In the winter of 1969 I wore pants (sewn by my mother) to school for the 1st time. Mrs. Matossian, my 5th grade teacher sent me to Mrs. Sullivan’s (the Principal), office for coming to school dressed inappropriately. The next day, my mother sent me back to school in a new pair of ‘slacks’ with a note citing the School Dress Code for New York State allowing girls to wear pants. This was the only time in my entire educational experience that I was sent to the Principal’s office for a disciplinary reason.
Mrs. Matossian, who was usually very sweet to me, did not respond very well. After ‘the incident’, Mrs. Matossian became curt and did not call on me as much. I was hurt and confused. We girls would have to walk to school in the middle of winter with our snow pants on and then remove them in the coat closet before class began. This was embarrassing and a challenge in the cramped, dark closet! In February of 1969, New York City had one of its worst blizzards with 9” of snow, so walking to school only in tights and boots would not be prudent.
It was after all, 1969! Think of what was going on in fashion: mini-skirts, go-go boots, and fishnet stockings! How could a pair of slacks be more provocative than that? These were modest slacks, by the way, not elephant bell hip-huggers.
This was also a public school in New York City in 1969 – the year that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed Apollo 11 on the moon! (I shook Neil Armstrong’s hand in a parade celebrating this achievement!) 1969 was the year of Woodstock and President Richard Nixon and protests against the war in Vietnam.
From the perspective of 11 year old Wendy, I was conflicted. I really wanted Mrs. Matossian’s approval – really! I strove to be the teacher’s pet by erasing the black board, handing out materials, and raising my hand from the front row of the class as frequently as possible. I also really wanted to be be comfortable and not have to get in trouble for that. I lived in a world that was changing rapidly and under restrictions that did not affect my six brothers in the same way that they affected my two sisters and myself (our six half siblings were older and so, were not part of this transition in the same way). My father almost killed my older sister for cutting her hair in a short ‘pixie’ style. We girls were supposed to have long hair and wear clothing that was not provocative. He was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1902 and had antiquated ideas about women’s rights, but his ideas were common in New York City in 1969 as well. My mother could not get a credit card in 1969 without her husband’s signature – even though she was the one with a job who supported our family.
I also wanted to honor my mother’s efforts to gain whatever freedoms that we could including, the freedom to dress as we pleased. In time, Mrs. Matossian not only relented and ceased her retaliation, but her comment on my final report card indicates that she forgave my challenging her authority: “ Wendy is a wonderful person. It was a pleasure to have her in the class. She will certainly succeed in all her endeavors.” So, I was affirmed by getting the approval of a favorite teacher and, I like to believe, who was empowered by the progress that my generation fought for. One giant leap for woman kind!
I was inspired to share this piece of my history by the UN Women post “Five Innovations That Have Advanced Women’s Rights” I hope that you are inspired to share some of your own history! Let me know about your ‘firsts’. These achievements in our own lifetimes need to be recounted and recorded so that those who are struggling for access to full emancipation and empowerment are encouraged to persevere!
The first time that I saw a billboard with the message, “Diversity = White Genocide” I was honestly a bit confused. After all, what most people call diversity (the inclusion of diverse people), is the opposite of genocide. Groups subjected to genocide historically include: Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Rwandans, and Bosnians. Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. This matters because once we forget what happens when we exclude any group of people, we are destined to repeat the horrors of the holocaust and other shameful episodes of human history. “Genocide” is a combination of the Greek word génos (“race, people”) and the Latin suffix -cide (“act of killing”). The United Nations Genocide Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. Genocide conjures up the most horrific images and acts that humans perpetrate against ‘others,’ members of groups other than their own idea of their specific sub-set, whether race, religion, or tribe.
I have since learned that there is an entire movement, a growing movement, of people who claim that Anti-Racists are ‘Anti-White’. Yes, that is an oxymoronic concept. In my blog post “What’s in a Word,” (December, 2013), https://www.inclusionstrategy.com/blog/?p=11 I wrote about the importance of vocabulary, the power of words to harm and to exclude. I will continue to posit that words and how they are used is a critical element of advancing equity and social justice. I must continue to use words to try to persuade those who are threatened by diversity and inclusion that we are really not so bad, those of us who work to bring humanity together, to find our common ‘touch points’ and share some love. Words are actions and our words can be loud and clear and true.
I must also continue to use words to state the truth. Racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and Islamophobia all rely on distortions of the truth. Racists have embraced the false premise that they, based on a concept of what race is, are superior to others, hence the term ‘White-Supremacists’. Obviously, there is no single group or sub-set of human beings that is superior to any other sub-set, yet all we need to do is look at a chronological list of genocidal epochs to know that the lie of superiority over, or the fear of, others has resulted in the murder, rape, mutilation, imprisonment, and ‘bans on’ or exclusion of people for millennia. How do you ban an entire group of people? This is not only a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Charter of the United Nations, it violates several U.S. treaties, most notably the Treaty of Tripoli ratified unanimously in 1797 by the US Senate:
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” (Art. 11.)
The truth can be distorted, ignored, and hidden. If it is raining, my saying that it is not raining is meaningless, as the apparent and obvious evidence of the falling rain dismisses my statement. So, if someone or some group states that ‘diversity equals white genocide’, the absurdity of that statement is blatantly obvious. However, the groups promoting this concept are growing and the current President of the United States has re-tweeted messages by these groups. A search on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) website for ‘white genocide’ brought up 179 results. There have been many billboards since the first one appeared in Harrison, Arkansas in 2014. These signs are not limited to the American south, but have also been put up in numerous locations from Washington State to Great Britain. People have come to Black Lives Matter rallies with ‘white genocide’ banners and they continue to appear at various events across the country.
The Hate Index created by City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism‘s NYCity News Service has documented 318 hate crimes in the United States since January 10, 2017. https://hateindex.com/ January 10 was only 18 days ago! In other words, we are averaging 17.6 hate crimes per day in the United States. That number includes only crimes that can be confirmed as hate crimes, not those where hatred based on the victims’ protected class status (race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or national origin, etc.), is the suspected motive for the act. The SPLC identifies 892 hate groups on its Hate Map: https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map. These numbers are staggering in comparison to 10 years ago.
The Uniform Crime Reporting program (1930), the Hate Crimes Statistics Act (1990), and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, 2009 require data be collected on all crimes motivated by hate based on race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and physical and mental disabilities. The total crimes classified as Hate Crimes in 2009 was 688.3 (including murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and vehicle theft) or 1.88 crimes per day.
Words are actions and words that are hateful incite actions that are dangerous and deadly. Words matter. It is also vitally important to remember that not only are those who are from certain countries, or members of certain religions being targeted by those who hate, those who appear to be foreign or gay or Muslim or Jewish or different are also being targeted.
Call to Action
So, why am I sharing this negative information? My intention is not to add to the already overwhelmingly negative news updates that seem to come at an amazingly rapid rate. Nor is it my intention to provide a political commentary. My arena is inclusion, the inclusion of diverse people in organizations, such as our entire civilization, the quintessential organization of people. When the daily news updates increasingly include decisions, actions, words, and thoughts that exclude, divide, defame, or discriminate against human beings, it is my business. Literally.
Many people have reached out to me in recent weeks and asked what I plan to do to help people and organizations to cope with so much divisiveness. Yesterday, someone reminded me that I need to be blogging every week and sharing a call to action. So, I will continue to do what it is that I do: to facilitate conversations intended to bring people together across their differences of opinion, to remind people that we all have a responsibility to advance inclusion, that we all have a great deal to lose if we isolate from others, that we all have SO much to gain when we are part of a diverse group of people – people from all parts of the globe, of all faiths, of all races, of all tribes. Diversity does not result in any type of –cide! Inclusive diversity results in creativity, intellectual growth, innovation, and better health. Lewis Mumford referred to cities as utopias because of their diversity which encourages curiosity! “Urban life in Greece began as an animated conversation and degenerated into a crude agon or physical struggle.” (1961)
So, let’s talk. Let’s talk about fears of the other. Let’s talk about anger resulting from conflicting views and opinions. Let’s talk about fear of change. Let’s have an animated conversation about our diversity. When we stop talking we resort to our primal or lizard-brained selves. When we stop talking, we lose our sense of connection and belonging to a tribe. We all belong to one tribe – the human tribe. There are hundreds of sub-sets; how can we decide which is better or worse? All that we can hope to do is learn and grow as a result of our connections. The concept of divide and rule (or conquer) goes back to the Roman invasion of Macedonia. We are not the masters of ourselves if we give in to hate. Hate does not participate or converse or receive or learn – hate blocks information about ‘the other’. Enemies are regularly de-humanized to enable their haters to kill, maim and attack them. Hatred cannot coexist with appreciation of another person’s beauty, brilliance, talent, or generosity. Hatred can only scream “NO”!
To me, you – my fellow human beings – are beautiful and complicated and brilliant and diverse, and that makes life, not death, possible and wonderful.
P.S. If you are in the greater NYC area, let’s meet for a conversation. If not, let’s Skype or talk on the telephone, or at least email.
P.P.S. Next week I will share some other positive steps that we can take to protect human rights and each other from hate.
DESCRIPTION:At the current rate, parity in women’s leadership will be reached in the United States in 2085! Whether it’s politics, finance, entertainment, or the military, few women have a seat at
the decision making table. NYS PowHER’s panel will explore why and how to change the playing field, culture and ourselves.
Benchmarking Women’s Leadership Reportcompares fourteen job sectors. Bottom line, although outperforming men, women still do not have parity in salaries and leadership positions. Some examples:
Academia. Women win more than 55% of the most prestigious awards despite only holding 29% of tenured positions.
Law. Women were 47% of the graduates, yet only 15% of equity partners and 5% of managing partners in 2012.
Business. Women held 51% of professional and managerial positions but only 15% of executive positions and 13% of board of director seats in Fortune 500 companies in 2013.
Politics and government. Women hold 18 percent of seats in the 2013 Congress, cosponsor more bills, and bring in more federal spending to their districts. Similar to other states, the NYS legislature is only 22% female. More
We are a network of individuals and organizations coming together to accelerate economic fairness for New York women. Our backgrounds, jobs, economic status, age, and religions may be different, but we all agree that women deserve and need a level playing field. Some of us are long-time advocates and others new to the conversation, but we find common cause as a community: learning together, sharing information and actions, and generating PowHer to create a new reality for 10 million New York women and their families.
What is our mission?
NYS PowHer is building a broad, diverse, statewide collective effort to improve the economic outlook for New York women by addressing keys obstacles, promoting winning strategies, and educating and activating the public.
How do we get there?To tackle this, we will activate P-O-W-H-E-R:
Recently, there have been a plethora of scandals concerning domestic violence, discrimination, and sexual harassment in the news. Each of these disturbing events seem to elicit responses by self-proclaimed ‘experts’ purporting to know how to solve problems of inequity and discrimination. This has led me to ask the question: If you have a tooth ache, do you tie a string around that tooth and tie the other end to a door knob and slam the door? NO! Do you go to a chiropractor or a cardiologist to have the tooth removed? NO! You go to someone who you are sure is an expert. You go to a licensed dentist. When it comes to EEO or diversity or inclusion (D&I), knowing who is really an expert is not as simple as going to Healthgrades.com and looking up a dentist’s education and licenses before getting that tooth pulled.
D&I/EEO is a multidisciplinary field with a few distinct points of entry such as employment law, human resources, and organizational psychology. The recent trend, however, is that people with degrees and experience in sales, marketing, communication, etc. are jumping on the D&I band wagon as the demand for diversity training increases. This is a perturbing development. In some cases, people are asked to become an organization’s diversity officer based on their being a member of a protected class: they may be people of color or women or members of the LGBT community or be differently-abled. They may be highly competent in the field in which they have spent their careers, but that does not make them experts in the complex field of diversity and inclusion.
My professional experience in Equal Employment Opportunity began in 1988. In addition to my undergraduate and graduate education, I received formal training at Cornell’s School of International Labor Relations and in courses provided by the City of New York’s Department of Personnel in:
conducting investigations of discrimination
compiling and interpreting demographic statistics
preparing affirmative action reports
conflict resolution and mediation
developing strategies to overcome historic perpetuation of discriminatory practices
developing and facilitating adult education in EEO, Sexual Harassment Prevention, D&I, etc.
It took years of on-the-job experience augmented by this training before I was qualified to call myself an expert in my field.
Fake it ‘til You Make It!
Unfortunately, there are individuals who are willing to ‘stretch the truth’ and claim to have the requisite competencies and skills to create D&I strategies, education and initiatives. They may even believe that they have those competencies or that their area of expertise is so similar to D&I that they can ‘fake it ‘til they make it.’ Some of this is due to ‘coaches’ and self-help ‘gurus’ who are telling people that faking it is o-k even admirable, as it will advance their careers. I vehemently disagree!
When Passion Meets Purpose
I have been passionate about creating inclusion for as long as I can remember. As both a woman and person of mixed culture (my father was Puerto Rican and my mother was of Northern European descent), I have personally experienced discrimination and sexual harassment. I have also been defending those unable to defend themselves since the 1960s in the schoolyard of my elementary school in Astoria, NYC. Individuals with a true passion to end discrimination and increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace should get the specific education and experience that will qualify them as experts in this field. Those who do not bother to get their credentials can cause real damage to the employees who are in need of help and organizations that strive to become inclusive. I have been asked to repair some of this damage by more than one of my clients, and it is the most challenging work that I do.
To be continued…
Most people do not know what questions to ask potential consultants or employees for D&I engagements. I will address this in Part II.
Have you been asking what makes a D&I expert an expert? If not, isn’t it a great time to begin doing so?
Please let me know what you think in the comment section below or email me: email@example.com
Please follow us on Twitter for more frequent observations and information.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”
My mother, like many mothers of children who were ostracized and tormented for being different, used this expression to assuage us – to no avail. We still got into physical fights with the kids in our building who called us the S-word and other Hate Words because our father was Puerto Rican.
One hundred years earlier, in March of 1862 the phrase was cited in “The Christian Recorder” of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, (Which was first published in New York City in 1852).
“Remember the old adage, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me’. True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions.” [http://www.phrases.org.uk/]
There are too many commonly used Hate-Words: African Americans are called the N-word, Italian Americans, the W-word, Chinese Americans, the C-word, Vietnamese Americans, the G-word and many more than I care to list in this short blog entry. (If you need me to spell-out or explain any of the phrases listed above please email me.)
In the 1980s, when I first began to develop sexual harassment prevention education, I cautioned participants that words are actions and may lead to an escalation of inappropriate and illegal behavior from verbal to physical if not addressed by someone in authority. Bullying of any kind must be dealt with directly by teachers, supervisors and CEOs.
This sign appeared this morning (12/08/13)
outside a Sonic Drive-In Restaurant in Belton, Missouri.
I have long been deeply perturbed by the usage of the derogatory R-word as the name of an American football team based in our nation’s capital. The team that was originally the Boston Braves when it was established in 1932, became the Boston Redskins a year later (1933–1936), then moved to Washington D.C. in 1937 where they still go by that same offensive name.
Perhaps not coincidental to the name is the fact that in 1962, Washington was the last American football team to integrate racially and they did so only after the federal government threatened to sue the owners as D.C. stadium, where they played at the time, was U.S. property and so segregation was illegal there.
I strongly urge everyone to stop using the R-word entirely.
Etymonline.com provides the history of another insidious hate word:
“1790, from Arabic kafir “unbeliever, infidel, impious wretch,” with a literal sense of “one who does not admit the blessings of God,” from kafara “to cover up, conceal, deny, blot out.” Technically, “non-Muslim,” but in Ottoman times it came to be used almost exclusively for “Christian.” Early English missionaries used it as an equivalent of “heathen” to refer to Bantus in South Africa (1792), from which use it came generally to mean “South African black” regardless of ethnicity [African or Indian], and to be a term of abuse since at least 1934.”
How many times did Nelson Mandela hear the K-word used as a weapon against himself and others? How many times did he have to rise above unimaginable abuse to move from victim to victor, from one of many of the oppressed to a global symbol for freedom and human rights?
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
― Nelson Mandela
World Human Rights Day
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 as a result of the atrocities committed during the Second World War.The Commission on Human Rights was made up of 18 members from various political, cultural and religious backgrounds. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR drafting committee.
The core principles of human rights first set out in the UDHR are universality, interdependence and indivisibility, equality and non-discrimination. The Declaration begins:
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,”
Native American tribal leaders have been appealing to the owners of the football team with the racist and derogatory name in an attempt to get them to change the team’s name by offering alternative names. Their appeals continue to fall on deaf ears. What words do the owners need to hear to understand how the R-word is an assault not only on Native Americans, but on all of us who value people’s inherent dignity?
Nelson Mandela did not transform South Africa from a nation crippled by Apartheid to a democracy for all of its citizens alone. He did not employ violence to achieve this lofty goal. He used words and his incredible capacity to listen – to the oppressed as well as their oppressors. In order for Nelson Mandela to talk to others in their language he had to learn their language by listening. Once he mastered that language he was able to use it to effectively dismantle a hateful and criminal system.
To move from hatred to recognizing our shared humanity – to move from Hate-words to a humanitarian language – is a lofty goal. It is incredibly fortunate for all of us that we have had role models such as former President Nelson Mandela to remind us that, however lofty they may be, our goals are achievable if we are optimistic enough to believe in them. Words can be transformed from weapons to tools for learning about and loving one another. This fairly simple concept is at the core of the work to create and sustain inclusive environments, work places, communities, and nations.
It is critical that we engage in conversations that may initially be uncomfortable, but in the long term can help us to understand how we have much more in common with one another than we think. It is fitting that on World Human Rights Day tens of thousands of people, including leaders from around the world gathered to honor and celebrate the life of one of our greatest humanitarians, Nelson Mandela.
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.
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!