Still A Ways to Go with Abigail's Feedback

On July 26, 2017, @realDonaldTrump tweeted his intent to reinstate the ban on transgender members of the military openly serving, reversing a policy decision made by the Obama Administration. He tweeted, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military…” July 26 is the same date President Harry Truman issued Executive Order (EO) 9981, which desegregated all US armed forces. Like Trump’s transgender ban, Truman’s EO met with a great deal of controversy. Those who wanted to preserve segregation in the military and American society were outraged by Truman’s ban. And those who wanted to eliminate segregation and lift black and brown Americans from state-sanctioned, second class citizenry celebrated EO 9981. Those outraged by Trump’s policy shift recognize it as a blow to inclusion, much like racism and sexism.

President Trump’s tweet created mass confusion. The Department of Defense (DoD) was compelled to make a statement that they would not change their transgender policy based on a tweet, and that the Obama policy would remain in effect until they were provided with a written directive. President Trump issued such a memorandum to the DoD in August 2017, which was immediately challenged in court my six transgender service members. Four injunctions were imposed, blocking the new policy from going into effect. In March 2018, former Defense Secretary Mattis issued a refined, more comprehensive policy. His policy maintained that transgender service members already serving would be allowed to remain in service provided they met the physical requirements for service and were deployable within one year, or their diagnosis of gender dysphoria was made after joining the military but prior to the new policy going into effect. But Mattis’ policy still included that any new entrants into the military would have to be stable in their birth gender for thirty-six months prior to joining the military, and would not require sex-reassignment surgery due to diagnosis of gender dysphoria. On January 22, 2019 The Supreme Court voted five to four to stay the injunctions and allowed the refined Trump Transgender Policy to go into effect while the court battles on its legality proceed. The DoD implemented the revised Trump policy on April 12, 2019.

Though transgender service members make up less than one percent of the total force, the new Trump policy cast dispersions on the military’s fundamental tenant that all Americans have the right to serve provided they meet the height, weight, vision, and other functional, physical requirements of military service. The new policy also gives trans-phobic leaders within the military carte blanche authority to discriminate against transgender members by separating them from service based on innuendo or false allegations.

Naval academy graduate Ensign Alexandra Marberry is one such example. Ensign Marberry was one of the first transgender service members permitted to transition while on active duty under the Obama policy, and she began her transition in October 2016. She was serving aboard the USS Winston when her commanding officer summoned her. With no explanation, her commander gave her one hour to gather her things and get off the ship. Marberry later found out that she was accused of groping another officer whom she believed to have been a friend. Though she denied the allegation and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation did not produce any evidence of wrongdoing, Ensign Marberry resigned her commission under pressure from her commanding officer rather than risk court martial. She was then forced to pay back $59,621.62 for her Naval Academy education. Marberry was cited for misconduct on her discharge papers and did not receive an honorable discharge, disqualifying her from many Veterans’ Administration benefits.

Marberry is one of 14,700 transgender military service members affected by this policy as the administration has turned their noses up at them for being born how they were born. Many of these patriots now serve at the mercy of biased leaders who will exploit hostile policies and indifference to prop-up their personal sensibilities. Ray Mabus, a former secretary of the Navy, told CNN the policy has not one shred of evidence behind it. He said: ”In fact, all the evidence goes the other way. It goes against the basic American notion that it should be about what you can do and not who you are. . . . To do this to patriots who are willing to serve—not only willing, but eager to serve, who have raised their hands and said send me—weakens our democracy and seriously weakens our military." It also damages morale among those service members who are not transgender but who recognize this ban as unjust.

The historical similarities between the transgender ban and previous forms of discrimination in the US are striking. Former South Carolina Congressman, Trey Gowdy applauded the court’s removal of the injunctions. Gowdy stated, “no one has a right to serve in the military.” This is the same flawed logic Marine Corps Major General Thomas Holcombe used in 1941 when he testified before the Navy’s General Board, arguing against allowing black and other non-white men to serve in the Marine Corps. Holcombe stated, blacks have “no right to serve in the Marine Corps. The negro has every opportunity now to satisfy its aspirations for combat by serving in the Army.” Holcombe characterized blacks’ desire to serve in the Marine Corps as an “attempt to gain admittance into a club that doesn’t want them.”

Transgender persons make up about one percent of the total force. Statistically they are insignificant, but as a matter of principal, policy, and humanity, their ability to serve is pivotal in the debate over what we want America to stand for. America’s armed services are not social experiments. They are, however, institutions in the greatest social experiment in the history of the world—the experiment called American Democracy. The more our institutions reflect our founding principles—that all people are created equal and should be treated as such—the better we are as a nation, and the greater example we set for the world.

Troy Mosley, author of Unwritten Truce: the Armed Forces and American Social Justice

When Was America Great? Trump’s Coded Promise and the Transgender Ban

On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled to stay an injunction that would have blocked the Trump Administration’s armed forces transgender policy. Effectively, military service members who are already openly transgender can remain in the services without retribution, but those who are closeted must remain so or risk expulsion, and no new, openly transgender members may join the military unless the courts eventually deny the policy’s legality.

It’s ironic that a man who obtained five draft deferments during the Vietnam War is setting public policy about who can join America’s all volunteer force. Trump’s transgender policy is consistent with the promise he made to his base to “Make America Great Again”—a thinly veiled pledge to make America more socially conservative, harking back to a time when gay, lesbian, and transgender people were stigmatized, ostracized, ridiculed, and chastised. Trump’s unspoken promise to reset America’s clock back to a time when America was great raises a number of questions. When exactly was this time? When Women’s roles were primarily maternal and domestic? When America was segregated, and black Americans were second class citizens? When Christian prayer was mandatory in schools? When Jews, Asians, Hispanics and Blacks were restricted from buying property in certain neighborhoods? Exactly when was the last time that America was great in the eyes of Trump’s ardent supporters and what was it about that time that made it so great?

This unspoken promise to “MAGA!” is apparently enough to allow Trump’s supporters to overlook his lies, his misrepresentation of facts and truth, the criminal political campaign he engaged in, and all of his amorality. For these people, Trump is but a small thing to suffer in exchange for propping up their world view—one that pays homage to the old American caste system and resists the ideals of inclusion, tolerance, and equality of opportunity. I have many friends who voted for President Trump and I still want to give them the benefit of the doubt when they cite Trump’s political inexperience as a draw to his campaign. Many were attracted to the notion that he was a well-intended outsider who would bring business-like efficiency to the government and stand up for American business interests. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that Trump’s promises of draining the swamp and “putting America first” were appealing and convincing. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but then I recall his failure to put America first at the bilateral summit in Helsinki Finland, when he said, ‘I don’t see any reason why Russia would interfere” in our 2016 Presidential elections, with Vladimir Putin standing mere feet from him. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but many who were hoping Trump would drain the swamp seem to excuse the six felony convictions of former members of his campaign and inner circle. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they seemed unconcerned when Trump announced withdrawal of troops from Syria, essentially telegraphing his military strategy despite pronouncements he would never do so as Commander in Chief.

If the reasons Trump supporters give for supporting Trump prove to be untrue, then what is the real reason for their continued support? This is the discussion America needs to be having.

The Business Case for Inclusion and Diversity: Is Your Business Postured for Success in an Increasingly Diverse Market?

The arrival of the Information Age has made the world smaller.  Consumers have greater access to goods and services offered in varying markets across the world through a Wi-Fi connection and a few phone or mouse clicks.  The accessibility of information in real-time brings the people of the world closer. People are sharing, and reacting to the same data at the same time across the world.  This seemingly “smaller world” makes its’ inhabitants feel more like “global citizens”. Increased access to more markets by definition makes these markets more competitive.  Consumers are more selective about the products and services they purchase, often choosing products that reflect their values over products that offer the lowest price point.

Businesses that understand this shrinking effect the internet has on the world will be best postured to dominate global markets for the foreseeable future.  A key component to selling to these dynamic global markets is having a diverse workforce that can connect with this diverse customer base. As a twenty-year combat veteran and health administrator I have studied, inclusion, diversity, strategic planning, leadership principals, and developed some appreciation for what drives consumer behavior.  In military planning circles it has often been said that “the best way to stop a tank is with another tank.” Similarly, the best way to sell products and services to women and minority groups is to have women and minorities in your R&D, IT, Marketing, and Operations departments. Not just diversity for the sake of diversity, but a diverse team of professionals in key positions with the requisite education and training to help develop and implement your company’s strategy.  

One has to go no further than the Nike Corporation to find a prime-example of how to leverage diversity to connect with your consumer in a way that adds to your organization’s bottom line. On September 4, 2018 Nike launched an advertising campaign with the subtext of, “Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything.” Nike selected Colin Kaepernick, former NFL quarterback as the face of the campaign.  Kaepernick became a household name by refusing to stand for the national anthem before each game in protest to his perceptions of police brutality and oppression of black and brown people. At a campaign rally in Alabama, President Trump infamously implied that Kaepernick and others who did not stand for the national anthem were “Son’s of Bitches” and should be fired for not standing during the anthem.

The day after Nike released the ad some costumers videoed themselves burning their Nike shoes and apparel.  Nike’s stock price fell 3%, but then rebounded to 4.2% by week’s end. Nike’s online sales jumped by 25% the following week and the Nike stock is currently trading at an all-time high.  Nike had the guts to take such a huge risk because its staff is among the most diverse in the industry. Their multidisciplinary team of professionals was able to understand and connect with their consumer base in a way that positively impacted their bottom line.

Women influence 70% - 80% of all consumer spending, make up 51% of the work force, yet only 5.5% of Fortune 500 CEOs. This gender imbalance exists in virtually every industry from fashion to finance.  The numbers for ethnic minorities are similarly striking. Blacks make up roughly 13% of the U.S. population, and spend an estimated $1.3 trillion on consumer goods annually, but make up only 2% of fortune 500 CEOs. This lack of diverse representation in America’s largest corporate suites can be directly correlated to missed opportunities to increase market share amongst a rapidly changing consumer base.  So what can an organization do increase its diversity? Ah, will I’m glad you asked.

Steps to Increasing Diversity in Your Organization

1. Step 1, Awareness.  Make yourself aware of the demographic makeup of your organization as well as the demographics of your consumer base. If your organization is more or less reflective of the customers it serves and is seeking to serve, good job, keep up the good work!  If your organization falls short of your ideal mix this article contains pragmatic steps that can help increase the diversity of your organization.

2. Step 2, Establish a Culture of Inclusion. The terms diversity and inclusion are often used interchangeably.  They speak to the same theme or idea of expanding the tent to encompass personnel from all walks of life, and all ethnicities, but one is a verb and one is an adjective. Inclusion is creating a culture that values diversity, and seeks to remove barriers to full participation by under-represented segments of the population. Inclusion starts at the top.  Cliché, but true. Leaders set the tone for the organization, by what they do, and what they evaluate. Minorities are not strangers to marginalization, they can smell insincerity a mile away. If you are not sincere about establishing a culture of inclusion you will not succeed. The military can offer many lessons on inclusion. The armed forces ended the practice of segregation within its workforce in 1948, six years before the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education.  Women achieved pay equity in 1943 with the integration of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps into the respective armed services, and women were admitted to the previously all-male uniformed service academies in 1976, a time when women still needed a male consigner to obtain a credit card. Today the military can boast that women makeup 5.5% of flag officer positions (CEO equivalents) and 17% of the total force. Black generals such as Lieutenant General (retired) Russell Honoré, General (retired) Lloyd Austin, General (retired) Colin Powell, and Lieutenant General Nadja West, the current Army Surgeon General, come from a long tradition of women and minorities advancing to the top ranks since the early 1970s.  These achievements didn’t happen overnight. They were made possible through the military’s commitment to cultivating leaders that reflected the troops they led and the nation they served.

3. Step 3, Recruitment, Recruitment, Recruitment.  If you are unable to find what you lack, you may not be looking in the right place.  Talent can be found everywhere, opportunity isn’t. Often when we think recruiting our thoughts immediately venture to the Ivy League or other elite institutions of higher learning.  If your search begins and ends there and you still can’t establish that diverse management force, widen your aperture to include some paths less travelled. Americas Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) turn out thousands of minority professionals annually and have done so dating back to a time when HBCUs were the only game in town for them.

4. Step 4, Objectives, Metrics and Measures. Establish objectives, metrics, and measures to gauge your success before you launch your inclusion strategy.  Have some idea of what your end state goals and objectives are for your diversity program. Develop concrete quantifiable goals related to your inclusion efforts and diversity program. Metric development specifically for inclusion is something you may want to consider outsourcing to a consultant who specializes in this type of work.

5. Think Broadly- Don’t limit your diversification strategy to the traditional definitions of diversity; give consideration to generational diversity, regional diversity, and socio-economic diversity.

In Summary

Technology will continue to have a shrinking effect on global markets for the foreseeable future.  A diverse workforce, who are trained, strategically placed within one’s organization, and part of an inclusive corporate culture will become an increasing part of an organizations’ agility, and strategic positioning within markets.  Diversity is not only ethically prudent for businesses, it is a sound practice that yields positive returns.