Posted by: lwagner10 | August 30, 2012

ACS National Meeting in Philadelphia

The American Chemical Society formed a subdivision for LGBT Chemist and allies on 2010.  I have the privilege of chairing this group for 2012.  I presented a paper “LGBT Diversity and Inclusion in Business” during our technical section in Philadelphia.  The paper focused on the relationship between diversity and innovation in business.  Major companies have evolved beyond a focus on recruitment and retention for diversity.  A majority of companies in both a Forbes survey and a European survey show that there is a significant focus on company goals including innovation as a key area for diversity activities.  According to Scott Page, “If people think alike then no matter how smart they are they most likely will get stuck at the same locally optimal solutions. Finding new and better solutions, innovating, requires thinking differently.  That’s why diversity powers innovation.”  Scott Page also indicates that achieving optimum results requires that work teams have diverse perspectives and heuristics.   While effort and success on LGBT diversity are limited according to the above surveys, progress is being made.  In addition, a new study at UCLA Anderson shows that an openly gay person paired with another person outperformed an ambiguously gay person paired with another person by 30% on a cognitive task and 20% on a sensory-motor task on average.  While empirically, people believe that being out can improve performance, this study is great first step in demonstrating the relationship between performance and being out.  There is still much to do including ENDA, but progress is being made.  


Posted by: lwagner10 | October 31, 2011

Stereotype Formation

At a recent presentation on health care, the speaker, a noted doctor, asserted that men were better at multitasking than women.  This might not have caught my attention so much if it was not followed by a rather loud B…S… in a feminine voice from the audience.  It reminded me that this is frequently how stereotypes are promoted.  As presented, it could be easily interpreted as all men are better at multitasking than women.  The next step in developing a bad stereotype is the conclusion that all women are bad at multitasking and all men are good at multitasking.  I have no doubt that the study quoted showed that on average, men are better at multitasking than women.  But I am equally sure that some women were better at multitasking than some men, and some probably better than a lot of men.  While this is probably not a preeminent issue for many, other than the lady in audience, it shows how we can overstate data and offend people.  This data can be scientifically generated as in this case or our own limited data collection.

Posted by: lwagner10 | September 28, 2011

Is being out beneficial for your performance?

Here is a very interesting study which further supports the importance of people being out in the workplace from the UCLA Newsroom.

 UCLA Anderson study challenges effectiveness of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ similar policies

 By Elise Anderson September 19, 2011 Category: Research

Could working with an openly gay individual undermine a co-worker’s on–the-job performance? Not likely, according to a recent UCLA Anderson School of Management study. In fact, concealing one’s sexual orientation may actually have an adverse effect on workplace function.


The findings of a six-month study by UCLA Anderson doctoral candidates Benjamin Everly and Geoffrey Ho and UCLA Anderson associate professor of human resources and organizational behavior Margaret Shih suggest that policies that introduce uncertainty into social interactions, such as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” may harm rather than protect performance.


The study results, recently published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, come at a controversial juncture inU.S.politics, with the congressional repeal of the military’s 18-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy occurring Sept. 20.


“While much research examines what happens to individuals who conceal an identity, there is almost no work examining what happens to a person who interacts with someone forced to hide their sexual orientation,” Everly said. “Our studies are the first to examine how policies such as ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ affect the performance of people working with gay teammates.”


These studies focused on providing a deeper understanding of the role concealable identities may play in social interactions and determining whether disclosing or revealing sexual orientation hinders or improves performance. To that end, the researchers designed tests to measure the cognitive and sensory-motor skills of more than 50 UCLA undergraduate men, each of whom was paired with a gay confederate who would either disclose or conceal his sexual orientation.


Participants were asked to complete different tasks in two separate studies. The first examined whether participants working with openly gay partners performed better on a series of math problems compared to participants who worked with ambiguously gay partners. The second tested whether participants working with openly gay partners performed better on a Nintendo Wii shooting game, compared with participants who worked with ambiguously gay partners.


The results of each study showed that the participants paired with openly gay partners performed on average 32 percent better on the cognitive task and 20 percent better on the sensory-motor task, compared with participants paired with ambiguously gay partners.


Previous research has indicated that ambiguity in interactions may hurt performance, as individuals need to be able to predict behaviors and attitudes with their partners to facilitate social interaction. Disclosure of sexual orientation by a gay partner reduces ambiguity and makes the interaction less psychologically demanding, the researchers say.


“The results of our studies suggest that there may be beneficial effects from the abolition of DADT,” Shih said. “It’s possible that service men and women may perform better at their jobs when they no longer need to wonder about the sexual orientation of their comrades.”


Posted by: lwagner10 | April 2, 2011

American Chemical Society Paper

I had the great pleasure of presenting a paper, “LGBT diversity in major businesses: Progress and shortcomings”, at the first session at a National American Chemical Society National Spring Meeting in Anaheim sponsored by the new Gay and Transgender Chemists and Allies subdivision of the Professional Division. The session was reasonably well attended for a first session with a mix of students, industry and academia.   All of the papers were very well received.

Papers on GLBT role models, transgender Chemists, academic perspective of diversity and GLBT diversity programs for the technical community were also presented. This was followed by a panel discussion with very active audience participation.

My material focused on the business case for diversity, the importance of stereotypes, progress in diversity as measured by the Human Rights Campaign, continued shortcomings including hidden biases and a case, and the importance of being out at work in correcting stereotypes. 

 The Gay and Transgender Chemists and Allies is providing a great step forward for the LGBT technical community.  

 As usual, I learned a lot about the care abouts of the LGBT community in the world of technology.

Posted by: lwagner10 | March 4, 2011

Value of GLBT Diversity Training and Affinity Groups

One of the psychologists at the National Diversity Equity Workshop (see my last blog) indicated that diversity training and affinity groups were ineffective in achieving equality based on measurable changes in promotion demographics.  The topic of the effectiveness of diversity training has been covered in a prior blog and LinkedIn Group discussions.  Since I am offering diversity training, this has caused me to think again about whether I can really add value.  I have really seen the role of diversity training as starting place.  It is about identifying real or potential issues in the workplace. Diversity training really is the start of a process, shining the first light on issues which may be occurring.  Diversity training is rarely about driving specific actions toward achieving diversity recognition and ultimately equality in the workplace.  I think it is asking too much to expect measurable results from a first step. If entities doing diversity training believe that it will cure problems, they have seriously exceeded the expectations for such training. They should really expect that people are alerted to issues which need to be addressed. 

Affinity groups are also particularly important for a couple of reasons.  Other minority groups have well define demographics.  The lack of demographics drives a lack of urgency in corporate management.  Management is typical data driven and loathe to react to isolated instances.  Affinity groups bring a forum for bring the isolated instances to light and connecting them into a case for action.  A second reason is that the GLBT community lacks legal workplace protections in much of the country.  Without legal protections, discrimination can remain hidden, a burden on efficiency and morale.

Posted by: lwagner10 | February 10, 2011

LGBT Diversity in Academia

There has been a great deal of public emphasis on diversity in business.  However diversity in our universities has not received much attention.  I know I felt that the universities were liberal bastions with diversity not as likely to be an issue. I learned that this was not the case.  I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the National Diversity Equity Workshop on the topic of LGBT (LGBTQIQ was their preferred acronym—I think addressing the college students) diversity.  This is an effort supported by the Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity (OXIDE) with the National Science Foundation as the primary sponsor.  The meeting brought together the 50 top Chemistry Departments in the country.  Representation was primarily department chairs with some faculty representatives.  This was the fourth workshop in the series.  The first focused on equity for women, the second on ethnic minorities, and the third on people with disabilities, probably associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act. LGBT diversity was a new topic for this workshop.   

This two day workshop was very informative.  I saw great similarities in the diversity efforts in business to this effort for Chemistry Departments.  However, it appears that the universities are lagging many businesses by several years.  An example of similarity is that businesses seem to have focused on women’s issues first and ethnic issues second.  The universities shared demographics through surveys which were presented.  Another is similarities in the statistical under-representation of minorities. The demographics for the universities showed a clear case for biases in university promotions. 

A focus of discussion was subtle biases which cut across several very interesting presentations by psychologists.  One significant concept was the “Accumulation of Advantage”.  The study showed that even a 1% edge in advantage led to very significant spreads in promotion and benefits over longer periods of time (this is why a casino works!!).   Another interesting concept was sorting fairness into three categories: procedural, reward and interaction.  Procedural fairness means that the rules for protection are in place.  This is what the HRC Corporate Equity Index measures.  Reward fairness is most obviously influenced by subtle biases and a major element in the accumulation of advantage.  Interaction fairness is more difficult to achieve, particularly in interactions with your boss.  

My talk on “LGBT Diversity in Business” was very well received.   I focused initially on the business case for diversity in general.  Recruiting and retaining the best possible employees requires an environment which respects diversity in all forms.   If one accepts this, the concept of respect for all forms of diversity is elevated since no one is safe from bias if everyone is not safe from bias.  This is a lesson which I learned well working with all of the affinity groups at my past employer. 

One of the unique issues with LGBT equity is the lack of demographics. This is a great problem in corporate America because even in companies with perfect HRC scores, people are not comfortable that they will not be discriminated against, at least subtly.  A very crude poll combined with a back of envelop calculation would tend indicate that something on the order of 10-20% of the LGBT population in the Chemistry Departments are out at work.  I suspect this is not very different from corporate America.  Another focus was looking at providing an environment where people are to work as the people they are, interaction fairness.  An environment where people can be out without fear is the ideal.  With the current business and university environment, LGBT demographics will be very difficult to obtain.  Another critical issue with people not being out is that without interaction with LGBT community members, stereotypes can never really be effectively broken down.    

In my talk, I noted that will the HRC Corporate Equity Index was focused on companies. I also noted that the criteria could easily be used to evaluate the procedural fairness of a non-profit organization or university department as well.  Private discussion indicated that recruiting of LGBT faculty members was made difficult by lack of domestic partner benefits, often in control of the state government and not the university.  It is also indicated that an environment where people are comfortable being out and people actually being out is a catch 22.

Posted by: lwagner10 | July 14, 2010


My recent blogs at and talk about the dangers of absolute certainty.  Certainty is also the bane of diversity.  At the core of every bigotry lies the certainty in the superiority of their race, religion etc. This certainty projects itself as certainty of the weakness or evil in others.  This is particularly true of homophobia  A recent article on LGBT allies coming out in the Dallas Voice provided a great perspective on LGBT diversity.  This article clearly points out the need for LGBT allies to be willing to express their support. This is really enabled by the coming out within the LGBT community.  It is the personal knowledge of LGBT people that is best able to generate true LGBT allies.  It has not been that long since many people could honestly say that they did not know anyone who was LGBT.  That was true for me as well, before coming out, I really did not have any friends or family who I knew to be gay.  I did, of course, later find that a few of my friends were LGBT as well.

Posted by: lwagner10 | April 30, 2010

Diversity Training Effectiveness

A recent editorial in the Dallas Morning News indicated that diversity training was not effective.  There was little indication of the metrics used to measure the effectiveness of diversity training.  If the metrics are immediate feedback, clearly the training is poorly constructed or not consistent with management actions.  If a company is really able to measure effectiveness and separate out the effect of diversity training in the longer term, one must assume that is all that is being done to address diversity issues.  If all a company is doing is diversity training, they are very unlikely to be making much progress.  Like many other things in training, reinforcement is essential.  This is especially true of training intended to change behaviors and attitudes.  Diversity training needs to part of a over all program which promotes diversity and its acceptance in the workplace with a goal of improvement in work efficiency.  

Acceptance of diversity in the workplace will more correspond to management actions than the amount of training provided.  However, diversity training should be a significant part of communicating a message of management belief that diversity is a competitive advantage.

My other blog sites are and

Posted by: lwagner10 | February 11, 2010

Marriage Equality

The obvious gorilla in the room for LGBT diversity is marriage equality. It seems like this is not really a corporate issue as most companies now recognize same sex relationships in line with the local legalities but it does have a large impact. In general, many companies try to provide commensurate benefits to same-sex partners. AT&T’s recent reversal of denying a leave for an employee to care their ill partner (married couples are legally assured of this type of leave) is a good reflection of companies being serious about providing equal benefits and aligning benefits where discrepancies are found. Most companies would prefer to avoid the issue of taking sides in the legal process which is reasonable if the company generally tries to keep out the political arena. Reasons are apparent looking at companies which donated to either side of Proposition 8 in California. Taking political sides on any issue poses risks as companies frequently come under great pressure from one customer constituency or other. Tax exempt non-profits should have been doing the same thing for other reasons, protecting tax exemptions. Separation of church and state has come under greater scrutiny in much of this debate. Churches have become politically focused organization whenever they feel the need. As such, they are not entitled to tax exemptions. They take this inane approach of saying that their freedom of speech is being challenged. No one is saying they can’t have political views and express them as they fit and spend their money on campaigns. They just can’t be a tax exempt organization anymore (thinking churches are really non-profit organizations in equally laughable in many cases). If they believe so strongly that they need to be politically active, they should do the morally correct thing and give up the tax exemption. Something about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.  Note that they also give up tax deductions for their donors. The various governments of this country can really use the money right now. 

Actually, separation of church and state are at the heart of the debate. The duality of marriage as a religious sacrament and a civil legal contract is the real issue. It is the civil recognition of relationships that creates great hardships for same sex couples, settlement of estates, hospital visitation etc.  The reality is that legal contract of marriage is the realm of the government as the sacramental side is for the church. The Catholic Church particularly does not recognize any civil marriage or even marriage performed by other faiths.  In many cases, they have refused to perform interfaith marriages. Precedent for churches refusing to recognize or perform sex marriages is well established so the fear of being forced to perform ceremonies seems moot rationalization. The reality is that recognition of same sex marriage is a practical way to recognize the civil contract of same sex relationships. Civil union nomenclature greatly complicates the issue unnecessarily. Thousands upon thousands of laws would potentially need to be rewritten to accommodate civil equality of the same sex relationships.  At the same time, it simplifies life for companies.  It obviates the need for the same recoding of policies to create real equality in business practices.  It also gets companies out of creating artificial definitions of partnership such as 6 months of cohabitation. Such artificial definitions seem needed to define a relationship for domestic partner benefits purposes without any factual basis. Marriage equality would also bring an end to domestic partnership benefits creating the need for a bridge to cover employees until they can legally marry.

Posted by: lwagner10 | October 23, 2009

Stereotypes are Strange Things

Stereotypes are strange things.  They are often demonized by minorities but are they really bad.  In reality, they are a normal human way of sorting data about classes of people. When we meet several people in some class, we observe and note commonalities. We use these commonalities to prepare us for further interactions with that class of people.  In themselves, they are neither good nor bad.  It is only when we fail to recognize them as statistical assessments of classes of people that stereotypes become a problem.  This is particularly true when we have no personal observations but are reliant on stereotypes that we have learned from others.  When we believe that everyone in that class is narrowly defined by our learned or emerging stereotype, we fail to understand the statistical nature of the observations. 

Stereotypes can, in fact, be quite useful.  On my first visit to Japan on business, I received a lot of advice on how to interact with my Japanese coworkers.  The stereotype this advice generated was helpful in dealing with the stresses of my first overseas business trip and better interact with my Japanese coworkers.  It prepared me to not have snap reactions to many of things I experienced.  When used properly, stereotypes can prepare us for encounters with people who fall into various classes.  The stereotype can keep us from have a negative snap reactions to people in stressful situations because we are better prepared.  The key to recognize the stereotype as a statistical analysis of observations.  We are going meet people who are clearly outside of the stereotype.  Without this realization, we deprive ourselves of getting a fuller understanding of that class of people.  This type of approach allowed me to get a much greater appreciation of the Japanese people I have worked with since this first visit to Japan.    

Stereotypes become most dangerous when we fail to allow them to develop naturally.  After all, statistics improve in quality as we get a larger sample. As we met more people in a class, we need to continue to update our statistical observations, our stereotype.  In the worse cases, people can reject any data that doesn’t reinforce our stereotype.  This is particularly the case with learned stereotypes and can lead to strong biases and bigotry.   During much of my life, my knowledge of gay people was dictated by learned stereotypes since I had not met anyone I knew was gay.  This was largely because being closeted was the norm for gay people during much of my life.  The stereotypes were extremely negative and depressing.  As I began to meet gay people, I realized that very few of them met even a few of the elements of the stereotype.  I still have a gay stereotype but it is far different than the initial stereotype I had.  Like the Japanese stereotype, it is much richer and fuller from experiencing more people who are LGBT. 

My key learning is that experiencing different people and forming richer stereotypes is a very rewarding thing to do.  It allows growth as a person and builds respect for everyone as both differences and likenesses are stored in our statistical database.  It is all too easy to value the likenesses, but the real learning comes from understanding and respecting the differences.  Some would tell us to embrace the differences.  This does happen as I have learned to embrace the differences between my partner and myself.  For example, we are an interfaith couple, Catholic and Buddhist.  I have come to embrace both religions for what they teach (see my Buddha and Me blog  at  For other situations such as work, respect of differences is really all we should expect.

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