If you write a book about something that is little known, you have to be prepared for questions. Some will be silly and trivial, some will be deeper: but there will be questions. I wrote about Iran. Immediately I learned that many Americans know little about that country and its culture. Many of the questions I have been asked have been about the women of Iran. They seem so different from the women of America, so different and so very hard to comprehend.
The U.S. faces an increasing shortage in the STEM workforce: employment in STEM occupations is expected to grow 17 percent by 2018, while the number of college graduates in STEM fields continues to decline. In 2009, just 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded were in STEM fields, down from 24 percent two decades ago. Even more alarming: the gender and racial gap within the STEM workforce continues to widen. While women comprise 49% of the college-educated workforce, only 14% of engineers are women and just 27% are working in computer science and math positions. Similar disparities exist for Hispanic and African American workers, who account for only six percent of STEM workers. Recently it has come to light that the number of girls that are majoring in Computer Science has drastically dropped in the past 15 years.
There’s been so much in the news lately about gender, women in particular, specifically about the plight of women globally, how they’re faring in the sciences and on corporate boards, the abduction of the girls in Nigeria, the national fixation on Hillary …and it goes on and on and on. However, when it comes to gender, for me there’s no greater gift than my 4-year-old granddaughter, Nadia Lucille Howard. You see, Nadia owns me, plain and simple. And she knows it.
Despite an increase in lawsuits related to religious expression and workplace discrimination, religious diversity is an area of Diversity & Inclusion often missing from leadership development. The silence is due to lack of exposure and to fear, perhaps well-founded, that religious diversity training may actually increase animosity in the workplace, rather than build bridges. Given the recent Supreme Court ruling sanctioning public prayer as an American tradition, a tradition that has often been Christian, the role of diverse religions in the US is increasingly murky and contentious.
This headline makes for eye-catching copy, does it not? Now, if I said that these are the actual words that accompany the email signature of a person in the U.S. who communicates, often globally, to members of his organization, would you believe me? Well, that’s the truth. I kid you not.
One of the many benefits I enjoy from writing this column is that I get to stir stuff up from up here on my, shall we say, “perch.”From here, I get to rant and rave, sprinkle dashes of the uncomfortable into conventional wisdom and comfort zones, take folks dangerously close to the edge, leave them suspended Wile E. Coyote-like midair, then lasso them in before they plunge over the cliff into the “diversity dangers” that may lurk below. From here, I also get to do some vigorous backpedaling, or source attribution when I need to pass the buck if things get a tad too hot or have the potential to backfire on me.
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty sponsored a presentation entitled “Lynching Then Lynching Now: the Roots of Racism and the Death Penalty in America”. As the title of the workshop affirms, there is a direct link between those executed on Death Row and racism. Racism still permeates many levels of all our institutions, but there is no more glaring injustice to all people, especially to persons of color, than our criminal justice system. Just as lynching was an integral part of southern culture during slavery and the Jim Crow law, so has the incarceration of persons of color (and at every phase) become our new lynching – the history of the Death Penalty as it manifests today.
A query by a general contractor whose workplace had been infected by racist comments was the topic of a recent article in The Houston Chronicle. At issue was the worker making these statements and, when confronted by another employee, getting very volatile (“almost violent”). The worker’s defended his statements by claiming the right of free speech. Since this is probably a common experience by many in the workplace, it’s fitting to ask how far does free speech go in what people say on the job in a public setting? The employer and boss has the right, in fact, is under the legal precedent of insuring that all workers can work in a safe environment free of racial discrimination and harassment. How does one resist this negative kind of hate speech, and interrupt this behavior from occurring?
The night atmosphere is alive with colour and sound. Vibrant costumes adorn humble people as they dance to ward of evil spirits. Bright fires cast a warm glow; the balmy warmth of incense caresses the air. Our spirits soar. This is a traditional Buddhist festival in Nepal. Contrast this with another scenario I experienced: Before we alight the bus in Beijing we are told not to ask questions. We are told not to mention anything political. We giggle and laugh, every one of us thinks it’s a joke. But our guide tells us again firmly, he is 100% serious. We could get arrested and thrown in prison and that is no laughing matter.
My Dad puts me in the same category as murderers and rapists. Shocking isn’t it? But true. You see he’s a Jehovah’s Witness. To him, because I am not a Jehovah’s Witness, I’m evil like all sinners. When the world is soon destroyed, I will die along with it. I still consider myself to be a good, principled person, I do lots for charity, believe in God (ish) respect others, don’t steal, fornicate or cheat. (much)