Archive for August, 2013

Commemorations

Posted on August 30, 2013 by 1 Comment

Commemorations
This week commemorates two anniversaries: August 26, 1920 the day that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified granting women suffrage or the right to vote and August 28, 1963 when more than 200,000 people convened the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 
Commemoration is the act of co-remembering, to publicly share and memorialize some historic event.  As a student of history, I love commemorations and the many ways that they influence the present and subsequently, our perceptions of the past.

 

(© 2003 D’Azi Productions)

“You cannot know where you are going, until you know where you have been.”  

My mouse pad, a gift that a friend brought me from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, has “History” (1962) written across the top and a photo depicting three doors.  The first door has the word “Women” on it, the second door has the word “Men” on it and third door has the word “Colored” on it.  Under the photo is the caption: “You cannot know where you are going, until you know where you have been.”
I love this mouse pad!  Every day it reminds me why I do the work that I do.  Every day it reminds me of Emma Lazarus’ words: “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”   Ms. Lazarus, the poet famous for “The New Colossus” which is etched at the base of the Statue of Liberty was born in New York City but was never able to vote because of her gender.

A Lifetime of Voting
My mother was born eight years after women earned the right to vote in the U.S. and brought me to the voting booth for as far back as I can remember.  I remember being in the booth with her, fascinated as she clicked the levers and finally slid the metal bar across that registered her vote and opened the curtain.  The Wizard of Oz had nothing on her!  I remember entertaining myself while she volunteered at the polls.  I remember registering to vote immediately after my eighteenth birthday and counting the months that I had to wait for the first election that I would vote in. It was the 1976 Presidential election and being the nation’s bicentennial made it all even more exciting.  

The Women’s Suffrage movement was launched officially in 1848 at a convention in Seneca Falls, NY, where Frederick Douglass, the only African American to attend the event, gave an inspirational pro-vote speech.  (There were many women present who were anti-suffrage.) In 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, OH, Sojourner Truth, another former slave delivered her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech which poignantly argues for women’s equality. The women’s suffrage movement had its up and downs over its 72 year span including some deplorably racist tenets held by Susan B. Anthony and others.  One might argue that white women competing against African American men for the vote exemplified a successful campaign to ‘divide and conquer’, but it was not and is not that simple. There were some lighter moments as well such as when Alice Duer Miller turned the tables in 1915:
         Why We Don’t Want Men to Vote
  •  Because man’s place is in the army.
  • Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.
  • Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them.
  • Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms, and drums.
  • Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them unfit for government.
                                                                              
March On!
Yesterday marked the 50th Anniversary of the Great March on Washington.  In 1963 I watched the historic event on television, awe struck by the vast range of humanity out en masse. The words of hope and inspiration from one speaker and performer after another were incredible, even to a little 5 year old girl.  I did not understand the significance of the event nor how it would impact our world, but the message – We all deserve to be free and to be able to make a decent living wage – made its way from the Lincoln Memorial to our living room and has been motivating me ever since.
What is your story?
History – our story – is comprised of people who make a difference every day by marching, walking, talking, sharing, teaching and remembering! How have these historic events affected you and those you love?  What is your story? How may we commemorate it?
Onward!
~ Wendy

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The Emperor’s New Clothes

Posted on August 22, 2013 by 2 Comments

“The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Vilhelm Pedersen



The Emperor’s New Clothes

Hans Christian Anderson illustrated the vulnerability of leaders who are unable to self assess in his wonderful tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  Another important observation that Anderson made was that the Emperor’s ‘executive leadership team’ would not tell him the truth about his lack of coverage, or protection for fear of retribution. So, because of his vanity and inability to engender trust in others he paraded through the streets of Denmark in an invisible suit of clothes.  The only one who pointed out the truth was a boy in the crowd.  “Out of the mouths of babes..”

               
Nolo Contendere
Nolo Contendere is a Latin legal expression meaning that the accused neither accepts nor denies guilt.  A recent example of this is Bob Filner, Mayor of San Diego, who has been accused of sexually harassing as many as 16 different women during his career. Mr. Filner claims that he has never been trained in sexual harassment prevention and so is not responsible for his own actions and that the City of San Diego should pay his legal bills pertaining to these accusations as a result of his lack of training. 
Take it From the Top
As I was about to begin a training session for the executive leadership team of a former employer, the head of the organization approached me, put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Wendy, does this really need to take three and a half hours? You can make the session shorter, can’t you? Say, two hours?”  He gazed at me very directly, you might say, with emphasis, to make sure that I understood the message.  He was not really asking me to shorten the session.  He was tellingme to do so.  We had customized the session for this group, to assure that they understood their role and responsibility to prevent harassment and discrimination in the workplace.  Now, after months of preparation, I was being told to cut the session almost in half.  I was not happy, but I knew that I was not empowered to defy him.  How could hebe exempt from this training that every employee in the organization was mandated to participate in? When organizations are committed to preventing harassment and discrimination, they hold everyoneaccountable to upholding the law, regardless of rank.  Successful leaders understand that in order to be effective they must lead by example, by exhibiting impeccable behavior, not by establishing a double-standard.
On best behavior?
If a consultant had been retained to facilitate the training session that I describe above, the intimidation that I experienced would never have occurred.  The head of the organization would have been on his best behavior.  This may seem self-serving coming from a consultant who stands to benefit by those who take my advice, but I have spent many years as an ‘in-house’ subject matter expert who was hired because of my expertise and asked or told to bring in ‘experts’ to facilitate training after I was on board. I learned that outsiders could be more effective, not because they knew more about preventing sexual harassment than I did, but because they would be taken more seriously than I would by the organization’s leaders.  My mission has remained the same regardless of whether my role is employee or outside consultant – to end discrimination and harassment in the workplace.   Sometimes that has meant bringing in an outsider to effectively get the message across, rather than conveying it myself.   
Learning is fun!
Most organizations provide mandatory sexual harassment prevention training although the quality of that training varies wildly.  What matters most is not whether education is mandatory or not, but that the education provided is effective. [I intentionally use the word education instead of the word training here, as we are discussing changing one’s behavior and competencies, not how to operate one’s cell phone.]  If the education provided is not interesting to the participants, they will not retain critical information.   Adult learning theory is very clear:  make learning fun if you want it to make a difference!  This rule is applicable regardless of the subject matter.  To be clear: I do not think that sexual harassment is fun, but the process of helping others to identify it and prevent it should be. Even serious topics can be made approachable.  So, the opportunity for subject matter experts is to think about how people learn, why people need to know how to behave in the workplace and elsewhere, and how to capture the attention of everyone in every educational session.  The opportunity for employers, regardless of sector or industry is to make sure that everyone in their organization is accountable, even the Emperor.

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