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  • Cindi Bright

Reflections of Race- The Intersection of Education, Workforce and Diversity

I’m standing in the cafeteria holding a tray of food.


It’s 1979 and I am a freshman in High School. I look around to see a room

divided. The black people are sitting on one side, the white people on the other,

the Filipinos, the Mexicans–and I ask myself the question, “where do I belong?”

Little did I know this question would permeate the entire rest of my life.

I am a bi-racial woman. Being black and white has afforded me to live the life of

navigating race. Race is at the forefront of every facet of life right now. Actually,

it always has been for me and every other person of color in America. The

revealing of “just beneath the surface” racism in business, politics, day-to-day life

is just the tip of the iceberg for where I believe we are headed.

Rejection reveals purpose. In my thirty-year journey in corporate America of

trying to belong, I have come to realize, as many women of color, and discover

my journey towards self-sustainability. My own journey is about renewal,

forgiveness, healing and the courage to stand up and help reshape the world for

our next generation. I aim to heal hearts for people and organizations that are

willing to journey with me.


My practice includes three focus areas. Education, Workforce Development, and

Diversity Architecture.


Education


In Washington, kids of color need champions to help them succeed and be

prepared for a full and participatory life. The intersection of income inequality,

lack of resources, systemic race based biases are a direct contributor to

problems in public education. Resources are not evenly distributed to low-

income schools, where the highest concentrations of kids of color are

represented and teachers of color are largely working.


Washington’s economy ranks near the top of all states in terms of exports and

GDP, but our student achievement and educational outcomes range from

average to mediocre. When I unpack our education story, I realize while we

graduate roughly 80% of all of our kids from high school, that percentage is far

lower for members of some groups than others. I know from experience that high

school graduation rates aren’t the be-all and end-all demonstration of high-quality

learning, and that students of color face disproportionate challenges in school

discipline, suspension, lack of access to advanced programs and enriched

curriculum, unbalanced school funding, and more. These challenges require

courage and investment to solve without losing sight of the fact that at the end of

the educational road, that students are doing more than just graduating, but are

prepared for success in postsecondary education or high-quality vocational

training programs.


Remember, this is your talent pool! This is the future!


Workforce Development


Companies seem comfortable with hiring some people of color into “entry” level

jobs and sometimes these pathways ultimately lead to “middle management”

roles. I believe the challenge for corporate America is to hire and promote

beyond middle management and propel people of color into true leadership roles.

I believe we can be better in the way we invest in improving the public policies

that promote fairness and inequity in government contracting, talent

development, and leadership attainment. We need to remove systemic barriers

that impede diverse talent recruitment, hiring and development. Initiative 1000

/Referendum 88 is an example of an effort, that if successful removes a

substantial barrier to entry that impacts people of color for small business

development, access to education and in employment. Washington was once a

state that prioritized affirmative action in government contracting. In 1995 a shift

to remove these protections resulted in millions of dollars of business

evaporating that impacted people of color owned businesses. Through I-1000/R-

88 this systemic barrier is dismantled. We must approve Referendum

88/Initiative 1000! I work with companies to assess these areas for their

businesses and develop strategies for their success.


Diversity Architecture


A diverse work force contributes to increased retention and productivity, and

helps organizations respond to an increasingly varied universe of customers,

improved relationships to their surrounding communities and increases business

resiliency and creativity. There are economic advantages to increased

productivity, morale, teamwork, that come with effective teams that include

gender, and racial diversity. To build diverse talent pools, organizations must

invest differently, accept that they must confront margins of perceived advantage

that have led to the current state, and build scaffolds to workplace cultures that

reward diversity, equity and inclusion. My observation is that companies are

using gender as their measure of diversity, while racial diversity continues to be

left behind.


The guiding questions work at different levels within an organization. They are

designed to uncover the heart work that must be done to transform your culture

and mindset to prepare for change. Examples include:


1- Understand the state of your own heart - Are you ready to invest in people

who don’t have your background, racial or gender advantages? Will you pay

fairly and equitably, and share access to the necessary professional, social and

academic capital needed to be successful?


2- Understand the heart of your own company and its shareholders. - Are you

ready to redefine success and the bottom line including metrics that drive high

performing diverse workplace culture?


3- Are you prepared to unlearn historical practices in order to create inclusive

pathways for historically marginalized groups?


4- Do you have the courage to expand your thinking and beliefs and measure

yourselves on outputs and achievements and not just effort and stated

intentions?


5 – Are you truly ready for change?




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