The Business of Diversity_ BlogHer11 asks is diversity good for business?

BlogHer11 hosted a panel discussion on diversity to remind people that diversity is good for business. Most would agree that this is just common sense. You'd hope that on the most basic level the question of how to include more diverse business owners into the corporate roster that also reflects the market being served would be unnecessary to discuss. But that is not the case.

This panel was rather lightly attended it seemed by both participants and brand or corporate reps. But if you were present, please hollah. I would be interested to know which brands you are or to learn that I am wrong.

I held high expectations but came away feeling frustrated that this conversation seemed unable to move beyond an identification of the problem. The panelists, all "minorities" --- depending upon whether the word "minority" means anything to you ---is just my way of saying there were a couple of smart brown girls, one from the Latino community and an equally smart girl from the LGBT community. Each has moved beyond obscurity in their particular niche and is now actually doing business with brands or corporations. This positioned them to be authorities for those of us seeking to work with brands. But based on the discussion, I wondered whether that status was an impediment to them being able to have an open or fresh conversation. I mean, if you are doing business with the devil (just an analogy meant to be funny) can you diss them in a public forum? Uhh, no, not if you want to continue doing business with them. Right? Let me put that another way: Can you speak candidly about the problems of doing business with someone you are now doing business with, who has treated you like you were invisible in the past, if you don't want them to think you have a chip on your shoulder?

Some readers will recognize the whole chip on the shoulder comment as code for "stop complaining." Having lived as a black girl/woman all my life I can assure you of its meaning. I had one unpleasant experience with an exhibitor in the company of another blogger, so I know I was not being hyper-sensitive -- where I just felt I needed to clear the air. My blogger/friend stopped me. Because is it my job to educate them too? Is this someone I would want to work with? I needed to just keep it moving. Understand that unenlightened behavior is not enough to stop any BadAss majority minority from going for what she knows or wants. But because this behavior is not rare and it is real, MORE work is required (sometimes) for the same results as a minority majority. But I don't want to linger less someone feel I have a chip on my shoulder. I want to know if in the social media space this is just another area where MORE work is required to participate in the main arena. I left about 40 minutes into the panel. I just couldn't take the doublespeak that I was experiencing in the undertones and the unspoken.

I was hoping for suggested ways to sensitize gatekeepers so as to obtain recognition for my business. I had hoped that product gatekeepers would be present, acknowledge the act of underestimating the value of diversity in their business practices with specific undertakings to address this. And perhaps I had hoped to feel more optimistic about not being dismissed by the band in future endeavors. Be that as it may, negative experiences will not paralyze me.

The panelists and the moderator were cool. So please understand this is not personal. But what do you think about this perspective? Any suggestions going forward on how to move forward and garner results? Please share.

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