Dear Editor: I just read your article titled “Checking My Baggage” in the December issue of, and all I have to say is “Yes!” — someone out there gets it!
Diversity has never been about religion, race or culture. It is exactly what you said, “embracing each person for who and what they are.” I get so tired of hearing the politicians preach about their ideas of diversity and how we should all be open to it. Their speech typically ends up focusing on religion and race, not on the person. It's ridiculous. It's all about recognizing and accepting everyone for their talents, ideas, and abilities. We all have a place at this big table and we all have something to contribute — that's it.
Hopefully this concept will catch on and others will have their “aha” moment! We can only hope that it is sooner rather than later!
Thank you for the editorial, and best wishes for a happy new year.
MTM Recognition, Oklahoma City, OK
Dear Editor: I understand that a lot of work went into cutting [“17 Ways to Be More Inclusive,” December 2007, page 24] down to only 17 ways, when to be really inclusive there would have to be thousands. You have used your admittedly liberal mind-set to point out ways to address groups and ignore people.
Let's examine item No. 2: Use minority contractors. Do we ignore quality of work, price, experience, etc? What if the city has a majority of minorities, does this mean hiring only Caucasian workers to be diverse? The statement “Use minority contractors” sounds nice but means nothing and could result in higher prices, reduced services, and upset members, but none of that trumps the need for diversity!
No. 3: Give minorities their own space. That sounds like it could be interpreted as segregation. Separate space but equal amenities. Of course more rooms will be required, more entertainers will be needed, more expense will result, but that doesn't matter in the name of diversity. Of course, none of the different events can be scheduled for the same time in case an individual wants to be at more than one event. We don't want them to feel excluded from any one group.
No. 4: Provide scholarships. Don't recognize accomplishment itself; point out how the unexpected success of a few minorities deserves more recognition than that of other members. Sounds like political correctness at its worst.
No. 7: Offer alternatives. Don't stereotype, but pretend that you know what these “different ethnicities, races and cultures” will like. Surely they must be different and want different attractions. Wait, that sounds like stereotyping again, but it can't be because we are calling it diversity.
No. 8: Look at the nondiscrimination policies. Price, service, location are not mentioned, but offering partner benefits to employees is important. Getting involved with the policies of the venue, hotels, and suppliers in the name of diversity is more important than providing the best possible event at reasonable cost to all the attendees.
No. 15: Don forget women. Have child care for attendees, ignore the cost, remember it is in the name of diversity. Don't worry about those bothersome liability issues when children are invited to an event, that's what insurance is for, and again don't worry about the cost of the insurance.
I have not even tried to address every point, but almost every one of them results in higher cost and segregating people based on stereotypes.
I am surprised that the discussion isn't how do we find common ground and work and learn together because this sounds nice also, but this too has little meaning. As a liberal [you will find it] difficult to admit that people are what is important, not groups. Segregation, whether it be separate schools for minorities or separate receptions for minorities, is still segregation.
Gary M Tolbert, CEM,
Event Freight Group, DeSoto, Texas
Dear Editor: Thank you for this wonderful editorial [“Checking My Baggage,” Association Meetings December 2007, page 6]. Your editor's note hits the nail on the head in dealing with diversity and culture.
I see two main different ways of dealing with different cultures: One is I treat people the same, regardless of their culture, race, or sexual orientation. The second is one where you acknowledge them for who they are and where they are from.
Our culture defines a lot of who we are; the question is how to be inclusive of culture and not lose focus on your meetings goals.
Best Meetings, Bloomington, MN
Dear Editor: I just wanted to thank you for your article [from the diversity series, December 2007]. It is very rare that I see anything inclusive of gender identity and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] community. This is one area of focus for my own work — social justice being the other — and I just wanted to thank you.
Social Justice & Diversity
Consultant and Facilitator
Dear Editor I value diversity initiatives, but reading [17 Ways to Make Your Meeting More Inclusive] in last month's issue was a major disappointment. Any organization trying to apply the best practices contained in the article would quickly find themselves in a major recovery mode. The options offered are unworthy of a meeting planner's attention and should have come with a warning label.
They are at best naïve, poorly thought-out examples that support a haste-makes-waste approach to meeting press deadlines. A little due diligence could have ensured the treatment of this complex, highly sensitive subject was both appropriate to the topic and respectful of your readers, neither of which is the case here.
In the future, rather than dumbing down a topic, and disrespecting your readers, take time to do the right thing and to do things right.
Editor's response: I am glad to see that this series on diversity struck a chord with AM's readers! However, I do wish to respond to the points made by Mr. Tolbert and Mr. Geisman.
To Mr. Tolbert's argument that following some of these ideas would be bad meeting planning practice: The article does not state that these ideas should be implemented in lieu of the usual criteria for doing business, but in addition to them, if possible, and applicable to a specific group's needs. As to the propriety of offering separate meetings within the meeting, the article did say it could be viewed as divisive instead of inclusive. Again, know your group.
To Mr. Geisman's accusation that this series was thrown together with no thought or research: More than 25 meeting, hospitality, and diversity specialists were interviewed, and it is their advice that is included in the series.
If you have ideas on ways to make meetings more inclusive, please share them by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Sue Pelletier
Send your letters to email@example.com. We reserve the right to edit letters for space and clarity.