The business pundits can write forever about how important diversity is. But we are not achieving it, and the people losing out the most are black men. Associated Press writer Erin Texeira did the world a favor by writing an article that describes the black man’s experience of confronting constant racism, especially at the office.

The piece is shocking and heartbreaking. Each of us should aspire to use our own position in the workplace to change the current situation for black men. But nothing will change for black men at the office until there is broad awareness of what the problems are. So the first thing you can do is read the article.

Overheard at synagogue: “I would like to grow up and become a rabbi like you, but my dad doesn’t think women should be rabbis.” From the head rabbi’s seven-year-old daughter to the assistant rabbi who is a woman.

Religious groups seem to be one of the last standouts — along with coal mining and construction — where people feel free to openly declare that women should not hold top jobs. Don’t get me wrong, people in other fields are thinking it. But they know to talk in low voices.

Yesterday, the AP reports, “Jefferts Schori, bishop of Nevada, was elected Sunday as the first female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the US arm of the Anglican Communion.” She has an advantage over other women rising in religious organizations in that she has worked as a pilot and an oceanographer, other fields that are male dominated. Sharing ideas across industry lines is critical toward diversifying leadership in any given industry. In this sense, Schori is a one-woman meeting-of-the-minds.

But Schori is unique in that more than other fields of business I know, women in the pulpit have separated themselves from women who are breaking down gender barriers in other professions. While women in engineering, for example, align themselves with women in marketing and mentor each other, women in the pulpit are less likely to see themselves in the same boat as these other women.

But they are in the same boat: Religious organizations have office politics and salary issues; there are issues over who gets their own secretary and there are issues with sixty-year-old men who think they’re still working in an era where it was legal to specify gender in a help wanted ad.

The good news is that there are “more liberal attitudes toward women in leadership positions among those in younger generations,” and the gender divide is decreasing quickly among younger workers. Example: A female rabbi I know was interviewing for a job in a large synagogue. A male congregant stood up and asked, “How can you do such a demanding job as this one and take care of your kids?” A younger male congregant stood up and said, “That’s an illegal question. Don’t answer it.”

No matter what your business situation is, you should keep an ear to the ground about how people in other industries are changing the rules of management and success. There is a large and inclusive base of people who want a flexible and tolerant workplace. Align yourself with those people. You don’t have to do this alone, even as a priest or a rabbi.

Just about every major business publication has run something about how diversity improves business performance. If you are on a diverse team, you’ll probably have more success than if you’re on a homogenous team. And, to some extent, we can each control the teams we’re on.

For one thing, you should pick companies to work for that have a diverse group of employees. You can also do what you can to build your own diverse teams.

One way to think of diversity is race. A professor at the University of Chicago conducted a study about workplace racism in which he sent 5000 resumes to want ads in Boston and Chicago. He sent duplicate resumes, but changed the names. The names that sounded white (Emily Walsh) were fifty percent more likely to get a call back than a name that sounded African-American (Lakisha Washington).

You are probably saying to yourself that you would never be racist at work. But that is probably not true. Because almost no one will admit to being racist, but a lot of it is unintentional, and it’s definitely not limited to the scope of that resume study.

While you’re busy denying that you’re racist, consider that diversity is not all about race – or gender, for that matter.

I had an eye-opening experience when I wrote an article for the LA Weekly about medical issues for “non-whites”. I could not write “minorities” in the LA Weekly, because in LA, Hispanics outnumber whites. (Interesting side note, from the article: Many top doctors who study this topic are advocating separate but equal treatments for blacks and whites.)

So, try thinking about diversity in terms of experience. Look for diversity in economic experience, in schooling, politics. The June issue of Harper’s magazine ran a little piece about how “living libraries” that have taken place in Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Portugal. The idea is that there are real people that you can borrow for an hour in order to explore your own prejudices and stereotypes. Here are some examples of the kinds of people you can borrow:

Animal-rights activist, black person, bureaucrat, environmentalist, ex-football hooligan, ex-illiterate person, e-neo-Nazi, feminist, Jew, Muslim, priest, unemployed person, asylum seeker, blonde woman, disabled person, ex-drug abuser, ex-homeless person, ex-prisoner, gay person, lesbian, police officer, skateboarder, vegetarian.

The charm of the list, of course, is that we each ask ourselves who we have the most prejudice against. For me, it’s the football player. I’m not sure, frankly, that I’ve ever talked to one for more than a couple of minutes.

So maybe diversity you need to create in your work teams is as wide or as narrow as the kind of experience you are missing in your own life.

Here’s a piece in the Boston Globe about learning how to react constructively when someone makes offensive comments at work. In fact, the majority of people, it appears, will say nothing, even though a comment offends their sensibilities.

Decades of research into bystander apathy shows that people freeze when they are in a group. “In one 1969 laboratory experiment, people were put into a room where they heard someone behind a curtain moaning about a hurt leg. Seventy percent of those who were alone offered help, compared with just 40 percent of those who were with a stranger.”

This does not surprise me. I am Jewish but for some reason, bigots do not realize that I’m Jewish. So I hear a lot of slurs against Jews and they always catch me off guard. Once my boss made a comment about getting “Jewed” out of something, and I said, “I’m Jewish.” Certainly, there are better responses — one that would educate, perhaps. But I couldn’t think of one on the spot.

I remember as a kid being told by the “Just say no” campaign how important it is to rehearse beforehand. I think this is true for diversity training as well. It’s very hard to come up with the right thing to say in the moment, but it’s important. To be a leader at work, you need to be a leader at bringing tolerance to the workplace. People who matter will admire and appreciate you for this.

All managers have one, shared goal: Get a promotion. But many times, the job of a manger is so multifaceted and detail-laden that the manager loses site of that big picture. Here are five jobs of a manager that are often lost in the muddle of managing smaller, day-to-day issues.

1. Manage conflict
Avoiding conflict is for people who want to lay low and move up by dint of inertia. This plan will take you only so far. At some point you have to meet conflict head on and show that you can resolve it. Think about this: At the highest levels of management, leaders are essentially gathering competing opinions from the very informed and making a decision based on conflicting recommendations. Conflict at your level, e.g. “Karen is late on every project and I don't want to work with her on the next one,” is preparation for the next level. Don't shrink from this stepping-stone by hiding in the sand until the conflict resolves itself. Managing conflict allows you to become an arbitrator and negotiator, and most of all, someone who has developed good judgment on hard calls.

2. Manage your personal life.
You are kidding yourself if you think people don't see what's going on with you at home. Are you getting drunk every night? Are your finances a mess? You might live a fantasy that you are hiding bad behavior from co-workers, but stress shows up in nonverbal, unexpected ways that make people uncomfortable to be with you and worried about your competence. People who seem to have shaky lives at home seem like time bombs at work. So instead of trying to hide your personal life, redirect that energy toward improving your personal life. You might not have as much focus for work in the short term, but in the long term you'll be in better shape to manage effectively.

3. Manage hearts and minds
Sure, you need to manage budgets, schedules, and strategy. But if you don't have peoples' hearts on your side, your team won't over perform for you. The easiest way to win the hearts of your team members is to genuinely care about them. You can't fake this. So if you don't genuinely care about people who work for you, ask yourself why you are in management. (There are plenty of big, rewarding careers that don't include management.) Management is about helping people to be their best. Once you genuinely care about people, you will be able to find out what excites them, and you will help them reach their goals at work. Which, invariably, will shine favorably on your own workplace performance.

4. Manage diversity'
Diversity is not popular right now, when so many people worry about their job going overseas. But study after study shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams. And besides, diversity doesn't mean hiring someone in Mumbai. Managing diversity starts by hiring someone who is not like everyone else on your team. Then do it again and again and find a way to make the team gel. Diverse teams are more difficult to manage — there are more opinions, more preconceptions, more quirks, and more conflicts. But top managers can leverage these difficulties as a means to establish more innovative planning. After all, no one became great by surrounding themselves with people who think like everyone else.

5. Manage a successor
If you're doing a good job, it's hard to convince your boss to promote you; he has no idea who will take your place, and he risks his own job performance by letting you replace yourself with someone who might not be as capable. Instead, train someone in-house to take over your job as soon as you have a handle on it yourself. The person should be practically doing your job so that you can find areas where you can take on more responsibility before you ask for a promotion. Managing a successor allows you to first lead without the title, and then to ask for the new title. And more money.

One summer, when I found myself with no job and no plan, I panicked and took a job on a chicken farm in the French countryside. I told myself the job would look good on my resume — showing I am adventurous and understand the agriculture business to boot. Neither is true, in fact, and I have never put this experience on my resume. But I did learn a lot on the farm about getting ahead at the office.

My deal with the family that employed me was that I would perform household chores in exchange for room and board. To me, “chores” meant sweeping and dusting. To them, it meant killing and plucking chickens. In my lame French, I said killing animals was not among my duties. The matron of the house said I’d be kicked out for breaking the agreement. So I learned to pluck. Lesson 1: Get everything in writing.

The farmer blocked off a small area of the coop where the wee chicks could live without getting lost. Every week, the chicks would double in size, as would the area. By the end of the summer, the coop was full. Lesson 2: Start small, but prepare for rapid growth.

It was important to move the chickens into the buyer’s truck before they realized what was happening. So in the middle of the night, while they were sleeping, we grabbed the chickens by the legs and held them upside down. The farmer couldn’t believe I did it without throwing up, and he gave me three days off. Lessons 3 and 4: Have a strategy, and learn skills outside your job description.

I once bit into an apple before noticing that everyone else had peeled theirs first. The 8-year-old daughter declared in French, “She eats apples like the pigs.” The mother responded, “Be careful, she is beginning to understand.” Lesson 5: Learn another language.

I picked cherries from the branches that were too high for the 8-year-old. Later she gathered the eggs out from under the hens so I wouldn’t get pecked. Lesson 6: Make friends in low places.

I fed the rabbits on the farm for five weeks. One evening, they were gone. “They are not pets like the dog,” the farmer said as we dined on my charges. Lesson 7: Never get too attached to anyone you work with.

Relatives of the host family came to visit from Lyon. I had more in common with the city French than the rural French did. They invited me to spend my last month with them, when I was supposed to be harvesting hay on the farm. I told the farmer I would stay only if I didn’t have to feed the pigs anymore. Lesson 8: Job offers give you more leverage.

Every day a few chickens would be trampled to death or die from heat exhaustion in the coop. I walked close behind the farmer, who would scoop up the dead birds before me. Lesson 9: When there’s crap everywhere, stick close to someone in the know.

I didn’t read any books, and I worried all summer that I wasn’t learning a thing. But really, I was learning solid fundamentals that would help me throughout my career. Lesson 10: Never assume that anything is a waste of your time.

If my mom were telling you her life story, she would begin with her dad suffering a stroke when she was very little and having to grow up with no money. Despite such humble beginnings, my mom’s career has never been about money. I think my mom genuinely enjoys management, but it has taken a long time and a lot of hardship for her to be able to truly enjoy it.

During my mom’s first job interview, in the late ’60s, she was asked two questions:

1. Does your husband know you’re getting a job?

2. Who will take care of your kids while you’re at work?

My mom passed the interview with flying colors, and she became a Cobol programmer. I loved going to the office with my mom, especially when the computer system went down, because everyone at the office wanted to ask my mom a question.

My dad did not love that stuff. So after 14 years of working, my mom got pregnant and quit work in a last-ditch effort to save her marriage.

After the divorce my mom had two small children and an awkward resume. She had managed a very large team at a very large company years earlier, but the only job she could land was as the secretary for someone who was not qualified to be a secretary, let alone a secretary’s boss. Mom cried a lot. She said no one would call her about jobs because she was 45 years old. By this time I was 21 and could tell her things that she often told me when I was frustrated: Be patient. Once you get an interview, you’ll get the job. And, sometimes you need to send out 100 resumes to get one response.

My mom taught herself C++ at night, after the kids were asleep. She learned Java at another job, where she stole away for long lunches to go to doctor’s appointments with my younger brothers. At still another job, this one at a large credit card company, my mom took the bus to work every day so my brothers could drive the car to school.

All this, and she was still at the bottom of the programming ladder. She reported to a woman who was my age.

If my mom were telling you this story, she’d say this woman was a smart, professional, and a compassionate manager. But every time I tried to imagine reporting to someone 20 years younger than I am, I got sick and sweaty.

Recently my mom got a promotion. Now she manages 11 people at the credit card company, and her new boss made it clear that my mom could move up fast. The first thing my mom did as a manager was use her two weeks of vacation to visit colleges with my brother. The second thing she did was grant a woman permission to work flexible hours so she could be at home with her kid.

It used to be that when I interviewed someone 20 years older than I am, I'd think, “What’s wrong with this guy? Why is he stuck at my level at his age?” But watching my mom navigate her career made me think again: I started hiring people older than I was and while I've only had a few chances to do it, each has worked out well. I realized that I had a bigger problem with the age gap than the people I was hiring. And in all cases, the person I hired had not just a very interesting story but also a lot to teach me, and I felt lucky to have made the hire.

Most of you have not witnessed extreme gender inequality during college, and most of you do not think of yourselves as activists. But I have news for you: The corporate world does not offer equal opportunity, and most of you will need to become activists to create lives which include children and work.

But you probably spent your school years hearing that you can be anything you want and that having kids is not something to worry about now. Both of these ideas are misleading.

Most likely, you cannot be anything you want if you expect to have kids; you cannot be a mom who goes to weekly tap dance lessons or weekly baseball games and a mom who runs a Fortune 500 company or leads the United Nations team to Rwanda. You have to give up one of those dreams because kids are not compatible with the amount of work required to move up through the management ranks. You need to consider this when planning your life.

“Sexism at the top remains strong,” says Barrons Business Daily in an article touting the successes of women in the workplace. Men may always outnumber women at the top because women are not willing to make the “sacrifice of friendships and family life that the jobs normally require,” it states. The New York Times magazine chimed in with a cover article highlighting how more women with business degrees from top schools are leaving the work force to stay home with children.

Here are some facts to consider:

Sixty percent of male managers have kids at home as compared with 40% of women managers. Corporate life was set up so that one person in a couple works and one stays home with the kids. For all the effort men and women have given to changing this system, it remains relatively unchanged for senior executives.

These facts come from a recent study commissioned by Congress, which shows that men and women climb the corporate ladder together, and then women with children begin to lag, earning lower salaries. Meanwhile, childless women managers remain on par with the men.

Those women with children who continue to climb are more likely to get divorced than the men with kids who continue climbing, says Barrons magazine.

The congressional study tells us that women struggle with career issues that don't affect men. Women, not men, typically must choose between a high-powered career and raising kids. And so far, we have not found an answer. Each woman who gives up something — a career, a kid, time at the office or at home — will tell you the decision was tough. And the jury is out as to what works. The next generation of women will have to try new ways to juggle family and work.

Some schools, bless them, are helping women prepare for future balancing acts. At one top medical school, a panel of surgeons fielded questions from students ready to select a specialty. The discussion turned to a surgeon's notoriously long and unpredictable hours. A student asked the panel members if they would choose surgery again. The four men on the panel each praised their wives at home for supporting them and said they would choose this specialty again. The lone woman on the panel said she would not choose the specialty because surgeons have so little flexibility and she has had to sacrifice family time to succeed.

At this particular school, women choose their specialty with care: Ophthalmology has become popular because it allows for a family life.

Consider these issues when you select your field. If you want a family, find and build a career that is compatible with having a family. If you decide on a family-unfriendly career, find a spouse who will take care of the family (a common solution for women at the top).

Graduation speakers nationwide are touting opportunity, equality, and ambition. I wish I didn't have to be a wet blanket , but someone's gotta do it: Girls, get ready for a corporate world built by men, not women. Think of the workplace as a constant test of your ability to create the life you want. Think of yourself as a trailblazer.

For those of you who cannot shut up about this weekend's Super Bowl, think about your impact on the workplace atmosphere: A study of Harvard Business School graduates found that in 85 percent of the cases — drum roll, please — men initiated sports talk. This is because female population does not care about spectator sports with nearly the fervor of the male population.

Of course, small talk should be easy, inclusive, and non-offensive. The weather comes to mind as a safe topic — unless someone's mother just died in a hurricane. The price of gas is safe — just don't start placing blame. Commenting on the new furniture in the office is a good tactic because it affects everyone.

Sports talk is not like the weather. Those who initiate sports talk at work alienate people who do not follow sports. And when sports-talk gets to the metaphor stage, the whole company is in trouble. When the sales manager says, “We’re using a long-pass strategy,” the sports-ignorant may continue to go after small accounts, and then there is no strategy at all. So those of you who initiate team-building meetings with talk about sports should consider the fact that you might be undermining teamwork by talking about other people’s teams.

I do not differentiate watching soap operas during the week from watching sports on the weekend: both strike me as a vapid escape from ones own reality. But people who want to be in charge are the people most likely to enjoy competing, so it’s natural that the leaders of the workplace talk sports. And it makes sense that if you want to be friendly with the leaders of the workplace, you need to be able to talk sports.

Luckily, you don’t actually need to be capable of playing the sport to understand it. Exhibit A: the beer-bellied couch potatoes who pontificate on football. Exhibit B: me. I play basketball very well and have never played football, and when it comes to analogies, I feel equally competent in both arenas.

Another step I’ve taken to fit in at work is to follow the soap-opera aspect of sports. This is not difficult to do because:

1. It satisfies my need for intrigue, which would otherwise require hours with the National Enquirer.

2. Personal problems (Mike Tyson has a temper) are much easier to remember than personal statistics (Mike Tyson had X knockouts in X number of years).

3. The New York Times Magazine (registration required) does an amazing job of covering sports as if it were drama. (My favorite — a recent article about a grade school aged skateboarder who won sponsorship from Nike. Now I can talk for hours on the perils of corporate sponsorship for athletes.)

The great thing about the drama of sports is that once you read a story, it’s good for more than a few years of workplace chatter (e.g., Venus's stint at fashion school or Michael Jordan’s family life).

If you can’t stand the idea of reading about sports, try this: Go to a gym. Learn a lot about weight training; people love to talk about their workouts at work. You can impress someone with your knowledge of squat techniques to the point where you will get out of having to talk about other sports-related trivia. Because, after all, people who talk about sports at work are just looking for an easy, non-threatening way to connect with people that is not as obvious as talking about the weather.

So okay, sports talk is workplace behavior that is non-inclusive of women, but so are a lot of other things, like, impromptu meetings in the men's room and posters of naked women in cubicles. So battle the latter when you can and capitulate to the sports talk. If you can't figure out how to fake it in a sports talking office, check out the book Talk Sports Like a Pro, by Jean McCormick. If you are one of the sports talk promoters in your office try reading a section of the newspaper that is not sports. It'll give you something else to talk about even when the Super Bowl looms large.

1. Don't be the hardest worker.
No one can work 70-hour weeks forever without losing their mind — or at least their perspective. You need to pace yourself. Besides, at this kind of pace, you may not always the best worker, but you’ll surely look like the most desperate.

2. Hire people you wouldn't want as friends.
Diverse business teams are more successful than homogenous teams. Creating diversity doesn't mean hiring one guy from each fraternity. It means hiring people who scare you, disagree with you and think in totally different ways than you.

3. Don’t fear failure.
Most people who have wild success have wild failure first. Have your failure early and significantly so that you're primed for success.

4. Learn to write direct mail.
A resume is a piece of direct mail. At best, it will get a 10-second scan from a hiring manager trying to decide whether to interview you. Know how to control what happens in those 10 seconds. Hint: You don't want the person to spend that time reading “References available upon request.”

5. Bake cookies for your team.
Surprise people with your caring and kindness. They will view you — and your mistakes — much more generously. Also, showing your soft side at the office is risky. Cookies are softness without the risk that you're revealing too much.

6. Give the brand of you a rest.
You cannot get to the top alone, so stop looking at yourself like you're a one-man show. Education is the No. 1 factor in determining who will be successful. The caliber of your stable of mentors is the No. 2 factor. So start looking outside yourself. You need help.

7. Blend in.
Do not stand out for how your dress. Stand out for your intelligence and creativity. If you dress in a way that makes people look at your clothes, then you say “look at me for my clothes”. If you dress in a way where no one notices what you are wearing then you force people to look at you for your brains. Remember, though, that boring, frumpy fashion stands out as much as flashy, funky fashion.

8. Toss the business books: Read fiction.
Your career is as dependent on your people skills as it is on your professional skills, so read books and magazines that help you to understand people. Read novels your co-workers recommend, and you'll have reliable repartee for weeks. Besides, most non-fiction tells you about peoples' mistakes, but fiction describes what’s achievable.

9. Say no frequently.
Be choosy about how you spend your time so that each project you work on becomes a great bulleted item on your resume. Don't work on projects that don't matter, will get killed or are clearly mismanaged. When your boss asks you to do something you don't have time for, remind her of her priorities and say you want to work on what’s most important to her. This is a professional way of saying no to unimportant assignments.

10. Ignore the urgent stuff.
Most urgent items on your to-do list are not big-picture items. But it’s the big-picture tasks that will make a significant difference in your career. So block off time each day to work solely on big-picture aspects of your to-do list. You don't have to be a visionary at work. But if you aren’t a visionary for your life, who will be?