Randie Gottlieb is shown speaking at the International Conference on Social and Economic Development in Orlando, Fla., in December 2010.
Submitted April 2011
3500 Meadowcrest Lane, Yakima, WA 98903
Years in business: 10
Line of business: Diversity training
Number of employees: 1
Greatest challenges and success:
Nineteen years ago, after living in Puerto Rico for over a decade, my husband and our two young boys moved to Yakima.
As a long-time member of the Bahá’í Faith, I wanted to devote my professional efforts toward something that would further the unity of humankind.
At the time, I believed that one of the most vital and challenging issues facing our nation was that of race unity.
I was therefore fortunate to find work at Heritage University heading up the EMPIRE Program for Multicultural Education.
The part-time job allowed me to raise our children, while giving me an opportunity to work with K-12 schools throughout the Upper and Lower Yakima Valley, providing diversity training and assistance with multicultural program planning, implementation and assessment.
Through the outstanding work of dedicated site teams at each school, EMPIRE was highlighted as a model program by President Clinton’s National Initiative on Race.
It received the “Golden Apple Award” for excellence in education in Washington state, and was honored with the “Year 2000 Best Program Award” by the National Association for Multicultural Education.
After 10 good years with EMPIRE, I decided to start my own diversity training business, doing what I loved full time. A number of workshops and training materials were developed and several associates were recruited to assist with cultural presentations.
The challenges faced by UnityWorks over the years have been largely philosophical, and are the same ones faced by most diversity trainers, including an “us-versus-them” mindset and a resistance to diversity itself.
There is also a limited understanding of what diversity is and why it might have value, the mistaken belief that diversity is about hiring unqualified people or attacking white males, forced attendance at training programs undertaken as a cosmetic response to complaints or to avoid liability in discrimination lawsuits, a lack of committed leadership, and the thinking that diversity training is just another fad or that systemic change is a short-term process with a quick fix.
While these obstacles are real and significant, UnityWorks has succeeded based on a philosophy of inclusion and respect.