A Workplace Culture Crafter

A local expert helps companies leverage a diverse workforce’s strengths and assets

In addition to expanding their workforce and target markets to reflect changing demgraphics, many corporations today are growing their businessesinternationally. As a result, they are attracting employees from all over the world.

It can be a dramatic shift in how a workforce looks—and difficult to change business models and structures to fit a diverse group of employees. Some companies have hired diversity officers, while others have brought in a consultant for inclusion and sensitivity training. But how does a company know what’s right for them? And how can they measure its effectiveness?

Enter Gladis Benavides, owner of Benavides Enterprises, a consulting firm specializing in cross-cultural communications. She brings more than thirty years of experience working in positions in both the private and public sectors. Her focus is cultural competency. “Historically, much attention has been given to awareness and sensitivity to cultural differences,” Benavides says. “But too many diversity plans are handled superficially. I work with companies to move from talking about ways to work effectively with different cultures to doing it.” Benavides believes that to help a company develop cultural competency, you have to teach them how to manage conflict. A company, she says, “has to feel comfortable with conflict, and has to know the consequences when they don’t.”

Benavides also works with employers to learn and understand their organization, marketplace and internal and external challenges in order to put together the tools for them to be successful. “Once the strategy is completed, we discuss how we want to present it companywide,” she says. “Then, I come back in a few months to find out what’s working and what isn’t. It’s an ongoing process, and it’s the best part of my job.”


• Raised in Peru
• Attended Paris-Sorbonne University
• Came to Madison in late ’60s
• Previous Jobs: Investigator, Equal Opportunities Commission; Affirmative Action Officer, Department of Corrections; Civil Rights Director, Department of Health and Family Services
• Board of Directors, Overture Center for the Arts
• Member, Latino Chamber of Commerce


The Breakdown

The Park Street business R Place on Park has been shut down by the city of Madison, much to the disappointment of this writer and many others in the community. It is well past time that the Madison Police Department, city officials and residents have a real conversation about how we effectively address the issue of crime in our troubled areas. Shutting down a nightclub doesn’t solve the problem; it just moves it someplace else.

Several downtown bars have eliminated the use of state-issued identification to gain entry and have instead enacted a driver’s license and passport only policy due to a few violent incidents that occurred over the summer. Two questions: Exactly who are you trying to keep out? And if state IDs are no longer
adequate, why are we spending millions on voter ID policies?

Props to Mary Burke, retired business executive and philanthropist, for her gifts to both the Madison Preparatory Academy, a charter school for disadvantaged youths, and the newly created South Madison Promise Zone, an initiative to break the cycles of poverty in struggling neighborhoods. Your generosity and commitment to making sure that minority students excel and succeed will never be forgotten. Thank you.

Derrell Connor hosts “Outreach” on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA, pens a column for Channel 3000 and freelances for Madison Magazine.

Read more Madison business features here.

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