Why, Where to Begin, and Current Resources
"The really important thing is that we be vulnerable with ourselves and with our teams in asking why Oregon doesn’t look like the rest of the country. We need to understand how we are influenced and make decisions based on biases that we have been conditioned with our entire lives. Recognizing the environment in which we live and operate can at times be a hard pill to swallow. But unless we are willing to challenge our status quo, we will be unable to evolve… and if we aren’t evolving, we are dying off….” Ken Henson, Director of Restaurant Operations, Pelican Brewing Company & Kiwanda
Ken’s comment is so powerful to me. Being vulnerable and realizing that many of us lack the perspective and experience necessary to plan, create, and implement programs that encourage representation and participation of diverse groups in our organizations may feel daunting. And, though many of us have the desire, creating welcoming environments that are inclusive also of all guests’ needs is similarly challenging when we recognize that unconscious bias is a reality.
What resources are available to help understand these challenges? I asked a few industry colleagues, who have been invested in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work for quite some time, for recommendations and I’m including several of their favorites below. I will be posting more soon on the Foundation’s webpages.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE NEED FOR STRATEGIC DIRECTION AND INVESTMENT
Oregon history: why do we find ourselves where we are? Dawnielle Tehama, executive director of the Willamette Valley Visitor’s Association recommends this article to help everyone understand the history behind and the extent of bias which continues to present challenges in our state: https://bit.ly/RHofPDX. “Oregon is often touted as the most liberal State in the union, but the state continues to crawl from its deeply racist history…. In 1844, the provisional government of the territory passed a law banning slavery…. Any black person remaining would be flogged publicly every six months until he left. Five years later, another law was passed that forbade free African Americans from entering into Oregon.” Even as recently as 2016, “Portland is the whitest big city in America, with a population that is 72.2 percent white and only 6.3 percent African American… Because Oregon, and specifically Portland, its biggest city, are not very diverse, many white people may not even begin to think about, let alone understand, the inequalities.”
Understanding unconscious bias – This exercise, a free online tool from Harvard’s Project Implicit®, can help team members understand the term and how, despite best intention, most of us do have unconscious bias which affects the way we perceive, approach, and respond to those who are different than us. The surprising results of these tests often convince participants about their own need for training assistance and may help create buy in: Implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.
Company culture first – As the Director of People & Culture for Kimpton’s Portland properties, Alex Thompson is intrigued with successful DEI hiring, mentoring, and company culture models. He notes “While Slack is about as far away from hospitality as you can get and this article is a few years old, the principles are exactly the same. Key points include, ‘…the absence of a single diversity leader seems to signal that diversity and inclusion aren’t standalone missions, to be shunted off to a designated specialist, but are rather intertwined with the company's overall strategy.’” https://bit.ly/TAslackdiversity
Alex says he also appreciates this article, https://wapo.st/3g4nb95, which notes, “DEI-forced training appears to have the opposite of the intended effect, companies need to find more organic ways to communicate values and expectations and influence outcomes.”
Intention and result – Ken Henson shared the following with me, “Doing the right thing and wanting equality and inclusion for all isn’t enough. There are studies, such as this article in the Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2001/04/race-matters), which document how and why even the best-intentioned recruiting policies often fail from lack of insight and proper support.”
The Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), whose mission is to “bring the economic benefits of diversity and inclusion to the food and hospitality industry by building bridges and delivering solutions,” offers a myriad of resources. These include free webinars ranging from ‘Moving Beyond Unconscious Bias with Cultural Intelligence’ to ‘Insights for Building Effective Multicultural Teams during COVID-19.’ Find out more including podcasts, Town Hall meetings, and speakers for hire at mfha.net/category/news/webinars.
The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute collaborated with MFHA to create a five-part interactive training suite for employees that focuses on unconscious bias with topics that include Understanding Bias, The Impact of Bias at Work, and Dealing with Bias: Ours and Others.’ A Manager’s Training Edition is also available, visit ahlei.org/program/unconscious-bias.
Recommended Reading - On Dawnielle Tehama’s extensive list of recommended reading resources she includes this article https://bit.ly/3qmH9AG, written in 2017 and updated July 2020. Topic groups include Talking About Racism, Anti-Racist Facilitation, and The Role of White People in Anti-Racist Work.
The Oregon Hospitality Foundation is exploring opportunities to collaborate with statewide hospitality partners, as well as our counterparts in other states, with the intent to create an unconscious bias video training toolkit for Oregon’s frontline hospitality service staff. We will provide updates as we make progress with identifying funding for this project.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” - Leo Tolstoy
In the meantime, I would love to hear of your own favorite resources on these topics, so please feel free to drop me a line! | Wendy Popkin, Oregon Hospitality Foundation
Wendy Popkin is the Executive Director of the Oregon Hospitality Foundation, a nonprofit 501c3 dedicated to providing educational, training, and philanthropic support to Oregon’s restaurant, lodging, and tourism industry. Wendy is a 35-year career veteran who describes herself as “fanatically enthusiastic about helping others enjoy the same type of fabulous career opportunities I have enjoyed in the hospitality industry.” OregonHospitalityFoundation.org