Impressions Happen. Impacts Matter.

Sexism in Tech. That's today's sexy-topic. Coming in as a close second would be either transgender issues or the exclusion of America's disenfranchised Black community, in today's explosion of affluence. 

Hot on the SCOTUS docket today is the case of a Muslim woman who in 2008 sought employment at Abercrombie & Fitch, and today claims discrimination because after not being hired, a friend tipped her off that senior management had cited her headscarf as conflicting with the establishment's Look Policy. Unfortunately this also isn't the first time Abercrombie's been hit with such a suit: in 2008 a woman working for a Milpitas, CA Hollister store filed suit, as did a San Francisco employee fired in 2010. 

In retail, looks matter. At desk jobs, they don't—but religion can (and often does) play a significant role in "cultural fit" musings. In one group I worked with at Yahoo!, two colleagues were LDS. Why they were fav topics of conversation, is mostly because one was the most loathed tyrant in our group, and the other the quietest wallflower... and the irony that both claimed the same on-paper values, was funny (in a fashion that disfavored the tyrant fellow). My quieter colleague however, others felt uncomfortable with—which really bummed me out a lot. Jeff was different, but so what? I had purple hair in high school and throughout my 20s and that made me different, but why do we cheer some differences yet jeer others?

Reading the re/code articles this week about the Ellen Pao v Kleiner Perkins case, I'm reminded that often times the most dangerous harassment in workplaces is the indirect harassment; the whispers and inappropriate behavior that happens out of view, and subsequently stirs division when a team is all together. What mattered to me more in a prior job than our culture of heavy drinking, was knowing that some of our key executives told some extraordinarily off-color jokes in client meetings when no women were present. Men who'd look me straight in the eye and treat me with outward respect one minute, maintained a whole other persona when I and other women weren't in a room, the next minute. It creeped me out, and it made my skin crawl—that we'd later be in client meetings, knowing there was this other persona in the room hiding because of me. Wondering if as a woman, I qualified as a player in his sexualized generalizations of women. So: my colleague has this creepy bias towards me, too?

In San Francisco, atheism feels to be about as popular (and to be evangelized as much) as Baptist Christianity is in Oklahoma, and I often times wonder if in the hipster-dense startup community, bias presents itself in job interviews against cross-wearing conservative folks, Muslims, Sikhs... or, anyone of any God worshipping faith. Even once hired, how do work cultures in Tech foster or discourage folks of different faith values than the majority of their colleagues? How does our professional community as a whole, feel to folks across the faith spectrum?

Beyond what we hear in the media about Sikhs, Muslims, and Hassidic Jews, little is known about how folks are discriminated against for religious ideals. I'm excited to start conducting user research for EqualTogether in the near future, to learn about how job applicants might feel about being asked for their religious identity in an EqualTogether module on a job application. The devil will certainly be in the details, but in pipeline analysis I do want to know: is there a difference between how applicants perform whom are expressively (not evangelically) of a unique religious persuasion(s), and if so—why?

As with everything in EqualTogether, though: I just want to know. I want all of us to know. Today, with no reporting done, none of us conclusively know much. 

I'm wishing Samantha Elauf luck as her case against Abercrombie & Fitch continues. Nobody deserves to be discriminated against for any reason, and somehow businesses need to all develop guidelines for themselves about what does and doesn't constitute "cultural fit," beyond the default 'are they like me?'

An Open Letter to The NFL

I'm an avid ice-hockey fan, and an occasional (bad) player. I also used to race motorcycles. I get what it is to do something that carries with it significant risk for life-changing head injuries. You do it either because you love it that much (which of course, few understand), or because it's become your livelihood. 

I also grew-up with a mother who was raised in an abusive home—physical and emotional. Her father regularly beat and cheated on his wife. Her mother turned to manipulation, denial, and drinking, as her way out. That was the 1940s & 50s.

The most heroic thing I think any person can do, is to do what my mom did: successfully break the cycle of abuse. It didn't come "naturally" or easy. It required a tremendous effort on her part—years of therapy, constant neurosis as a parent (that yes, did annoy her children), an intense struggle with depression, and by no means was she a perfect parent. As my brother and I (only recently) came to learn more of our mom's childhood, the intensity of her struggle—and for decades had been—became clear to us. How much we grew to admire and love her that much more for it, is beyond measure.

It's not natural to headbutt one's partner, because they don't want to have sex with you. Nor is it natural, to beat another individual with less than half the physical body-mass or strength that you do, into unconsciousness. Especially when that individual is the one you love the most in this world. I don't know why each individual person does it—but I do know, it's rarely because they're a decidedly "bad" or "immoral" person. 

Reciprocity, participation, and building this thing. Together.

Watchdog websites are easy. They bore me, and that whole "making the world a better place, cuz we're out to get you if you're evil!" schtick tastes bitter. Life is short, why take the bitter path?

Seeding change through positive engagement among energized folks, just seems a whole lot funner. Looking at that critically, it also seems a more likely path to yield results that sustain. Sustainability is a good thing.

I also really appreciate the proactive distinction that a Code of Conduct has, from it's more restrictive and reactive counterpart The Policy. Rules via policies just... well, they just beg to be broken. By interesting people, at least. Policies by nature, establish that "Welcome to kindergarten, no running with scissors!" dynamic, whereas conduct codes set clear boundaries while also establishing a clear expectation of responsibility and accountability, on the part of the signor.

All of the above are values I'm bringing with me into this endeavor. They've all informed this early draft of the EqualTogether Pact, that I'm envisioning as a centerpoint in our evolving and unique business model.

Battle less, better more. Feedback: please, always!

On "Political Correctness"

How to have that "don't be a dick" dialog, w/o the teflon-response of "bah, political correctness—it was funny!" or "it's honest, quit avoiding the truth with political correctness". A very real problem I'd love to see tackled. A problem I predict seeing spin-up as a response to criticism of this morning's Fox & Friends conversation, depicted in the above photo.

Confronting real problems with frank dialog in the interest of devising solutions, and humor, both seem to be the most commonly cited reasons I've heard for defensive comebacks citing political correctness. Laziness in the pursuit of both problem solving and humor, I think it's fair to state, is the most obvious retort to those defenses. Beyond laziness though, how many jokes and solutions that cross boundaries defended as politically incorrect, have really been superior to alternatives pursued with higher standards of ethics? Arguably, none.