Tag Archives: civil rights

The Evolution of Inclusion

“The Evolution of Inclusion” is an article that I wrote in 2008 and is a tutorial on how the field of inclusion has evolved since I entered the world of EEO in 1988. I have gotten enough feedback on my recent blogs to see that this is still a relevant and necessary discussion, so I hope that you find this post interesting and helpful! This blog post violates one of my rules not to exceed 1000 words, but I wanted to include the article in its entirety (just under 2500 words), for the sake of flow.

 

Onward!

 

~ Wendy

 

In the beginning

 

In the beginning there was Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action was all about making amends for past discriminatory practices in the workplace and the academy. Women and people of color, as well as many others who were not white, heterosexual, Christian males, were historically barred from many jobs in the United States both systemically and institutionally. In 1961 President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which created the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and mandated that projects financed “with federal funds ” take affirmative action” to ensure that hiring and employment practices are free of racial bias. It was not until 1965 when President Johnson signed Executive Order 11246 however, that there were actual enforceable actions that needed to be taken. This Executive Order also strengthened the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which expanded protection via Title VII of the Act, to prohibit discrimination by covered employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Civil Rights Act also changed the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity into the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, giving it broad legal and administrative powers.

Equal employment opportunity law was the big stick that the government used to assure that employees who were members of “protected classes” (those covered by the Civil Rights Act) were protected once they were hired into positions that were previously not open to them. Affirmative Action includes guidelines for hiring protected class members based on the qualified candidate pool within an employer’s geographic zone (a 30 mile radius). The hiring goals are not quotas and never have been. They are recommendations based on the local population.

Mandatory training was implemented for all covered employers in the area of Sexual Harassment Prevention and for any employer where the EEOC determined that there was a “probable cause” to validate an employee’s claim of discriminatory treatment. This reactionary approach dominated the field of EEO for many years and resulted in a strong backlash by conservative groups and many white men in the workplace. Reverse discrimination claims began being filed as early as 1978 (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke) and have become fairly regular occurrences. There was also a great deal of negative media regarding affirmative action and EEO cases in an attempt to de-fang the law and its enforcement.

One of the greatest barriers to accepting the benefits of inclusion is a fear of numbers. Many myths and misperceptions surround the reporting of EEO data and Affirmative Action reports to the federal government. Employers conduct panic-stricken scrambles every time they are audited by the EEOC; they agonize over their Affirmative Action reports and their poor performance in relation to their hiring goals; and they focus on the very numbers that terrify them instead of the people they represent. This sense of impotence creates resentment and results in an attitude that we will do only what we are required to do in many organizations. They felt trapped by the EEOC requirements and not empowered to do anything about them.

The Diversity Revolution

We then experienced the ‘diversity revolution’ a period I like to refer to as the “Kumbaya Stage.” Celebrating difference became the favorite pastime of many members of organizations. People like me were able to proclaim pride in our heritage, our difference – ourselves as were never able to do previously. But after the diversity pot luck luncheons and diversity fairs, people would head back to their cubicles and remain exclusive. The celebration of difference did not extend to most employees’ personal lives. The human resources departments did not see any relief from their required reports or a great improvement in their statistics. These disappointments coupled with the negative response from employees who felt that they were not different enough to matter resulted in campaigns set out to prove that ‘our differences make us all the same.’ This approach played down race and gender and focused on less volatile differences such as job title, geographic origin (among U.S. born citizens), marital status, parental status, etc. These non-threatening differences could be used benignly, to prove that an organization embraced diversity, without having to really embrace inclusion.

Diversity practitioners across the U.S. were then asked by their CEOs, “What’s the return on our investment for diversity? This resulted in more panicked scrambling as folks set out to prove that creating a diverse organization improved the organization’s bottom line. The problem with this model is that it does not work and that there was no such proof to be provided.

The More Things Change

The more things change, the more they remained the same. A major concern of U.S. employers is poor employee engagement. There are millions of people who make it to work each day, even millions who arrive on time who are still quite disengaged. These workers occupy all job titles and levels, including officers. They are in every sector and industry. They are from several different generations. They are from all over the world. They are straight and gay; male and female; of every race and ethnicity; and they cost employers trillions of dollars every day. Employers spend an inordinate amount of money and energy to recruit top talent. They especially spend on the recruitment of women and people of color. Employers have, in general, become quite successful at recruitment, but remain unsuccessful at retention. A phenomenon has developed in the last decade or so that is referred to as ‘the Revolving Door of Turnover.’ This has become a The 64 billion dollar question.

In January, 2007 The Level Playing Field Institute published The Corporate Leavers Survey: The Cost of Employee Turnover Due Solely to Unfairness in the Workplace. The study found that unfairness in the workplace costs U.S. corporations $64 billion dollars each year – not in law suits – but in turnover of professionals and managers. People of color are three times as likely to be among those who leave as compared to white, heterosexual men and two times as compared to white, heterosexual women.

Marketing Diversity

When the 2000 Census Report was published organizations became aware of a new customer base. People of Color, Gay, Lesbian Transgender and Bisexual people, Women, people born in foreign countries were entering an unprecedented period of prosperity. Smart corporations began marketing diversity. We could turn on any television channel and see flawless models representing organizations that looked beautifully diverse! Benetton led the movement way back in the 1980s with gorgeous young people wearing their trendy clothing. Their motto “The United Colors of Benetton,” became a generational celebration of diversity. Gradually, other organizations caught on and began targeting women and people of color who now had the buying dollars that they sought. One problem remained; the beautiful ads were not of actual employees. This was particularly glaring when looking at the leaders of organizations. According to a UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders (October 2007) women hold only 10.4% of the board seats and highest-paid executive officer positions in the top 400 corporations in California. The national average is 15%. Women remain more than 50% (50.9 in 2000) of the population.

The Inclusion Evolution

“As individuals we can accomplish only so much. … Collectively, we face no such constraint. We possess incredible capacity to think differently. These differences can provide the seeds of innovation, progress, and understanding.”

The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies, Scott E. Page

Scott Page’s book provides us with scientific proof of the brilliance of multiple perspectives. This is something that I have intuitively known for a long time, but am really grateful for the backing of a mathematician! I do not believe that ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ unless they are bad cooks or bad communicators. There is always the possibility that there is an unethical cook in the kitchen who sneaks in extra salt without letting the others know, but if called upon to create the world’s best broth everyone wants to be invited! By this, I mean that it would be an honor to be on the ‘A List’ of cooks for this project. The cooks would all vie to bring their most creative, their most engaged selves to the process. If they were told that their participation was predicated on their cooperation and in fact interdependence with the other cooks, they would pay attention to that fact and learn how to play well with others or be asked to leave. In other words, every one of us wants to be asked to make a difference, to be told that our presence matters, that our contribution is needed. What an amazing feeling it is to matter. Yet, few employers ever asked their employees to contribute to their innovation. Few employers ask their employees many questions at all for fear of invoking the evil God of EEO! This fear of asking questions results in a phenomenon I call “One third of the tree.” When I look out of the window and see a beautiful tree, let’s say a Willow tree and I decide that the Willow tree is exactly the addition that I need to make my organization truly diverse, I contact my top recruiter to go and get that tree. I do research on the care and feeding of Willow trees. I tell the other members of the organization that our team will be joined by a Willow tree and to be courteous and tolerant and never say offensive things such as “It’s not easy being green.” Then the recruiter goes out and chops down that tree and hauls it inside. We place it in a huge bucket and every day are diligent about adding nutrients and even throw in a few microorganisms to make the tree feel at home. What we do not realize is that we are missing two-thirds of that tree. We never thought to ask the tree to bring its history and cultural perspective to the organization and so it did not. We did not realize how our organization could benefit by knowing the full being. Another way to look at this is: I bring my gender, generation, class, ethnic and racial perspectives with me when invited to the board room table to contribute. These perspectives cannot be simulated by others who read about people like me. They can only be contributed by me. Isn’t that amazingly wonderful?

Organisms thrive because their parts are thriving. When an organism has cancer we cut it out or the organism will die. Yet, many organizations exist with dead and dangerous departments, units and individuals for years without taking any action. The whole is only as healthy as its parts. So, just as we need to get to know the whole individual in order to benefit fully by their contributions, we need to think about organizations as organisms that require inclusive care in order to thrive.

Practical Steps

The first step to becoming truly inclusive requires practical steps beginning with the development of a strategic plan that holds everymember of the organization responsible for creating an inclusive environment. This plan needs to be created with the input of the CEO or equivalent and leadership from all areas across the organization or else it will fail. This plan also needs to support the organization’s mission and goals or it will fail. As our world changes at an increasingly rapid pace, this plan needs to be flexible and adaptable or it will fail. These are not very difficult requirements to meet if the planners remember to be inclusive in the process from the very beginning and remember that they are all interdependent for its success.

Step two requires a cultural assessment of the organization: Who are you as an organization? Where have you come from? What has been initiated regarding diversity in the past and what has the response been? What education has been provided and how effective has it been. Great tools to employ at this point are confidential surveys and interviews. If people feel really safe they will tell you the truth about their experiences within an organization. If they do not they will not.

Step three is to develop customized inclusion education for each level of the organization. This education needs to employ adult education theory as no employee enters the training room as a tabula rasa. Everyone brings a wealth of experiences, knowledge, ideas and again, perspective to the process. This needs to be given a great deal of attention and respect. The core of the education should focus on the following: “How do I benefit by being truly inclusive?”

Step four actually is step one through five – constant communication. Tell them what you are going to do, tell them what you are doing and tell them what you have done. This is the only way to assure support for the process and again, without this it will fail. Communication needs to be customized for employees, clients, board members, stock holders, the public and et al.

Step five is the establishment of support mechanisms for without them your inclusion strategy will fail. In addition to regular, ongoing education and communication organizations need ‘Inclusion Ambassadors’ to champion the importance of inclusion. These ambassadors may be members of an organization’s diversity councils or affinity groups and should receive special education on inclusion theory, communication, team building, project management and leadership. The ‘Inclusion Ambassadors’ of an organization might sponsor event, write articles, provide training, develop outreach projects in the community and more. They will become the face of inclusion of your organization and as such should be representative of many titles, locations, and functions as well as being culturally diverse. Another great support mechanism is cross-cultural mentoring. Cross-cultural mentoring may be part of a general mentoring program establish by the organization with specific mentoring on cultural topics or interests. For example, I might be a mentor on Puerto Rican culture and have a mentor on time management. Participants should receive training on mentoring and be clear on the expectations of the program.

Results driven organizations whether in the public, non-profit or private sectors can benefit by creating True Inclusion© through an increase in retention of the best and brightest employees; the development of future leaders and viable succession plans that assure the continuation of an organizations’ success; an exponential increase in innovation and market share by involving every member of an organization in the creative process and hence an organization that thrives in spite of rapidly changing circumstances. This process does not have to be difficult. One of the barriers to organizations becoming inclusive is the myth that this is a difficult and arduous process. Nothing can be easier than inviting people to be part of their own promotion and success! It is this simple: the inclusion of all members of an organization in that organization’s success results in an organization that thrives!

Wendy Amengual Wark May 2008

Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC

wendy@inclusionstrategy.com

 

The Women’s Empowerment Principles: Equality Means Business

I want to let you know about some of the great work that the UN is doing to advance women’s equity in the workplace and beyond, and about an amazing and dedicated woman who is helping to make our world a better place, one woman at a time!
Thanks to a recent U.N. initiative, businesses worldwide now have guidelines that spell out seven principles that create a gender equitable workplace environment. In just three years since its inception, 664 companies in 51 countries have signed “The 7 Women’s Empowerment Principles” (WEP). The WEP document offers standards about how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.
In March of this year, 5 companies from around the world received the inaugural WEPs Leadership Awards at the annual “Equity Means Business” event in New York City. Nominations are now being reviewed for 2014. Before I list the principles and tell you about the amazing Turkish woman we are supporting for a WEP award, here’s a brief background of how the award originated.

Background

In 1995 I was privileged to travel to Beijing, China with representatives of 180 New York City-based women’s organizations. We were among 17,000 supporters of women’s rights who were in China for the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women. I was the Acting Executive Director of the New York City Commission on the Status of Women (NYC CSW) at the time. The NYC CSW sponsored four workshops for the NGO Forum in Beijing on the subjects of outreach, education, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. The outcome of that conference was the “Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,” a 132-page document detailing a commitment to women’s equity that was adopted by all 189 countries in attendance. One of the results of that declaration was the eventual establishment in 2010 of UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/

The 7 Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP)

The Women’s Empowerment Principles (subtitled “Equality Means Business”) are the result of collaboration between the UN Women and the United Nations Global Compact. They are adapted from the Calvert Women’s Principles®. The development of the WEPs included an international multi-stakeholder consultation process, which began in March 2009 and culminated in their launch on International Women’s Day in March 2010. http://www.weprinciples.org/
1 Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
2 Treat all women and men fairly at work –
respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination
3 Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers
4 Promote education, training and professional development for women
5 Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing
practices that empower women
6 Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
7 Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality

WEP Leadership Awards

The WEP Leadership Awards salute business leaders for their exceptional championship of gender equality and support for the Women’s Empowerment Principles. Some weeks ago, my partners Tresa Eyres and Nebahat Nebahat Timur Tokgöz, and I were discussing the WEP Leadership Awards and one organization in particular came to mind: B-fit.
B-fit is Turkey’s first chain of women-only gyms. It was founded in 2006 by Ms. Bedriye Hülya. B-fit does more than promote physical health. It is a women-owned and operated business that implements WEP principles and raises gender equality by: (1) promoting women’s entrepreneurship, (2) increasing women’s employment, (3) improving the health of women through exercise and education, and (4) providing a safe and supportive environment that increases women’s self-esteem and social well-being.
B-fit’s 230 franchises and services are available to women of all ages and socio-economic levels in many geographic regions in Turkey. B-fit engages its franchisees and customers in developing social projects that benefit communities in the 48 cities, large and small, that it serves. We are incredibly impressed by B-fit’s mission and vision:
B-fit’s mission is

 

  • To enable women at every age group and income level to develop the habit of engaging in sports activities as a way of helping them increase their physical and mental powers
  • To increase the power of women in their economic lives by promoting women’s entrepreneurship and creating employment for women
  • To motivate and enable women to create and engage in social activities and community projects and to increase their awareness about their own lives and environment

 

B-fit’s vision is

 

  • To create a platform where women can freely use their power to create a better world for themselves, their families, and their communities
  • To grow by giving women the opportunity to exercise and to learn and practice business, entrepreneurship, and life skills
  • To create a platform where women can become more aware of their own lives and environments and use their power to be equal with men
Ms. Hülya’s passion for helping women and her commitment to advancing equity are contagious! Upon learning about the WEP Awards, she enthusiastically signed the WEP CEO Statement of Support – bringing the total number of Turkish Corporations to 16. [The total number of U.S. corporations that have signed is: 17.] One of the B-fit partners submitted the nomination of Ms. Hülya for a WEP award in the “Community Engagement” category.
We now eagerly await the judges’ decisions.
To learn more, please visit the WEP and B-fit websites!
Onward!
~ Wendy
 

A Brief History of U.S. Women’s Rights

Some friends have asked me to provide a brief history of women’s rights in the United States. I am tempted to reminisce about my own involvement with the women’s movement, but that is not the assignment. This kind of exercise is always a good opportunity to review, remember and assess how far we have come while remaining mindful that we do not have full equity yet. As one trained as a historian, I really should not call this a ‘history’ or even a ‘brief history’ when it is more accurately a timeline. This is certainly not an exhaustive timeline, so I have included links to websites that provide more in-depth information. I am not going to editorialize or share my opinion or feelings about anything listed here – this blog post is strictly an informative entry. Should you learn something new, that would be great. If you have any questions about anything here, please let me know. OK, I think that I have covered all of the disclaimers and explanations, so let’s go!
1776 Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John Adams who represented the Colony of Massachusetts at the Continental Congress on March 31:

 

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” http://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/abigail-smith-adams/

1776 United States Declaration of Independence is signed on July 4th. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

1787 US Constitutional Convention places voting qualifications in the hands of the states. Women in all states except New Jersey lose the right to vote. http://www1.cuny.edu/portal_ur/content/voting_cal/the_constitution.html
1807 Women lose the right to vote in New Jersey, the last state to revoke the right.
1848 The acknowledged start of the FIRST WAVE of Feminism.
The first women’s rights convention takes place in Seneca Falls, New York. Participants sign a Declaration of Sentiments that call for equal treatment and voting rights for women. http://www.nps.gov/wori/historyculture/report-of-the-womans-rights-convention.htm
1851 Former slave Sojourner Truth: http://www.nps.gov/wori/historyculture/sojourner-truth.htm Delivers her speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” At the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio:
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

 

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

 

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

 

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

 

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

 

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.
1866 Congress passes the 14th Amendment, which grants all citizens the right to vote. It is the first time that “citizens” and “voters” are defined as “male” in the Constitution. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html
1869 Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association, while Lucy Stone and others form the American Woman Suffrage Association. http://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/susan-brownell-anthony/
1896 The National Association of Colored Women is formed out of more than 100 black women’s clubs. http://www.nacwc.org/
1916 Margaret Sanger opens the first American birth control clinic in Brooklyn, NY. Within ten days, the clinic is shut down and Sanger is arrested. She eventually wins legal support and opens another clinic in 1923. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger
1920 Congress passes the 19th Amendment, granting women suffrage. [Suffrage is the right to vote in a national election.] It passes in the Senate by only two votes. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendment_19.html
1942 The term “Rosie the Riveter” was first used in a song of the same name written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb. http://www.nps.gov/pwro/collection/website/rosie.htm
1945 Millions of working women lose their jobs when servicemen return from World War II, although surveys show that 80 percent want to continue working.
1960 The acknowledged beginning of the SECOND WAVE of feminism.
1963 Betty Friedan writes The Feminine Mystique. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage_in_the_United_States
1964 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race and sex. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is established to investigate discrimination complaints. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/civil-rights-act/
1966 The National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded. http://www.now.org/
1968 The EEOC rules that sex-segregated help wanted ads are illegal, a ruling later upheld by the Supreme Court. http://www1.eeoc.gov//laws/practices/index.cfm?renderforprint=1
Shirley Chisholm is the first black woman elected to Congress. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Chisholm
The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) is founded. http://www.naral.org/
1970 The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution is written by Shulamith Firestone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dialectic_of_Sex
Sisterhood is Powerful, edited by Robin Morgan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisterhood_is_Powerful
Sexual Politics is written by Kate Millett http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_Politics
1972 The ERA is passed by Congress and sent to states for ratification. http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/congress.htm
Title IX bans sex discrimination in schools. http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/cor/coord/titleix.php
The Supreme Court rules that the right to privacy includes an unmarried person’s right to use contraceptives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisenstadt_v._Baird
Ms. Magazine is first published. http://www.msmagazine.com/
1973 In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court legalizes abortion and overturns anti-abortion laws in many states. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade
1974 The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination in consumer credits practices. http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/hce/housing_ecoa.php
1976 The first marital rape law passes in Nebraska, making it illegal for a husband to rape his wife.
1978 The Pregnancy Discrimination Act passes, banning employment discrimination against pregnant women. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/pregnancy.cfm
The Female Eunuch is written by Germaine Greer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Female_Eunuch
1981 Sandra Day O’Conner is the first woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsberg joins her in 1993.
1986 The Supreme Court rules that sexual harassment is a form of illegal job discrimination. http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0477_0057_ZO.html
1990 The acknowledged beginning of the THIRD WAVE of feminism.
1993 The Family and Medical Leave Act goes into effect, allowing women workers to take employment leave after giving birth. http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/
1994 The Violence Against Women act increases services for rape and domestic violence victims, as well as federal penalties for sex offenders. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/vawa_factsheet.pdf
2009 Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed by President Obama eliminating the statute of limitations on claims of violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pay equity clause. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/epa_ledbetter.cfm
More Information:
National Women’s History Project http://www.nwhp.org/
New York Times Comparative Timeline US History / Women’s History http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/millennium/m2/wolf-timeline.html
National Parks Service, Women’s Suffrage History http://home.nps.gov/wori/historyculture/womens-suffrage-history-timeline.htm
Onward,
~ Wendy
 

Commemorations

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
 

Independence

The Founding Fathers

Committing treason, more akin to blasphemy, as they were citizens of a nation still influenced by decades of a belief in ‘divine right’ did not come easily to the Founding Fathers. This belief that kings were appointed by God was waning by 1763 when the British, as a result of really poor management, raised taxes in the colonies resulting in the American Revolution which helped to put an end to divine right altogether.
The Founding Fathers are often referred to as a mono-cultural group, but they were hardly that. The regional, religious, political, and historical diversity of the group that represented 13 distinct governments reviewed and debated 90 declarations before establishing the “Committee of 5” to write what became the Declaration of Independence. The Committee in turn, gave the job to Thomas Jefferson who submitted the first draft on June 28, 1776. After a few days of debate and modification the final document was signed on the Fourth of July, 1776. (This date has been contested by historians, but an almost-final draft of the document was printed and posted on July Fourth.)
The authors and signers of the Declaration of Independence had to agree to disagree if they were to gain their freedom from tyranny. They had to debate deep philosophical and political differences and stay in that room during a sweltering Philadelphia summer until they truly represented unitedstates. The Continental Congress had found enough strongly shared common interests and beliefs to sever their ties to their homeland forever.
The Declaration of Independence Has Six Sections
The Introduction: Which begins “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,”
The Preamble: Another incredible beginning: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Indictment: An outline of the offenses the authors claim were committed by the King of England, including “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:”
The Denunciation: The justification for the declaration, “Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.:”
The Conclusion: Establishes “That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;.”
The Signatures: This evidence makes it impossible for the 56 signers to deny their commitment to the content of the document.

 

An Evolving Inclusion Strategic Plan!

Now that the newly formed United States of America declared their independence from

Great Britain they had to make themselves independent in fact. It took another 13 years before George Washington was inaugurated. The fact that the document signed in 1776 excluded the majority of the people under its jurisdiction does not diminish its impact. As we evolved as a nation the words of The Declaration of Independence were used to argue for the enfranchisement of all U.S. Citizens. 87 years dragged on before slavery was abolished. Another 3 years elapsed before former male slaves gained the right to vote. 54 more years passed before women who were U.S. Citizens acquired the right to vote. The powerful words contained in this document are used to assert the rights of people all over the world and act as a catalyst for defending freedom, representation and democracy everywhere.

As you celebrate this holiday, please remember to read The Declaration of Independence and think about where we might be without our diversity and inclusion, in other words, without our independence. The Declaration Of Independence
Happy Independence Day!
Onward,
~ Wendy
 

Cities of People

Last week I came across an essay that I wrote in 1996 examining the role that a city’s inhabitants play on transforming their space and how they are the architects of the future, especially through their diversity of thought.  This essay is as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. I asserted that cities are comprised of people whose lives, experiences and perspectives are the pulse of any community.  I contended that the diversity of human thought and experience breathes life into every city’s sky-scrapers, tenements and developments.  Though ever-changing skylines may reveal the physical history of cities, it is the people themselves who define the culture of cities.  As Lewis Mumford, observed in The City in History, the common denominator of all cities is that they bring together “not only the physical means but the human agents needed to pass on and enlarge.. [our cultural] heritage.”  Consequently, multifarious voices of city dwellers speak to us from the past and inform our future, enabling us to recognize diversity as a vital, rejuvenating element rather than a reason for urban demise. 
The Message

The recent developments in Turkey and Brazil are powerful illustrations of the capacity of diverse people to act inclusively when they share common goals.  Like many of you I have been paying close attention to these events.  I have been observing how people respond when they believe that they have been excluded. The people who have been filling streets and plazas in Turkish and Brazilian cities represent a diverse range of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, education level, profession, parental status, marital status, and political affiliation.  They have come to send a message to the leaders of their nations:  “We matter!  What we think matters!  Listen to us!”  
Our Space
When developers or politicians make decisions that result in an altered public landscape without the informed consent of the public they risk the wrath of that body.  Few people who grew up in New York in the 1950s and 1960s hear the name of Robert Moses without thinking about the neighborhoods in New York City that were destroyed as a result of his arbitrary decisions to build highways that cut off the life blood of those communities by separating residences from shops and schools and services.  The South Bronx suffered the most critical damage as a result of Mr. Moses’ actions and the urban blight that became synonymous with that borough has yet to be completely cured. 
The people of Turkey and Brazil have spoken up and reasserted their right to decide the fate of their cities, neighborhoods, and public spaces.  This is not just a response to the use of their hard earned tax dollars, but an expression of revulsion that they have been told, by the actions of their nations’ leaders that they have no voice, no opinion that matters, no stake in the outcome of decisions.
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Reuters June 12 2013

Never Say “Just A Housewife!”
People matter, not just in an abstract way, but in a very real way. As the personal stories of those who are risking a great deal to raise their voices begin to emerge, I hear what can be described as spontaneous harmony.  One voice is that of Ayse Diskaya, a 48-year-old housewife who Murad Sezer wrote about for Reuters:  http://blogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2013/06/12/taksim-square-one-womans-protest/  Ms. Diskaya’s story is a poignant one of a women who has risen above adversity.
Diverse Voices
As I stated above the protestors represent a diverse range of people, thoughts, ideas and issues.  People are also protesting for various reasons and causes.  That is the beauty of democracy, we can really agree to disagree and still stand side-by-side in opposition to being excluded.  You were wondering when I would get to the word inclusion, weren’t you?  Well, people need to be included.  It really is quite simple.  As a result of the protests in Turkey the demolition of Gezi Park has been halted, at least temporarily.  In Brazil, the bus fare increase that sparked the protest has been rescinded.  The protesters in both nations have cited many issues as the reason for their outrage.
Datafolha 18 June 2013

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The New Public Arena
One way that people are speaking up all over the world is via social media, Twitter and Facebook, in particular.  Those who formerly gathered in the public arena, the local plaza, and the corner pub, have all convened on the internet with access to all in unprecedented and unpredictable ways.  The diversity of opinion that is exchanged in the span of one hour of any event is mind boggling!  People are free to say whatever they want about any subject and to get feedback from a huge number of other people.  This may seemed chaotic at first, but order really does emerge and people really do let each other know when they are being rude or ignorant or anti-social.  The democracy and inclusion of their diversity is what makes social media so astronomically successful. 
Harmony
On June 10 hundreds of people in Taksim Square in Istanbul sang “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from “Les Miserables.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FctAww-4p9k
When people sing in harmony, the sky is the limit!
W. Wark, 2011
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People need to be included in decision making whether those decisions are about the alteration of public space, their access to health care and education, their right to free speech, or their right to assembly.  Demos, after all means “the people” in ancient Greek.  We cannot have democracy without the people.  Just as we cannot have cities without the people.
So, what do you have to say about it?
Onward,
~ Wendy