Course Overview

This course recognizes the benefits of diversity in our workforce and FEMA’s commitment to valuing the diversity of its employees and customers. By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Define what is meant by diversity.
  • Describe how diversity benefits us individually and collectively.
  • State FEMA’s Vision of Diversity.
  • Describe the agency’s commitment to diversity as stated in FEMA’s
  • Diversity and Inclusion Plan.
  • Describe how culture influences our interactions with others.
  • Describe the actions you can take to optimize diversity.

Transcript – Our Commitment to Diversity – Video

Diversity means acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and celebrating the variety of characteristics that make each of us unique. By valuing our differences, we strengthen our commonalities including a shared mission of serving our Nation.

FEMA’s vision for diversity is: “An inclusive environment in which the Agency leverages diversity to achieve mission goals and business objectives, and to maximize individuals and the organization.”

When FEMA reflects the diverse communities we serve, we establish trust and build relationships—both of which are essential for communities to assume responsibility for their own recovery.

Equally important, leveraging workforce diversity makes business sense. Workplace diversity is vital because of the breadth and depth of organizational skills and abilities required for us to accomplish our mission. Diversity benefits us all by broadening our horizons and by giving us opportunities to learn from one another.

In this training, you will learn more about FEMA’s vision for diversity and the Agency’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan. In presenting this plan to Agency employees, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate emphasized the importance of leveraging diversity by saying: “I am personally committed to ensuring that FEMA provides an environment that values and embraces the contributions and potential of every member of our diverse workforce, and I challenge each of you to join me in ensuring that our Agency better and consistently reflects the diverse fabric of American society.”

Lesson Overview

This course is divided into the following topic areas:
Graphics representing the three topic areas covered in the course: Defining Diversity, Valuing Diversity, and Optimizing Diversity
This lesson describes the characteristics and dimensions of diversity. Upon completion of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Define what is meant by diversity.
  • Describe how diversity benefits us individually and collectively

Diversity Definition

Diversity is generally defined as acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and respecting the variety of characteristics that make individuals unique. These personal differences:

  • Include race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, age, culture, religion, and much more.
  • Affect how we think, learn, work, interact with and react to others, and how we live our lives.
  • Influence how we perceive others and their behaviors, as well as how others perceive us.

Through diversity, FEMA needs an inclusive culture that connects each employee to the organization; encourages collaboration, flexibility and fairness; and leverages these attributes so that all individuals are able to participate and contribute to their full potential.

A Diverse Nation

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the middle of this century, the population of the United States will be larger and more racially and ethnically diverse.
Some quick facts:

  • As of 2013, individuals who identify themselves as Hispanic, African American, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or mixed race comprised approximately 39 percent of our population.
  • By 2050, minorities will make up more than 50% of the U.S. population1.

1Source: Colby, S. L. & Ortman, J. M. (March 2015). Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060. U.S. Census Bureau. Available from: https://www.census.gov/population/projections/data/national/2014.html

EEO, Affirmative Employment, and Diversity: Know the Difference

Diversity is often mistaken for equal employment opportunity (EEO) and affirmative employment.

EEO laws help to ensure that race, sex, national origin, and other legally protected characteristics are not considered in employment decisions. EEO is derived from Federal, State, and local laws that govern all employment-related actions.

Affirmative employment regulations help identify and remove barriers to the hiring and the advancement of minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and veterans.

A commitment to diversity builds on and extends beyond this legal and regulatory framework.

Discrimination

It is unlawful to deny a person his or her equal opportunity for employment or advancement (either deliberately or unintentionally) based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.

The Federal Government has also enacted protections against discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation, status as a parent, genetic information, and participation in a protected activity.

Protected Categories

It is unlawful to discriminate against an individual based on any of the following:

Race and Color

Equal employment opportunity cannot be denied any person because of his or her:

  • Racial group or perceived racial group.
  • Race-linked characteristics (e.g., hair texture, color, facial features).
  • Skin pigmentation/complexion.
  • Marriage or association with someone of a particular race or color.

Religion

Employees or applicants cannot be treated more or less favorably because of their religious beliefs or practices; however, employers are required to accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs unless to do so would cause an undue hardship. An agency cannot require participation in a religious activity or exercise as a condition of employment.

Sex

Laws regarding sex discrimination specifically address the following:

  • Sexual harassment is illegal.
  • Discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition is illegal. These conditions should be treated as other temporary illnesses or conditions.
  • The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women be paid equally for equal work.
  • Executive Order 13087 (1998) makes it illegal to discriminate based upon sexual orientation. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is directed at persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, who are perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender or who associate with persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

National Origin

A person cannot be treated more or less favorably because he or she:

  • Comes from a particular place.
  • Has a particular ethnicity or accent.
  • Is believed to have a particular ethic background.
  • Is married to (or has other association with) someone of a particular nationality.

Employers must verify that all applicants and employees are authorized to work in the United States: only asking for verification from people who look or sound foreign would be discriminatory. Employers might make an English-only rule, or have a fluency requirement, only if there is a clear performance or safety reason for it.

Age

People who are 40 and over cannot be discriminated against in employment. Agencies may only impose an age requirement when they can show that age is a bona fide occupational qualification.

Disability

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) was enacted on September 25, 2008, and became effective on January 1, 2009. This law made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.” These changes apply to Federal employees through the Rehabilitation Act. An individual with a disability is a person who:

  • Has physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (sometimes referred to in the regulations as an “actual disability”), or
  • Has a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited a major life activity (“record of”), or
  • When a covered entity takes an action prohibited by the ADA because of an actual or perceived impairment that is not both transitory and minor (“regarded as”).

Some examples of the changes to the definition of disability include:

  • Major life activities now include the operation of major bodily functions, including functions of the immune system, special sense organs and skin, normal cell growth, digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive functions
  • As a result of the ADAAA’s recognition of major bodily functions as major life activities, it will be easier to find that individuals with certain types of impairments have a disability

Genetic Information

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 added protection regarding genetic information. Employees or applicants may not be discriminated against based on their genetic information, such as having the breast cancer gene or the gene that causes Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Participation in a Protected Activity

Employees are protected from retaliation or reprisal based on their participation in a protected activity.

The Federal Government has also enacted protections against discrimination and harassment based on the following:

Status as a Parent

Executive Order 13152 prohibits Federal agencies from making personnel decisions based on an employee’s or applicant’s parental status—that is, having or not having children, and the circumstances in which the children are raised (single parenting, two-adult parenting, etc.). This means that decisions such as who works overtime or who is selected for a travel assignment may not take parental status into account.

Sexual Orientation

Executive Order 13087 (1998) prohibits Federal agencies from discrimination based upon sexual orientation. 

Discriminatory Practices

The following are brief summaries of discriminatory practices. Contact your Equal Rights representative for more detailed information or assistance.

Disparate Treatment or Impact

  • Disparate treatment: Treating an individual differently because of inclusion in a protected class.
  • Disparate impact: The adverse effect of a seemingly neutral employment practice (e.g., subjective interviewing techniques) on a protected class.

Basing Employment Decisions on Stereotypes

It is unlawful to base employment decisions on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain group.

Basing Employment Decisions on Relationships

It is unlawful to deny employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a protected group.

Diversity: External and Internal Characteristics

The term “diversity” is often associated with race and ethnicity; however, diversity encompasses both external and internal characteristics that make each of us unique.

For example, “diversity of thought” can be achieved when people work together who have different:

  • Work experiences.
  • Social-economic backgrounds.
  • First languages.
  • Educations.
  • Communication styles.

Generational Differences

Diversity also applies to the different generations in the workplace. Think about the people you’ve worked with. Can you identify individuals that represent each of the following six different generations?
Timeline graphic building from left to right, with arrows representing the following six generations: The G.I. Generation (1901-1926), The Silent Generation (1927-1945), The Baby Boom Generation (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), the Millenial Generation (1981-2000), and the Homeland Generation (After 2001)
Generations may have different values, ideas, work ethics, attitudes toward authority, and outlooks on life.

Generational Traits Comparison Chart

 
  Other Names Core Values Work Ethic
G.I. GENERATION

1901 – 1926

  • The Greatest Generation
  • Generation of Firsts
  • WWII Generation
  • Family
  • Team Players
  • Community Minded
  • Energetic Do’ers
  • Action-Oriented
SILENT GENERATION

1927 – 1945

  • Veterans
  • Seniors
  • Matures
  • Lucky Few
  • Traditionalists
  • Dedication / sacrifice
  • Respect for authority
  • Delayed reward
  • Duty before pleasure
  • Dedicated
BABY BOOM GENERATION

1946 – 1964

  • Boomers
  • Baby Boomers
  • The Boom Generation
  • Optimism
  • Team orientation
  • Personal gratification
  • Health and wellness
  • Driven
GENERATION X

1965 – 1980

  • The 13th Generation
  • MTV Generation
  • Boomerang Generation
  • Baby Busters
  • Diversity
  • Thinking globally
  • Balance Techno-literacy
  • Balanced
MILLENNIAL GENERATION

1981 – 2000

  • Generation Y
  • Generation Why?
  • Echo Boomers
  • The Net Generation
  • Optimism
  • Civic duty
  • Achievement
  • Sociability
  • Determined
HOMELAND GENERATION

After 2001

  • Generation Z
  • Boomlets
  • Nexters
  • The iGeneration
  • Digital Natives
  • Plurals
  • Risk-Averse
  • High Achievers
  • Detail-oriented
  • Authenticity
  • Conscientious

Summary: Diversity Dimensions

The Dimensions of Diversity wheel summarizes the complexities of understanding diversity and the many elements that shape each of us.
Graphic showing diversity dimensions as four ovals increasing in size from the center. The center oval is titled “Personality.” The next oval is titled “Internal Dimensions” and includes Age, Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Ability/Disability, and Gender. The next oval is titled “External Dimensions” and includes Parental Status, Marital Status, Work Experience, Education, First Language, Geographic Area, Appearance, Interests & Hobbies, Religion, and Income. The outer oval is titled “Organizational Dimensions” and includes Position, Grade & Seniority; Management Status; Professional/Union Affiliations; Assigned Work Unit; Skills & Expertise.

Lesson Summary

This completes this lesson. In this lesson you learned:

  • The definition of diversity.
  • How diversity benefits us individually and collectively.

Diversity is generally defined as acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and respecting the variety of characteristics that make individuals unique.

The term “diversity” can be applied in many ways. Diversity applies to the different generations in the workplace. It is often associated with race and ethnicity; however, diversity encompasses both external and internal characteristics that make each of us unique. Diversity is also distinctly different from equal employment opportunity (EEO) and affirmative employment. In its broadest context, diversity means valuing, rather than merely tolerating, the diverse perspectives brought by each individual to the FEMA organization.

Creating a diverse culture where each individual feels appreciated and heard helps contribute to an inclusive, multicultural agency that is capable of serving our increasingly diverse Nation. Optimizing diversity must be regarded as a required organizational state of being—a required element of success. All employees have the responsibility for incorporating diversity into the workplace, and for treating all persons in a professional, respectful, and courteous manner.

Lesson Overview

This lesson describes the actions FEMA is taking to value diversity.
Graphics representing the three topic areas covered in the course: Defining Diversity, Valuing Diversity (highlighted), and Optimizing Diversity
Upon completion of this lesson you should be able to:

  • State FEMA’s Vision of Diversity.
  • Describe the agency’s commitment to diversity as stated in FEMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan.

Relationship Between Diversity and Mission

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a Nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

FEMA’s workforce is the means to successful accomplishment of that mission – which makes diversity a critical business imperative.

Diversity Benefits

A diverse workforce benefits us all by broadening our horizons and giving us opportunities to learn from each other.

Valuing workplace diversity:

  • Helps us consider different points of view.
  • Brings a variety of experiences that can solve problems faster.
  • Provides us with additional skills and knowledge needed to meet our mission and advance our careers.

An appreciation of diversity:

  • Builds relationships that foster community-based preparedness.
  • Helps us to plan for and respond to the needs of a diverse survivor population.

Diversity and Workforce Synergy

Valuing diversity requires that we take steps to understand and respect each other rather than simply tolerate our differences.

FEMA employees comprise a culturally diverse workforce. Being part of a diverse workforce energizes our thinking. We learn from one another and get different perspectives.

An inclusive and diverse workplace motivates employees to perform to the best of their abilities. It promotes understanding between people, creating a stronger and more focused team.

Understanding the Communities We Serve

One disaster survivor stated, “I would see [disaster personnel] go into a situation . . . they felt that their presence alone and the fact they were there to provide a service should be reason enough for these people to be accepting of them and accepting of the care that they wanted to give.

“And although your heart might have been in the right place and this is your job . . . if you don’t understand or take the time out to try to understand their culture and what makes them tick, your services may, although be needed, may not be wanted.”

Disaster Impact and Cultural Diversity

All populations are vulnerable in disasters. However, some cultural norms or geographical separations because of cultural norms can expose some populations to disparate vulnerability.

Some impacts of disasters include:

  • People who are culturally or geographically isolated may have greater risk and be disproportionately vulnerable to disaster.
  • Communities may not take needed actions unless disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation information is communicated using messages and languages that are culturally appropriate and easily understood.
  • Some groups of individuals may be reluctant to seek Federal assistance due to cultural differences that value self-sufficiency and pride in autonomy.

Cultural Responses to Evacuation Information

A common reaction to a potential disaster is disbelief. Individuals often try to confirm that there is a threat by seeking additional information about the situation. It is possible that minorities may tend to make more contacts during the warning confirmation process than do nonminority communities.

Researchers have found racial and ethnic differences in the likelihood of evacuation in some disasters. For example, during Hurricane Katrina:

  • The Vietnamese population preferred to seek assistance through informal networks such as families, friends, and churches.
  • The Latino population was more likely to seek assistance through official channels, though concern about proof of identity and immigration status prevented many survivors from seeking help.
  • American Indians evacuated to other reservations or did not relocate at all, and were seeking support from tribes and Native organizations across the country, as well as from smaller nonprofit organizations.

Promoting Community-Based Resiliency Through Diversity

Valuing diversity helps us foster community-based resiliency by:

  • Learning from local leaders, and community members of different cultural groups about their values, family norms, traditions, community politics, etc., ideally before a disaster strikes.
  • Involving staff and community outreach workers who are bilingual and bicultural whenever possible. Involve trusted community members to enhance credibility.
  • Determining the most appropriate and acceptable ways to introduce yourself, and define your program and services to be culturally sensitive.
  • Recognizing cultural variation in expression of emotions, as well as in manifestation and description of problems.
  • Providing community education information in multiple language, multiple sources, and multiple accessible formats.

Accommodating Cultural Differences

During Hurricane Sandy, there were efforts to meet cultural needs and expectations by integrating those considerations into available disaster resources. For example, meals ready to eat (MRE) were made available in accessible packaging, Kosher, non-pork, infants and children, and vegetarian, as well as cultural recipes where possible.

Information presentations for impacted communities utilized accessible formats for languages and persons with disabilities.

Accommodating Cultural Differences During the Northridge Earthquake

After the Northridge earthquake, a crisis counseling brochure featured the color red. In serving the Hmong population, the crisis counseling program utilized the color red in many printed materials and supplies because Hmong culture includes a belief that red symbolically wards off evil spirits.

Another consideration involved the Hmong belief that floods are an omen of doom and that shaman cleansing rituals are needed to counter the bad luck that this omen portends. As a way of acknowledging and respecting this belief, the staff developed and provided a referral list of shamans in the local area.

Equal Rights Advisors/Specialists

Equal Rights Advisors/Specialists use their specialized expertise to:

  • Work proactively with FEMA organizational elements, including temporary disaster field organizations (e.g., Joint Field Offices, Disaster Recovery Centers, etc.) to resolve individual or group civil rights issues.
  • Consult with FEMA program officials to ensure all eligible recipients are provided with access and equal opportunities.
  • Provides guidance on the needs and interests of internal and external FEMA customers and stakeholders.
  • Ensure accessibility at all FEMA facilities, or other meetings and events.
  • Assist FEMA employees, employment applicants, and managers to resolve potential discriminatory problems quickly.

The job of the Equal Rights Specialist often is described as “providing mitigation for people.” Just as FEMA works with individuals and communities to avoid or lessen the impact of natural hazards, Equal Rights Advisors work proactively to mitigate current and future people problems.

Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams and Other External Affairs Personnel

FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams (DSA Teams) are among the first to reach out to the disaster-affected community after a presidential disaster declaration. Their priority is outreach and communication regarding the assistance available through FEMA. They seek to identify special requirements within the community that might hinder getting information or registering for disaster assistance, including identifying those who are Limited English Proficient.

External Affairs and the Joint Information Center (JIC) at the Joint Field Office are tasked with communicating with the public and other external audiences. Disaster communication messages must take into account the varied reactions that people have during emergencies, including those reactions related to age, educational status, language, and cultural norms.

Tribal Liaisons

There are approximately 550 federally recognized tribes in the United States, each with its unique history and culture. After a disaster, FEMA works directly and indirectly with affected tribes.

Some challenges those unfamiliar with tribal culture might experience:

  • Protocol requires an invitation from the tribal leaders—you do not just show up.
  • Time is treated differently. You will be on tribal time and should never interrupt tribal leaders.
  • Ceremonies are important facets of life and allowing time for such events is a show of respect.

Tribal Liaisons are well versed in the cultural diversity of tribes and can establish positive relationships to support the disaster recovery.

Disability Integration Advisors

Within FEMA, the Disability Integration Advisor (DISA) provides advice, technical assistance, subject matter expertise, information, and training to FEMA staff on disability integration, including:

  • The accessibility of current service delivery systems in the community that are used by disaster survivors with disabilities or access and functional needs.
  • Ensures the concept of disability is integrated into Agency operations, delivery of services and policy development.
  • 508 accessibility of materials published by FEMA’s Office of External Affairs
  • Use of Assistive Technology (AT) in a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC).

In the community, the Disability Integration Advisor provides coordination, information, and technical assistance. The DISA supports a network of local organizations that advocate for and provide services to people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.

The Disability Integration Advisor interfaces with the Office of Equal Rights to ensure the needs of the community are met.

FEMA’s Vision for Diversity and Inclusion

FEMA’s vision for diversity and inclusion is:

“An inclusive environment in which the Agency leverages diversity to achieve mission goals and business objectives, and to maximize the potential of individuals and the organization.” (FEMA Diversity and Inclusion Plan FY 2015-2019, p. 1)

FEMA’s leadership is committed to creating a diverse work environment and challenges each employee to promote inclusion, equity, and respect in the workplace. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, in his Diversity and Inclusion Policy Statement, states:

“It is important that we continue to foster a culture of inclusion and respect, and promote a culture that embraces diversity and allows each and every employee an opportunity to achieve their full potential. Each person’s skills, talents, experiences, and characteristics broaden the range of approaches to FEMA’s work and I challenge each of you to join me in ensuring that our Agency takes the lead in reflecting the diverse fabric of American society.” (FEMA Diversity and Inclusion Plan FY 2015-2019, p. 12)

 

Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce

In August 2011, President Obama issued an executive order establishing a coordinated government-wide initiative for promoting diversity and inclusion. In Executive Order 13583, President Obama states:

To realize more fully the goal of using the talents of all segments of society, the Federal Government must continue to challenge itself to enhance its ability to recruit, hire, promote, and retain a more diverse workforce. Further, the Federal Government must create a culture that encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness to enable individuals to participate to their full potential.

This executive order requires the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to develop a government-wide strategic Diversity and Inclusion Plan; identify practices for establishing a diverse and inclusive workplace; and, to establish a reporting system to monitor the progress of Federal agencies.

Executive Order 13583 further requires all Federal departments and agencies to implement the plan developed by OPM and to establish agency specific plans toward implementation.

FEMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan

The success of the Diversity and Inclusion Plan requires that Agency leaders embrace and champion its implementation. The plan includes elements that are measureable, allowing for the evaluation of progress and success regularly to ensure accountability. The following three principal goals are based on and support the core tenet of the plan for 2015-2019:

  1. Build a work environment that promotes diversity and inclusion.
  2. Build, develop, retain and engage a diverse workforce.
  3. Build a sustained leadership commitment to a diverse FEMA through education, accountability, and total workforce engagement.

FEMA’s mission and core values are supported by each of the above goals in the achievement of the Agency’s diversity vision.

Select this link to review FEMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan.

Leadership Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

In support of the third goal of FEMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan, FEMA’s executive leadership, managers, and supervisors at all levels must be committed to actions that demonstrate diversity is more than a social imperative—diversity is a critical business imperative.

This means that FEMA’s leaders at all levels must:

  • Accept responsibility to foster a positive and inclusive workplace culture;
  • Participate to the fullest extent possible in the formulation and execution of FEMA’s diversity-related programs, policies, strategies, and initiatives;
  • Lead initiatives to integrate diversity into all organizational planning processes;
  • Help to build, develop, retain, and engage a diverse workforce through recruitment, hiring, and retention initiatives;
  • Be accountable for creating a work environment that is inclusive and promotes diversity principles and values;
  • Are accountable for creating a work environment that is inclusive and promotes diversity principles and values;
  • Engage and include organizational employees in diversity strategies; and
  • Recognize that diversity management is a significant part of their role as FEMA’s leaders, and that they are held accountable for sustaining a diverse workforce.

FEMA Diversity Management Advisory Council

The FEMA Diversity Management Advisory Council:

  • Support the FEMA Administrator, FEMA Deputy Administrators, and the Agency’s Associate and Regional Administrators in the achievement of FEMA’s global Diversity Vision and related goals.
  • Serve as “change agents” focused on creating a “culture of diversity” across FEMA through visible commitment and frequent communication and by making diversity a key factor in organizational planning.
  • Ensure organizational diversity activities are coordinated, leveraged, and effectively contribute to building, developing, retaining and engaging a diverse workforce.
  • Guide implementation of the FEMA Diversity and Inclusion Plan.
  • Ensure managers and employees in the members’ respective organizations:
    • Complete mandatory EEO and diversity training; and:
    • Are aware of and encouraged to participate in special emphasis events.
  • Ensure that FEMA actively supports and contributes to the Department of Homeland Security’s overall diversity goals and initiatives, through coordination with the DHS Diversity Management Council.

Lesson Summary

This completes this lesson. In this lesson you learned:

  • FEMA’s Vision of Diversity.
  • FEMA’s commitment to diversity as stated in FEMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a Nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. FEMA’s workforce is the means to successful accomplishment of that mission – which makes diversity a critical business imperative.

FEMA’s vision for diversity and inclusion is:

“An inclusive environment in which the Agency leverages diversity to achieve mission goals and business objectives, and to maximize the potential of individuals and the organization.” (FEMA Diversity and Inclusion Plan FY 2015-2019, p. 1)

The three principal goals of FEMA’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan are to:

  • Build a work environment that promotes diversity and inclusion.
  • Build, develop, retain and engage a diverse workforce.
  • Build a sustained leadership commitment to a diverse FEMA through education, accountability, and total workforce engagement.

Valuing diversity helps us foster community-based resiliency. Before interacting with community members, it is important to learn about their values, family norms, traditions, and community politics. It is important that we take steps to understand and respect each other rather than simply tolerate our differences. FEMA has many resources available to bridge cultural or other divides that can otherwise hinder disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation.

FEMA’s executive leadership, managers, and supervisors at all levels must be committed to actions that forward FEMA’s vision and mission for diversity and inclusion. A diverse workforce benefits us all by broadening our horizons and giving us opportunities to learn from each other.

Lesson Overview

The previous lesson focused on FEMA’s organizational commitment to diversity. This lesson presents personal actions you can take to optimize diversity.
Graphics representing the three topic areas covered in the course: Defining Diversity, Valuing Diversity, and Optimizing Diversity (highlighted)
Upon completion of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Describe how culture influences our interactions with others.
  • Describe the actions you can take to optimize diversity.

Optimizing Diversity

Optimizing diversity is not just an issue of being nice to each other. We must value and utilize the unique perspectives and talents of all employees.

Optimizing diversity includes:

  • Recognizing the differences that make each of us unique.
  • Attracting people of all backgrounds to work together and serve as change agents to create a respectful work environment.
  • Creating an environment where everyone is appreciated and has a chance to succeed.
  • Recognizing how attitudes toward differences influence our interactions with others.

Awareness and Acceptance of Difference

Optimizing diversity begins with your acceptance of and respect for differences. Acceptance of differences means you believe that:

  • FEMA is a stronger organization because the Agency is comprised of individuals from different backgrounds.
  • Different insights, choices, beliefs, and points of view all make for a stronger and more prepared community.

Resistance to change is an indicator of a lack of tolerance of differences. A prevailing “We’ve always done it this way” mentality silences new ideas, inhibits progress, and limits diversity.

Attitudes Toward Differences

Recognizing how you feel about some differences and increasing awareness of your own attitudes can be a challenge. Everyone has preconceived notions. Predispositions are often related to our own cultural background, life experiences, or other dimensions such as age, race, religion, occupation, and so on.

Knowing where you stand in terms of your own beliefs is a crucial part of being able to form relationships with coworkers, FEMA customers, and others who are different from you.

Cultural Awareness and Diversity

Our cultural values inform every part of our day—how we dress, how we act, and how we react. Many people are unaware of just how strongly their culture influences:

  • Beliefs and reactions to situations.
  • Norms, codes of behavior, and ethical standards for decision-making.
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication styles and expectations.
  • Notions of time.

To develop cross-cultural skills you need to go beyond what you see on the surface. You need to understand why different people have these cultural differences.

Your Own Cultural Values

Becoming aware of your own cultural values is an important aspect of being able to optimize diversity. Your cultural values stem from the group(s) with which you most identify. This association is often passed from generation to generation, but not all cultural values are formed in childhood.

Ask yourself: Who do you interact with today? Who do you talk to, socialize with, and work alongside? Who are your customers?

The more diverse your associations, the more developed your cultural values and understanding will be.

Overcoming Boundaries

The ability to interact effectively with a diverse set of individuals and groups requires that you:

  • Are aware of your own viewpoint and influences. Understand that the similarities and differences among people are both important.
  • Understand your preconceived notions and attitudes toward differences. Accept that there are multiple ways to reach the same goal and to live life.
  • Learn about differences. Participate in awareness events. Be curious. Curiosity expands your current assumptions, breaks down cultural barriers, and builds awareness, appreciation, and understanding of differences among people.
  • Communicate. Be motivated and have the skills to communicate and interact with a diverse set of individuals and groups.

Avoid Miscommunication

Cultural differences can lead to misperceptions and communication breakdowns. Miscommunication due to cultural differences may:

  • Increase tension and frustration in the workplace as well as perpetuate stereotypes.
  • Reduce productivity and cause job satisfaction to decline.
  • Prevent disaster survivors from having access to services.
  • Lead individuals to believe that they have received discriminatory treatment.
  • Impact our ability to deliver effective customer service.

If a cultural communication misstep does occur, a sincere apology and willingness to learn usually suffice. Remember, you can also consult with the Office of Equal Rights or other agency resource for advice.

Approach others with interest and openness

Approach generational and cultural differences with interest, not fear or negativity. Take interest in the interests of others. You can learn fascinating things about other people if you choose to do so.

Speak clearly and concisely

Focus on slowing down your speech. Try not to rush your communication. Remember it takes more time to correct miscommunication and misunderstanding. Speaking clearly and concisely using normal conversational cadence is respectful of cultural differences. Where language differences exist, presentation in different relevant languages promotes diversity.

Ask for clarification

Focus on slowing down your speech. Try not to rush your communication. Remember it takes more time to correct miscommunication and misunderstanding. Speaking clearly and concisely using normal conversational cadence is respectful of cultural differences. Where language differences exist, presentation in different relevant languages promotes diversity.

Check your understanding frequently

Check both that you’ve understood what’s been said and that others have fully understood you. Use active listening to check your own understanding (e.g., “So what you are saying is . . . ”) and use open-ended questions to check other people’s understanding.

Avoid generational or cultural idioms

Language is contextual and has cultural implications. Examples of idioms include sports or other expressions, such as: “ace in a hole” and “a long row to hoe.” As a good general rule, if the phrase requires knowledge of other information—be it a game, generational event, or metaphor—recognize that this reference may make your communication more difficult to be understood, or even worse, offensive.

Be careful of jargon

Watch the use of TLAs (Three-Letter Abbreviations) and other language or jargon that may not be understood by others. Many abbreviations may mean something different to others.

Be patient

Cross-cultural communication may take more time.

Nonverbal Communication

When verbal and nonverbal channels of communication are out of sync, most people tend to rely on the nonverbal message, and disregard the verbal content. Many believe nonverbal messages reflect our inner thoughts and intentions more honestly than verbal communication.

We all respond to these nonverbal signals and cues whether we are consciously aware of this process or not. In a face-to-face interaction, our body language (including facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact) and tone of voice alone account for more than 90% of message we send to others. Our words account for only 7% of the message.

Our beliefs and cultural backgrounds add meaning to these nonverbal cues, which can differ greatly between cultures. Perceptual differences, such as visual or hearing impairments can also add variance to how these nonverbal cues are communicated and interpreted. Misunderstandings can quickly occur when we misinterpret unspoken messages.

Common Gestures and Cultural Interpretations

Below are just a few of examples of how common gestures and body language can have different meanings.

Thumbs-Up

In Western cultures the thumbs-up is a positive, indicating a job well done (probably stemming from World War II pilots using the signal to communicate that they were “good to go” with ground crews).

In most of the Middle East, Latin America, and West Africa, as well as Greece, Russia, Sardinia, and the south of Italy, the thumbs-up is considered an obscene gesture.

Hands on the Hips

In the United States, hands at the hip may denote openness and acceptance to the talker while in other cultures the gesture is seen as arrogance, while hooking thumbs at the belt may transmit naughty implications in some countries.

Soles of Shoes

In many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, the soles of shoes, sandals, or feet are considered unclean. When crossing legs, feet, or shoes should not be pointed toward anyone.

Eye Contact

In the United States, making eye contact with another person is thought to be confident and bold (and boldness is considered a good trait!). However, in many Asian, African, and Latin American cultures, extended eye contact may be seen as an affront or a challenge of authority.

Creating Norms for Effective Teams

Respecting diversity recognizes that there may be some differences in how cultures, generations or geographical populations view similar concepts. Developing norms helps to ensure that the culturally diverse team is on the same page and have similar operational expectations. Norms provide context about how team members will interact, communicate, and respect the work environment. Sample norms include:

Sending an acknowledgement in response to important email messages.

When you’ve made a commitment you can’t keep, let the other coworkers know as soon as possible.

Treat all team member issues and concerns as valid even if you don’t agree with them.

Be specific. Spell out your expectations and deadlines. Instead of saying: “Please get back to me shortly,” say: “Please email the completed report by 5 pm Eastern Standard time on Wednesday, February 21.”

How to Create Norms

At the beginning of a meeting or project, all team members should be invited to offer a norm, or guideline, by writing them down or verbalizing them. An assigned team member posts all of these norms on chart paper or whiteboard until all suggestions have been offered. The full team discusses the norms posted. The norms listed may be altered and questioned, but a complete list of norms should be agreed upon by all team members before moving forward with the project.

Contradictions should be resolved before moving forward. For example, someone might ask how he or she can be expected to attend a Friday meeting when he or she works from home on Fridays. The resulting discussion helps team members brainstorm solutions to issues that arise that, if not addressed, can lead to frustration and resentment.

The discussion may also address personal preferences with regard to team support. For example, one team member asks for others to offer help if he is under pressure whereas another team member requests to be left alone to concentrate on the work. The discussion will help others appreciate that asking others what they prefer in any given situation is better than assuming all team members want the same kind of treatment.

Periodically reviewing the norms offers team members the opportunity to raise concerns, address grievances, and make adjustments as needed. Remember, norms are not static and can be revised at any time to reflect what is important to the team.

Disability Awareness

Understanding and including people with disabilities is more than just a moral obligation, it is also a legal obligation. In order to meet these obligations, we must:

  • Define disability as a legal term
  • Outline the broader definition of the term disability
  • Explain our role in providing reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities
  • Understand FEMA’s mission for disability integration in order to implement it
  • Describe “hidden” disabilities
  • Practice good disability etiquette and know what language to avoid

“Disability” As a Legal Term

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended in 2008, a “person with a disability” is a legal term that describes a protected class within the Department Of Justice’s civil rights legislation, in order that they may be entitled to certain benefits and accommodations.

The ADA defines a “disability” as, “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the individual’s major life activities.”

The ADA defines a “person with a disability” as an individual who fits one or more of the following conditions:

  • An individual who has an actual disability.
  • An individual who has a record of an impairment to one or more major life activities. This part of the definition could apply to a person who had such an impairment, but does not have the impairment at the present time.
  • An individual who is regarded as having such an impairment. This part of the definition addresses a case when a covered entity takes an action prohibited by the ADA because of an actual or perceived impairment that is not both transitory and minor.

A Broader Definition of “Disability”

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) made a number of significant changes to the original definition of “disability” outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

One significant change was to broaden the definition of “major life activities.” In the new definition:

Major life activities now include the operation of major bodily functions, including functions of the immune system, special sense organs and skin, normal cell growth, digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive functions.

As a result of the ADAAA’s recognition of “the operation of major bodily functions” as major life activities, individuals with certain types of impairments will be identified as having a disability. In effect, this change means the definition of a “person with a disability” is more inclusive in the ADAAA of 2008 than it was in the original ADA of 1990. Under this new definition, some chronic diseases can be considered disabilities.

Individuals with Dexterity and Mobility Limitations

Dexterity disabilities may include quadriplegia, paraplegia, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy (CP), stroke, upper body amputation, or significant repetitive stress injuries.

Individuals Who are Blind or Have Low Vision

Individuals who are blind, have low vision or have visual impairments, are considered to have different limitations and should be treated accordingly.

Individuals Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Deaf refers to individuals who are unable to hear well enough to understand speech, preventing the use of speech as a means for processing information. Hard of hearing limitations can range widely from the ability to hear only environmental sounds to those who can understand speech, usually with the help of a hearing aid or cochlear implants.

Individuals with Cognitive Limitations

Individuals with cognitive limitations can include: individuals who experience memory loss, perception problems or other issues which can be caused by dyslexia, ADHD, stroke, PTSD, TBI or other conditions.

Individuals with Communication Limitations

Communication limitations can be caused by Cerebral Palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury, ALS, MS or other conditions.

Accommodating an Aging Workforce

With the baby boomer generation and federal workers staying on the job longer, more employees may encounter age-related disabilities.

Your Role: Providing Reasonable Accommodation for People with Disabilities

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The legislative changes from the ADAAA apply broadly to all Federal agencies as part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under the Rehabilitation Act, Federal agencies have a legal obligation and responsibility to provide equal opportunity for people with disabilities in the course of conducting all of their programs, services, and activities.

“Hidden” Disabilities

Given the ADAAA’s revised definition of “disability,” many impairments meeting the legal definition of a disability are not readily visible and may not even be present at all times for the individual. These “hidden disabilities” may include, but are not limited to:

  • Chronic diseases, such as:
    • Cancer
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/Environmental Illness (MCS/EI)
  • Psychiatric disorders, such as:
    • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Stroke

Disability Etiquette

A person with a disability is an individual FIRST – treat him or her with the same respect and dignity that you would show any other individual. When speaking with someone who has a disability, always put the person first. For example, refer to a person with multiple sclerosis as a “person with MS,” not an “MS patient.”

The following are some tips for interacting with people who have disabilities or access and functional needs.

  • ALWAYS…Ask before you act!
  • Don’t make assumptions.
  • Think before you speak.
  • No need to shout or speak loudly.
  • Be sensitive about physical contact.
  • Respond graciously to requests.
  • Always speak to the person with a disability, NOT to their companion or interpreter.
  • Never touch or play with a service animal when one is being used.

Language to Avoid

When speaking of, or directly to, a person with a disability, avoid the following language.

  • Avoid the term “confinement.” As in, “confined to …”
  • Avoid negative, disempowering words, such as, “victim” or “sufferer.”
  • Avoid using idiomatic expressions, such as:
    • “Let’s take a walk.”
    • “See you later.”
  • Avoid outdated terms like “handicapped,” “crippled,” and “retarded.”
  • Avoid euphemisms. Examples to avoid include:
    • “Differently-abled”
    • “Physically Challenged”

FEMA’s Mission for Disability Integration

FEMA has made equal access to its programs and services a priority, as part of its broader mission to strengthen the whole community’s capacity to prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate the impact of disasters.  FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC), established in 2010, has the mission of.

Lead[ing] FEMA’s commitment to achieving whole community emergency management, inclusive of individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, by providing guidance, tools, methods and strategies to establish equal physical, program and effective communication access.

FEMA’s ODIC aims to achieve inclusion, integration, dignity, independence, accessibility and self-determination for individuals with disabilities before, during and after a disaster.

FEMA’s National Response Framework defines “people with disabilities and access and functional needs” according to a need or limitation. This is a function-based definition that serves individuals who may or may not meet the definition of disability as defined by law. This function-based definition serves FEMA’s mission by keeping the focus on what the individual needs in terms of access or accommodation, rather than on identifying the particular disability.

What is Section 508?

According to the US Census, twenty percent (20%) of the population has one or more disabilities affecting one or more major life functions. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires that Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities have access to information and data which is comparable to that of people without disabilities.

Electronic and information technology (EIT) products that are procured, developed, maintained, or used by a Federal agency, including products that store, process, transmit, convert, duplicate, or receive electronic information must meet Section 508 accessibility guidelines. Some of the most comment EIT products include:

  • public-facing and internal websites
  • office documents (e.g., Word, PDF)
  • videos
  • computers
  • software
  • copiers
  • fax machines
  • other telecommunications products

Yes, You Do Have a Role

Section 508 affects every employee within FEMA, not just those who work with technology or procurement.  As a part of our culture of inclusion, each employee must take proactive steps to ensure that our workplace and the electronic information we distribute are equally accessible to everyone. You have an active role when you serve as a:

  • Requirements Official
  • Procurement Official
  • EIT Vendor or Partner
  • EIT Professional Disaster Response Employee
  • Meeting Host (e.g., Conference call, Online Presentation)
  • Content Author (e.g., Office documents and Websites)
  • Distributor or Publisher of information (e.g., Websites and Broadcast E-mail)

Online Resources and Training for Section 508 Compliance

The FEMA Section 508 Resource Center serves as a comprehensive source for accessibility standards, guidance, governance, testing, training and job aids in support of employee and Agency accessibility efforts. The DHS Office on Accessible Systems & Technology (OAST) offers several hands-on courses on Section 508 compliance which are available at no cost to employees and contractors and includes:

  • Section 508 Awareness training for all FEMA employees.
  • Specialized training for COR’s, Program and Project Managers.
  • Instructions for creating accessible office documents, PDFs, and fillable forms.
  • Certification in Software and Web-based Applications compliance testing.

The following are additional sources of information on Section 508:

Overcoming Barriers: LGBTQIA Awareness

As stated earlier, the ability to interact effectively with a diverse set of individuals and groups requires that you:

  • Are aware of your own viewpoint and influences. Understand that the similarities and differences among people are both important.
  • Understand your preconceived notions and attitudes toward differences. Accept that there are multiple ways to reach the same goal and to live life.
  • Learn about differences. Participate in awareness events. Be curious. Curiosity expands your current assumptions, breaks down cultural barriers, and builds awareness, appreciation, and understanding of differences among people.
  • Communicate. Be motivated and have the skills to communicate and interact with a diverse set of individuals and groups.

All of the above considerations serve to increase your self awareness and your understanding of differences between yourself and others.

What Does LGBTQIA Stand For?

LGBTQIA stands for:

Lesbian

A term given to females who are attracted sexually and emotionally to some other females.

Gay

A term given to people of the same gender who are attracted sexually and emotionally to each other. More commonly used to describe male-to-male attraction than female-to-female attraction.

Bisexual

A term given to people who are attracted sexually and emotionally to some males and females.

Transgender

A general, umbrella term given to people whose gender expression at least sometimes runs contrary to what others in the same culture would normally expect. It applies to a variety of individuals, behaviors and groups who vary from usual gender roles. The state of one’s gender identity does not match one’s biological sex.

Questioning

Refers to individuals who are unsure about their sexual orientation and as a result are “questioning their identity.”

Intersex

A person whose characteristics are not categorized as exclusively male or exclusively female (Hermaphrodite).

Ally

A person who does not identify with LGBTQIA, but supports the rights and safety of those who do.

Terms Related to Gender Identity

Understanding some of the common terms related to gender identity can help to better understand the LGBTQIA community.   The following are some additional terms and their definitions:

  • Gender Identity. The term used to describe a person’s internal psychological sense of their gender.
  • Transition. The process of changing the gender role a person takes on publicly from one that matches their assigned sex at birth to one that matches their gender identity.
  • Transsexual. More specifically describes transgender people who have undergone genital surgery.
  • Transvestite. Male heterosexuals who cross-dress as females.

Offensive vs. Non-Offensive Language Related to LGBTQIA

The following are some examples of derogatory terms related to transgendered individuals:

  • Tranny, She-Male, He-She, It, Gender-bender, Shim
  • Refusing to use the proper pronoun when addressing a transgender individual

When describing an individual or group who is transgendered, the following terms are appropriate and non-offensive:

  • Transgender woman
  • Transgender man
  • Transgender people

The term “gay” is an accepted and widely-used and non-offensive term, referring to a male homosexual.  The term “lesbian” is a similarly widely-used and non-offensive term, referring to a female homosexual.

The following are some examples of derogatory terms and figures of speech related to homosexual individuals, which should be avoided:

  • Queer, Fag, Faggot, Fruit, Fruitcake
  • Dyke, Lesbo
  • “That’s so gay.”

Workplace Concerns for the LGBTQIA Community

The LGBTQIA community share many concerns related to inclusion and respect in the workplace.  The following are some terms that describe a few major areas of concern:

  • Heterosexism.  (inclusion or exclusion)
  • Fear. (homophobia and transphobia)
  • Harassment & Hostile Work Environment. (jokes, comments, threats)
  • Lavender Ceiling. (advancement/promotion)
  • Unconscious Bias. (What we don’t know can get us in trouble.)
  • Use of restrooms. (OPM guidance states agencies should allow access to restrooms based on employee’s gender identity.)

Landmark Supreme Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

On June 26, 2015, in a landmark United States Supreme Court case, the Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. This ruling effectively legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, its possessions and territories.

There are many federal benefits for married spouses and families, under federal law, such as health insurance and social security benefits. As of June 26, 2015, these federal benefits are afforded equally to both same-sex married couples and opposite-sex married couples and their families.

Summary of Federal Legislation Leading to Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

1996 – The Defense of Marriage Act Signed into Law

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into United States federal law on September 21, 1996 by President Bill Clinton. The DOMA granted legislative authority to each state government to decide whether or not to recognize same-sex marriage within their state. State governments were allowed, if they chose to do so, to ban same-sex marriages within their state. The DOMA also allowed each state to elect not to recognize the legitimacy of a same-sex marriage, even if the marriage had already been sanctioned by another state.

Section 3 of the DOMA went even further than defining authority of the states in the matter of same-sex marriage, however. Section 3 codified the definition of marriage as “the union between one man and one woman” into federal law. This meant that federal law would recognize only heterosexual marriages as meeting the legal definition of marriage.

The impact of this definition of marriage within federal law was far reaching, since this definition served as the legal definition of marriage for over a thousand federal laws and programs.

2011 – Changes to DOMA under the Obama Administration

In 2011, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder decided that this legal definition of marriage in Section 3 of the DOMA served primarily to impose inequality against a class of people. On February 23, 2011, the Attorney General ruled that Section 3 of the DOMA is unconstitutional and it would be untenable to continue to defend the law’s constitutionality in the courts.  The Obama Administration directed the Justice Department to stop defending the law’s constitutionality in court from that day forward.  However, this decision by the Attorney General did not serve to repeal the DOMA itself.  Attorney General Holder said the Obama Administration would continue to enforce the Act itself, unless Congress repeals it or a court delivers a “definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality.”

2013 – DOMA Section 3 ruled unconstitutional, and California’s Proposition 8 overturned by the Supreme Court

CloseOn June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court made two landmark rulings regarding same-sex marriage. First, the court ruled officially that Section 3 of the DOMA was unconstitutional. President Obama said in a statement on the day of the Supreme Court’s ruling that Section 3 of the DOMA was “discrimination enshrined in law”.

Coupled with the Supreme Court’s ruling on Section 3 of the DOMA, the Supreme Court made an additional ruling on California’s same-sex marriage ban, known as Proposition 8. The State of California chose not to appeal an earlier decision to overturn Proposition 8, which meant that same-sex marriage would become legal in California in 2010. In lieu of the State of California’s appeal, a private party who were proponents of the law, sought the appeal instead. The Supreme Court decided that the private party did not have the legal right to defend the constitutionality of a state statute in court. On these grounds, the result of this ruling was the final overturn of Proposition 8 at the level of the Supreme Court. After a long series of case rulings and voter legislation that started in California in the year 2000 with Proposition 22, there was a final lifting of the same-sex marriage ban for the state of California.

After these two landmark Supreme Court decisions on June 26, 2013, the federal government now recognized same-sex marriages as equal to opposite-sex marriages.

However, the DOMA was not yet officially repealed by Congress, and states were still authorized to create their own legislation regarding same-sex marriage. Some states still held state-level bans on same-sex marriage.

2015 – Marriage Equality becomes Law

On June 26, 2015, in a landmark United States Supreme Court case, the Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The ruling requires all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions.

This ruling effectively repealed the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 and legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, its possessions and territories.

Lesoon Summary

This completes this lesson.  In this lesson you learned:

  • How culture influences our interactions with others.
  • The actions you can take to optimize diversity.

Respecting diversity recognizes that there may be some differences in how cultures, generations or geographical populations view similar concepts. Developing norms helps to ensure that a culturally diverse team is on the same page and have similar operational expectations. Norms provide context about how team members will interact, communicate, and respect the work environment.

FEMA has made equal access to its programs and services a priority, as part of its broader mission to strengthen the whole community’s capacity to prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate the impact of disasters.

Section 508 accessibility is an important component of this mission. As a part of our culture of inclusion, each employee must take proactive steps to ensure that our workplace and the electronic information we distribute are equally accessible to everyone.

Understanding and including people with disabilities is both a moral obligation and a legal obligation. Every employee plays a part in meeting these obligations by treating people with disabilities with the same respect and dignity that you would show any other individual, and by taking proactive steps to provide reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities.

Understanding and including members of the LGBTQIA community is also both a moral and a legal obligation. The LGBTQIA community share many concerns related to inclusion and respect in the workplace. Understanding some of the common terms related to gender identity and some of the common workplace concerns shared by the LGBTQIA community can help us to proactively foster inclusion and respect in the workplace. The recent legalization of same-sex marriage means that same-sex married couples will have equal access to the same legal benefits and entitlements as opposite-sex married couples.

Diversity Awareness Video Transcript

“I prefer to work with men. They are strong and do all the work.”

“Can the Disabled do this?”

“Why can’t they speak English?”

“How many holidays do you celebrate?”

“Are you planning to retire soon?”

“Where are you actually from?”

“These kids they don’t appreciate anything”

“Women are always moody”

“HQ, Regional, NPSCs”

“What’s your employment status?”

In FEMA, managing diversity means acknowledging people’s differences and recognizing these differences as valuable; it enhances good management practices by preventing discrimination and promoting inclusiveness. When managed properly, diversity in the workplace can leverage the strengths and complement the weaknesses of each employee to make the impact of the workforce greater than the sum of its parts.

Most people believe in the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated. The implicit assumption is that how you want to be treated is how others want to be treated. We may share similar values, such as respect or need for recognition, but how we show those values through behavior may be different for different groups or individuals. How do we know what different groups or individuals need? Perhaps instead of using the golden rule, we could use the platinum rule: “treat others as theywant to be treated.”

Ignoring diversity issues costs time, money, and efficiency. Some of the consequences can include unhealthy tensions; loss of productivity; increased conflict; inability to attract and retain talented people resulting in lost investments in recruitment and training; omplaints and legal actions.

From a study by the Government Business Council, that surveyed government employees including federal leaders from more than 30 departments and agencies, one survey respondent stated, “Inclusion and Diversity simply means relationships based upon respect for self and respect for others. We can accomplish much more if we make the effort to understand what respect means for each person in our sphere of influence and for the organization in which we work.”

Everyone is responsible for a respectful workplace.

Every Employee’s Challenge

For FEMA employees appreciating and respecting diversity and cultural differences is crucial to mission success. We interact with diverse groups not only in the workplace, but—most importantly—as we serve the people and communities affected by disaster.

In his message to all FEMA employees, Agency Administrator Fugate challenged employees to join in ensuring that FEMA “better and consistently reflects the diverse fabric of American society.”

Course Summary

Embracing diversity involves recognizing and respecting the cultural differences that make each of us unique. Recognizing our own attitudes, verbal communication styles, and nonverbal cues can have a positive influence on our interactions with others.

Optimizing diversity is not about creating a visually diverse workforce; it is about creating aa productive workforce with opportunities for success.