I recently had the privilege of co-facilitating a presentation on “Creating a Culturally Competent Career and Organization”with Erica Culpepper Bowen, vice president of business development for multicultural beauty at L’Oreal USA, at the National Diversity Women’s Business Leadership Conference. I was particularly pleased to be there as I was one of only six male speakers out of about 65, and one of two white males who were invited.
It is always a special honor as a man to present at a women’s conference, especially one where the majority of attendees are women of color. Upon registration, each attendee received a “goody bag” filled with samples from the sponsors. Among the products were a luxurious looking shampoo and expensive hair conditioner. I thought nothing of this, other than it will be something my wife might like.
At the opening welcome session, the program organizer thanked the sponsors, and pointed out the two beauty products and asked the audience “Now ladies, how many of you do not use the hair product accessories provide by hotels?” The overwhelming majority of the women raised their hands and laughed. I did not get the joke until one of the women sitting next to me told me that the hair accessories provided by hotels are not suitable for the texture of black women’s hair.
Now the sample products made great sense; here is a gift product most of the attendees could use immediately. Because one of my clients is a major hotel brand, I put in a call to ask why hotels do not have optional hair products. Who makes decisions that assume what would be best for others? This has many parallels in our multicultural world. What will be the next decision you, I or one of your business partners makes, that inadvertently ignores the others’ cultural and biological needs? I always learn more than I teach at these conferences, and this was a great learning moment for me.