclusive, but truly broaden the base and the platform. If we will be selectively inclusive than we will erode the base in another cleverly fought campaign or be caught in a gridlock where our victory will ring hollow. We can meet the same fate as the Republican Party, leaving people disillusioned. Simon Schama, a British Historian, analyzed the reasons behind the defeat of the Republican party. And he says, “What bit the dust on Tuesday was the world of denial in which Republicans have immured themselves ever since the rise of the Tea Party in 2009. This is a universe in which the financial crash was caused by over-regulation; one in which, despite years of brutal drought and violent weather patterns, climate change is a liberal hoax; a country that can correct a vast structural deficit without ever raising additional revenue, while expanding the military budget beyond anything sought by the Pentagon; a belief system in which Mr Obama was the source of all economic ills rather than the steward of the most intractable crisis since the Depression. The mantra was that a business executive would, simply by virtue of that fact, effect a magical rejuvenation of the staggering American economy.” The denial of changing reality caught them unawares. Let it not surprise and shock us. Let us capture this vision of the changing future and ride the wave to a better tomorrow.

And by a better tomorrow, we mean not just a diverse landscape of tomorrow but rather through an emergence of shared prosperous diversity. For a better, more prosperous tomorrow, we must buy elements of the Republican vision. We cannot speak of a better tomorrow and not worry about the enormous debt we will be leaving our children. Mr. President, so popularly elected, will need to make some hard choices and we will have to support him. Mr. Obama will have to reach out to more reasonable and fiscally knowledgeable people across the aisle. We will have to start talking and listening. He will need to build a strong narrative outlining his concerns for the rising debt and how he will contain it as he assures us that prosperity will be created and it will be a spread out prosperity. The only way he will be able to get everyone to listen is if he is able to give solid assurances of how waste will be tracked and managed and how his Government will run more efficiently. We are a diverse nation and he will have to speak to us often and get the message to us in diverse ways, to reach us.

We have achieved something truly phenomenal by proving the pandits wrong, the pollsters wrong, and defying the money power. Now it is time to not be arrogant but be humble in our approach, for diversity itself will bring many challenges and opportunities to truly broaden our own perspectives and learn and grow and prosper together. Let us make this diverse landscape, a truly inclusive one.

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Inspirational Keynotes and Committed Panels raise the bar at Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity, 2012

The Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity ( is the largest diversity and inclusion conference in the US, that brings together leaders from a broad array of workplaces and industries, to provide a strong learning experience and a forum for discussion on how to sustain and move forward this dialogue. The commitment and dedication of the thought leaders in this space is aimed at the broad objective, that workplaces of tomorrow will always be better than today, in terms of extending respect and inclusion to all the participants, including employees, consumers, clients, suppliers, vendors and so on. This was the 24th event and attracted participants from 35 states and more than 400 companies.

Every keynote and all the sessions were excellent and provided ample learning opportunities, that led to lasting discussions in the hallways and the expo areas, during networking breaks. I will share a few highlights, including a panel session that I participated in.

Stephen Frost, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG – 2012, in his inspiring keynote, emphasized the sustaining, systemic aspect of the dialogue, to make a lasting difference. At this year’s London Olympics, the committee is looking at weaving in diversity and inclusion in every aspect of the games, from ensuring that a person in a wheelchair gets the same view as others in the similar spot, to the hearing impaired getting the same enjoyment of the games with the help of translation services, to ensuring that certain number of unemployed families get access to the games, to the fact that the community where the games take place is largely left disturbed so they can go about their normal routine. The committee is examining each and every aspect of the diversity and inclusion process. In the end, it is not about the physical legacy like ensuring wheelchair access etc., but in the end, said Frost, it is about creating a social legacy and stamping it with love and respect. Talking to attendees he said, we may never have enough time, but we always have infinite supply of the capacity for leadership to take a stand for what we believe in, and we must do that in order to bring society to a better place. Challenging those who complain that this is hard work, Frost said, “if the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t climb it” and in the challenges are hidden some great opportunities. Quoting the poet, W. H. Auden, he said, “You owe it to all of us to get on with what you’re good at.”

Panels addressing D&I work in the health care sector were particularly interesting to me. A panel moderated by Dr. Alexander Green, Associate Director at The Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital ( addressed disparities in the quality of care. The panel presented models for taking action to eliminate disparities, through data collection, stratification of quality measures by race and ethnicity, accurate reporting of disparities, and through action steps and interventions to address disparities, including implementing broad, scalable cultural competency training for clinical and non-clinical staff. Dr. Green shared the framework of how the center at Mass General seeks to address disparities by developing new research, and translating those research findings into action steps of developing customized policy solutions for health care providers, insurers, educators and others. The center also provides education and leadership training to the care providers. According to Brenda Battle, Director of the Center for Diversity and Cultural Competence at Barnes-Jewish Hospital ( in St. Louis, the value in confronting the inequalities in health care related to race, ethnicity, age, gender etc. will ultimately result in better health care for all patients. The current inequalities data clearly shows that it is imperative to address these disparities in care. For every six white Americans who have diabetes, there are 10 African Americans with diabetes, and African Americans with diabetes are more likely to develop diabetes related complications and experience greater disability from these complications than white Americans with diabetes. While 40% of Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s patient population is racially/ethnically diverse, in 2006 only 10% of the professional and management staff was racially/ethnically diverse. Today, as a result of BJH’s efforts to improve diversity at professional and management levels, 18% of staff at these levels are racially/ethnically diverse. The Center has stepped up efforts to address all the incongruencies, at multiple levels, starting with training and education, increasing workforce diversity, providing language services, and through community engagement and interactions to promote sustainable equity solutions, including developing a pipeline of healthcare workers through enrichment programs, that expose middle school and high school students to careers in science and healthcare. There is also greater commitment to address disparities in care, on the payer side. Dr. Wayne Rawlins, Aetna’s national medical director for racial and ethnic equality initiative and Michele Toscano, program manager of racial and ethnic equality initiative (, shared Aetna’s commitment to address disparities. There is a clear business case tied to disparities in care. There is a huge economic impact and there are direct medical costs, as a result of disparities in care. Aetna tackled the problem head on, with data collection and using it to drive action steps. Initial program initiatives indicated an immediate impact. For instance, through targeted approach to training non-white patients in better diabetes management, the complications were greatly reduced. Similarly, the data indicated that African American and Hispanic population has greater complications and heavy ER usage, due to Asthma related complications. With targeted intervention, home based assessment, education, action plan, and telephonic nurse follow-up, the ER utilization was greatly reduced. The panel discussion was followed by animated Q&A dialogue with the participants.

A panel moderated by Linda Stokes, President and CEO of PRISM International ( discussed the Implications of D&I for the Global Workforce through the case study of Medtronic’s initiative to integrate Diversity and Inclusion into their locations across India. The panelists, Tonya Hampton, HR Director with Medtronic (, Dr. Kizzy Parks, Assessment and Measurement Consultant, and Dr. Darshana Nadkarni (, Diversity Facilitator, shared about the diversity training initiative that was rolled out in India, in July 2010. Hampton shared about Medtronic’s vision to anchor the diversity and inclusion initiative with the business case. There are over 32 M people with diabetes in India and CHD (coronary heart disease) has risen 4-fold over the past 40 years. India and China represent $5B market for Medtronic, and it is also an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the patients, since diabetes and CHD are manageable diseases, with timely intervention, said Hampton. She partnered with her colleague, Titus Arnold, in India, to roll out the training initiative. The survey response from the Medtronic India team, during the initial data gathering and assessment period, was amazingly high, said Parks. Based on the responses received, Stokes and Nadkarni designed the training. Nadkarni shared some highlights. The training was anchored in the Medtronic business case and began with providing the attendees with a broad awareness of diversity. The participants got an opportunity to self examine perceptual screens and stereotypes and then expand it to examine cultural differences. As opposed to low context Western and corporate culture, as a country, India represents a high context culture, where the meaning of the communication is often embedded in the context in which the communication occurs, not just in the words. When asked by a US boss that the project needs to be completed by a certain date, an Indian employee might likely not say that it would not be possible but may give a weak answer like “I will do my best”. Nadkarni explored with interactive audience participation, the action steps that can emerge with greater insight into the cultural differences, that can enhance and leverage global partnerships and work relationships. Participants indicated that they walked away with tips and concrete approaches for integrating D&I into their global locations.

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