Like many of you, it is my practice to prepare for the day with quiet meditation and prayer. It was during such a time that I heard the words ‘you are a woman’ within my spirit. At the time, I had no idea of the relevance of that statement; but thought its interpretation must be a mystery well beyond female gender. Surely, there must be some deep meaning in those words. After all, they came during a time of meditation and prayer. But what could it be and why were those words given in the late summer of 2016? I had no idea, and tucked the words away in my memory to reflect on them at another time.
As we begin 2017, the results of the U.S. presidential election are rippling through the national consciousness. Not surprisingly, there is much discussion on the fate of diversity advocacy in the community and in business. The economics of diverse communities, particularly regarding race, gender, and generation have become a daily issue for news reporting. Debate over Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is a natural extension of the discussion. Opinions range from D&I as a failure to D&I as more necessary than ever. Here are the vision and goals of diversity advocates followed by comments by D&I consultants. Together, they demonstrate a determination and renewed passion for both a diverse society and the diverse workplace.
The 2017 Million Women March on Washington approaches, along with about 30 sister marches around the country, including in New York City. It’s been forty-seven years since I marched down 5th Ave. for the Women’s Movement. Why did I go when my goal for that trip to Manhattan was to find a job? Entering an employment agency, I insisted on sitting at the men’s table rather than with the women who were required to take a typing test. When my persistence was met with a threat to call the police to eject me, I made my way to 5th Ave. and joined the March.
ALICE AUGUSTA BALL (1892-1916)
Alice Ball was an American chemist who invented a chemical extraction process called the Ball Method. She was born in Seattle Washington and is the granddaughter of a slavery abolitionist, J.P. Ball. Alice graduated from the University of Washington in 1912 with a pharmaceutical chemistry degree and a bachelor’s degree in 1914. She went on to complete a master’s degree, during which she researched how to extract active ingredients from the root of the Kava plant, now used for its sedative and tranquilizing qualities.
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and the writer of the first published computer program. She was originally named Augusta Ada Byron and was the daughter of the famous poet, Lord Byron, and his wife, Annabella. In 1835, Ada married William King, ten years her senior, and when King inherited a noble title in 1838, they became the Earl and Countess of Lovelace. Most women in her position at that time were not encouraged in their education or intellect. Known as “the first programmer,” Ada was assisted in her learned by a mathematician-logician, Augustus De Morgan, who taught Mathematics at the University of London.
While working for an English mathematician, Charles Babbage, Ada developed an interest in his machines which later proved to be the forerunners of the modern computer. In 1843, Ada succeeded in translating and annotating an article written by mathematician Luigi Federico Menabrea on one of Babbage’s machines. Using what she called, “Poetical Science”, Ada also made detailed description of how an “Analytical Machine” could be programmed to calculate a sequence of rational numbers. Babbage referred to Ada as an “enchantress of numbers.” Today the Ada computer programming language developed in the 1980s for the U.S. Department of Defense is named in her honor.
Ada Lovelace is one of the biographies in the STEM Women Study Guide. The Guide is a classroom tool that encourages & educates women in Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM)
The Spiral Notebook, including discussion questions, was created in coordination with womengroundbreakers.com
Special thanks for their support of the project:
Platinum Sponsors: Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Humanities Tennessee
Gold Sponsors: American Diversity Report, Chattanooga Writers Guild, EPB Fiber Optics, excellerate!, Million Women Mentors, Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Southern Adventist University, The HR Shop, ThreeTwelve Creative, UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science, Volkswagen Chattanooga.
Special Thanks Southern Adventist University Intern Abigail White
It’s 1959. I’m a Southern religious teenage girl raised on the fire and brimstone of the Baptist Church. My boyfriend is a second generation Italian Catholic. My mother, recently divorced from my step-father, transforms from a “Betty Crocker’ housewife into a bird set free from a gilded cage. This turn of events leads to her elopement with one of her many men friends to Elkton, Maryland. Butch and I go along as witnesses. After spending the night in her Buick at the A&P parking lot, waiting for the courthouse to open, we finally walk out of the wide court doors—married—all four of us. Mom and Sal drive off to Florida, I move in with a girlfriend and Butch goes back to his home, as if nothing stupendous happened.
How the very same decision that claims to liberate women actually oppresses them.
I was reporting on the Cannes Advertising Festival on behalf of ArabAd Magazine in 2004, not only as an Arab, but also as a Muslim woman and a veiled one. For a whole week I was following up on the Arab delegation, arranging interviews with winners and even scoring with the Festival’s highest rank and advertising celebrities. I was very proud of myself and thought I deserve a day off before traveling back to Lebanon.
One of the many benefits I enjoy from writing this column is that I get to communicate from up here on my, shall we say, “perch.” From up here, I get to rant and rave, sprinkle dashes of uncomfortableness into conventional wisdom, tweak comfort zones, take folks dangerously close to the end, leave them suspended Wile E. Coyote-like midair, then lasso them in before they plunge over the cliff into the “diversity dangers” that lurk below.From here, I 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.
Case in point; watch me right now as I hand off the thorny issue of sweeping stereotypes to Dr. Claire Brown, facilitator of a seminar titled “Conquering communications collisions between men and women.” In fact, it was Brown whom I “blame” for the attention-getting title of my column, “When women chit chat, men go nuts!” (By the way, the Aug. 2012 issue of “The Wall Street Journal” ran an article pointing out that although some may dismiss chit chatting as an unnecessary and annoying waste of time, the practice is essential social grease.)
Chattanooga’s 2016 women GroundBreakers Storytelling Series began with a session on immigrants. Introduced by entrepreneur Denise Reed, three women who immigrated to the US and Chattanooga shared their stories, followed by Dr. Lisa Clark Diller, Chair of History & Political Studies/ Southern Adventist University.
Diller explained, “Historians collect stories over time and then try to draw conclusions about them, so I hope to make some general observations here about women and immigration in Chattanooga—which are set in the larger U.S. historical context.”
(To Hillary) “Excuse me, I’m talking!” ” I’m not finished; don’t interrupt me!” – Bernie Sanders, Democratic Debate
I glared in awe at the TV screen during the recent Republican and Democrat presidential debates while trying my best to keep tabs on the number of times the debaters interrupted each other. With Republican one, I simply lost account. Insults clearly spearheaded every interruption as the four men duked it out with each other on a variety of issues, including one candidate’s “hand size.”
Research has it that men tend to interrupt women more than women interrupt men. That was my reference point a week later when a woman and a man, Hillary and Bernie, took the debate stage. I was curious as to how the interruption dynamic would manifest itself across gender lines. Not sure if there’s a gender message here – is it? – but Sanders seemed to be the most irritated by being interrupted.
Interruptions! Arguably one of the most despised words in communications. Can I get a shout from those of you out there who actually like being interrupted? Okay then, how about one from those of you who suffer from occasional bouts of interruptionitis? I-CAN’T-HEAR-YOU!
Here’s the point: Folks just don’t like being interrupted. Some consider it disrespectful and others downright rude. Here’s the problem: Many who resent being interrupted – unless they’re on stage during a Democratic or Republican debate – just won’t say anything. Instead, they’re more apt to seethe in silence and, over time, build up an antipathy for the interrupter. There’s little solace in these realities.
Now to be clear, not all interruptions are necessarily bad. “Hey, great idea,” “I agree,” or “uh-huh,” can be viewed as affirming and supportive. But the problem with interruptions, the dismissive ones in particular, is that they keep you from finishing your thoughts which frustrate you.
The fact is, sometimes people need to be told to put a lid on it. (I can see you nodding out there). We all know the affable long-winded types. They just seem to love to hear themselves talk and will ramble on and on, seemingly unable to know when it’s time to pipe down. They are prime candidates for interruptions, respectful ones, I must add. Of course, people who are verbally abusive – your garden-variety screamers and cussers – should be interrupted. I doubt if anyone will take issue with that.
I’m not talking about the occasional ‘cutoff’ that, at worst, is mildly annoying. We’ve all encountered people who do that, and we have done it ourselves. Nor am I talking about those “affirming interruptions.” In fact, a dearth of affirming interruptions may have the opposite micro effect – the speaker losing confidence and focus.
Let’s now peer into the complex mind of professional interrupters, the ones who make a career of butting in. Their verbal blasts can spring up in meetings, during one-on-one conversations, at home over dinner … from anywhere. Their “interruption guns” are always cocked, ready to fire. Existing conversations, “slow talkers” and mid-sentences are where they take aim. And if you pause, even for a split second, they’ll pounce and inject themselves into the conversation.
Now the irony is that most professional interrupters don’t like being interrupted. Ever notice that? They seem to have a monopoly on interrupting; it’s their province. And if you dare to interrupt them … touché … they will just turn around and interrupt you right back. Their blind obsession with getting in a word, the last word in particular, is a sight to behold.
To wit, observe two interrupters going toe to toe. What an exhibition. The scene conjures up images of two prize fighters bobbing and weaving; sweat and spit flying everywhere, each looking for an opening to deliver the verbal knockout punch while everyone else sits transfixed on the sideline warily eyeballing the two combatants. You can often hear interrupters breathing heavily, panting, and waiting for a chance to barge in. They’re usually poor listeners. Just ask them to play back what was being discussed before they butted in and they’re hard-pressed to tell you.
So why do we interrupt?
The answer isn’t that easy. But as a “recovering interrupter,” I can tell you that we think differently; thoughts race through our minds at breakneck speeds. “Mental multitasking,” is as good as any description of what’s going on in our heads. The long winded talker and the ones who take an enormous amount of time getting to the point, drive us bonkers. And yes, some of us probably suffer from attention deficit disorder.
Now from a recovering interrupter’s perspective, I can also tell you first-hand about the adrenaline rush, the anxious moment, and the fear that we may somehow miss the moment if we don’t quickly interject. We’ll wave our hands, lurk in the background if the person’s on the phone; clear our throats, manufacture a cough – anything to let you know of our growing anxiety. Hovering is our calling card. We’ll interrupt and bring the already discussed issue up if it suddenly dawns on us that we missed an opportunity to make our point earlier.
Of course, it’s easy for any of us to slip into the habit of interrupting. It is such an ingrained habit in some that they don’t even know that they’re doing it. Thus it’s important to start with knowing that your local interrupter may be completely unaware of the behavior. So a firm, “Excuse me, Terry, but I wasn’t finished yet,” may be all that it takes to put me on mute. Now if that doesn’t work, get LOUDER. Talk over my interruptions. Stare me down with a frown. “I’m not quite done yet,” “Terry, I’ll be with you in a moment. I’ll continue now without interruption,” are effective ways to interrupt the interrupter.
And be patient. Interrupters may not hear you the first few times. Become a broken record if need be. Avoid eye contact with the verbal invader since eye contact provides them an opening. Getting to your point quickly will leave little room for interruptions. If you’re an observer of someone being interrupted, chime in with, “Wait, excuse me, Terry, but I’m interested in hearing the rest of Tim’s thoughts.”
As for the interrupters out there: Put a lid on it. If you’re not part of a conversation, resist barging in unless invited. Calm down. Pinch yourself. Take your medication. Simmer down and let them finish. Wait your turn. This isn’t a footrace.
Plus, understand that in some cultures “turn taking” and “thoughtful pauses” are the preferred protocol, so if you interrupt you could offend. And understand that interrupting “slow talkers” could also offend.
In the end when you see verbal cannons like me heading your way, get busy, lock your door, get on the phone, develop bad breath, anything that’ll ward me off.
Pretty soon, duh, I’ll get the message.