KMA Diversity & Inclusion

Kochman Mavrelis Associates

Society of Women Engineers

Jean Mavrelis Presentation

November 2, 2010

VO Narrator – The following podcast contains excerpts from Jean Mavrelis’ recent presentation to the Society of Women Engineers in November 2010.

I’m Karen Horting, deputy executive. … We’re pleased to have all of you here today and here at the SWE conference. We do value our corporate members. You’re a valuable part of the society, in particular encouraging your women to be involved in SWE and making them aware of all the professional development and networking opportunities that we do have …
So with that, I’m going to go ahead and introduce our keynote speaker for the meeting. Jean Mavrelis is chief executive officer of Kochman Mavrelis Associates, and she is co-author with Tom Kochman of Corporate Tribalism, which is up here at the front. Corporate Tribalism: White Men/White Women and Cultural Diversity at Work.

She has served on the Illinois Sex Equity Task Force and is nationally recognized as an expert in the field of cultural information, diversity research and management, with special expertise in the area of gender and culture. … Jean and her colleagues have done quite a bit of cultural diversity awareness training at SWE. And actually, thanks to the Boeing Company – Terry is here from Boeing – is how we actually first were introduced to Jean and her colleagues. And some of the training they provide is what I would put modestly as life altering in terms of just those aha moments about cultural awareness and some of the differences that we have and how to embrace those differences and really work better together.

Jean Mavrelis

Thank you so much. I thought I’d start with the business drivers for diversity. And SHRM, Society of Human Resources Managers studied over 400 CEOs around the globe, and this is a collection of some of the responses. Diversity helps to recruit, produces better decisions, improves company image. This was what they garnered from their study.

And this was another quote that I thought captured the white paper that SHRM put out: “Companies have come to understand that different demographic groups think and communicate differently and that these cultural differences must be understood by all concerned before newcomers from diverse backgrounds can be truly integrated and included in a company’s workforce.” Now, that might not sound like much of a blurb to you, but it makes my heart sing, because when diversity started – and I was here back in the day when it first started – I mean, diversity training wasn’t always something corporate America did. Thirty years ago, nonexistent.

And they started with stuff called “sensitivity training,” and they had groups where people would get together and confront each other. And they thought if you yelled at somebody enough, that somehow they would realize their privilege or whatever they were doing that was upsetting you, and so those were the encounter groups that started out. And then there was a lot of training that was compliance training, which is still part of what corporations do. But in terms of diversity, a lot of compliance training does the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish because it makes people afraid. And white men in particular are already afraid that they’re going to do something career ending, and so they became less engaged with diversity.

And then, of course, we had the awareness training. And a lot of the awareness training was programs like this. They would show a picture of a raggedy-looking person and they would ask you who do you think this person is. And you might say, well, this is a person who’s down and out, and they would say, surprise, this person is the CEO of something-or-other and is just out on his motorcycle and whatever. And then they’d show a person who looked quite corporate and they would say, and this person is a serial killer. And the idea was that you can’t just go with your gut and your assumptions, you have to get to know people.

But look how people are trying to figure out what do we do with diversity, what do we do with difference. Do we shout at each other what we want you to know? Do we somehow try to tell everybody to sing “Kumbaya” and don’t prejudge? And it really took about 20 years for people to run the course on those to see, wait a minute, we need some real information. Well, what kind of information do you need? And people may say, now I want you to respect differences. How do you know what differences to respect, right? And here’s why this particular piece here makes my heart so happy. Differences must be understood before you can really get everybody into the system and get everybody working and get all those cylinders clicking, right? People somehow think that because they breathe, they know about lungs, or because you are a human, you know about human beings. It’s so complicated. And I want to take a little dive into this here.

Understanding cultural differences. Not just respect differences, but what are the ones I’m supposed to respect? Once you understand them, they’re going to impact your best practices. And that’s going to change the game. Once you introduce understanding of culture into a system, it’s going to impact this, impact this, impact this. There’s your business case … So, again, if I input cultural understanding and then we’ve got integrated system analysis, including modeling of behavior, performance and distribution patterns of the component systems, then you’re going to change your best practices, executive modeling, change the conversations, change the game, monitor the process.

All right, those of us who are in human resources or social sciences, we look at how do you bring this cultural understanding into a system which is a corporate system. And a lot of people start here with compliance, and then they go to awareness, and then they start to do the skills building. So I took this model here from a friend of mine, Mitch Hammer, and he has a tool called the Intercultural Development Inventory. And he uses this – you can give it to one of your executives to see where they are on the continuum of understanding culture, you can give it to a group, you can give it the whole organization.

And these are the stages of cultural effectiveness. It starts out that people kind of deny that culture matters. Look, folks is folks. We’re all individuals. If you’re a human being and you do unto others as others would do unto you, there’s no need to do this. However, if people aren’t treated in some way that they’re filing lawsuits, then you end up with this first stage where people do the compliance EEO training.

As people begin to have a little more experience with culture, maybe some new populations move into your area, and now all of a sudden there’s more interaction, they tend to get defensive, and either they may say, well, our culture is right, that one is wrong, they have to learn ours. Sometimes people fall in love with the new culture and they say that one’s better, I want to change, but they polarize in some way.

The next stage of companies or individuals is minimization, where you say, okay, I get it, there are cultural differences in how people communicate. But you know what? It’s not that big of a deal. I mean, I’ve been to other countries and I’ve gotten along just fine, right? All right. Now, in a company, if a company is in minimization, they’ve had their ethnic fairs, maybe they have different councils. They have their Hispanic Achievement Council, they have their women’s group and so on, but they don’t really have skills to know what to do yet. But when you actually inject into the system cultural information – and that’s where I’m going to go in a minute, I’m going to give you some of it – you start to change the company.

Because it starts out you change the conversations, but when you change the conversations, you start to realize that that’s going to impact your best practices – how you do recruitment, how you run a meeting, how you do performance reviews – every single thing that you do is going to be impacted in some way by this understanding. And it changes the game. And when you change the game, if people understand the game, and especially if that game includes white men, they’re going to start to play it differently.

You know, I once met Betty Freidan, and someone in our group asked her a question. They said, “If you were doing the women’s movement all over again, is there anything you’d do differently?” And she said, “Yes. I would include men.” And people tend to think that diversity is about everybody but white men, and white men especially think it’s about everybody but white men. So when we do diversity, we like to start with who are white men, how many of you are worried about me making generalizations? Nobody. Oh, I got one, two, okay, three. In the United States…well, first of all, people anywhere are suspicious of stereotypes. What’s a stereotype? … they are outsiders’ views, they have nothing to do with science, abusive generalizations, assume innate characteristics. “Ah, you women are all too emotional.” If I look at stereotyping, this is why we’re afraid about generalizations. You’re going to say something stupid, you’re going to put a whole bunch of people in a group, and it’s not going to be accurate. So then how do we talk about culture?

Unidentified Female

Make sure it’s accurate.

Jean Mavralis

Make sure it’s accurate. Thank you. Beautiful. So that’s switches us to arche-typing. Archetyping is a different kind of generalization, and so I’ll once again bring you into the world of social science. When we make generalizations, in anthropology we start out with something called the ethnographic interview. So let’s say I want to do a study of seven-year-olds in the U.S. I’ve got my study ready. Who am I going to interview? A seven-year-old in the U.S. Not their siblings, not their parents. It’s got to be an insider to the experience. And I start to write the words that they use when they’re talking to me because I’m trying to get a sense of their values and how they view the world, who they imagine themselves to be.

As I write these words, I have validity because I have a member of the sample. But do I yet have reliability with an N of one? No. But if I go across the country and I start getting more and more interviews and I start entering these into a database, and then I compare my data with other anthropologists who are studying the same group, am I going to build validity? Now if I support that, I get the sociologists in and we start doing some surveys, and I send those surveys out and I get more data.

And then, once again, I compare my research to everybody else who’s studying the same group. Are we increasing validity and reliability? But is it going to be the situation that anybody you meet who is of that…any seven-year-old you meet is going to fit the pattern? Never. I mean, you know, that’s stupid social science. It’s never going to be an all. But there is going to be a pattern. And so we look at this bell curve here. When you study culture, you’re looking at what’s in the middle of the culture.


I told you I would start with white people. If you look around the early group of white men who could vote. They fit into a pattern that in my day used to be called WASP. Does anybody know what that stands for?

Unidentified Females

White – Anglo-Saxon – Protestant.

Jean Mavralis

Okay, it’s still out there. Notice there’s a racial designation, a tribal designation, they’re Anglos from Anglos and Saxons, and there’s a religious designation, Protestant. So that’s the group that became what we call the Founding Fathers, the WASP group. How do you know if you’re a white ethnic or if you’re a WASP? I’m just creating little terms here that we can quickly access. But one of the ways you know is that if you’re not Protestant, you’re probably a traditional person who came later. And if we look at what happened after World War I, around 1920, when we get into the melting pot time, people are coming now after World War I. Where are they coming from? Italy, Greece, Poland, Croatia. They’re Eastern European and Southern European.

So who are the white people who are white guys in corporate America? Who are they? Well, they are the most assimilated to the WASP group of anybody in America, because even if you look at those white men who came later – and remember, they outnumber the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, if you look at the population of the whole country – but they were the ones who were allowed to get into the workplace first. And as they begin to make money and they unionized, and they begin to come into the workplace, what organizes suburbs, if it’s not ethnicity? If it’s not, well, here’s German Town and here’s Italian Town, and here’s Polish Town, what organizes where people live in the suburbs?

Unidentified Female

Where they work.

Jean Mavralis

And where they work leads to their economics. So it’s income. So what happens is white men in particular become individuals. They assimilate to the Anglo-Saxon Protestant style, and the more they assimilate, the more they move up in corporate America. However, when we get to the time when other people start coming into the workplace, which would be what time period? How many of you were alive in the Ô60s? Okay, so in our lifetime, what were the movements in the Ô60s that started to leverage people other than white men into corporate America in something other than entry level?

Unidentified Female

Civil rights.

Jean Mavralis

Civil rights. What else?

Unidentified Female

Women’s lib.

Jean Mavralis

Women’s lib. The American Indian movement, the Chicago movement, La Raza in the Southwest. You had Filipino pea pickers. You might not have heard about it, but it was happening in California. Gay pride. People who were left out begin to petition, and in the Ô60s, we start to have civil rights acts. But when I was telling you at the beginning of this program about the kind of diversity that was happening early on, it was really either an encounter diversity about yelling at people about their privilege or it was some kind of let’s get together and have an ethnic fest, but it wasn’t really giving cultural information that people could build a system on and could really get every person in their company contributing.

So how are white men different from others? First of all, because white men assimilated, even if they were from Poland or Italy or from somewhere else, they assimilated to the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant style, and as a result, every one of them thinks of them self as an individual.

So if you ask anybody else, if you ask…let me ask women in the group. Everybody is an individual, but do you also have an identity that’s member of a group? I mean, it’s interesting. And is the group, if you were to say what’s the collectivity, it might be female. If you’re a person of color, usually race will trump gender in terms of what issues are in the workplace, but I’ll say more about that in a bit.

All right, if you’re a member of a group, one of the things that’s going to be an issue for you in the workplace is who can I trust, right? If that’s not an issue for you, if you’re white and male and trust is not an issue, is trust going to be on your radar? Are you even going to be thinking about trust, who can I trust? …

Jean Mavralis

You’re an individual, you stand on your own two feet, and the laws and the rules, the way things work will not kick you out in any way. And it’s easy to think that other people are individuals, too. We are individuals. But we also have member of group experiences. … But white men don’t generally have that in their consciousness. And so it’s interesting to realize that other people are carrying these other things. So trust is going to become an issue. The other part is race and ethnicity tend not to be on the radar of white men because their race isn’t implicated in what they do, and their gender isn’t implicated.

So if you go…most of the places you go during the day, you’re not going to have to consider what’s going to happen to me because of my race or because of my gender, how am I going to be treated. … So as you begin to realize that everybody isn’t just an individual, and that trust is not a given for people who have been minorities or who have been excluded, and the other one is that race and gender aren’t on your radar, it’s interesting. For white women, gender is on our radar, but race usually isn’t.

so I started out with who are white men, and what are some of the issues for them in the workplace. Now I’m going to pick a culture, because we’re not going to be able to, obviously, go into all of them. But I thought I would pick Hispanic because it is the largest growing population and we’re in Florida. And so I thought this will be a good place to start.

So let’s do a little dive into Latinos in the workplace and see how this all comes together. … If we look at different mindsets of people from Latin America, there are those who see themselves as immigrants, much as Eastern European immigrants, for example, who came to the U.S. and early on assimilated to the mainstream WASP culture. There are those who come with an immigrant mindset. There are also those who have more of a minority mindset. So people who were discriminated against in the southwest, for example, tend to vote more like African Americans, where people from Latin America who have an immigrant mindset tend to vote more like mainstream folks. Those are a couple of useful categories.

So how in the world, if I wanted to compare Latinos to U.S. mainstream folks, there’s all this diversity. How would I begin to do it? There is a way, and that is to use religion. … if you look at the United States, even if you're not Protestant, Protestantism is imprinted on your psyche, because the Protestant work ethic and the individualism is so much a part of the culture that it's a part of how you act at work.

So let's compare Catholicism and Protestantism. Work hard. This is the Protestant work ethic. Can you see a connection between Protestantism and capitalism? What would that connection be? Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! And the same way in the U.S. – those Horatio Alger stories about every individual has to pull themselves up and work hard.

If you're in Latin America, you're going to have a big boss. That boss is going to be the patron. Not the Pope, necessarily, but there's going to be a powerful leader. In a family, who's going to be the patron? The father – the head of the family, right? …

What makes the U.S. work? How does it work if it's not some one person who's in charge of everything, if it's not authoritarian in that way?

.. Why isn't it just, "No, do it my way! No, do it my way!" A lot of laws and rules and processes and practices. How many of you have people practice councils at your workplace? You know, you have to have the practices, the policies, the procedures. Part of what HR does, and part of what lawyers do, is say, "Look, here's how the game works. This is the game; now, every individual, play the game."

Now, I'm going to say something important: the game itself is made for white men. They don't know it's made for white men, because it's just a game. Everybody just play the game. Let's just get in it. If you're successful, it's because you took charge and you did whatever. But even the taking charge is a rule that comes from a cultural system.

So for example, at one company – and this is very characteristic – individuals are in charge of their career. So they post jobs. If you are traditional and you think your boss manages your career, and this job posting is in another group, what has to happen before you feel like you can apply for that?

Who would have to say that? The boss would have to give you a green light. If you just go ahead and put in for that, that's showing disloyalty. So if you're operating not, "I do for me and you do for you," which is very much a white male model, and nobody takes it personally. "I do for me, you do for you"… A lot of women say they prefer to work with men, because that happens. It feels great. "I do for me and you do for you." We don't have to talk about anything else. But if you grow up in a culture where I do for you and you do for me and loyalty is important, I'm not going to put in for that job.

But if my boss says, "You know, I think this would be a good opportunity for you," and encourages me, now I might go and apply. But when I get into a structured interview and somebody says, "Tell me about something you did that you're really proud of in your life" -- or in you career, not life – God forbid! In your career. How comfortable are you tooting your own horn, and how loudly do you toot it?


… So if we want the whole system to work, we want the gifts of every single employee, if you don't understand the different ways that people share conver-sations, and how your best practices are going to work, you're not going to change the game. But white men want to be in the game, and if they're not in the game of cultural diversity, the game will not succeed.

But white men love a contest; you just have to tell them what the rules are. They will say, "Okay. So now we've got a diverse place. Just tell me, what are the rules? What are the damn rules? Tell me what the rules are, and I'll play the game. I just need to know the rules!" [Laughter.] But if somebody says, "Here are the rules," the people who win are the ones who can get everybody engaged. The ones that really have productivity, morale, employee satisfaction, employee engagement, are recruiting, are retaining – that's how you win.

But there's still going to be a fear of, "Well, wait a minute. I've got this compliance training over here. If I do something that's going to upset people in some way, this could be career-ending. So okay, I get the idea, but I don't want to make a mistake." How do you get those people out of their office to begin to be engaged, and have conversations in areas that they don't know about? The white male culture of Corporate America is risk-averse, it's conflict-avoidant, and it suffers for the absence of candor. And at the same time, you're supposed to be visible, verbal, assertive.

So how can you do that? You need solid information.

So much of what happens is inadvertent, and culturally inadvertent. I don't think people get up, for the most part, in the morning and say, "I'm going to be a real jerk today. I'm going to be discriminating. I'm going to exclude people." But we have a way that we think the world works, and when you've got diversity in a company, you have people who come from different perspectives in terms of how do you get ahead? Does work speak for itself? Should you be showing loyalty? What are the main things that will help my career?

If you've got somebody who thinks work speaks for itself… And in a way, even the way you were describing how you self-promote: here's my work, you know, because you're showing what you've done, and probably strategically, probably not in front of a lot of people… So that face time of being visible, verbal, assertive, of brainstorming, of taking charge – this is the way Corporate America continues to work.

… once you have this cultural information, you'll never see the world the same way. And it's not that we're putting people in boxes, because we're not describing people; we're describing cultural archetypes… But what you can do is understand culture, so that when something happens at work… Or, these two people in the hall – if they could simply begin to say, "I wonder if something cultural is going on here?" They're not going to lose that leadership; they're not going to lose those ideas. They're going to have employee engagement. They're going to have employee satisfaction, morale. They're going to get their system working on all cylinders, because everybody's going to be included.

… ultimately, it's my belief that if you understand culture, you can create total engagement in your team. It's just amazing, the power of understanding culture. So my belief is that if you change the conversations – you inject the cultural information. Our goal is not to say, "This is the right way to do it, this is the wrong way to do it." We're just saying, look at right and left. They have different ways they communicate. You want to inject culture into the system, cultural understanding. And how you do that?

Generally, you start with the senior executives, because if you don't have your stakeholders into it, you're never going to get the budget you need, you're not going to get anybody reinforcing, you're not going to get the game-changers involved. So you need senior people involved. Then, you roll it out to your managers. And often times, for managers, you still may want stand-up train-ing.

The third layer of employees… One of the things that we've done to try to save companies money is e-learning, where people go through different cultural modules. Who are white people? African American, Hispanic, Asian, gender. And it's not explaining any particular individual; it's saying, in the middle of the bell curve, here are some cultural patterns, so that if you see them, you can ask yourself, "I wonder if something cultural is going on here?"

You inject this cultural information into the system – real information that people can work with, not just Kumbaya, be nice. Not "If you don't do this, I'm cutting your leg off." It's got to be something that is real information people can use. And that's going to change the conversations.

So I guess the three things I want to leave you with: you input the cultural information, you're going to change the conversations. When you change the conversations, that ultimately will change the best practices: how you do recruitment, retention; how you run meetings; how you get that total engagement of everybody contributing. And it changes the game, because if the game is, everybody's got to be contributing, those people who are winning are the ones who have built that multicultural understanding, and can get everybody engaged and working.

If you don't understand the cultural system, you can't change the conversations, you're not going to change the best practices, and you're not going to change the game. Remember, we've all got to be in the game.

VO narrator: If you want to learn more about KMA and our diversity training, visit our website and join in the conversation at our blog: talkingculturaldiversity.