Here are 6 Reasons Why You Need the Disability Equality Index (DEI)

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As a person with a visible disability who has spent most of my professional career in HR leading diversity and inclusion, I’m frequently asked to offer an opinion on the merits of completing the DEI.  Knowing how precious resources are to fill out any kind of survey or assessment tool, it’s an important question, where do companies get the greatest return on investment?

Here are 6 reasons why I encourage companies to register for the DEI by January 13, 2017 and complete it by April 21, 2017:

1.)   The DEI is a joint initiative of the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). It was developed by a 20-person DEI Advisory Committee made up of equal numbers of business leaders and disability inclusion advocates.

2.)   The DEI is a transparent, comprehensive assessment of disability inclusion, with all questions visible from the outset (rather than appearing depending on how you answer a question) that recognizes companies that score an 80 or above.  Note:  The names of companies scoring less than 80 are kept confidential.

3.)   While it’s often desirable to seek validation for hard won diversity and inclusion accomplishments, and there may be leaders in your company who seem to have an insatiable appetite for positive PR, it’s necessary to be selective and only choose those that will resonate  with your employees, customers and suppliers as authentically earned.  The DEI will help your company make real progress and provide acknowledgement that the disability community views as sincere and meaningful.

4.)   Unfortunately, it’s rare to attend a disability event that includes leaders from the business community where the speakers talk about the significant market opportunity ($220 Billion in U.S. $3 Trillion globally), and brand loyalty of people with disabilities and their stakeholders; how to include disability-owned businesses in supplier diversity efforts; and where to find top talent who also happens to have a disability. This is puzzling because with any other event focused on under-represented groups, typically you would see all aspects described included.  The DEI is a tool that will help business advance disability inclusion across the business and will continue to raise the bar over time.

5.)    Business leaders have found the DEI to be #morethanascore. Here are some quotes from my D&I colleagues who have participated in the DEI:

“The DEI requires a higher level of thoughtfulness, and many pairs of eyes to understand and address the questions. When various stakeholders across the company review the questions, the questions tell them the story of what disability inclusion really entails. This allowed us to engage in conversations with individuals who might not have thought about these topics as deeply prior to seeing the DEI questions. The process is as valuable as the result.” 

“The DEI is not just a prize for participation, but for doing the real work. The scored outcome is something tangible you can show leadership to demonstrate the fruits of the organization’s labor.  Meaningful outcomes, not just an award, but accomplishments.”

“To score 80+ on DEI is to be in rarified company with organizations who have made this investment.  As a business to business organization, this also shows our clients who have made an investment that is similar to the one we have made with regards to true disability inclusion that we take this seriously.  If you give everybody a prize for participation, you lose the value and meaningfulness of this. 

“Some of the questions were truly eye opening and challenged us to make some important changes like adding hearing aids to our covered benefits, and designating and training someone in our technology department to focus on accessibility.”

“Questions are thought provoking and cause you to examine and review policies and practices.”

6.)   Beyond all of this, there’s an even more important factor in making the decision to complete the DEI. In my experience as a D&I practitioner, all diverse communities subscribe to the mantra, “Nothing about us without us.” African Americans, Women, LGBTQ, Asia Pacific Islanders, Latinos and Veterans all want to be involved in decisions that are made and strategies that are developed that impact them at work and in the community.

The DEI was co-created by business leaders and disability inclusion advocates. The results of this collaboration is an instrument that presents a reasonable and achievable bar for companies. It’s not all the disability community would have liked to see included, but it’s a great start that has resulted in meaningful improvements in businesses who aspire to be disability inclusive. If a company achieves a score of 80 or more on the DEI, you can be assured that they have made great strides.

Full disclosure, I was on the founding DEI Advisory Committee and continue to serve.  Below are some quotes from some of my colleagues on this Committee who are both business leaders and disability inclusion champions:

“What’s invisible can’t be counted. What’s uncounted doesn’t really matter. The Disability Equality Index is one of the most effective ways to understand how people with disabilities can be visible and respected in the workplace – and for employers to make them count. By taking part in the DEI, corporations signal to all Americans that their doors, their markets and their minds include everyone.”

     Bob Witeck
President, Witeck Communications, Inc.

“If we want to accelerate progress in disability equality, we need to know how to measure success.  The DEI, developed jointly by business leaders and disability advocates, is a great tool that is helping companies learn and grow in this space.”

     Andrew Imparato,
Executive Director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities

“CVS Health is honored to be one of the DEI top scoring companies for the second consecutive year. The DEI is not just a great benchmarking tool, it also provides a holistic framework for any company looking to develop a comprehensive strategy for meeting the needs of the disabilities community in the workforce, workplace and marketplace.”

     David L. Casey
VP, Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer, CVS Health

“We are a technology, media, and entertainment company that provides products and services to very diverse communities around the world.  The only way to truly succeed as a competitive and innovative company is to hire and employ a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities.  Inclusion drives innovation.  The questions posed in the DEI force you to take a hard look at your hiring and employment practices and really help you to become better – to be more inclusive, so you can be more innovative and, therefore, more successful as a company.”

     Fred Maahs, Senior Director of National Partnerships,
Community Investment Comcast Corporation

To view the DEI go to:  disabilityequalityindex.org/DEI_survery.pdf

Questions? Comments? Please, let’s hear your views.

For more information, and to register by 1/13/17 go to: disabilityequalityindex.org/register

October Is Black Professionals Month, A Push To Make Corporate Leadership More Diverse

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black professionals month logo

The first day of October is the first day of a month-long push to help make corporate leadership more diverse. It’s the brain-child of two black executives who say it’s time to have more diversity at the top, so they are trying something new.

It’s called Black Professionals Month, 31 days of events, recognitions and celebrations.

Denise Kaigler is one of the co-founders. She told WBZ-TV it’s time to work together. Watch video here.

“There is a such a great opportunity for us to come together, black professionals to come together, to work together, to increase our presence, black professionals’ presence in leadership roles around the world,” Kaigler said.

October 1st starts a month-long series of virtual events and speakers, all with the goal of inspiring and coaching black talent.

“We are also going to be bringing speakers together to host sessions that cover a wide range of topics that impact the ability of black professionals to climb up that corporate ladder, personal branding, career advancement sessions,” Kaigler told WBZ.

Right now, she says, the numbers are bad. Black professionals hold only 3.2 percent of all executive or senior leadership roles in America, a change she knows can’t happen by the end 31 days, but one they plan to push for years to come.

Read the complete article on CBS local.

‘Shark Tank’ Hires Emma Grede To Be First Black Woman On Panel

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On Shark Tank Emma Grede To Be First Black Woman On Panel

By Alexis Reese, BET

There’s a new shark in town!

For the newest season of Shark Tank, the series will have its first Black woman shark on the panel. Good American CEO and SKIMS founding partner Emma Grede, will be one of this season’s guest panelists. She will join recurring sharks, Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner and Barbara Corcoran.

Grede, an entrepreneur from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by way of London, will make her grand appearance during the season premiere on Oct. 8, according to Shadow And Act.

Grede graduated with a business degree in business studies at The London College of Fashion and has worked with brands like Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Zac Posen, Christopher Kane, Chivas, Mercedes-Benz, and Sky.

She currently is the chairman of entertainment brand ITB with clients like Calvin Klein, Net-a-Porter and H&M.

‘I’ve been doing celebrity partnerships for a long time, and I started to realize that a lot of what I was being asked to do was to put together very ‘diverse’ campaigns,” she told ELLE UK. “Oftentimes, I would cast women [in a campaign] for a brand that didn’t make clothes that would fit them. ‘I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if we created a company where we made clothes for every woman, and the company looked exactly like the ‘diverse’ campaign, with me at the helm, a Black woman?’, and it worked.”

Click here to read the full article on BET.

Meet The Woman Behind Google’s Multi-Million Dollar Partnerships With Black Founders Around The Globe

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Rachael Palmer, the Woman Behind Google’s Multi-Million Dollar Partnerships With Black Founders Around The Globe

By Alexa Imani Spencer, Yahoo! Finance

Rachael Palmer is behind Google’s partnership strategy with venture capitalists and startups throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Her track record includes the launch of a $2 million fund for Black founders in Europe and a $3 million scheme in Africa, Business Insider reported.

“My role focuses on driving partnerships with the region’s top VCs and startup but also working on initiatives to transform the ecosystem for the better,” Palmer told Insider.

Before she joined Google, she worked at Microsoft and American Express. She spent plenty of time working with small businesses at the latter. As an internal consultant at Google, she “quickly found my back to working within the startup ecosystem”

Every day is different and far from typical, she told Insider.

“I spend some days working closely with founders to understand their business and how we can help them, or with internal product teams discussing opportunities to engage the VC and startup ecosystem,” she said. “Another day might be spent with a VC learning more about their portfolio companies, how we can partner and also what they look for in investments.”

Palmer shared her top five tips for businesses seeking to work with Google.

Keep Google’s users in mind

For startup founders hoping to secure an investment from Google, Palmer’s main tip is to ensure you have something to offer the company’s users.

“I meet many startups that want to get their content or product built into Search,” she said. “However, they often fail to step back and think about what’s in it for our users and how it enhances the product. For a partnership to work, it has to be mutually beneficial to both sides.”

2. Do your company values align with Google’s?

For Palmer, it’s important for her to get to know what’s in “the DNA of a company.”

“I really care about its values and how closely it meshes with Google,” she said. “In a pre-COVID world, I used to enjoy a visit to the offices as you can tell a lot about a company through seeing where and how they work.”

3. Think seriously about diversity

Palmer said about picking venture capitalist business partners, “I obviously care deeply about their ability to pick winners but I also care about their perspective on diversity.”

4. Think locally and globally

Palmer said she’s always been impressed by the go-to market strategies of EMEA-based startups.

“They often establish themselves in their home country then quickly create the blueprint for expansion by becoming really good at localization, developing local partnerships and navigating regulatory situations in different markets.”

5. Expect competition

Large companies like Google have rival founders and interested venture capitalists in numbers. This year’s Black founder initiative is one example.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Finance.

Rihanna takes time with album while unveiling lingerie line

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Rihanna takes time with album while unveiling lingerie line

By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr., AP News

Rihanna might be extremely consumed with rolling out her popular lingerie line, but finishing her forthcoming album is still a priority.

The multi-Grammy winner is just taking her time to “experiment.” She suggests her new music will sound much different than her previous projects.

“You’re not going to expect what you hear. Just put that in your mind,” Rihanna said recently before the taping of her “Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3” event, which will air Friday on Amazon Prime Video.

It’s been five years since the pop star released her critically acclaimed eighth album “ANTI,” which included hits such as “Work,” “Love on the Brain” and “Needed.” Last year, Rihanna said she had started recording new music, holding “ tons of writing camps.”

“Whatever you know of Rihanna is not going to be what you hear,” said the singer, who has won nine Grammys in multiple categories including R&B, dance and rap. “I’m really experimenting. Music is like fashion. You should be able to play. I should be able to wear whatever I want. I treat music the same way. So I’m having fun and it’s going to be completely different.”

Rihanna hasn’t announced a release date yet for her new album, but music plays a major role in her Savage X Fenty event. It returns for a third straight year and will highlight her fashion line’s newest assortment of styles featuring an all-star lineup of models, actors and performers.

The show — recorded in downtown Los Angeles — will include performances by Nas, Ricky Martin, Jasmine Sullivan, Daddy Yankee and Normani. Adriana Lima, Gigi Hadid, Vanessa Hudgens, Erykah Badu and Alek Wek and Jeremy Pope make special appearances.

Rihanna said she’s looking forward to unveiling some of her favorite styles from the new collection.

“The cat suits, the crotchless,” she said, blushing and then moving on. “All the bras that make my boobies sit up, because, you know, I’m 33 now. They’re not where they used to be. I’m just looking forward to actually seeing my pieces on the talent, seeing it on so many different body shapes and silhouettes, because that’s what brings the pieces to life.”

In past shows, Rihanna has taken the initiative to become a champion of inclusion with her fashion line. She wants to continue to highlight men of all shapes, color and sizes in a manner similar to how she’s uplifted women with her line.

Click here to read the full article on AP News.

Here’s How to Tell in Less Than 1 Minute Whether You’ve Made a Great First Impression, Backed by Science

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Happy successful professional posing near office building. Young African American business woman with arms folded standing outside, looking at camera, smiling

By Jeff Haden

Making a great first impression is supposed to be fairly simple. Smile. Make eye contact. Listen more than you speak. Ask questions about the other person.

And, oddly enough, simply believe you will make a good first impression. A 2009 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows people who expect to be “accepted” act more warmly and therefore are seen as more likable. (Of course, you genuinely have to believe you will be accepted — or at least “George Costanza believe” you will be accepted — which is obviously the hard part.)

So, yeah: You know what to do. But knowing what to do is never a guarantee of success.

How can you tell if you actually made a good first impression? Science to the rescue.

According to a 2018 meta-analysis of more than 50 different studies published in Psychological Bulletin, the key is to look for specific nonverbal and verbal signs to determine if you’ve established some degree of rapport.

  1. Smiling and laughing. No surprise there. But most people reflexively smile back, especially at first. And then there’s the Jimmy Fallon-esque “Oh, my gosh, I’ve never heard anyone say anything so funny” kind of laughter that doesn’t indicate anything genuine.
  2. Holding eye contact.Also, unsurprising; the eyes are usually the first indication the other person is thinking about somewhere they would rather be.
  3. Maintaining physical proximity.We all define “personal space” differently; the fact you back up half a step might just only mean I’ve slightly encroached on yours. Yet, according to the researchers, physical proximity is a key indicator of likability.
  4. Starting new topics of conversation.Another less obvious, yet important, indicator. If there’s no spark, polite people will see the current topic through and try to move on. But if they bring up something else without prompting…
  5. Unconsciously mimicking nonverbal expressions.A 2019 study published in Cognition and Emotion shows that when other people mimic your nonverbal expressions, that indicates they understand the emotions you’re experiencing — and may even result in “emotional contagion.” (Which means, if you want to use your first impression skills manipulatively, copying the other person’s expressions and gestures can make you seem more likable.)

So: Imagine you meet someone new. You know what to do. Smile. Make and hold eye contact. Laugh when appropriate. Don’t back away. Shift the conversational focus to the person you just met; one way is to use the 3 Questions Rule.

All the while, pay attention to how the other person responds. Whether they smile, laugh, and hold eye contact.

And more important, whether they maintain physical proximity, initiate new topics of conversation on their own and mimic some of your nonverbal expressions.

And then use what you learn to make a better first impression with the next person you meet.

Because the next person you meet could turn out to be one of your most important connections. Or one of your biggest customers.

Or, best of all, one of your closest friends.

Jeff Haden is a keynote speaker, ghostwriter, LinkedIn Influencer, contributing editor to Inc. and the author of The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win.

Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand donating $1M to help diversify newsrooms

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Basketball legend Michael Jordan announced that he will donate $1 million to the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting to help diversify newsrooms.

BY OLAFIMIHAN OSHIN, The Hill

Basketball legend Michael Jordan announced that he will donate $1 million to the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting to help diversify newsrooms.

The Jordan Brand grant will enable the society to expand its college internship program, create a summer journalism program at a historically black college or university in North Carolina, and launch a high school journalism project with a majority Black and Latino school in the state.

The Ida B. Wells Society, created in 2016 to help train and support minority investigative journalists, is housed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Media.

“Investigative reporting is the most important reporting in our democracy,” society co-founder and 1619 Project author Nikole Hannah-Jones said in a statement.

“It’s the reporting that holds power accountable, that unearths the way it’s wielded, that tells the stories that people don’t want told. Our democracy is in crisis as politicians are advancing a wave of voter suppression laws across the country and journalists must step up to be the firewall for our democracy,” she added. “That makes the work we do as a Society and the substantial support of Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand so critical in this moment.”

Jordan, who was the main subject of the Netflix documentary series “The Last Dance,” pledged in 2020 to donate $100 million to organizations that are dedicated to racial equality, social justice and education access over the next decade, Black Enterprise reported.

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

The Blueprint: A Conversation with Christian Wise Smith, Esq.

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Christian Wise Smith, suthor, smiling and holding up his childrens book

By Santura Pegram

(SP) – Tell people a little about Christian Wise Smith…who you are, how it all began, and what you’ve accomplished so far in life?

(CWS) – I was born and raised in the justice system. I saw my mother get arrested several times before she lost custody of me. My Uncle Steve was sentenced to life in prison for murder. I witnessed my grandmother stripped down to her underwear and handcuffed. Ultimately, my family and I experienced several traumatic encounters with law enforcement and the justice system during my childhood. Determined to break the negative cycles of my upbringing, I was able to turn my pain and tragedy into triumph, becoming the first in my family to graduate from college, ultimately earning my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Juris Doctor degrees. The horrors experienced during my childhood ultimately led me to devote my career to working with our youth.

(SP) – Realizing that poverty, idle time, a lack of opportunities, and peer-related pressure often entices and influences disadvantaged people of all ages (especially teenagers and young adults) to get caught up in turning to ‘street life’ for survival, how were you able to avoid such desperate measures and traps during your youth, which could have negatively affected you later in life?

(CWS) – Before finishing high school, I saw several family members and friends destroyed by murder, violence, drugs, and other crimes. At 17, I was kicked out of school. Headed down a path leading straight to a jail cell, Officer William Dean Sr., a Black police officer, took an interest in helping me to break free of the low expectations inherent in my situation. Due to his mentoring and support, I learned that I was capable of changing my path.

(SP) – Researchers have proven there is a direct link between socioeconomic disadvantaged individuals and crime. Additionally, there are those who believe that “over 90% of crime in America and around the world takes place due to economic disadvantages and the remaining percentage involves mental illness, social disagreements, and/or other miscellaneous reasons.” If those precipitating factors are true, why have more prosecutors and court systems not taken these seriously and opted to explore better strategies and proven solutions which reinforce teaching positive behavioral change and empowering people – economically, mentally, socially, and otherwise?

(CWS) – I visited the King County Prosecutor’s Office in Seattle, Washington in 2018 to study a program they created called ‘LEAD’ (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion). Instead of booking people into jail for criminal activity that stems from poverty or behavioral health needs, officers instead take people to case managers who provide crisis response, immediate psychosocial assessment, and long-term wrap-around services that include substance, disorder treatment and housing. By the time I visited the program, they’d already had hundreds of success stories where people completely turned their lives around. Instead of being trapped in the system of recidivism, they now had jobs, housing, and lived productive lives. The program has also significantly improved their community overall. Once people are off of the streets and working, employment rates and property values increase. They’ve proven that this kind of justice system can work.

Unfortunately, most prosecutors and court systems have not opted to explore better options to help people break free from the system because of money. In 1865, we saw southern states enact Black Codes to ensure that newly freed Black Americans could be sentenced to labor for crimes such as vagrancy or “poor living conditions” after slavery was abolished. Today, many states use prisoners to manufacture license plates and other products. The prison industry is a multi-billion-dollar system. Think about bail bonding companies, probation services, and corrections officers just to name a few. Most elected prosecutors are financially supported by people who benefit from the prison industry. We need to see more prosecutors elected like Larry Krasner, Rachael Rollins, Aramis Ayala, and Deborah Gonzalez, and consider the advice of experts like Dr. Brandon Mathews and Adam Foss to see significant changes in our system that will ultimately help people break free from the system and live better lives.

(SP) – Police departments across the country have long been the primary instigator of public backlash for abusive tactics by law enforcement officers, especially acts committed against minority individuals. However, most often, prosecutors and court systems throughout America have played an equal or far more destructive role by primarily pushing for greater numbers of convictions or guilty pleas, versus considering life-improving alternatives and opportunities to dismiss cases that reveal little or no evidence to warrant prosecution. How do we get more prosecutors and judges to understand the role(s) they play in shaping or destroying communities, and make better decisions in pursuing restorative justice?

(CWS) – Our justice system has been driven by a “conviction by any means necessary” approach for several decades. This approach is cruel, costly, and counter-productive. It has created a hamster wheel cycle of incarceration that has especially destroyed the Black community, communities of color, and low-income people. This approach has destroyed lives, over-crowded jails and prisons, and has done nothing to keep us safer. The way we get more prosecutors and judges to understand the roles they play in the system is by no longer voting for prosecutors and judges who aren’t willing to change things. Voters have to be more vocal about the kind of people they want leading our local justice systems.

(SP) – A growing number of professionals in the areas of law and government are beginning to embrace the ideas of “criminal justice & prosecutorial reform visionaries” such as: Larry Krasner of Philadelphia; Rachael Rollins of Suffolk County, Massachusetts; Diana Becton of Contra Costa County, California; Jonathan Rapping of Atlanta, Georgia; Professor Jody D. Armour from the USC School of Law, and Judge Bruce Morrow of Michigan. Could you share your thoughts on some of the unique concepts any of them have implemented and how you might contribute to such growing trends?

(CWS) – I respect and appreciate those folks and everyone else who is willing to acknowledge the significant issues within our justice system and do something about it. Larry Krasner made headlines when he fired 31 staff members (which included trial attorneys, supervisor-level staff, and assistant prosecutors) on his fourth day in office to honor his promise to change the culture of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. He promised to never seek the death penalty, end cash bail, and end the mass incarceration model that has plagued the justice system for entirely too long. He was recently re-elected for a second term, which makes me hopeful that more and more voters across the country will become more aware of what he and other progressives are doing and start to vote more likeminded candidates into other local offices.

(SP)– Throughout the United States, there are legal professionals and legislators who would argue that “debtor’s prisons, exploitive labor arrangements, and/or Peonage laws” no longer exist. However, if that were true, overzealous tactics such as charging parents (typically fathers or men identified as one) with a criminal offense instead of a civil one for nonpayment of child support; suspending the driver’s licenses of a parent who is unable or unwilling to pay support; branding them with unnecessary employment-dismissive criminal records; placing them on probation, and even incarcerating such people (most often only fathers) who are unable to pay a biased, expected amount to the child(ren)’s other parent (typically a mother) has been nothing short of a fruitless abuse of law practice and a gross waste of time and public resources. Fathers who find themselves in these circumstances refuse to speak out on this touchy subject for fear of being scrutinized further or mislabeled as a Deadbeat Dad as opposed to properly being recognized as a Dead Broke Dad. A 2019-2020 study in Baltimore which is often ignored, revealed an eye-opening perspective about how this “system” has continued to do more harm than good in many instances. What are your thoughts on better ways to move away from the criminalization of child support delinquency, which adversely impacts a family’s dynamics through increased poverty and the destabilizing of (father) parent-child relationships?

(CWS) – I haven’t encountered any child support cases during my legal career thus far, but I do believe that things can improve significantly to ensure that policies aren’t counterproductive. For example, suspending someone’s driver’s license and incarcerating them because of nonpayment makes it harder for that person to maintain employment. I guarantee you that nobody is using the same cell phone they used 10 years ago, but our court systems are operating the same way they did several decades ago. Technology always evolves and we adapt to it. Unfortunately, big systems that play vital roles in our everyday lives like the justice system, the education system, and the child support system don’t evolve and improve. If we valued improving these systems as much as we value advancing technology, our country would be in much better shape. The Baltimore Sun article you’re referring to (At what cost? For Baltimore’s poorest families, the child support system exacts a heavy price — and it’s hurting whole communities – Baltimore Sun) was published in March of 2020. It reveals how counterproductive the current child support system is in Maryland, and I think that article paints a pretty good picture of how bad things truly are across the country.

(SP) – In your opinion, what would/should the ideal “prosecutor’s office-court system” look like in terms of methodologies, operations, and intended outcomes?

(CWS) – Just as our culture changes and moves forward, our justice system must use innovative and commonsense solutions that respond to the issues we face today. We must rewrite history and create a paradigm shift in the justice system to value people over conviction rates. We can accomplish this if prosecutors prioritize resources on serious and violent crimes and end the revolving door model of mass incarceration by no longer using jails as ineffective and inhumane mental health treatment facilities, homeless shelters, and drug rehab centers. Diversion programs should be implemented for low-level non-violent crimes with paths to employment and educational opportunities. Prosecutors should right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs that disproportionately ruined Black and minority communities by no longer prosecuting possession of marijuana. Prior marijuana possession convictions not attached to violent crime or drug sales should be pardoned to help several people across the country obtain employment and housing opportunities.

Prosecutors should hold police officers accountable for any misconduct or abuse. Prosecutors should never take campaign money from police unions to maintain total independence and eliminate any conflicts of interest when it comes to prosecuting police. Cash bail should be eliminated because it keeps poor people detained simply because they can’t afford bail, putting them at risk of losing employment and/or housing, which eventually leads to re-offending. Every local justice system should have a Military Veteran’s court unit to get our brave men and women who suffer from psychological or substance abuse issues the proper tools they need to be productive citizens after encountering the system. Prosecutors should be transparent and accountable. Prosecutors should also partner with public school systems to do more to divert the school to prison pipeline. These things would get us on track to seeing an ideal justice system where everyone is treated equally.

(SP) – You have accomplished quite a bit in your 38-years. It’s refreshing to note that after deciding at the last minute to run for the highly coveted District Attorney position for Fulton County-Atlanta (the largest county in the state of Georgia), you went on to maximize your skill set by launching the National Social Justice Alliance. What led you to embark upon this endeavor and what do you hope it will achieve?

(CWS)The NATIONAL SOCIAL JUSTICE ALLIANCE – HOME (nsja.org) was created to bring prosecutors from across the nation together for a common effort to fix the broken American criminal justice system. NSJA believes prosecutors are the answer. Prosecutors are the gatekeepers of our local justice systems, and are responsible for holding everyone, including police officers and other prosecutors, responsible for the acts they commit. The 2020 police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the aftermath of protests for equality, justice and calls for police reform highlight the need for prosecutors to step up. Together, the gatekeepers of the system can finally end police brutality and ensure that equality and justice are the standard for everyone.

(SP) – People have been expressing their appreciation for your new children’s book, WISEUP Adventure Series: Chris & Key Go Vote! Tell those who are unfamiliar with it what was your motivation for writing it and what is the intended outcome?

Christian Wise Smith smiling dressed in suit and tie
Christian Wise Smith, Author

(CWS) – When I ran for District Attorney in 2020, I met so many people who believed their vote didn’t matter. Recognizing this as a byproduct of voter suppression, I wanted to do something to eliminate the negative thinking that people have about whether their vote can make a difference. The answer: our kids, the next generation. By teaching our kids now about the superpower of voting, they’ll grow up knowing their votes will matter one day soon. I also wanted to do more than just tell them about voting, so the book is interactive. Young readers and their parents learn the voting process in a simple way by completing a voter registration card and casting a ballot for their favorite color. Teaching kids and their parents how to vote with an interactive children’s book is a new and direct way to increase future voter participation, fight against voter suppression efforts, and encourage the normalization of a culture of consistent voting in local and national elections.

We also just launched a community outreach program through NSJA called VOTING IS A SUPERPOWER to teach children in public school systems about the voting process. Students will receive a backpack complete with supplies and most importantly a copy of the book. We also provide a pizza party for each school we visit and appreciation gift cards for the teachers and staff. If anyone would like to donate towards helping us reach our mission of teaching millions of kids across the country how to vote, please visit njsa.org and click on any of the donate buttons to make a 100% tax deductible donation.

(SP) – You’re clearly a sound decision-maker. What do you want or plan to be doing when you’re in your 50’s or 60’s?

(CWS) – I pray to be alive, healthy, and still using everything God has blessed me with to help all of us live better lives together.

Santura Pegram (santura.pegram@yahoo.com) is a freelance writer and socially conscious business consultant who has helped to advise small businesses; nonprofit organizations; city, county, and state governmental committees; elected officials; professional athletes; and school systems.

It’s Official: Promoting From Within is The Best Approach

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Making good firt impressions

By Jeff Haden

While it might occasionally be true that a great leader can lead anywhere, hard skills definitely matter. 

A 2015 study published in Industrial and Labor Relations Review found that having a highly competent boss — one who excels at “ability to get the job done” and “employee development” — has by far the largest positive influence on employee job satisfaction.

As the researchers write, “If your boss could do your job, you’re more likely to be happy at work.”

You’re also more likely to be happy if your boss was promoted from within, rather than hired from the outside.  A recent Joblist study showed that nearly 70 percent of respondents prefer to be managed by an internal hire, a seasoned company vet who “climbed the ranks,” than an external hire.

Even if that person brings “proven talent” to the role.

Not only did respondents think hiring from within was the better path to growth, they also took outside hires personally: Thirty-five percent had quit, or at least considered quitting, when passed over for someone outside the organization.

But wait, there’s more: Internal promotions led employees to report higher productivity, greater loyalty to the organization, and that they had a better relationship with their (internally hired) manager.

Internally hired leaders agree: They reported feeling more supported and respected by their teams, and more likely to describe their teams as high-performing. (Granted, which may have more to do with their tendency to embrace “this is how we do it around here” expectations than with objective, measurable outcomes.)

Keep in mind there were situations where respondents felt external hires made better sense. Like when an essential employee with specific, not internally replaceable, skills leaves the company.

Promotions Build Cultures

Or, although this wasn’t included in the study, if you as the employer are unhappy with your company’s culture.

Culture isn’t what you say it is; culture is what you and your employees do. Bringing in people who embody the culture you hope to build may be the best way to effect long-term change.

But otherwise, you’re likely to be more successful when you promote from within — because if you get those promotions right, the effect on productivity, job satisfaction and employee retention can be dramatic.

A 2018 survey of over 400,000 people across the U.S. found that when employees believe promotions are managed effectively, they are more than 2X as likely to give extra effort at work and to plan for having a long-term future with their company.

Plus, when employees believe promotions are managed effectively, they are more than 5X as likely to believe their leaders act with integrity.

At those companies, employee turnover rates are half that of other companies in the same industry. Productivity, innovation and growth metrics outperform the competition. (For public companies, stock returns are almost 3X times the market average.)

So, before you reflexively look outside your business to “bring in new talent,” take a step back and look at the criteria you will use to make the promotion or hiring decision.

Instead of focusing on “qualifications,” determine what the perfect person in the job will actually do.

If teamwork matters most, promote the best team player. If productivity matters most, promote your most effective employee. Getting the right things done — whatever those outcomes may be for the open position — matters most.

If you truly can’t find that person within your organization, then feel free to look outside.

In that case, your employees will understand — and will realize that your goal is always to find the best possible person for the job.

And because that person knows their stuff, and uses that knowledge to get things done, they will fit in just fine.

On the rare occasions that hiring from the outside, instead of promoting from within, actually makes sense.

Jeff Haden is a keynote speaker, ghostwriter, LinkedIn Influencer, contributing editor to Inc., and the author of The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win.

The Types of Government Contracts & What You Need to Know

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When it comes to running your small business, one of the greatest assets you can acquire to help you succeed is a government contract.

The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.

The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:

  • To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
  • To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
  • To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
  • To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups

There are a multitude of contracts that can be obtained and further searched into using Sam.gov, but here are a few of the different types of government contracts that could help fund your small business:

Set-aside contracts for small businesses:

To help provide a level playing field for small businesses, the government limits competition for certain contracts to small businesses. Those contracts are called “small business set-asides,” and they help small businesses compete for and win federal contracts.

There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.

Competitive set-aside contracts:

When at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.

Some set-asides are open to any small business, but some are open only to small businesses who participate in SBA contracting assistance programs.

Sole-source set-aside contracts:

Most contracts are competitive, but sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract. To be considered for a sole-source contract, register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) and participate in any contracting program you may qualify for.

In some cases, sole-source contracts must be published publicly, and will be marked with an intent to sole source. Potential vendors can still view and bid on these contracts. Once the bidding process begins, the intent to sole-source may be withdrawn.

Contracting Assistance Programs:

The federal government uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23 percent of all federal contracting dollars each year. There are different programs for different attributes of a small business, such as:

8 (a) Business Development Program: Small Disadvantaged businesses.

Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program: Women-owned businesses

Veteran assistance program: Veteran-owned businesses

HUBZone Program: Historically underutilized businesses

SBA Mentor-Protégé program: Sets up your business with an experienced government contractor

Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program: Provides natural resources and surplus property to small businesses.

Joint Ventures: Allows businesses to team up and acquire government contracts (more info below)

Joint Ventures:

Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a joint venture to compete for a contract award. A joint venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements.

Small businesses that have a mentor-protege relationship through the All-Small Mentor-Protege program can form a joint venture with a mentor (which can be a large business). These joint ventures can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses.

A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses, if a member of the joint venture meets SBA requirements to do so.

Resources

If you still have questions or are looking for additional information, visit sam.gov or sba.gov. No matter what your situation is, there are many opportunities available to help your small business succeed.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration

6 Ways New Grads Can Standout and Land that First Real Job

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Leaving an institute of higher education and moving on into the workforce isn’t always easy, especially on the cusps of the end of a worldwide pandemic.

But it’s never impossible to make yourself stand out and to find the right opportunity for your desired career path. Here are six ways that job expert Michael Altshuler suggests for new graduates looking to get into the field:

  • Create your own experience – If you have no work experience, trying alternative routes to creating some. A great place to start is volunteering. This looks great on a resume, and it is also a great place to start networking. Include any skills that you learned in school or elsewhere. Create independent projects. Whether it is a school project, such as a report that somehow relates to the industry, or something you make yourself such as a video or power-point presentation, having tangible evidence of skills can help. Take your time on it and make it look professional before you show it to a potential employer.
  • Focus on your people skills – New grads with little real-world experience can make a huge impression with their great people skills. Not only does this show how you will interact with customers, it also says a lot about your personality, how you handle stress and how you might react when the going gets tough. A few great people skills to work on are kindness, humor, caring, humbleness, honesty and being inquisitive.
  • Mirror the job description (in your resume and application) – For many jobs, the recruitment process begins with an algorithm that selects applications based on keywords. Try to include as many of the keywords from the job description in your resume as you possibly can without outright copying and pasting (remember, a human will probably look at this at some point, so don’t be too clever about this). For instance, if a job posting says something about independent workers who can manage their time well, include something about that in your application and resume as personal strengths.
  • Research, research, research – Don’t think that just because you have graduated you don’t need to study anymore. One of the best ways for inexperienced applicants to standout is to do research on the company to which they are applying. Demonstrating that you already have a familiarity with both the operations and the values of the company when you walk into an interview shows that you have the interest, initiative and innovative spirit that will make you a valuable addition to the team.
  • Michael Altshuler Headshot
    Michael Altshuler, Author

    Be Networking (all the time) – Let’s face it, job seeking, like life, isn’t always fair. Even with the best written cover letter, a resume without a lot of experience on it may find its way to the bottom of the pile of candidates quickly. Submitting resumes is not always enough; sometimes you need a personal connection to get your foot in the door. Begin by slipping your job-seeking quest into every conversation. Promote yourself without bragging. You might be surprised how fast someone will turn up who is either looking to fill a position themselves or knows someone else who is.

  • Be honest but optimistic – As a new grad, the interviewer doesn’t expect you to know everything. Sometimes an honest “I don’t know” is better than trying to fake your way through and make things up. A lot of employers will ask unexpected questions to gauge how a person reacts to unfamiliar situations. Whatever is asked, stay calm. Answer as best you can and remember that this is to see how you react. Remain optimistic and answer in the way that shows that you can keep cool under pressure.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Michael Altshuler

Howard alum Nicole Cokley Dunlap appointed chief diversity officer, Bed Bath & Beyond

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Howard alum Nicole Cokley Dunlap appointed chief diversity officer, Bed Bath & Beyond

By Porsha Monique, Rollingout

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. announced Nicole Cokley Dunlap as its Chief Diversity Officer. Cokley Dunlap will lead the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy.

Cokley Dunlap brings more than 25 years of expertise to her role and will report directly to Lynda Markoe, EVP and Chief People and Culture Officer. She will begin in her new role in September 2021.

Cokley Dunlap comes to Bed Bath & Beyond from Macy’s Inc., where she held roles with increasing levels of leadership responsibilities across Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s Inc. in human resources, employee giving, diversity and inclusion, and store management.

The Howard University alum served as vice president of Macy’s DE&I strategy since 2019 and built strategies that helped drive diversity, engagement, performance, and business growth. Before that, she was Bloomingdale’s vice president, DE&I, Employee Giving and Human Resources Business Partner. Cokley Dunlap also serves as Co-President of BRAG (Black Retail Action Group) , a non-profit organization that prepares and educates people of color for executive leadership roles in retail, fashion, and related industries.

As part of its ESG strategy, Bed Bath & Beyond committed to becoming a Top 10 retail employer by 2030 by creating an equitable, inclusive work environment where all associates feel at home and can thrive. The company has set diversity, equity, and inclusion goals to reach at least 50% women representation and at least 25% racial and/or ethnic diversity at all levels by this time.

Cokley Dunlap will oversee the strategy and execution of these goals as well as partner across the enterprise to build stronger relationships with customer communities and diverse business vendors. Cokley Dunlap’s focus on implementing programs that drive inclusion and belonging will further advance the company’s people-powered focus and create and sustain its talent engine.

Markoe commented, “Nicole is a consummate leader with tremendous relationships and expertise in DE&I and will help us deliver change that is needed within our company and the communities we serve. Building our community, both inside and outside the company, is of paramount importance as we execute against Bed Bath & Beyond’s transformation plans. One of our five key practices in our strategic transformation framework is championing diversity and community, and we are pleased to appoint a Chief Diversity Officer as talented and proven as Nicole.”

Cokley Dunlap said, “As a values-driven company, I am excited to be a part of Bed Bath and Beyond’s transformation to advance the DE&I goals. With an emphasis on associates, customers, and communities, I look forward to working across the organization to optimize DE&I initiatives to drive innovation and business results.”

Click here to read the full article on Rollingout.

JAY-Z’s The Parent Company hires first Black CEO to lead major public U.S. cannabis organization

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JAY-Z’s The Parent Company hires first Black CEO to lead major public U.S. cannabis organization

By 

JAY-Z’s cannabis company and executive Troy Datcher are about to make history. On Monday (Aug. 16), the Hov-backed The Parent Company, which houses his Monogram cannabis brand, announced that Datcher will soon become the company’s new chief executive officer.

When Datcher assumes the role on Sept. 8, a press release notes, he will be the first Black CEO to lead a major, public cannabis organization in the country.

In a statement sent to Insider, Datcher said the California-based Parent Company has a “unique opportunity to disrupt a sector that has disproportionately impacted communities of color — including my own — for far too long.”

“This is a chance to partner with cultural powerhouses like JAY-Z and Desiree Perez to rectify the wrongs of prohibition, eradicate antiquated laws and create a new cannabis infrastructure rooted in diversity, equity and justice for our communities,” he added. “Together, we can shape a legal cannabis industry that is reflective of our entire culture in California and beyond.”

Datcher will work alongside Hov, who currently serves as The Parent Company’s chief visionary officer. Both the 51-year-old mogul and The Parent Company’s chief social equity officer, Roc Nation CEO Desiree Perez, have used the brand to lead initiatives aimed at helping Black and other minority entrepreneurs succeed in the cannabis industry.

“Troy’s business acumen, strategic thinking and leadership skills are invaluable qualities that will be critical to our organization’s growth,” Perez said. “He understands and embraces the unique responsibility we have to redefine the cannabis industry and establish a new precedent for cannabis entrepreneurs to build successful businesses.”

Datcher previously served as the senior vice president and chief customer officer of Clorox, where he worked for 20 years.

“Troy brings a wealth of invaluable experience driving high-volume sales, implementing growth strategies and a deep-seated knowledge of strategic brand execution,” The Parent Company Chairman Michael Auerbach said in the release. “His leadership expertise and perspective gained at such a prominent and enduring organization will be a significant advantage as we look to build the first 100-year company in cannabis, meet evolving consumer demands and create meaningful change in our industry.”

Click here to read the full article on Revolt.

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