Farnaz on Cultures and Archetypes, Featured, New Face of America, New World Trends, New Realities

It’s time to redefine Race and Multiculturalism – future is already here

When you hear the word Multicultural, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Hispanic? Black? Ethnic? Non-white? Let’s go a step further…. how about Multiculturalism? A multicultural society or virtue?  The philosophy of Multicultural existence?

Here’s what’s interesting… Dictionary defines multiculturalism by the view that the various cultures in a society merit equal respect and scholarly interest….the existence, recognition, or preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society. Sounds noble, doesn’t it? Yet this simple word can evoke so much fear and anger in some people, polarizing our society economically, geographically, and politically.

In my book, I defined “multicultural” as a mosaic of different cultures in one platform, intended to refer to a society that is ethnically and racially diverse, including Whites. Since then, I’ve come to realize that how we define race and ethnicity are very dynamic and confusing. Last year, I wrote about the New Multiracial Face of America, and how demographic tipping shifts are happening much sooner than expected.  I explained that the US census bureau started collecting details on multiracial population since 2000 when it first allowed respondents to check off more than one box for race—and 6.8 million people did so (6.7%). Ten years later that number jumped to 8.4% or 9 million, making multiracials one of the fastest growing population in the US. Then, in 2013, we started seeing 1 in 10 babies living with two parents being multiracial. A big jump from only 1% in 1970, according to Pew. This is clearly fueled by mixed race marriages, which has almost quadrupled. William Frey in his New Republic article indicated that now more than one in seven newlywed couples are multiracial, not counting non-married multiracial couples who are adding to the growing multiracial babies. Interestingly, almost half of these mixed marriages include Whites. So, again, multicultural can not mean non-white.

Today, we’ve reached a point that we can no longer define race biologically, anthropologically or genetically. Racial identity is a highly nuanced concept, and a very personal one influenced by culture, politics, religion, history and geography. And census bureau knows that.  Earlier this summer, Census started considering a new approach to asking about race in their 2020 census, by not using the term at all…and instead ask to check categories that best describe them, or definitions they identify with.  Race, origin and ethnicity were confusing and interchangeable.  US government, for example, identifies Hispanic as an ethnicity not a race.  The confusion reflects a larger debate about how to define race, which used to be seen as a fixed physical characteristic and now more commonly is viewed as a complex mix of family and social environment, historical or socio-political constructs, lifestyle, etc. And multiracial marriages and births is a phenomenon that will redefine how race is actually lived in America.

This is certainly cause to redefine multicultural exclusive of race, don’t you think? I’m starting to think that the mosaic of different people and cultures coexisting in the same platform and georgraphical area will soon become the same mosaic in each individual being that is multiracial, multiethnic, or simply not of one race/ethnicity. Seemingly, most of us are multicultural, according to the research and marketing firm Ethnifacts by virtue of where we live and who we marry, among other things. So while the U.S. Census estimates America’s whites will become a minority in 2043 (this projection was 2050 a few years ago) a lot of us say that future is already here.

More importantly, let’s not forget that marriage of European immigrants led to today’s white population in the US. It would seem only natural to anticipate similar boom of multiracial population. So what should we call them? American?




Guest Blog: How Stereotypes Influence The Hiring of Muslim Women in The United States

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.37.21 AMDue to popularity of my post, Muslim women creating fastest cultural shift,  I’m following up with a guest blog written by Karima Hana-Meksem, PhDResearcher, Writer & Consultant in Human Development and Leadership


Sometimes I teach the class called “Media Ethics” and ask my students to complete the phrase “Muslims are….” And they always say “terrorists” and I say how many of you heard the phrase “catholic terrorists” and they say “well no” and then I tell them “What about the Irish Republican Army”.  The idea that they are Christian terrorists… they do not think that way… It does not carry the same connotation for Christians…and that is purely a function of media.  (A participant in education-2010)

The purpose of the study was to contribute to a better understanding of employment discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or country of origin. More specifically, the study attempted to describe how religious stereotypes and religious artifacts may affect the hiring process of Muslim women wearing a hijab in the United States and what are the reasons as to why these stereotypes have developed?

The research questions were (a) To what extent do American recruiters stereotype Muslim women in the United States who wear the hijab? (b) What are the sources of these stereotypes? And (c) How could these stereotypes affect recruiters’ hiring decision?

Qualitative interviews were conducted in the states of Illinois and Missouri during the Spring and Fall of 2010. These participants interviewed were in charge of hiring in the educational and healthcare sectors. The study was challenging since it involved a very sensitive and susceptible topic in the American context today: Muslims. In addition, the difficulty of this study on Muslim women wearing the hijab in the United States was also related to its perception. It was interesting to observe how potential participants may have understood the purpose of this study and how this might have influenced their participation to it. The context of the study played an important role, it may have influenced potential participants’ negative responses and maybe as well some negative attitudes during the interviews conducted.

This study identified five main themes from the interviews’ data which are the following (a) fear of Muslims, (b) hijab appearance vs. hijab functionality, (c) impact of cultural and religious differences, (d) stereotypes, and (e) discrimination in the United States.

The research participants were united when questioned about the appearance of the hijab and how divided they were when they spoke of its functionality. Indeed, the research participants, who all have hiring responsibilities included in their position, described almost unanimously that the hijab is viewed by them as an attractive and beautiful religious artifact.

However, when the participants elaborated a little bit more about the function of the hijab, their observations differed. During the interviews they explained their views based on various factors that might have influenced their perceptions. This pointed out I believe, how our society might strongly influence people’s views. In addition, it is important to understand how shared beliefs imposed by the dominant culture may take part in influencing people’s thinking. There are negative stereotypes against the Muslim community and, in particular, Muslim women wearing the hijab in the United States today associated with Islamophobia. Mainly, the hijab is perceived as a symbol of fundamentalism at the extreme and as a strange practice at the best.

In this study, one participant stated directly that he would have difficulties hiring a Muslim woman wearing the hijab, although he is informed that in the United States discrimination against an applicant because of religious beliefs is illegal. This suggests a cognitive conflict between the appearance of hijab and its function.

All the recruiters interviewed illustrated the fact that they all hold biases. For instance, one participant described his bias against obese people and acknowledged that it was a conscious bias. Mostly, the participants’ views expressed in this study demonstrated that all hold biases toward Muslims in general which influenced the way they identified the hijab in particular. I consider that everybody may hold biases against Muslim women who wear the hijab. Consequently, it is fundamental to educate people and make them aware of their own biases and how this might impact their perceptions.

The value and perception of the hijab was ultimately connected with the research participants’ cultural and religious backgrounds. Indeed, the participants’ perceptions of Muslims in the United States were intimately connected to the participants’ cultural and racial background. Some participants in this study shared a bit of their own struggle related to racial and religious discrimination and based on the findings these participants were the most considerate toward Muslim women wearing the hijab. These participants expressed their views of broadmindedness by using terms like, tolerance, melting pot, diversity, diversity training, and acceptance. The rest of the participants who seemed to have more disapproving perceptions qualified the hijab using terms like strange, thing, backwardness, anti-intellectualism, and fundamentalism. Consequently these judgmental insights have been described in this study coming from three expected sources (a) the media, (b) the politics, and (c) people’s social and cultural environments. Indeed, all the participants illustrated during the interviews that the principal sources of negative stereotypes toward Muslims are related to the way the media and politics portrayed Muslims and Islam in the United States.

Another important point was that all the participants shared that their own stereotypes and opinions toward Muslims in general, and that Muslim women wearing the hijab in particular are the essence of their personal journey. Some participants explicitly stated that the way they perceived other people is a combination of their ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. In other words, the participants argued that the value of tolerance and diversity is learned in some milieus, although some of them spoke at length about diversity training and education as a mean of opposing negative stereotypes and teaching tolerance.

Some participants did acknowledge too that nowadays these negative stereotypes toward Muslim women wearing the hijab may affect some hiring decisions that maybe recruiters, persons in charge of hiring or even themselves will be making. However, the findings demonstrated that all participants were aware of the anti- discrimination laws that were judged by them as more punitive than preventive.

Consequently, the findings in this study also illustrated the reality that negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims in the United States were more pronounced after the event of 9/11. I consider that both negative stereotypes toward Islam and Muslims and the current American context may affect hiring decision based on non-job-related factors.

Karima Hana-Meksem, PhD



How To Build Trust

Trust is a universal need in all relationships, isn’t it? The degree of importance may vary from one person to the next, but we all need trust in all aspects of our relationships. It is the most cherished need, and it is the bond that holds all other values together. It is the belief that someone or something is reliable, dependable, good, honest, etc. It is our natural state….how we expect things to be.

It is true that some people are more trustworthy than others—and some are regarded as having trust issues based on past experiences–regardless, it is an earned process that can only be achieved when we’ve had a chance to feel it with all our senses, test it, and experience it. And over time, once trust is build, we can endure the other tests of the ages.

The irony about trust is that it takes a long time to build, but only a few minutes to destroy.

How do you build it? Simple. Meaning what you do and say….and saying and doing what you mean. I believe we can build on this by three qualities: honesty, integrity and consistency. Trust is the strongest ground to stand upon.

I always say that at the end of each business line, there is a person who is motivated through beliefs and values–and so it is a relationship, no different than all our other relationships. Building business strategies and branding messages around trust and communicating it is no different than building trust in any personal relationships.

Here’s a short excerpt from my book: “Our beliefs grow from what we see, hear, experience and think about. Beliefs manifest themselves in what we say and do, our actions being the actual, physical expression of these abstract ideas. They are the basis for decision making, and they drive consumption behavior for businesses. They are how we communicate and relate with others. Our values stem from our beliefs, and are widely shared and rarely questioned. Values are about how we think things or people should be in terms of qualities and guiding principles that are important to us.”

The values that build trust are honesty, integrity and consistency. Other important values such as, empathy, compassion, faithfulness, acceptance, etc, are also important and may contribute to trust, but I don’t believe they are the foundation. If I can be honest that I’m not accepting of someone or something, you can trust that I mean what I say. If you are honest and consistent that you are not empathic, I may not like you, but I will trust that you mean what you say and will do as you mean. When you are honest, speak the truth—or admitting even when you lie—and you do that consistently, you can become trustworthy. People will start believing “trust” in you, even if they don’t like what they hear. Trust has nothing to do with being liked or even loved.

The same is true in your business relationships–internally with each other and with your consumer. If you are honest with your employees and customers, speak the truth even when it’s difficult, practice integrity and moral principles, and you do that consistently, you will build trust.

And once you have trust, you will have loyalty. Smart business leaders know that you can’t pay enough to buy loyalty from a customer or a valued employee. Trust breeds loyalty, and loyalty creates brand ambassadors. Let’s face it….your new world customers, specially millennials and women, are less trusting and more skeptical of advertising. They will trust something if someone else has approved or testified for it. In The New World Marketplace, when companies are thinking about building trust, they need to consider the group dynamics that impact individual beliefs and decisions.

Trust is not the only value that leads to relationship success. But building trust is the foundation, and should be the starting point. In all relationships. It builds character and brand ID.  The New World Marketplace is about embracing human relationships and their values.


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Get ready for Gen Z – what do you know about this post-millennial generation?

generation-zYes, it’s time to talk about Gen Z.   For those of you following my work and blogs, you know that since 2010, I’ve focused the youth cultural shifts on Gen Y, aka Millennials. It took a while before leaders and organizations identified Gen Y as talent issue on fire, and executives fretting over what they call an entitled lazy generation of workers. You can find myriad of blogs and research studies I’ve done about this generation on my web site (or in my book)…but at the very least, be sure to read this one negating stereotypes about Gen Y that I wrote in 2012.

But this blog is not about Gen Y. It’s about a new generation growing up behind the scenes, post-millennials, born starting mid-90s to 00’s, called Gen Z….aka iGeneration or iGen (a nod to Apple’s i-products?) You can almost call them the YouTube generation since ~60% of them are watching YouTube almost every day (5+days/week). Some call them screen addicts. I know my sister has to have strict house rules around “screen” time. This generation makes up a quarter of the US population and by 2020 will account for 40% of all consumers. In the next 3 years, some will start graduating from college and enter workforce. And they have new values and ideological power very different than Gen Y.

I called Gen Y the Harry Potter generation. Gen Z is more like a Hunger Game generation, overcoming all obstacles for a brighter future. According to 2015 Census, 1/3 of millennials live with their parents. They entered the workforce during recession, which affected their ability to launch. Gen Zs are growing up in healthier economy and will be on hot demand as they have more options. They are already out there, curious to learn and gain work experience. My 7-year-old niece is constantly talking about how to make money and her long term plans on what to buy. This generation is exposed to so much through technology, they’ve learned to sort through and absorb extensive amount of information, as their options are limitless but their time is not. As a result, they are growing up faster and faster.  Unlike Gen Y that delayed major adulthood milestones, Gen Z will be ready to cut loose and take over in their early 20s….they are far more independent. This is partly due to adverse affects of helicopter parenting of Gen Y, and Gen Z having been given more space. Growing up amid major innovation and social change, Gen Z is not as fearful about the future, either.

So whether you have teenage kids, curious about social and cultural change, or gearing up your future recruitments practices and marketing strategies for your businesses, it’s time to learn about Gen Z.

Here are a few key highlights just to get you started:

  • Also known as The Pluralist Generation (abbreviated as Plurals), a name coined by marketing firm Frank N. Magid Associates, they are the most diverse of any generation in the US: 55% Caucasian, 24% Hispanic, 14% African-American, 4% Asian, and 4% are mixed race.
  • Multiracials represent the fastest growing population cohort in the US, which means Gen Z families come in all shapes and colors.  (see new multiracial face of America.)
  • Plurals exhibit positive feelings about the increasing ethnic diversity in the US,and they are more likely than older generations to have social circles that include people from different ethnic groups, races and religions. (Wikipedia)
  • Gen Ys are known to be optimists and dreamers. Gen Zs are realists and pragmatic. Although they are more entrepreneurial, they realize that may not be pragmatic. They don’t want to be like Millennials and don’t want to repeat their mistakes.
  • According to Pew, nearly three-quarters of Zs aged 13-17 (74%) believe that everyone should be treated equally, regardless of gender, sex, or race. Most see no problem with women playing traditionally male sports (68%) or with boys playing with dolls (57%). This new generation of youth has a different perception of gender roles. They are more fluid and less defining.
  • Millennials were the first generation of youth with a majority to openly support gay rights. Gen Zs see a need to achieve the same degree of acceptance and equality for transgender community.
  • According to Census, they live in multi-generational households, so they are sharers and have greater respect for elders.

There is lots more…this is just a starting point with cultural shift.  And yes, you will see a lot more blogs coming your way about this generation.  But what does all this mean for your businesses? Frankly, filling the talent pipeline has never been so critical now that the US (and most of the globe) is facing skill gaps in most industries. So businesses should start thinking about shifting recruitment and marketing strategies. No more long drawn-out recruiting process…this generation will have lots more options. Gen Z is influencing more moms for purchase patterns too, so they also have major marketing influence. Global, social and technological, this generation doesn’t just represent the future, they are creating it.



Negating Stereotypes: Muslim Women Creating Fastest Cultural Shift

Did you know some 800 million population of Muslim women surpass the combined populations of the United States, Russia and Brazil? Stereotyping Muslim women and putting them in one box would be the same as putting all characteristics and cultural nuances of all these three big countries into one box.

Did you know Islam is the only major religious group projected to grow faster than the world’s overall population?  According to the July issue of Time magazine, from 2010 to 2050, estimated growth rate of the global Muslim population from 2010 to 2050 is 73%. Stereotyping this largest global population cohort would require a very limited and narrow mindset, don’t you think? Yet, we hear it in the mainstream news all the time—and even from some liberal satirist like Bill Maher—not to mention politicians who will use anything for political gain. Isn’t it time to confront this huge bias, prejudice and past orthodoxies?

I am a Muslim woman. I’ve never truly studied Islam, nor consider myself a religious person. Sure, we can always pick and choose what studies we like and not choose those that don’t fit into our own personal beliefs and values. And there are always two sides to all stereotypes. But I must admit, I am appalled by the consistent generalization and stereotyping of Muslims, as I would be by racism and sexism. Yet, this blog is not about Islam. I won’t even attempt to claim myself as a thought leader in this area. But if you’d like to learn more, as I am, I recommend reading No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, by Reza Aslan, or at the very least, this McKinsey article by William McCants.

However, I am a thought leader about The New World Marketplace and the cultural macro trends with women, youth and multiculturalism. And I’d like to dedicate this blog to the Women in the Muslim world who are taking the fast track to big cultural changes. Be ready to realize that this largely unseen population of Muslim women will soon become a cultural force to be reckoned with.

In my book, I punched a hole in the western feminist movement believing that it’s about shifting the power…trying to convince us that religious and cultural traditions must be overturned for women to be liberated and equal. I disagree. I believe it’s about sharing the power. I believe tradition is very different than oppression and feminist success means overturning suppressive energies of any kind.

Muslim women around the globe invest in tradition to create change and make a point. They wear hijabs to have the freedom to talk to leaders and create the cultural change. Sakena Yacoobi is an advocate for women’s rights in Afghanistan. She believes and speaks loudly about the fact that Koran requires and strongly supports literacy. And she uses her religion and tradition for this cause. She is a devoted Muslim Woman activist.  She believes change has come through partnering with communities, building trust, providing quality services, and waiting for results to become self-evident, rather than speeches, marches or laws. Today, assumptions have changed from “women don’t need education” to “education is valuable for all.”

According to a recent Mckinsey study, while much work remains to close the equity gap for the 800-million Muslim women worldwide, the rates of education and employment for some have increased dramatically in a short span of time. Changes that took half a century in the United States are being compressed into a decade in today’s Muslim world, and they are likely to accelerate.

In the space of two generations, a widespread education movement has elevated the prospects of millions of Muslim women, from Tehran to Tunis. You’ve often heard my sound bite: for every 2 men graduation from college, 3 women are and with better GPAs. This is not just a US phenomenon. In Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia, university-enrollment rates for women now exceed those of men. It is not the gender equality that is so massive, it is the rate and pace of this acceleration that is massive and underreported. In Egypt, there were 3 women for every 4 men in universities a decade ago … today, they are equal. In United Emirates, women enroll at three times the rate of men. The list goes on. I often wonder what that means for the new male generation being raised by these educated women? Would we have as many religious wars?

Nearly 40 million Muslim women have joined the labor force. Clearly, there will be more and the next wave of change is under way. And for marketers, we are talking about unprecedented consumer power. According to McKinsey, in the next 15 years, even if women participation in the workforce reaches two thirds of men (or around 60%), it has the potential to spike regional GDP by 20% or more.

I believe Feminism is not just about the struggle against the ruling oppressor, but also about assumptions held by all of us, including women.  This means a deep-rooted realization that women don’t have to look like a high-powered Western businesswoman to be party leaders and game changers.  They can use their own religion and culture to navigate the social and cultural change.


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Do you know who your existing and future customers are? The profitable ones?

Last year marked the first year in the US history where majority of children under 9 were non-white (50.8%).   And Nielsen reported that multicultural non-whites represented 92% of the population growth in the US between 2000 and 2014.  This is clearly transforming the US mainstream, and most telling about our nation’s future economically, socially, and politically. And it’s nothing to fear but lots to celebrate. If it weren’t for the multicultural growth, US economy will face the same challenges many European countries currently face, with declining population. This is not just population growth…it is consumer buying power for economic health….it is future talent, as well as political and social norm.  (Click here to see American diversity by generation.)

It is, or at least should be, transforming how marketers and advertiser use culture to connect to existing and future customers. Cultural relevance will be the new branding era in the years to come. Mark my word. Multicultural consumers are empowered and culture-driven, maintaining their cultural heritage while seeing themselves as part of the new mainstream. Nielsen calls this an ambicultural identity—the ability and willingness to function competently in two cultures—simultaneously maintaining cultural heritage while seeing themselves as equally American. (I can personal testify to this, since I am truly ambicultural myself.) More importantly, multicultural consumers over-index on a wide range of products and services. They tend to be younger, trendsetters and tastemakers, expressive and inclusive.

The Nielsen report, The Multicultural Edge: Rising Super Consumers, reports $3.4 trillion multicultural buying power in the US today. Hispanic buying power is projected to be 1.7 trillion in the next four years (by 2019), 1.4 trillion for African Americans and 1 trillion for Asian Americans. The report identifies multicultural Super Consumers, which refer to the top 10% of households who drive at least 30% of sales, 40% of growth and 50% of profits of any consumer product category. And suggests that by understanding the cultural essence that drives multicultural super consumer behavior today, marketers and advertisers can better understand future market trends.

Since they are younger, they comprise a disproportionate share of categories, such as dairy, baby food/diapers, laundry supplies/detergents, school supplies and other family goods. Multicultural consumers gravitate to brands, products and activities that reinforce their cultural roots. Interestingly, these behaviors are affecting the purchase behavior of non-multicultural consumers, too….making many multicultural categories very mainstream, such as hot sauce, tacos, pizza, sushi, soul food, and other once-ethnic foods that have become as ubiquitous as apple pie and hot dogs. (I think we’re headed that way with Korean tacos and Indian somosas.) We’ve been seeing the multicultural influence in music, fashion and sports for years now.

When I speak of multiculturalism, I never exclude Whites….they have and will always be a major part of multicultural consumers and societies. But for statistical purposes, please note that US Census Bureau defines multiculturalism as being composed of several different race categories – Black, American Indian, Pacific Islander, Other, and Two or More Races, including Hispanics (which is an ethnicity, not race). With that in mind, Multicultural consumers are the fastest growing segment of US population, over 120 million strong and increasing by 2.3 million per year.   Currently 38% of the population but expected to become the numeric majority by 2044. But interestingly, EthniFacts research showed, based on a series of more dynamic factors such as mixed-race marriages and families, that the tipping point was actually August 2014.

Gone are the days you can look at each ethnic group individually for your brand strategies. Diversity and multiculturalism is so much more blended and dynamic than cultural silos.

Net, net, understanding how purchase patterns and behavior preferences are driven by multicultural values, beliefs and lifestyles is and will be the key to the total market growth in the near future. While each ethnicity and race have their own unique cultural nuances, the key, I believe, is to leverage commonalities in beliefs and values and embrace the inclusion in the new mainstream….understand and embrace the ambicultural essence of this growing population. Google realized this growth opportunity when they reported 66% of digital Hispanics responding to online ads vs. 47% of general market consumers. And, surely, they conducted a study with Ipsos letting everyone know the considerable growth in Spanish language search queries across many industries (retail +210%, telecom +107%, health +80%, skincare +75%, food +70%, autom0tive +65%, beauty +65%). This wasn’t done just to show the role of culture and language online….it was means to celebrate growth for Google in the years to come.

Last month, I wrote a blog about the profit potential of multicultural leadership and company performance.  You would think that leaders will, or should, know that their senior team needs to represent The New World Marketplace…. but unfortunately, that isn’t so.  Click here to read about how diversity yield to higher financial returns.

Now ask yourself, do you really know who your existing and future customers are? Can you imagine what the future leaders of our nation will look like? Are you ready to forsake your past prejudices and orthodoxies for the sake of growth?

The time is NOW….!!!


Love to hear your thoughts on the comment section below….. and if you like this blog, please click share.



The New World Marketplace Dividends – diversity yields higher financial returns

I’ve always geared away from using the terms “diversity” or “feminism” for they are loaded with polarized reactions….viewed mainly as social issues to overcome, HR initiatives so to speak. I coined the phrase The New World Marketplace to address these major cultural macro trends as economic and business imperatives. My background in C-suite and P&L management afforded me credibility in the areas of branding strategies and marketing. But in terms of business leadership, analysis and sample sizes were too small to make a difference. Until now…

McKinsey has been examining diversity in the workplace for several years. Their latest report, Diversity Matters, examined proprietary data sets for 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin American, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In this research, they looked at metrics such as financial results and the composition of top management and boards. In short, the companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.  More specifically, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.  And companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.  That’s big…!!!

Soon, diversity probably won’t be a competitive differentiator for companies. Just look at the talent pipeline….take a look at your new world marketplace customers….women, youth and multicultural. But the time to shift market share towards more diverse companies is NOW. I’d like to encourage all of you to share this data with your senior team. The case is becoming more and more compelling.

Other findings from the report were:

  • Companies in the bottom quartile both for gender and for ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns than the average companies in the data set (that is, bottom-quartile companies are lagging rather than merely not leading).
  • In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: for every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) rise 0.8 percent.
  • Racial and ethnic diversity has a stronger impact on financial performance in the United States than gender diversity, perhaps because earlier efforts to increase women’s representation in the top levels of business have already yielded positive results.
  • In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5 percent.
  • While certain industries perform better on gender diversity and other industries on ethnic and racial diversity, no industry or company is in the top quartile on both dimensions.
  • The unequal performance of companies in the same industry and the same country implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies.

While this McKinsey report still shows concerns for current leadership gap underlining the work that remains to be done, as I wrote in my last blog, I think this issue will resolve itself as the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. (Also read Gen Y women will break the glass ceiling ) Timing is everything. Lead not follow. Time to take full advantage of the new world opportunity that diverse leadership teams represent, given the higher returns that diversity is expected to bring. This is, and continues to be, a strong strategic differentiation.  Your leadership needs to represent the customers you serve.  Do you know how your customers are changing?



Big Generational Shift: Gen Y women possess new world leadership qualities and will break the glass ceiling

In The New World Marketplace, businesses are redefining the new leadership skills and capabilities required for building and sustaining successful and profitable businesses. And Gen Y women have a natural advantage in contributing to this new leadership construct.

All the research I’ve done over the years suggests that Gen Y women are far more career focused, confident of themselves, have clear views on equality of men and women at workplace as well as at home, and have demonstrated that with passion and commitment with their families, versus prior generations. They are able to grow successfully with the progressive organizations and make a significant impact.

But don’t take my word for it. A McKinsey report shows that companies with gender-balanced executive committees have a 56% higher operating profit compared to companies with male-only companies. Another study conducted by Catalyst shows a 26% difference in return on invested capital between companies with 19-44% women board directors as compared with those who had no women on their boards. Hence increasingly businesses are working towards hiring and retaining larger percentage of women in their workforce.

Why are women contributing to higher success? These studies indicate reasons through women’s unique characteristics that businesses can benefit from namely, multitasking, paying attention to detail, conflict resolution, ability to deal with fuzziness, flexibility and creativity required for problem solving. These are some of the key capabilities in demand today as businesses are redefining the new leadership capabilities required for building and sustaining successful businesses.

Those of you reading my blogs regularly know that I stand against stereotyping based on gender. So, I must add that men possessing these qualities are and will be just as successful of leaders as women—yet, it’s hard to dispute that women in general, and Gen Y women in specific, have a natural inherent advantage with these qualities and are not afraid to express them.

This article suggests that another significant factor that makes Gen Y women stand out is the fact that they have embraced digital technology with ease. They are savvy consumers of technology and are certainly more comfortable with gadgets and devices as compared to Gen X women and on par with Gen Y men. Technology has played an important role in liberating Gen Y women from lack of awareness and exposure to the world at large and making them more confident. IT/ITES industry in India has close to 30-35% Gen Y women as part of the workforce competing for prime career opportunities impacting the global corporations with their technology prowess.

And of course, you’ve heard me say for years that Gen Y women view success as being able to shape their own path and future. Sure, they like to get married and have kids, but not at the same rate as previous generations, and certainly not at the expense of their career and social/cultural equality with men.

So, here’s the big question: Will Gen Y women be first to break the glass ceiling? Research predicts YES….!!!

We keep hearing from feminist leaders that despite all the empowerment initiatives out there for women, at the current rate, we will never close the gender gap in business leadership. And I’ve been saying all along that is not true….not at the current rate of women in mid-management levels, rapid rate of retirement for baby boomers, and the business cultural shifts we are experiencing. Now, there is research from global talent solutions company, Hudson, supporting my prediction and proving that women in their twenties and early thirties will be the first generation to break the glass ceiling.

According to the results, which analysed 28,000 psychometirc tests across 20 different countries, Gen Y females scored 18% higher than Gen Y males on organization, 10% higher on people skills and 12% higher on social confidence.  When compared to Baby Boomer males, the difference in skill areas became more acute: Younger females ranked 16% higher on people skills, 22% higher on social confidence and 21% higher on ambition.

As it relates to traditional leadership skills, this research shows baby boomers were 28% more decisive than Gen Y….and Gen X 13% more strategic than Gen Y. I think this is certainly correlated to age and experience on the job.

The need for persuasive, confident and extravert leaders has been replaced by socially confident and organized bosses, who have the people skills to manage the shifting demographics of tomorrow’s workforce.

Simply look around, and you will see that today’s workforce is truly multi-generational. This is a global phenomenon. And with the rapid rate of retirement of baby boomers, the work force is being replaced by a generation with huge psychological differences and gender balance. And once again, the leadership attributes found in Gen Y women display attributes of tomorrow’s leaders.

It’s true that 80% of executive directors on the boards of the FTSE 100 may currently be male, but the findings of this research show that, as business practice continues to evolve and progress, Gen Y women are better placed than ever before to position themselves at the top of businesses over the next decade and possess all of the right skills to help them navigate a technologically data-driven future.

“With their chart-leading altruism and optimism, and their progressive people skills, these women will lead by laying out a vision and welcoming those who want to take part,” the report said.

The New World Marketplace leaders and bosses will look very different than the leaders and the bosses we have today.  They must understand these disruptive cultural and demographic shifts and support the generational evolution.

Are you ready to shift in 2015?


Rapid Georgraphic and Demographic Shifts in Poverty rates

Not all trends in The New World Marketplace are positive and cheerful.  But it’s important to share all trends and forces–positive and negative. I believe the first step in creating social and cultural change is always awareness and knowledge. And perhaps if we knew that we’re all in this together, socially and economically, we will take necessary steps in changes for the better.

Last year I wrote a blog, when you think poor do you think Black or Hispanic?  It contained important research with social and demographic shifts in poverty and cautioned broad-stroke depictions of race by marketers.  Since then, there has been enormous amount of focus and research about geography and demographics of poverty in America.  Negating so many stereotypes.

Let’s start with top line headline.  Brookings Institute reports that in 2012, the number of people living below the federal poverty line ($23,492 for a family of 4) remains stuck at record level of 40%. Yes, that’s more than 1 out of 3 people. Between 2000 and 2008-20012, the number of people living in these distressed neighborhoods of 40%+ poverty, grew by 5 million (or 76%) to 11.6 million. This is big. The nation’s 100 largest metro areas have 70% of all these distressed census tracts. One in four (23%) lived in big cities in 2008-2012, compared to 6.3% in suburbs. But suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in these areas…almost 3 times the pace.

If we also look at high poverty rates between 20-40%, cities grew by 21% to 5.9 million, while suburbs more than doubled growing by 105% to 4.9 million. All together, the growing prevalence of distressed and high-poverty neighborhoods in suburbs meant that 38% of suburbanites lived in tracts with poverty rates of 20% or more (up from 27% in 2000).

Suburbs in the sun belt experienced some of the steepest increases in concentrated disadvantage. Atlanta ranked in the top 3. Click here to see the table and complete report.  There is also an interesting research by Raj Chetty and others, which explains the rapid rise of poverty in Atlanta caused partly by its already pronounced levels of racial and income segregation. Surprised? I wasn’t. I lived there for 9 years.

There are also demographic shifts with these poverty rates. This new report shows lower-poverty neighborhoods became somewhat more diverse –but still largely white.  In contrast, higher-poverty neighborhoods became more white–although still largely minorities. This is effecting everyone despite the race.  And the fact that so many of these residents are located in suburbs only adds to the challenge and the need for urgency, because these communities are ill-equipped to deal with these needs. This report suggests that ignoring the growth of suburban poverty runs the risk of creating new areas of concentrated poverty.

These new poverty findings have huge business and social implications, specially for retail businesses relying on trade area demographics for transactions.

In another Brookings report, I found that it is not just the fact of being born poor that heightens the risk of staying poor, but inadequate education, race and family stability.  These three factors top inabilities for social mobility. A child raised by a poor unmarried mother has a 50% risk of remaining stuck in poverty and just a 5% chance of making it to the top. Even crueler odds (54% and 1% respectively) face those who fail to complete high school. And we are still reminded by the stain of racism, even with an African American President, with black children living in the poorest neighborhoods and attending the worst schools….half of the black children growing up on the bottom rung remain stuck there as adults (51%) compared to just one in four whites (23%).

We’ve always referred to upward social mobility as the American Dream. Then do we know why this American Dream is in a much better shape north of our border, in Canada? This report sites explanations including wider differences in school quality in the US, higher rates of teen pregnancy, and a bigger gap in college graduation rates by family background. Optimism about the American Dream will fade further as meritocracy is fiercely pressured from two sides: a growing economic divide between earned income and inherited wealth; and a growing social divide marked by differences in education, race and family structure.

Poverty remains a harsh reality for all Americans. It must be a harsh reality for business, social and political leaders as well.  For 2013, Brookings estimates of the poverty rate for all persons and for children are 14.9% and 21.8%, respectively.  No statistical difference from 2012, despite unemployment rate falling by 23%. Think of it this way, a headline adult poverty rate of 14.9% means 47.0 million people—as many as are living in both New York and Texas combined. The children’s rate of 21.8% translates to 15.7 million children. In other words, as of 2013, about one in three people living in poverty in the United States was a child. Think of what that might say for the future of this nation.

The silver lining here is that analysts predict there will be a gradual decline in the headline poverty rate for the foreseeable future, although they don’t expect it to return to its pre-Great Recession level by 2024 despite the fact the unemployment rate is projected to do so. They conclude that there has been a reasonable effort supporting people with various forms of cash (tax credits) and noncash assistance (health care, housing, nutrition, child care) despite a severely depressed economy and an unprecedented lack of jobs. Whether these programs will be enough to fight the ongoing tide of demographic changes (e.g., more single parent families) is doubtful.

We need more…primarily in the forms of education and job training. If not for the sake of social implications, for the sake of business success. I can not imagine these growing poverty rates helping businesses at all. We all know that economic and business growth comes from a growing and thriving middle class.


Like to hear your thoughts and comments below…..



Study shows women and millennials in leadership roles translates into higher success

Finally….!!!  There is a study that proves what I have been saying for years.  This study shows that when women and millennials (aka Gen Y) are in charge, big things happen and organizations succeed.  This is not a passing trend.  Having millennials and women in leadership positions directly correlates with the success of a company.

The Global Leadership Forecast looked at the workforce issues affecting 13,124 leaders from around the world, representing 48 countries and 32 major industries.  Of the participating organizations, those in the top 20% financially had almost twice as many women in leadership roles, as well as more high-potential women holding those roles.  Does gender diversity pay off?  Yes…!!!  Absolutely…..!!!

Also, companies with a 30% proportion of young people in higher roles saw “aggressive growth,” according to the study. When it’s more like 20%, they saw “little to low growth” rates.  Granted, they leave organizations faster (within a year) and less engaged than other groups, but those are opportunities for companies to overcome.  But how can we ignore the success results of having women in leadership roles?

Even beyond the business success, there is all the life ending crises around the globe.  Heart breaking.  I couldn’t even get myself to write a business blog lately.  Who would want to read about cultural change and macro trends when faced with such never ending wars of domination and control?  I even read Gaza-tweets saying women should stop having children until men learn not to kill them.  Then I thought, it’s the leadership, stupid….always has been and always will be.  What this study doesn’t cover is what would happen if we had more women and millennials in political leaderships.  Would things be different?  I’d say…Yes….!!!

Sure, as long as there is life, there is death. Can I say as long as there is love, there is war. Maybe.  But can we move the needle by stepping into the New World order and starting to change our existing homogeneous leadership in businesses and politics.  If not for a better world to live in, for higher profit for all.  Let’s start sharing these studies.


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