The Case for Diversity—Why Should You Care? (CIC Snapshot)

At AEP’s 2011 Content in Context conference David Rust, Sandhill Consulting and Chair of the AEP Diversity Committee; Cynthia Augustine, Scholastic Inc.; and Diane Trister Dodge, Teaching Strategies, Inc., discussed why AEP is focusing on diversity and why embracing diversity can improve your company and your culture.

Highlights

  •  AEP is focusing on diversity through the Improving Learning Resources Through Diversity (ILRTD) initiative because it believes that “Culturally rich learning resources that are relevant and engaging can improve learning outcomes, particularly among at-risk students. An educational publishing industry that mirrors the diversity of America’s classrooms is essential if the goal of educational equity is to be met. Building a diverse workforce requires a systematic and sustained effort.” Rust noted, though, that while we know the industry is committed to diversity, “we know the reality is that of the top ten priorities for our business, diversity is number 11.”
  • The ILRTD Advisory Board has formed an action plan, which includes improvements to social network and resources (2011), increased industry awareness (2012), and  a full-fledged intern program (2013). “In educational publishing one of our challenges is that too few of the minorities we are trying to reach are actually aware of our industry,” commented Rust. “The ILRTD action plan will look at ways to reach out to various groups, especially through social media, and increase our presence.”
  • One of the main reasons AEP is focusing on diversity is that it will improve products and services, but this isn’t just in the output of the products. “Diversity is a strength that we can–and have to–leverage to engage learners,” said Rust. “But our industry is making too little progress now, which is why AEP is making the case for diversity now.”
  • Cynthia Augustine discussed the business imperative for media companies to increase their focus on diversity. The marketplace and demographics of customers are changing, she said, and they need to change their content to reach those people. Media companies need to go after the growth markets, which are typically more diverse, and not lose the customers they have now. She also talked about the quality of the content and how many programs were embarrassing because of a lack of sensitivity. “You want to reflect your audience with greater fidelity,” said Augustine.
  • Augustine said The very best diversity councils in companies take an external look at their work as well focusing on internal practices. They bring in outside groups to look at what they use to market to communities of color. “It brought a sense of reality and a sense of perspective to how we worked with minorities,” observed Augustine.
  • Augustine also said inclusion training can be effective in promoting diversity. Instead of separating people, these sessions focus on what groups have in common and create a bond among employees.
  • “Diversity is not a separate value at Teaching Strategies,” said Diane Trister Dodge, “it is engrained in our thinking and comes from a deep appreciation of diversity.” She said that publishers are most effective and responsive when you reflect the field–the communities–that you serve. Diversity is not listed as a separate value for her company because it permeates everything they do.
  • Augustine said that at Scholastic, their Reading Bill of Rights also recognizes the right for every child to learn how to read, write, and understand.
  • As part of Teaching Strategies work they translate every piece into Spanish, but they work hard to make sure that the translations are accurate and don’t accidentally insult or demean the Hispanic community. They have even created new songs and word plays for Spanish products because the English songs wouldn’t translate and be valuable in the classroom.
  • Augustine said that if diversity is not embraced by the company as a whole, then bringing in outside people won’t work. But don’t forget about the marketing plans and how you are going to reach the diverse communities.
  • “There has to be an appreciation of why this is important and valuable to the culture,” said Dodge. “It can’t just be about the business but about the moral imperative.” Teaching Strategies has individuals on staff and advisers who represent the different cultures they publish for so that the materials truly reflect the needs of the diverse cultures and communities.

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