Diversity Professionals: Don't Mourn, Organize

The 2016 Presidential Campaign Season has officially concluded, and with it, so has the world as we know it. For diversity professionals, we have the unique challenge of addressing the Pandora’s Box of hate-inspired messages opened by the President-Elect. The opening of this Pandora’s Box has specifically emboldened certain segments of the public to legitimize their fear, hatred, and anger towards women, immigrants, people of color, disabled people, and LGBTQ people.

Considering the significant policy advancements for LGBTQ people alone over the past 8 years, the new world that we woke up to on November 9 suggests these gains are vulnerable to a Trump/Pence Administration gutting nearly all of them. Mind you, this concern is not coming from an overly emotional writer, but rather from the VP-Elect Mike Pence's personal promise to repeal all LGBTQ protections passed under President Obama.

In the spirit of labor songwriter Joe Hill, I implore fellow diversity professional to embrace his mantra, “Don’t mourn - organize.” We have an unprecedented opportunity to both persuade the next generation of diversity professionals to pick up the hammer, and help us build a world that has enough space for all of us to thrive. In that vein, it will take an extraordinary amount of effort to mobilize the resistance necessary to counter the vitriolic rhetoric of a President-Elect that is now feebly attempting to roll back on a strategy that won him the presidency.

So what are some tangible actions we diversity professionals can take at this moment to support ourselves, our communities, and our colleagues during such an unsettling time? While searching for my own silver lining post election season, I have cobbled together a personal list to stay motivated, committed, and inspired to engage in what appears to be the fight of my lifetime. As a gift to you, I invite you to consider some of these actions, and share a few of your own below in the comments. 

1.  Develop a Gratitude Practice. As the Buddha reminds us, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” In that spirit, no matter if you take the route of journaling or mediation, it’s incredibly important to have a practice of gratitude, reflection, and self-care before tackling the bigger work that’s required of you. By getting clear on where you are physically, emotionally, and spiritually, you’ll have a better chance of holding your ground, when navigating challenges. This daily practice will help strengthen your values and commitment to the work not only for you, but for the communities and colleagues you show up for every day.

2.  Cultivate Networks of Support. Once you’re clear on where you stand, it’s important to connect with other committed diversity professionals to strategize ways to move forward, and counter any resistance to the important gains the diversity & inclusion field has realized over the past three decades. The best way to connect with other D&I colleagues is to consider joining a virtual community like those featured on LinkedIn and elsewhere. These groups will enable you to stay on top of the latest industry trends, as well as accessing peer support to tackle some of the greatest workplace challenges. 

3.  Recognize that it Take a Village. No matter if you’re the sole diversity & inclusion professional on the job, or you manage a D&I team, like many of us, you may feel an immense amount of pressure to have all of the answers. The important thing to remember is that this work takes a village, and you are encouraged to lean upon your mentors and professional networks for ongoing support. Know that there are coaching programs specific for D&I professionals, and one of the key offerings my consultancy will make available in early 2017 is a coaching program specific for those of us charged with improving the workplace climate for LGBTQ employees. Know you are not in this alone, and that together it will take all of us to move this country to a more civil discourse.  

4.  Identify Allies at Work & Beyond. One of the greatest assets to our work is finding leaders within our workplaces that serve as champions for the work of diversity and inclusion. These leaders serve as ally ambassadors that often build bridges of compassion between colleagues that may not totally understand why diversity & inclusion is such an important priority for 21st century employers. These champions will be even more important to help us maintain a civil discourse and candidly discuss imminent concerns as to the how the President-Elect will impact our colleagues who are immigrants, women, people of color, disabled people, and LGBTQ people. It’s on us, and our allies to help foster this discourse, and keep the channels of communication open. 

5.  Engage in the Difficult Conversations. One thing that’s true about our profession is that we are never the ones to shy away from difficult conversations. And what’s clear after this election is that one of the most difficult conversations in our workplaces, and our country broadly, centers around racial equity. We owe it to ourselves to work on a strategy that enables us to build upon raising awareness around how unconscious bias manifests in the workplace, and pushes colleagues to think beyond their limited world views. For white people like myself, we must double-down on having difficult conversations with other white people fearful of talking about race in the workplace. This election offers the wake-up call we needed to lean into the discomfort, truly communicate with our peers, and begin to realize the magic of truly transforming ourselves and our organizations.  

To continue being a source of support during these uncertain times, I’ll be offering a virtual master class for up to 20 diversity professionals eager to examine ways we can better engage global talent. The purpose of the master class aims to empower those in our field to comply and leverage existing laws to transform workplace culture and protect our shared values of equity and inclusion. Specifically, participants will walk away with concrete skills, mentorship, and will be held accountable for over four weeks of group coaching. If you are interested in learning more about this course, please be sure to subscribe to the RPC quarterly newsletter and be the first to learn how to enroll in the course. Together let us work in solidarity to show the world what’s possible when we are reminded of what we can be, and evolve from what the current election results suggest that we are.


Rhodes Perry

Rhodes Perry is a nationally recognized expert on LGBTQ and social justice public policy matters, with two decades of leadership experience innovating strategy management, policy and program solutions for corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. At his core, Rhodes is an entrepreneur, where he most recently established Rhodes Perry Consulting, LLC, a national diversity and inclusion consulting firm that uses an intersectional approach to collaborate with leaders on creating solutions in the practice areas of strategy management, issue advocacy, and stakeholder engagement. Previously, Rhodes founded the Office of LGBTQ Policy & Practice at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and prior to this assignment he served as the founding Director of Policy at PFLAG National where he led the policy strategy and advocacy efforts for the organization’s 350 chapters. He cut his teeth serving as a Program Examiner at the White House Office of Management & Budget, where he improved upon federal benefit programs designed to provide assistance to low-income communities. Rhodes earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Gender Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and obtained a Master of Public Administration from New York University.