Working for workplace religious diversity, equity & inclusion


Monthly Archives: January 2023

The Future of Wellness Includes Faith: Global Trends Report 2023

27 Jan, 2023

It’s an honor to contribute to the Global Wellness Summit’s The Future of Wellness 2023, the highly anticipated annual global trends report relied upon by wellness leaders, investors and the media. To be released at a press event in New York City on January 31, this in-depth report is packed with insights on the key shifts impacting the business of wellness.

For almost 20 years, the Global Wellness Summit has been predicting many wellness trends that became billion-dollar sectors such as wellness real estate and femtech years before anyone else.

In my contribution, When Faith Makes Good Business, I look at how faith is emerging as a central issue to diversity and inclusion because it is not only good for business but also a contributing factor to health, purpose and resiliency.

Indeed, as companies continue to globalize – businesses that understand and adopt respect for employees’ faiths and beliefs are not only recognizing micro-level factors but also the macro factor that globally, religious populations are outgrowing nonreligious populations 23-to-1. To be fully competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s marketplaces, companies need to tap into the full identify, strength and potential of their employees by including religion (faith and belief, including non-theistic beliefs) as a full-fledged part of their DEI commitments.

Preorder the digital report by January 31 to save $20 and receive your copy the same day as leading media. View sample in-depth trends reports and learn more here.

The weight of the 21st century is shifting from China to India

25 Jan, 2023

By Brian Grim

India’s G20 presidency coincides with civil society push forward

The message is impossible to miss. Every airport, every thoroughfare, and even underpasses are covered with signs celebrating that India, “The Mother of Democracy,” is hosting this year’s G20.

With the theme, “One Earth – One Family – One Future,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi envisions India taking a/the lead in the 21st century. Or as one of the many the billboards puts it, “Big Responsibility, Bigger Ambitions: India’s G20 Presidency to accelerate new ideas & collective action.”

From what I’m seeing, these slogans are stimulating concrete actions by civil society. For example, I’m in India this week to prepare for the global edition of our annual Dare to Overcome event. Since 2014 we planned to move it to China after holding it in Brazil, Korea and Japan in tandem with the Paralympic Games, but, for both push and pull factors, we have shifted to India.

On the push side, China closed their doors for three years. On the pull side, India is indeed the world’s largest democracy, whether or not you agree with the argument that it’s the mother of democracy. Democratic market and political factors push doors open, unlike authoritarian governments that can close them by fiat.

While here, I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate in two initiatives demonstrating India’s push forward coming from civil society.

The first was a summit of some 75 mostly private university presidents and vice chancellors convened by the Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT) World Peace University in Pune.

Together with the president of Vermont University, Suresh V. Garimella, they launched a consortium with the aim of transforming higher education in India in partnership with American universities. The group gathered under the university’s “Peace Dome” to hear the Rev. Prof. Dr. Vishwanath D. Karad, the founder of MIT-WPU, share how the ultimate aim of the endeavor is peace through the unification of science and spirituality. While top government officials were involved, including the governor of Maharashtra, this is a civil society-led initiative.

The second was having the honor of participating and giving input during the advanced planning meeting for the first-ever National Legislators’ Conference, where leaders from each Indian State legislature will come together this June to discuss Leadership, Democracy, Governance and Peace-building in India and the world.

Again, while Prime Minister Modi is slated to open the conference, it is entirely civil society led initiative, also by MIT-WPU. More than 4,000 are expected to participate, including invited foreign observers.

While some may be skeptical that the weight of the 21st century will shift from China to India, I’m expecting it to be so, especially because the great achilles heel of China (the lack of a robust civil society sector) is one of India’s strengths. The powerful civil society of India was mightily on display in the events I participated in this week.

Of course, tomorrow being India’s 74th Republic Day, it’s a story in the making, so the ending requires all that civil society can muster to make it one characterized by “justice, freedom, equality and fraternity.”

Do Countries Need Religious and Educational Freedoms to Achieve Prosperity?

25 Jan, 2023

This study examines the impact of religious and educational freedoms on prosperity. The system GMM model is applied by using the data of 45 lower-, middle-, and high-income countries from 2009 to 2018. The results show that religious and academic freedoms are positively and statistically significantly associated with prosperity.

It is revealed from the results that the lagged impact of both religious and education freedoms has a higher impact on prosperity than the current level of both variables. Interestingly, the interaction term between academic and religious freedom is also positive and statistically significant, indicating that their combined effect further increases prosperity. Further, the interaction term between government effectiveness and gross fixed capital formation is introduced. Its impact is positive and significant, indicating that capital investment positively affects prosperity in the case of higher government effectiveness.

This study uses gross fixed capital formation and trade openness as control variables and these variables have a positive impact on prosperity, but the impact of trade openness on prosperity is insignificant. Thus, this study recommends religious and education freedom to achieve prosperity, especially in low-income countries that are already lagging. More.

Spiritual health as important as physical health according to new McKinsey report

21 Jan, 2023

As organizations seek to keep workforces healthy and productive, an area needing more attention – spiritual health

A new initiative from McKinsey & Co. identifies spiritual health as one of four interconnected components of overall health.

The McKinsey Health Institute’s report last month, The secret to great health? Escaping the healthcare matrix, found that healthcare systems focus almost entirely on physical health, with more than 90% money spent on healthcare going toward treating physical disease or physical symptoms. However, most people consider that mental, social, and spiritual health are as important as physical health and that they are deeply interconnected.

Significantly, McKinsey goes beyond the World Health Organization’s definition of health, which includes physical, mental and social, but not spiritual* health.

In a recent survey of 19,000 people across 19 countries, McKinsey reports that more than 8-in-10 people said that their mental health was as important to them as their physical health. Likewise, the majority also said that spiritual and social health were “extremely” or “very important” to them. And this was not a function of the socio-economic position of a country. These views were shared across high-, middle-, and low-income countries.

Indeed, as organizations seek to keep workforces healthy and productive, an area needing more attention is spiritual health.

In our Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index, we include whether companies specifically provide for employees’ spiritual health either through corporate chaplains or some other means. Among companies competing the survey in 2022, the majority did. However, these companies self-selected into the benchmarking program, so we do not know what many other companies are doing in this area. We suspect not a lot.

To see more about the McKinsey Health Institute, click here. To read the full report, click here.

* According to McKinsey, “Spiritual health enables people to integrate meaning in their lives. Spiritually healthy people have a strong sense of purpose. They feel a broad sense of connection to something larger than themselves, whether to a community, a calling, or to a form of divinity. Spiritual health helps people feel rooted and mindful in the present moment. Research shows for older American adults, greater purpose in life has been linked with a lower risk of stroke. We note that strong spiritual health does not necessarily imply the adoption of religious beliefs, in general, or any specific dogma.”

EEOC Commissioner to Speak Feb. 24

18 Jan, 2023

Join Catholic University’s Busch School of Business, the Institute for Human Ecology, and the Center for Religious Liberty for a seminar examining the focus on diversity and equity in today’s corporate world, by EEOC Commissioner Andrea Lucas.

This in-depth discussion will consider the legal risks that may accompany corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, as well as shed light on common blind spots employers may have in this area.

Commissioner Lucas’s significant experience counseling employers combined with her work at the EEOC gives her unique insight into the practical and legal implications of the development and implementation of these programs, as well as the potential for DEI to conflict with an employer’s legal obligations under Title VII and other employment discrimination statutes.

See Commissioner Lucas’ keynote address at our year’s Faith@Work ERG Conference below, and read her transcript and watch the Q&A here.

White House celebrates Religious Freedom Day with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, USCIS & 13 brand new US citizens

14 Jan, 2023

By Brian Grim

On Friday, I had the honor of participating in the White House celebration of National Religious Freedom Day. It was the first time the celebration was combined with the naturalization of new US citizens at the White House.

The celebration coincided with the annual proclamation of Religious Freedom Day by President Joe Biden, who said, “Faith has sustained me throughout my life. For me and for so many others, it serves as a reminder of both our collective purpose and potential in the world. But for far too many people within our borders and beyond, practicing their faith still means facing fear and persecution. Today, let us recommit ourselves to ending this hate. And let us work together to ensure that people of all religions — and no religion — are treated with equal dignity and respect.”

On a personal note, Second Gentleman of the United States, Doug Emhoff, said, “Today is National Religious Freedom Day – and we know here in America that religious freedom is a core, transformative democratic principle and it sets our nation apart from the days of its very founding and continues now to forge our unique identities as Americans. I’m the descendant of people who came here a long time ago seeking freedom from religious persecution and today am the first Jewish spouse of an American President or Vice President and know first hand the powerful importance of religious freedom in our society.”

The event welcomed 13 new citizens from 13 different countries, some seeking greater religious freedom. These included teachers, aid workers, economists, soccer coaches, lawyers, moms, dads, many church going, temple attending or involved with their local mosque, now all US citizens.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ur M. Jaddou issued the oath of allegiance, mentioning how only in America could the daughter of a father from Iraq and a mother from Mexico rise to such a position.

Director Jaddou went on to present the annual “Outstanding Americans by Choice” award to Rev. Eugene Cho, President and CEO of Bread for the World, a Christian organization dedicated to ending hunger in the United States and the world. Rev. Cho emigrated from South Korea to the US with his family, who were originally from North Korea.

Melissa Rogers, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, delivered the keynote address. She shared about the various ways the administration is protecting religious freedom, including having established the Protecting Places of Worship Interagency Policy Committee last January, and implementing the largest-ever increase in funding for the physical security of non-profits — including churches, gurdwaras, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other houses of worship.

Melissa Rogers was previously senior counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Also in attendance were two US Ambassadors for International Religious Freedom, Democrat Rashad Hussain and Republican Sam Brownback. Amb. Hussain is the current ambassador in the Biden Administration and he is the first Muslim American to hold the post. Sam Brownback held the post under the Trump Administration and currently co-chairs the IRF Summit with Democrat Katrina Lantos Swett.

Others in attendance included Adam Nicholas Phillips, a senior leader in the Biden-Harris Administration on local, community and Faith-based engagement at USAID. Previously he was a pastor in Portland, Oregon.



Are Your DE&I Efforts Missing This One Critical Component? … FAITH

7 Jan, 2023

By Brian Grim

Diversity is seen merely as a political agenda by some. One reason is that it has largely excluded religion, but that is changing.

See the recent article published by the nation’s leading human resource organization, SHRM: Are Your DE&I Efforts Missing This One Critical Component? … FAITH …| By Denise Yohn – a brand leadership expert, keynote speaker and best-selling author of books such as Fusion (Nicholas Brealey, 2018) and What Great Brands Do (Jossey-Bass, 2014).

Yohn writes, “If you want employees to bring their whole selves to work—as most companies say they do—it’s important to acknowledge that faith is an essential part of many people’s identity…”

Worth a read

3 reasons why 2023 is a tipping point for religious freedom for everyone

4 Jan, 2023

By Brian Grim, RFBF President

Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, written two decades before the covid pandemic, talked about how social change follows a similar pattern as epidemics. If he were writing the same book today, he might use China’s zero-covid policy that isolated its 1.4 billion people for nearly three years as the tipping point for the world to abandon authoritarian regimes as trusted supply chain partners.

Gladwell’s argument focused on three elements that create a “tipping point” – the point at which everything seemed an uphill struggle until suddenly the peak was reached and everything shifted into downhill mode. The elements are The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and The Power of Context.

For religious freedom, all three elements are converging in 2023. Let me give examples of each that I’ve seen in the lead up to 2023.

The Law of The Few

The first element in reaching a tipping point is that a few socially gifted people share knowledge, connect with social networks, and sell the idea.

In October 2022, Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of the Intel Corporation, urged corporations to place more emphasis on facilitating safe spaces for religion at work during Stanford University’s “The Role of Faith in Business in Silicon Valley” conference at the Rock Center.

While the event may not have made national headlines, Gelsinger’s ideas are contagious and leading other leaders to also speak out.

For example, when Gelsinger received the 2021 Global Business & Interfaith Peace Gold Medal from the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation for his enthusiastic support for religiously inclusive workplaces, his acceptance speech triggered another top corporate leader to respond. John Tyson, chairman of Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, to also spoke out on the importance of faith-friendly workplaces, referencing Pat Gelsinger.

In December 2022, I was in Silicon Valley for PayPal’s Interfaith Fair and Equinix’s Interfaith Holiday Luncheon and saw how this movement is spreading among top leaders and top companies.

Beyond companies, it is now even being argued for in influential business publications, including the Harvard Business Review in September 2022 by the influencer Simran Jeet Singh. And just yesterday in the nation’s premier human resource organization’s publication SHRM Executive Network: Are Your DE&I Efforts Missing This One Critical Component? – Faith, by brand expert Denise Lee Yohn.

The Stickiness Factor

The second element of a tipping point is that there is a quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea. There is a change in the message that makes it more contagious or memorable.

For decades, religious freedom was something that was largely the providence of lawyers and court battles, everything from fights over zoning restrictions and grooming regulations to hot-button culture war issues that continue to be litigated up to the Supreme Court level.

However, the embrace of workplace religious freedom is a complete change in the message. It means that religious freedom is not just an issue for the few who are aggrieved but for absolutely everyone. From the Atheist to the Adventist and the member of Zion Baptist to the Zoroastrian, everyone has a stake in being able to bring their whole authentic self to work – faith/belief and all.

This is a paradigm shift – workplace “freedom of religion and belief” is a matter of consensus rather than contention. The consensus can be seen in that this is not just a Silicon Valley idea, but one being embraced by wide range of industries participating in the Corporate Religious Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (REDI) Index: retailers, airlines, financial institutions, manufacturers, insurers, defense contractors, and consulting groups.

Workplace religious freedom for all is a sticky idea because it does not make sense for people to check their faith — what for many is their deepest source of inspiration — at the door when they come to work. That’s a bad business idea.

The Power of Context

The Power of Context refers to the environment: if the historical moment is not right, then the tipping point will not likely take place.

I believe that the context is ripe. Corporations in the United States have been focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for decades, largely omitting religion and instead focusing on other important issues including race, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, age and even family, as our 2020 REDI Index report showed.

While the seeming omission of religion gives fuel to detractors who dismiss corporate diversity programs as nothing but a woke agenda, the DEI movement provides a context into which workplace religious freedom for all can naturally grow and be accepted.

And as mentioned already, the consensus that religion should be included is moving across industries, not just among those in Silicon Valley. This context not only allows religious freedom to be embraced in workplace, it means that millions of people are able to be involved in building religious freedom right in their own work environments.

Therefore, religious freedom is no longer defined as something fought about in courts and culture wars, but something that every person can work to build with colleagues of all faiths and beliefs for everyone’s benefit.

I expect 2023 to be a tipping point not just for freedom of religion and belief in the workplace but for such religious freedom across the country because where big business goes, society follows. And so does the world.