Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Role Of Parents In Improving School Diversity

by Leslie Seifert
Originally Published: March 23rd, 2015

The choice of a school can be excruciating to make—it was for my family. Part of the pressure comes from living inside an enormous, interconnected school system that is vastly uneven in quality. In a suburb, the critical educational choice a parent makes is to move to a town, which is equivalent to choosing its school system. Chances are that the quality will be fairly even across all schools in the district. Choice is rarely an issue—children usually will go to the nearest school to home.

But in the city, the choice of a school is an individual family’s decision that can become entangled with future health of the school system itself. Students are guaranteed admission to the elementary school in their neighborhood, but families can apply to other schools within their larger district or to a handful citywide programs, most of which serve children identified by testing as “gifted.” I want to choose what is best for my child. But if I choose to forsake my struggling neighborhood elementary school, with its low reading and math scores and scant parent engagement, in favor of one with higher assessment scores and an active PTA that raises lots of money for supplies and extracurricular activities, I could be helping to doom it to failure.

Parents might debate whether the condition of my neighborhood school is necessarily my business when I can choose to send my daughter elsewhere. But I am an active parent; I go to school meetings, help with fundraising, engage with teachers and administrators. And I know that research by the National Center for Partnership Schools and many others shows that engaged parents are one of the building blocks of a high-performing school. If the active parents keep going to the established “better” school, the rich school gets richer, and the poorer one stays poor. Multiply the decision to go to the high-performing school by thousands, and if the weakest-performing schools serve mostly poorer minorities (as they usually do), it's possible to see the beginning of the chain of educational events that leads to the absence of children of color at Stuyvesant.

Today, when I hear the news about elite high school admissions, I am torn over the wisdom and moral correctness of our family’s choice of an elementary school for our daughter nearly a decade ago. We turned our backs on a troubled neighborhood school after having been given an opportunity to join a small crusade among fellow middle-class white families to help improve it.

In the fall of 2006, when my daughter was 5, my wife and I visited public elementary schools on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in search of kindergarten programs to which we might apply. At PS 84, on West 92nd Street, the principal led the tour herself. We stopped at a showcase on an African-drumming program, were told about a close relationship with Ballet Hispanico, and visited a humongous garden that covered virtually the entire rooftop. By her very presence as a tour guide, the principal was communicating an unspoken plea to our group, which was comprised of seemingly well educated, well-off, mostly white families: We want you badly to come here.

The garden was being used to teach science and gardening and healthful eating. It looked a little tattered, and the principal said she needed the community’s help to renovate it. PS 84 was serving a heavily minority population of lower socioeconomic status; some came from out of the district in the Bronx, others lived in projects that were in the school’s catchment zone. The nearby area had come to include many white families who had gentrified much of the neighborhood, but they were not sending their kids to this school. We could see this was the case just by peeking into classrooms and observing students passing in the halls.

At the time we visited PS 84, a white, middle-class mother who lived in the neighborhood was organizing meetings to encourage white families to go there. One incentive that the school was offering was dual-language classes in French, which were rare in the city, as well as in Spanish. I attended these PS 84 meetings. The principal spoke at the opening session, and in subsequent weeks we met among ourselves to discuss the pros and cons. Perhaps 20 parents were showing up—all looked like the ones on our tour. There was much interest in the brand new French program, but there were also concerns about kinks that might naturally arise. We shared an unspoken understanding of what was at stake: Together we might be willing to take a risk with our children that none of us likely would take alone.

My wife and I were less interested in the dual-language option and more attracted to the arts in PS 84, but we found ourselves facing a labyrinth of questions about whether to join this mini movement. The principal was extraordinarily dedicated and appealing, but how many of the parents at these meetings would actually send a child to this school? We know from decades of experience in city schools that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often arrive underprepared for learning, having been read to less at home and without having been to prekindergarten. We know that schools with a preponderance of such students struggle with discipline. To outsiders these places can appear noisy and disorganized. Jennifer Burns Stillman, a research analyst in the New York City Department of Education and author of Gentrification and Schools: The Progress of Integration When Whites Reverse Flight, has observed a clash of sensibilities in how children are treated, with teachers finding that lower-income students respond better to an authoritarian style of discipline, resorting frequently to yelling at children. This approach offends many white, middle-class parents.

PS 84 was peaceful when we visited, but we were concerned about how many middle-class children might end up there. Would it be five, 10, 15, among more than 500 students? What was the critical mass for us and our daughter? I was a writing coach the year before for a high-school senior whose Common Application essay for college told of his struggles for acceptance as the only white player on his public high school’s football team. He had grown in character, he concluded, but only with a tremendous expenditure of energy and fortitude. He likely would have had an easier time with three or four white teammates.

Our daughter could grow in character as a member of a small minority, though could a five-year-old develop anything close to the coping mechanisms of a teenager? Would there be an academic and social price for the experience that was worth paying? She might help to elevate the level of pupil engagement in the classroom, and in the process raise the school’s expectations for all its students, which researchers at Johns Hopkins have found contributes much to the “resilience” that poor and minority children need to succeed in school. But might she also be surrounded by too many students doing work several levels below her own? The movement toward differentiated instruction, supported by about a decade’s worth of research and being promoted by places like the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University, has shown that students separated by two or three years in grade level in reading, for example, can be taught effectively and learn in the same classroom. But would a classroom with a lot of yelling raise my daughter’s anxiety levels too high or stretch her powers of concentration too thin? What unforeseen complications might arise as a result of her being of a different background and skin color from most of the rest of her school? And how much of our motivation as parents to send her to PS 84 might be selfish—driven by the flush of being what we envisioned as movers at the center of social change?

We finally chose a public school with a reputation for academic quality and a commitment to diversity. It won a Blackboard award in 2007 as Outstanding Public Elementary School. We couldn’t have predicted the sharp decline in diversity that occurred, from about 46 percent white when we applied to 67 percent today, according to Department of Education data. (This change can probably be attributed to the school's shift from relying on applications for out-of-district admissions to using a lottery system, as well as an increased interest in the free school among middle-class families who lived in the catchment zone and were struggling in the sluggish economy.) In the same period, PS 84 has grown much more mixed; today roughly one-third of its students are white, according to DOE statistics. The garden has been restored, with help from graduate students in Columbia University’s landscape-design program. A dean at the Ivy League school is a parent of a child at PS 84.

In the case of the elite high schools, two solutions are being discussed for getting more minorities admitted to Stuyvesant and the others, and both are flawed. Awarding seats to the highest scorers on the entrance exam from each middle school would open the doors to more minorities, but could also water down the overall achievement level of incoming classes. Expanding admissions criteria beyond a single test score is unlikely to succeed. A new study by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools finds that including attendance and grades would not substantially increase diversity. According to the report: "The sobering reality is that disparities in the specialized schools mirror larger, system-wide achievement gaps that exist prior to middle school." The preparation really needs to begin much earlier in the educational process, in schools like PS 84—where good study habits, time-management skills, and the ambition to succeed in school and in life can be codified and nurtured from the beginning. Age 12 or 13 is too late to start.

Did our family make the right choice to stay away from PS 84 when we did? Did we buy stability and certainty at the expense of a learning opportunity for our daughter to grow up as a minority among children who came from different cultural and economic backgrounds? Did we fail in our responsibility as citizens to help improve a neighborhood public school?

A white middle-class family visiting PS 84 today faces a far different and easier choice for its child than we did. More of the minority students who go there will likely graduate with tools to earn a shot at Stuyvesant than in 2006. But until more families are willing to elect, as we did not, to send their kids to schools dominated by lower-class minority populations, how much more equality in this system are we ever likely to see?

Read the original article from The Atlantic here:


Why HR is still struggling with social media

by Akankasha Dewan
Originally Published: March 31st, 2015

Social media has undeniably emerged as an effective recruiting and employer branding tool today – but why is HR still not utilising its full potential?
In the fourth installment of the 2020 Outlook series, Universum found many companies show a surprising lack of competence in the social realm.
Tracking the social media activity of the 400 largest companies in the US, the report highlighted successful social media teams post content that is between 10,000 and 100,000 times more engaging than the average social media team.
“Companies still struggle mightily to make their social media investments deliver on the promise of higher customer engagement, greater brand awareness and stronger brand affinity,” the report stated.
Lack of expertise in implementing and managing social media programmes was highlighted as a leading cause of such disparity.
While social media emerged as the top digital channel for employer branding (35%), the report stressed the majority (65%) of respondents did not view it as the most important digital tool in comparison to sources such as job boards.
Similarly, when it came to social recruiting, only 32% of respondents stated they oversaw an active social presence on a dedicated career account (regardless of social channel).
More than four out of 10 (42%) claimed a moderate presence, while 19% described their social recruiting efforts as fairly inactive.
11% of companies reported no activity at all.
These findings weren’t surprising, considering only 20% of companies said they have employed a dedicated social media employee for career opportunities.
The report warned while the statistic on its own is not evident of a lack of enthusiasm or investment in social media, its combination with other findings suggested most organisations are under-investing in social recruiting and social employer branding.
“Ironically, marketing departments have the expertise that talent attraction professionals require to build effective social media programmes, but little collaboration exists between HR and marketing to help facilitate learning.”
What was “most surprising” in the study, however, was the low percentage of organisations measuring social media effectiveness.
Currently only half (52%) of respondents said they measure their social media activities, though 69% admitted they plan to do so over the next five years.

Read the original article from Human Resources Online here:

Men must lend their voice to gender disparity debate

by Barri Rafferty
Originally Published: March 31st, 2015

How can governments, companies, and individual leaders shatter the glass ceiling and pave a better path for gender equality? As Vincent Molinari, CEO Gate Global Impact, put it, "The channels need to be created and trails need to be blazed."
His comment was part of a discussion at the United Nations on a topic that’s very important to me: conversations with men about helping women reach leadership positions. The event was hosted at the United Nations by Impact Leadership 21, an organization committed to transforming women’s global leadership at the highest level of influence.
Joining me in the lively discussion was a panel of distinguished men and women – all of whom share the vision of a world that sees gender equality as a given, and who also share the belief that it requires the participation of both sexes.
The panelists included: Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund; Michael Drexel, Senior Director, Head of Investors Industries, World Economic Forum; Molinari; and Douglas Ellenoff, partner at Ellenoff, Grossmen & Scholle.
Three critical themes surfaced around gender equality:
Gender equality is improving, but there’s still more progress to be made."Gender equality isn’t as bad as it used to be 50 to 70 years ago, but there’s still a long way to go," Michael Drexler said. The number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 has reached a record-high—but that’s only 24 out of the 500 CEOs. Osotimehin agreed, and said, "We must encourage men to embrace gender equality principles. If the tone isn’t set at the top, then people will find a way around it." 
Progress can only be made in this area if we work together. It will take the combined efforts of women and men to end gender inequality.
Men need to have this conversation with other men."I’m looking into the room here and where are the men?" Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin asked. "We’re talking to ourselves now. We need men to sit here so we can have a proper conversation. I want to tell my daughters that they’re equal to men and they’re not inferior to anyone. In order to achieve that, men need to shed the fear of having this conversation and embrace the possibilities." 
This brought up an interesting thought: Should we approach men or should men approach us with this conversation?
Don’t fight the tribe, be a part of it."Instead of clashing with the ‘boys’ club’ stereotype, let’s make it a goal to become a valuable member of the organization. Everyone has something different to offer and they need to demonstrate it, regardless of gender," Drexler stated. You have to think about how you’ll get to the top and if people are there to support you. If not, focus on a company that will, and don’t overlook entrepreneurship. "Talented women are entrepreneurs now and they’re planting the seeds for others," Ellenoff said. He continued, "…women are raising money for other women entrepreneurs and are creating an environment where we don’t have to keep going back to the ‘boys’ clubs’ around the world." 
Once you’ve become a cultural leader, you’re establishing a new path for other women to follow and succeed.
During the session, Michael Drexler said, "Diversity in every organization is huge and makes it more successful." I agree, and gender equality is a key part of the diversity mix. In fact, a recent study found that the companies with the best financial performance are those with greater numbers of women in leadership. It has been predicted, judging from the historic rate, that it will take 50 years for gender equality in government, and 81 years for gender equality in the economy. That is an unacceptable rate of change. It is the responsibility of every man and woman to shift the paradigm. Some argue that policies and quotas are the only way to bring about change. I would say that while policies and quotas can play a role, until attitudes have shifted there will not be true progress.

Read the original article from PR Week here:

What protection do employees have against discrimination on the ground of age in Québec?

by Andréane Giguère
Originally Published: March 29th, 2015

Both the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (Québec Charter) as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Canadian Charter) provide for the right not to be discriminated against on the ground of age. In the context of employment, the Québec Charter prohibits discrimination based on age with respect to the hiring, apprenticeship, duration of the probationary period, vocational training, promotion, transfer, displacement, laying-off, suspension, dismissal or conditions of employment.
Discrimination based on age occurs in the workplace when a distinction, exclusion or preference is made based on a person’s age or because such person belongs to a certain age group (youth, seniors, etc.). As such, absent reasonable justification, decisions and practices in the workplace that create discrimination based on age will be illegal under the Québec Charter. For example, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favour of a waitress wrongly dismissed because she apparently no longer corresponded to her employer’s youthful image (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse c. 9063-1698 Québec inc., 2003 CanLII 40742 (QC TDP)).
In order to prove age discrimination, it is not necessary to demonstrate that a job-related decision was made solely based on age: it is sufficient to demonstrate that age constituted one of the grounds justifying the decision.
For instance, in Syndicat des professionnelles et professionnels du gouvernement du Québecet Québec (Ministère de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale), D.T.E. 2011T-539 (T.A.)the employer denied the application of a 60 year-old candidate, because he wanted to rejuvenate his staff. In fact, the employer told the candidate that he was looking to bring fresh blood…The arbitration tribunal concluded that this constituted wrongful discrimination based on age and awarded damages.
Discrimination on the ground of age is prohibited “except as provided by law”. Indeed, in the field of labour relations, many laws and regulations authorize distinctions based on age. As an example, pursuant to the Act Respecting Labour Standards, no employer may have work performed by a child between 11 p.m. on any given day and 6 a.m. on the following day, except in specific cases. When such a law exists, an employee cannot allege discrimination on the ground of age under the Québec Charter.
Remedies are available for employees who believe that they are discriminated on the basis of age. Among them, the employee can file a formal complaint with the Human and Youth Rights Commission, which will conduct an investigation. The Commission may then recommend any corrective measures it deems appropriate and, if the employer fails to comply with them, can apply to the Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of the complainant to seek appropriate measures. Unionized employees can rely on the grievance procedure set forth in the collective bargaining agreement.
Moreover, employees have the right to continue to work notwithstanding the fact that they have reached or passed the age or number of years of service at which the employee should retire, for the reasons set out in the Act respecting labour standards. Therefore, an employer cannot dismiss, suspend or retire an employee, practice discrimination or take reprisals against them on those grounds.

Read the original article from Global Workplace Insider here:

Mental Health Therapy Through Social Networking Could Soon Be a Reality

by Kevin McSpadden
Originally Published: March 31st, 2015

While still in the development stage, the peer-to-peer technology had "significant benefits"

An experimental social networking platform intent on helping users calm anxiety and reverse symptoms of depression has received positive feedback.

Panoply is a peer-to-peer platform jointly administered by MIT and Northwestern universities that encourages users to “think more flexibly and objectively about the stressful events and thoughts that upset them,” says a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Researchers found that the network, which is still being studied and has yet to be commercialized, produced “significant benefits, particularly for depressed individuals.”

Panoply works by teaching users a therapeutic tool called cognitive reappraisal, which tries to get people to look at a problematic situation from different perspectives.

When a person is stressed, they write what is causing the problem and their reaction. The “crowd” then responds by a offering a contrasting outlook. Comments are vetted to ensure the original poster is not abused.

The study involved 166 people over a three-week period. Researchers suggested a 25-minute per week minimum interaction to see results.

According to the published paper, the next step is to widen the net and see if the social media platform is as effective over a more diverse audience.

Read the original article from TIME here:


How to Make Your Company Less Sexist and Racist

by Katherine Reynolds Lewis
Originally Published: March 31st, 2015

Many employers who discriminate don't do so intentionally, yet few are aware of concrete steps they can take to override their subconscious biases.

Decades' worth of social-psychology research has demonstrated that humans classify each other by race and gender and respond instinctively based on stereotype and social norms. In the workplace, these unconscious biases mean white men are more likely to be hired, promoted, and paid well compared with equally deserving women or racial minorities.

One famous experiment found that resumes that appeared to be from white people received 50 percent more interviews than identically qualified applications from black candidates. This effect shows up even when the decision maker is from the less-powerful group. A more recent study showed that men and women alike were twice as likely to hire a man for a math-intensive job, even when the candidates’ math skills were identical. Awareness of implicit bias has grown thanks to academic initiatives such as Project Implicit and grassroots blogs like the Microaggressions Project and I, Too, Am Harvard, which is now a YouTube meme, as well as media coverage and advocacy by business leaderssuch as Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg.

A key difference between this sort of unconscious bias and more deliberate discrimination is that those perpetuating it often wish they could stop it, if only they knew how. Existing efforts—such as diversity training programs and exhorting women to "lean in"—may actually backfire; for example, women who negotiate for raises may do themselves more harm than good. “There are all kinds of really well-meaning people in corporate America who are sincerely distressed that they have spent many millions of dollars trying to retain and advance women and minorities and it ain’t working. They are baffled about what to do,” says Joan C. Williams, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings.

Here’s the good news: For those who want to make their workplaces more fair, there are real, concrete steps available to get there. Williams outlines three steps that companies should take: First, conduct internal research to identify areas of possible bias; second, identify key metrics for tracking the results of interventions; and finally, make a change that will curb the effects of these subconscious prejudices on an ongoing basis—Williams calls these interventions "bias interrupters." Once those steps are taken, managers can assess the effect of their interventions, tweak, and repeat as needed.

What is a "bias interrupter"? A bias interrupter can be as simple as rewriting help-wanted advertisements to remove traditionally masculine words or redesigning the process by which people receive promotions, as Google recently did. The company had found that women were being promoted less often than men in part because of a system that required employees to nominate themselves for promotions, something that runs counter to norms of traditional feminine conduct. Men routinely nominated themselves at higher rates than women did.

To interrupt this, the technology firm launched a campaign to change the culture around self-nomination. Google started systematically asking all employees who met the criteria for promotion to nominate themselves and directed managers to follow suit within their workgroups. Meanwhile, female senior leaders spoke at meetings and within the women’s employee resource group about the importance of self-promotion, signaling that this behavior was expected and desirable for women as well as men. As a result, the gender difference on self-nomination dissipated.

“We all have unconscious bias because of our exposure to images in the media and our families of origin, but if we’re aware of it we can work together to combat that,” said Judith Williams, Google’s global diversity and talent programs manager. “It’s so important to understand that the diversity conversation is not that in a few months you’re going to see a huge change. We’ve made progress. We’re working for more. This is a long-term game; we’re in it for the long term.”

One phenomenon holding women back is what Williams terms "office housework," necessary but undervalued tasks, such as administrative chores, scheduling, meeting planning, taking notes, filling coffee cups, mentoring, serving on minor committees, and spearheading low-visibility projects. In a study of gender bias in science and tech, Williams found Latina scientists most likely to report being expected to do this sort of work, which helps an organization but doesn’t propel an individual’s career forward. To interrupt this bias, an employer could survey employees to develop metrics that measure who is doing these tasks, and then either dole out the “housework” randomly or assign it to an administrative employee. It’s important, Williams argues, to evaluate and ratchet up an intervention if the gender and racial inequalities persist.

Another common pattern of bias is known as the “prove-it-again” pattern, in which social psychologists find women and minority employees have to continually prove their skills and value, as compared with white men. This often comes across as women being promoted only based on their results, while men are promoted on their potential. To disrupt this bias, which falls most heavily on black women, organizations could pre-commit to a list of requirements for a promotion, and then require a detailed explanation for any waiving of those conditions, Williams suggests.

These sorts of interventions will be easier to design for certain challenges than for others. For example, when female law-firm partners are bullied out of their share of the revenue for clients they brought to the firm, culture-wide change is needed. And some companies are just not going to be on board with even trying: Research that finds organizations that aver a belief in meritocracy—common in the technology sector—are actually more likely to be discriminatory.

The dwindling numbers of minorities and women as you cast your eye up the ranks of any business or professional field lend credence to the argument that existing diversity efforts just aren’t working. With compelling research that diverse work groups produce better business outcomes, the profit motive should sway corporate America, even if the moral one falls short.

Read the original article from The Atlantic here:


Why Does Racism Persist?

by Robert Fuller
Originally Published: March 30th, 2015

If anyone took the demise of Jim Crow and the election of a black president to mean that racism was dead, reports of the Justice Department on Ferguson and Philadelphia are sobering reminders that racism lives.
Racism is proving as stubbornly hard to eradicate as the mythical Hydra which sprouted two new heads for every one that was cut off. Until, that is, Hercules found and severed the beast's immortal head.
What is racism's immortal head? Why does racism persist?
Color differences are not the cause of racism, rather they are excuses for debasing one group to another group's advantage. Racism persists because the degradation in which it trades serves the purpose of predation.
The wellspring that sustains racism lies in the practice of preying on the weak, with the added twist of first systematically handicapping potential targets so as to reduce the risk to predators.
To end racism we must identify and sever the immortal head that keeps the beast alive. Racism's immortal head is rankism.
Definition of rankism:
• degrading (or self-aggrandizing) assertions of rank
• abuse, discrimination, or exploitation based on the power inherent in rank
• presuming superiority, imputing inferiority
• subjecting others to indignity
Rankism is what people who take themselves to be somebodies do to people they mistake for nobodies. In interpersonal relationships, rankism becomes derision and disdain. Between groups, it's persecution, injustice, and disenfranchisement.
Rank itself is not necessarily a problem. It can attest to experience; it can be a useful management tool. But rankism -- demoting, denigrating, and disadvantaging people so as to set them up for exploitation -- is the sustaining source of racism.
Rankism is also the immortal head of the other ignoble isms. It's because we tolerate rankism, that racism and the other isms persist -- despite the progress we've made against them. To render them extinct, we must cut off their common immortal head -- rankism.

Read the original article from Huffington Post here:

Racism Is More Than The News Cycle

by Quinn Monette
Originally Published: March 30th, 2015

Images of black U. Va. student Martese Johnson lying prone and bloodied on the Charlottesville pavement following an encounter with law enforcement March 18 have provoked outrage and exasperation. As an addendum to the growing conversation about the relationship between law officers and historically oppressed groups, the incident has incited further tension.
After Johnson was refused entrance into one of Charlottesville’s bars, Virginia Alcohol and Beverage Patrol officers swarmed him and forcibly (and, some would say, violently) shoved him to the ground. An especially disturbing photograph shows Johnson’s face streaming with blood as a hand pins him down. Johnson’s defenders claim that he, like black men historical and contemporary, was treated so appallingly because of the implicit belief that black Americans are less valuable to civil society than white Americans. Others dismiss this claim, arguing instead that Johnson was handled with appropriate force after drunkenly refusing to cooperate with authorities.
These voices have reappeared at regular intervals in the past few months following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice at the hands of police officers. Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have attempted to sustain public dialogue about race and power even as these high-profile events die out with the turn of the media cycle. Their opponents have been content to address each incident in isolation. Certainly there is merit to evaluating the egregious mistreatment of Brown, Garner, Rice and, yes, Johnson at the hands of police. There has been, and currently is, an asymmetrical relationship between the U.S. government and its black citizens. In a self-appointed “post-racial” United States, these concerns are too often shunted aside. As an assembly of humans in constant interaction and not a solipsistic array of detached individuals, there is an absolute need to have this conversation. Yet something is still missing.
In the muddle of polarization is lost the reality of racism. Racism is not a once-a-month affair or a spectacle that can be easily captured on camera. Racism is not a minute-long segment on the nightly news. Racism is not just hate-crime brutality or a slur shouted out of a car window. Racism can be invisible, ingrained and seemingly innocuous. But racism is not an abstraction; it is a real human experience. The sensational quality of widely-publicized cases such as Johnson’s allows the true nature of racism to hide behind violence and vitriol. Racism isn’t always manifested in such visible ways.
That’s not to say that Johnson’s case wasn’t a product of racism; it was. The fact that his feet were chained is truly terrifying. But let’s not confuse the product of racism with the corpus of racism. Bigotry instills itself in the daily realities of American life. It is present in everyday microaggressions that slowly erode the mental and physical wellbeing of victims. It is present in the assumptions made about people’s morality and intelligence because of the way they speak or present themselves. It is present in personal, not distant, measure.
Self-congratulation in the face of overt displays of racism is dangerously tempting. It’s easy to compare our campus to U. Va.’s and remark in unearned pride, “Well, it wasn’t us.” The spectacle of Johnson’s encounter with the police makes such a comparison ever more effortless. We haven’t had a graphic, viscera-shredding, nationally-publicized incident, so racism must not be a problem for us. But racism has been our problem and continues to be our problem. The College admitted its first black student in 1951, but did not open all programs to black Americans until the 1970s. The College was intimately involved in the history of a nation that treated nonwhites as less than human. We have not achieved an environment of encompassing acceptance. Prejudice persists and a lack of spectacle should not indicate otherwise.

Read the original article from The Flat Hat here:

Real Religious Leaders Must Stand Up for Real Freedom

by Rev. Al Sharpton
Originally Published: March 30th, 2015

Freedom of religion -- the ability to practice our faith without fear of persecution -- is a basic right that we as Americans hold dearly. But what we also cherish -- and have fought tremendously to achieve -- is the equal protection of the right of all to eat, shop, walk, work and live where we choose without discrimination. So how is it that in 2015 the governing body of the state of Indiana has enacted legislation that leaves room for businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community under the guise of some sort of "religious liberty"? The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by Governor Mike Pence last week, is one of the most biased pieces of state legislation we've seen in our modern era. The fact that it is cloaked in the name of religious freedom is particularly offensive to me as a member of the clergy who has been engaged in ministry and social justice work my entire life. This is a pivotal moment when all religious leaders must stand in unity for real freedom for everyone.
I first began preaching when I was just a boy, at the age of 4. I was initially ordained in the Church of God and Christ, a fundamentalist Christian denomination, and was re-baptized in 1994 by Rev. Dr. William Jones, a progressive Baptist who was a friend of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 2003, when I came out publicly in support of marriage equality, many friends I preach for (I preach at about 80 churches a year) were upset, and some threatened to not invite me to deliver sermons. But I stood my ground, reminding them that since the age of 12, when I was appointed Youth Director of Operation Bread Basket by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Jones, I had been a civil rights activist. That is when I first saw my civil rights and ministerial obligations as one and the same. 
My religious conviction compels me to fight for civil rights and social justice; I don't divide the two. Each and every one of us must speak out against this egregious Indiana law. We cannot fight for civil rights for some; we must fight for all in order to protect our great nation and preserve what makes us so unique. Didn't racists use religion to justify their belief in the inferiority of Blacks? Didn't misogynists misquote the Bible to justify gender inequality? The blatant use of religion has always been a tool of bigots. It is important, religiously, to stand up and dramatically denounce this Indiana law and say that it in fact does not represent religion. Rather, it legalizes bigotry and discrimination.
It's difficult to comprehend how such laws and antiquated actions can even be in existence in this day and age. Sadly, there are in fact 19 other states that have legislation similar to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But as a piece in The Atlantic highlights, Indiana's law is particularly troubling because it "makes a business's 'free exercise' right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government." In other words, businesses can use this law to protect themselves against any discrimination or civil rights lawsuits brought against them.
The road to equality is often paved with struggles and challenges. When the good people of this country fought for desegregation, for example, some argued that it was too much federal "government intrusion." In fact, often when federal laws were enacted to protect citizens, those against progress would proclaim that states' rights were somehow being trampled upon. This isn't about government overreach or some notion of state or religious rights being infringed upon; rather, it is about freedom and equality for all Americans. One has a right to their religious beliefs, but one does not have the right to make their beliefs the law in a democracy. We do not live in a theocracy and should resist any move toward that while we face theocracies in other parts of the world. 
Following our National Action Network annual convention next week, I hope to travel to Indiana and stand with religious leaders to rally against this law. Gays, lesbians and all members of the LGBT community must not be alone in this fight. And as a preacher, I want them to know that I unequivocally stand alongside them. May all religious leaders do the same.

Read the original article from Huffington Post here:

The Company Working To Fix Higher Education's Diversity Problem

by Gwen Moran
Originally Published: March 31st, 2015

Completing the enormous amount of work it takes to earn a Ph.D. is a remarkable accomplishment. But when Mariana Lebron completed her advanced degree in strategic management, she was just the 39th latina to graduate with an advanced business degree in the U.S. and the first to do so at Syracuse University.
"I was extremely shocked [to learn I was the first]," she says. "When you’re the first to go through something, you don’t think you’re the first. You’re thinking, I only have one life to live, and this is my dream. I don’t want to waste it."
Lebron, now an assistant professor of management at Towson University in Towson, Maryland, says being part of the PhD Project helped her reach her goal. The organization is dedicated to increasing the number of people of color in business leadership positions, especially at colleges and universities, through mentoring, connecting with other candidates and faculty, conferences, and other forms of support and information.


The PhD Project was founded as an initiative of accounting giant KPMG’s foundation. The firm’s leadership believed that the way to cultivate more diversity among their business candidates was to work on diversity among college and university faculty, says Bernard J. Milano, president of the PhD Project and the KPMG Foundation.
In 2005, the PhD Project was established as a nonprofit organization. When the initiative was first created in 1994, there were just 294 black, latino, and Native American business school professors in the U.S., not including those at historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions. Today, there are 1,176 faculty members, Milano says, most of whom were involved in one way or another with the PhD Project.
"When we talk to people about why they did not take the step toward becoming a professor entering a doctoral program on their own, they say they don't know how to even start the process. Secondly, having never seen an African-American professor unless they went to a black college, they never dreamed that this was something that was available to them," Milano says.
Mark Dawkins, PhD, an associate professor of accounting at the University of Georgia, has been involved with the organization from its formation in 1994. At the time, he was in the last year of his doctoral program and was asked to be a student representative from Florida State University. He recalls enthusiastic corporate sponsors trying to figure out the best resources to support their target audience. He says, at first there was pushback from faculty because KPMG used the funding from their "Research and Opportunities in Auditing" course and used that funding to start the project, eliminating a source of grant funding for some faculty members.
"There was some skepticism, but to their credit, they stuck with it," he recalls. 


Since then, the organization has helped nearly 1,250 doctoral candidates, many of whom have gone on to faculty positions. The organization has five minority doctoral students associations (DSAs) that support members who are pursuing doctoral degrees in accounting, finance, information systems, management and marketing. Members get access to a private website and the organization’s conference, where students can network and meet faculty members. All expenses for PhD Project conferences are covered for eligible members. Lebron says that simply having access to other students and faculty members to discuss the challenges she faced was invaluable.
"You have to prove yourself in a different way from other students. The PhD Project provided me with mentoring behind the scenes," she says.
And the outcomes are impressive. The minority doctoral completion rate for students in the PhD project is 90%, while the average overall U.S. doctoral program completion rate is just 70%.
From the beginning, the initiative had a number of sponsors in addition to the KPMG Foundation, including Citi and Association To Advance Collegiate Schools Of Business (AACSB International). Today, dozens of corporations, foundations, colleges and universities support the $2.3 million organization.
While Dawkins didn’t participate as a student––he was nearing graduation when the initiative was launching––he says his continued involvement in the organization has shown him what a difference it makes in the lives of the students. Today, he goes to the conferences and represents the University of Georgia, recruiting PhD candidates.
"We still have a long way to go, but I’m afraid to even imagine where we would be if the PhD Project had not come along and moved the needle in terms of diversity in the front of the classroom," he says.

Read the original article from Fast Company here:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Alabama Is Now Trying to Shield Religious Discrimination in Adoption

by Steve Williams
Originally Published: March 29th, 2015

Not content with ignoring the authority of the federal courts on same-sex marriage, Alabama’s lawmakers are now trying to ensure that even if same-sex marriage were to come to the state, same-sex couples looking to adopt could still face lawful discrimination from adoption agencies.
Currently, state adoption law allows married people and single people to adopt. Those provisions, of course, aren’t expressly LGBT-inclusive, and at the moment the courts have interpreted the law as preventing same-sex couples from jointly adopting. Obviously Alabama, like many states, uses marriage to trigger joint adoption rights — and you’ve probably already guessed where this is going.
The Alabama Supreme Court’s baffling stand upholding the state’s same-sex marriage ban and defying the federal courts has been discussed at length. Yet even state lawmakers sense that the Supreme Court of the United States is likely to strike same-sex marriage bans when it hands down its decision in June of this year–meaning that, despite the state’s best efforts, marriage equality may soon arrive within its borders. As such, it appears lawmakers are concerned about what that could mean for adoption rights, and as usual they’re using religion as a tool to discriminate.

Republican State Senator Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa recently introduced a bill that would give private adoption agencies the right to refuse to serve married gay couples who are seeking to adopt. The kicker here is that the bill contains a clause saying that religious adoption agencies can discriminate even if they are receiving government money. The legislation actually goes further than just harming same-sex couples though.
The bill would allow any adoption agency the right to “refuse to participate in adoptions and foster care placements that violate their religious beliefs.” This wouldn’t just cover same-sex couples, then. As with most religious right-to-discriminate bills, it potentially puts all disfavored classes including racial minorities and religious minorities at risk. For instance, would an adoption agency grant an adoption to a Muslim couple if the agency decides that this would be condoning another religious interpretation in the face of their “one true faith?”
The law also contains another provision, and one that further privileges religious discrimination. The legislation specifically notes that no government agency will be able to threaten or remove funding from religious adoption agencies that do discriminate. While obviously federally protected classes would still be able to take a suit to the federal courts, this means that they are unlikely to have state support if they have faced, for instance, racist discrimination. While it is true that same-sex couples could still use secular or welcoming agencies, it’s undeniable that a good portion of adoption agencies do have a religious affiliation. This furthers a climate of uncertainty for same-sex couples and other vulnerable minorities who, by choosing to adopt, are already entering into a highly stressful process.
This legislation is likely influenced by what happened in Illinois in 2011. The state had previously passed a non-discrimination law that was LGBT-inclusive. Religious adoption agencies who contracted with the state government were later informed that as soon as equivalent partnership rights were granted to same-sex couples (first civil unions and later marriages), the agencies would have to provide services to same-sex couples or they would be in violation of that law. Contrary to some misinformation, Catholic Charities were not forced out of the state. It chose to close rather than follow the law, meaning it stopped providing care and services for hundreds of children simply because it could not take state funds and discriminate.
We may feel it is acceptable that private religious adoption agencies be able to cater to people who share their interpretation of the faith. I would argue that even then, the focus should be on providing children with the best care they can have, irrespective of other factors like the make-up of the couple involved. However, we can all agree that agencies that take state money should not be allowed to use that money to discriminate solely on the basis of sexuality, religious affiliation or other characteristics.
Sadly, Alabama isn’t alone in this pursuit. Florida and Michigan are already pushing for similar bills, and it looks as though other states will follow in relatively short order.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s House has already passed a bill that would enable probate judges to refuse to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples without facing legal consequences. Another bill is slated to be introduced shortly that will specifically carve out exemptions to ensure that florists, cake shop owners, photographers and mostly anyone providing goods and services can refuse to serve same-sex couples. What all this adds up to is a legal situation in America where some states will be no-go areas for LGBTs if they want to still have any kind of legal recognition for their partnerships and families and the ability to access simple services like catering and other goods.

Read the original article from Care 2 here:


Rising Economic Power Means Women Will Dominate Silicon Valley

by Chriss W. Street
Originally Published: March 30th, 2015

Media observers are claiming that Ellen Pao’s loss in her $160 million gender discrimination claims against her former venture capitalist employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer means a dark future for women in Silicon Valley. But women already control 36 percent of small businesses, hold 50 percent of all management positions and account for 60 percent of college students. With rising economic power, women seem destined to eventually dominate Silicon Valley and much of American business.

Given that San Francisco proudly advertises the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library as a tourist attraction, it is safe bet that the political prism of what “gender-bias” means in “The City” does not tend to have much in common with the opinions of rest of America.
The newscasters for the Bay Area’s listener-supported Public Broadcasting System affiliate appeared to be in mourning that “such a great opportunity” for emancipating genders was vanished when a jury of six women and six men found she was not a discrimination victim. In hopes of gaining some insight regarding the damage of the legal ruling, they held a “pity-party” the evening following the jury decision titled, ‘Female Executives Disappointed, Surprised by Ellen Pao Verdict.”
Four senior female executives were interviewed at the San Francisco home of Fran Maier, a tech entrepreneur known for co-founding Match.com. The women commiserated on the challenges they had faced over the years navigating Silicon Valley’s male-dominated venture capital world to secure financial backing for their businesses. They each expressed frustration regarding how little had changed.
Maier angrily blasted Silicon Valley because “it’s really not a meritocracy.” She saw the trial as unmasking the carefully crafted fraud that tech provides opportunity to all. She was furious that despite social media being predominantly about women; Twitter said “they didn’t think there were any qualified women to sit on their board?”
Rachel Fierberg, Chief Operating and Financial Officer of Dwell, a magazine looking for $5 million in venture capital cash, summed up the four women’s opinion of the trial:
“I’m wondering what kind of message does it send to those that are in technology right now?” She added, “Did it mean women bringing gender bias cases should expect the outcome that it’s not necessarily discrimination?”
“I wanted to put my money on Ellen and her case, but it’s really hard to know what goes on in a jury, and in a trial,” said Maier. “I was really disappointed. But I can’t say I was 100 percent surprised.”
All of this high-minded concern regarding the future of women and Silicon Valley ignores the fact that juries are usually composed of regular folks that are only paid $15 per day. More than 36 potential jurors were interviewed in the Pao case, before a panel of 5 men and 7 women, plus 4 alternates, was selected. Jurors included a physical therapist, a jail nurse, a painter who used to work in zoos, and a public transit operations manager.
The jury must have been baffled by the elitist world of Ellen Pao, who graduated from Princeton graduate and went on to earn Harvard law and business degrees. Pao applied for a job in the “greed-is-good” private equity world of Kleiner Perkins and was assigned to work directly for John Doerr, one of the most famous venture capitalists on the planet.
Despite making $380,000 a year at Kleiner Perkins, while one male colleague made almost $100,000 less, she filed a lawsuit claiming to be a gender-bias victim and demanded $16 million in actual damages and up to $144 million in punitive damages.
It must also have been rather perplexing to the jury that Pao was claiming to have been financially victimized by Kleiner Perkins, while undoubtedly making more money now by currently serving as the interim Chief Executive Officer at the Reddit.
The era of women being unable to compete with men is basically over. According to a study called ‘Sources of Economic Hope: Women’s Entrepreneurship’ by the Kauffman Foundation, women are 60 percent of college students, and half of all workforce managers are female. Women also now own 36 percent of all small businesses.
As women entrepreneurs have captured larger percentages of American business, about 31 percent of female entrepreneurs have raised start-up money from outside “angel” investors and 14 percent have secured cash from venture capital firms.
As far as long-term damage to the reputation of Kleiner Perkins from Ellen Pao’s lawsuit, Rachel Fierberg and her female executive buddies might overcome their disappointment if Kleiner Perkins would agree to invest $5 million in Dwell.

Read the original article from Breitbart here: