Tag Archives: diversity

Fat People Aren’t Good Workers.

I don’t really believe that fat people aren’t good workers.  In fact, I am a fat people (or at least I used to be) and I happen to think that I am a good worker.  There are a lot of people who do believe this, though.  I believe that this is just fuzzy thinking.

fat people are discriminated against

A lecturer at NYU recently tweeted “Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.”  More fuzzy thinking:

fuzzy thinking re obesity

What does will power re: food have to do with willpower over anything else?  Why don’t people who don’t have willpower re: other things–alcohol, sex, spending, gambling, exercise, hoarding–fall into this guys criticism.  This guy is an evolutionary psychologist–a scientist–who should have more discipline in his thinking.

He’s not the only one.  Recruiters (I once had a recruiter proudly tell me that he made overweight candidates walk up four flights of steps to interviews and if they couldn’t do it, they didn’t get to the next level.  Why?  Is walking up stairs a job requirement?  If he doesn’t do that for normal weight people, then how does he know that they can (if it is a requirement of getting to the next level?), hiring managers, supervisors, co-workers, sales people, customers all make decisions about people based on their weight.  Is it relevant?  Sometimes.  More often not.

Prejudice against fat people is an acceptable prejudice.  It is close to the last acceptable prejudice.  If you find yourself being prejudice against overweight people, challenge your thinking.  Examine what you believe about fat people, thought by thought by thought.  Do they really support one another?

fat lazy fuzzy thinkingDo you just not like fat people?  Do you just think that fat people should do better/be better/act better?  Is this a big enough deal that they should not get a job or a promotion?  Do you believe that being fat is an indicator of someone’s character?  There is a recent study that shows that children as young as four are prejudiced.

OK, So I Think This Discrimination Is Wrong

But it is not illegal.  It is hard to prove (and a lot of people think it is justified).  So . . . if you are overweight, this is something that you can actually do to affect your employability and promotability.  It might have as much of an impact (or more) as getting more education, or more experience, or even more networking.

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Filed under Diversity, Job Hunt, New Job, Personal Change

Are They Discriminating Against You? Probably.



Not only is it likely that someone (or several someones) are discriminating against you, it is also likely that you are discriminating against someone (or several someones).  It is human nature that we like/trust/believe in/select those who are like us more than those who are different from us.  So . . . Europeans choose Europeans, Americans choose Americans, young people choose young people.  Then there is the problem of stereotypes.  We believe them–without even being aware of them for the most part.  We believe that ‘old’ people aren’t as capable as people our age. We believe that young people aren’t ambitious (at least the latest generation).  Asian people are smart at math.  Women aren’t ambitious because they’re going to go have babies. White men are more ambitious than black men.  And on and on and on.  These stereotypes cause us to discriminate, sometimes without our even being aware of it.  Stereotypes are as  wrong as they are right.  In fact, those of us who are the subject of the stereotypes usually believe they are wrong–period.  I say all of this to acknowledge that discrimination is alive and well in all of our behaviors.   I’m not in any way defending it, just acknowledging it.

So what?

There are laws against discrimination.  There are rules against discrimination.  There are lots of reasons for all of us to struggle against discrimination by others and ourselves.  There are people whose whole existence is focused on the struggle against discrimination.

Can you wait?  Can you wait until everyone stops discriminating against you?  I can’t.  I think it’s time to take the battle on directly.  I think it’s time to work around/through/over and under discrimination.  Just because the decision makers at your organization think you are too old or too young, that doesn’t mean that that is the case at other organizations.  You have a responsibility to yourself to find a place to work that values you for who you are and what you bring to the table.  You need to find a way to make a living that values who and what  you are.

I talk to people who are absolutely sure that they are being discriminated against.  That makes them feel like there is nothing that they can do about it.  They are the age they are.  They are born black or Hispanic or Asian or female, and nothing can change that. True.  There are places, organizations, friends, decision makers, and opportunities where it doesn’t matter.  Go find them.  You are not sentenced to the status quo.  You choose it.

Do something different.

You are not stuck.  When you graduated from high school you didn’t think about this the way you do now (unless, of course, you just graduated from high school).  Life and your experiences have made you believe that people are discriminating against you.  Wipe all that experience off your radar and ASSUME that someone out there can and will believe in you and what you can do.  Go FIND them!  Where are they?  Make people prove that they don’t believe in you instead of assuming that they don’t.  To be clear, I’m not saying they AREN’T discriminating.  I’m saying, don’t let that rule your life.  Go work someplace else.  Go work for a different boss.  Find a way to make a living (including working for yourself) that doesn’t let those who discriminate against you prevent you from doing/being/having what you deserve.  I know that it might be hard.  I know that it would be a lot easier for all of us if discrimination wasn’t a factor.  Don’t let it prevent you from living your life, making a living, being successful.

And then focus on your own discriminatory behavior.

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Filed under Derailment, Diversity, Executive Development, Inclusion, Job Hunt, New Job

Reflections on Being a Mother, Working and “Leaning In”

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a great day to reflect on being a mother.  And on being a mother who works.  And on the controversy over Sharon Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.  I come from a family of working mothers.  My mother worked.  Her mother worked.  It frankly never occurred to me not to work. It never occurred to me to hold back or not be ambitious (something that Ms. Sandburg says that some women do). I guess I was lucky–I had models of working mothers who managed both jobs and families. I had the luxury of having a husband who believed that I should work, who supported me in working and who carried close to a 50/50 load at home (he traveled more than me for many years, so it wasn’t 50/50 in those years).  My kids were adequately cared for–if not perfectly cared for; my house was never really clean, and my career worked well enough–until I got near the top of the organization.  Whatever the reason for my not becoming a C-suite-r, it wasn’t because I was a mother or because I cut corners because I had a family.  Or maybe it was.  Maybe the people above me made decisions about my career taking my family into consideration.  I don’t know.  I just know that a certain point I chose to leave the organization where I worked because I definitely wasn’t going up any more and there were interesting opportunities for me outside of working for that company.

The bottom line is that being a mother is very important. Working is very important(to some). Being at the top is very important (to some). You have to find your balance among them. You have to find your own happiness.  There are prices–guilt, being tired, dirty houses, missed soccer games. As long as you’re being driven by your own values and dreams you can make it work. I have two very successful daughters, in part because they had a model to follow.  My successful sons regularly do more than 50%.  I guess they had a model too.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Diversity

Diversity Makes Work Work.

Work Has Gotten More Diverse.  No Duh!

Have you noticed how diverse our work lives have gotten lately?  Not so much at the top of organizations–we still have a long way to go there–but in terms of getting actual work done, most of us are dealing with quite a bit of diversity.  Have you worked on a ‘virtual team’ with people in other countries?  Does your company have global customers?  Do you have to deal with other generations in your office?  Is your company part of a global conglomerate?

Age, gender, religion, country, neighborhood, state, region, race.  All of it contributes to the work of work.  We are most comfortable with people like us.  Even those of us who think of ourselves as diversity-gurus are more comfortable with people like us.  Back in the caveman days when we all lived in the same cave for all of our lives, that was OK.  Now it is absolutely necessary that we come out of our comfort zone and learn to work together, learn together, and yes, even enjoy each other.

self within culture

Even when we don’t venture outside of our own groups, there are enough issues that cause problems.  The things that we believe about ‘the way it should be’ come from our own thinking patterns, our values, our family input, the norms within our community, and the regional influences.  When we stay within our own community, we have conflict among each other (think your extended family Thanksgiving or the last family wedding your attended).  We disagree about what is right and how to decide that.  We disagree about what is important, how to raise children, politics, food, neatness.  You name it, we can disagree about it.

family within culture

As you add more individuals, more families, more communities, it gets more and more complex.  The things we care about are the same, but the ways in which we think about them are different.  Different cultures have fundamentally different ways at thinking about:

  • Time
  • Communication (directness v. indirectness)
  • Power
  • Status
  • Individualism v. communitarianism
  • Money
  • Emotional display
  • Ageculture at work

When you throw those complexities into the workplace, we’re all out of our comfort zone.  That’s not going to change.  So, we need to work to get to know each other.  We need to really learn to understand these differences and appreciate them.  We need to come out of the “I’m right and you’re wrong” automatic response that our brains do without our even thinking about it and adopt a more reasoned approach to appreciating the complexity of human interaction.

A Great Book That Will Help

One of the best books to help understand the differences across cultures (and oh, by the way, why you think the way you do) is Riding the Waves of Culture by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner.

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Filed under Career Development, Communication, Diversity, Executive Development

White People Don’t Know They’re White

Before I Explain What I Mean

First, let me tell you why I’m writing about this.  This is a post about people not knowing what they don’t know.  When you don’t know what you don’t know, it really gets in the way of being effective.  If you are completely unaware of something, then you are missing out on a whole world.  If you are basing your understanding of the world on the assumption that everyone thinks like you, you CANNOT communicate effectively because you are starting from the wrong place.

Now Let Me Explain

I have to be careful how I explain this.  I told a close friend that white people don’t know that they’re white–several times–and  years later a conversation made it obvious that not only did she not understand what I meant, she didn’t believe me either.  I have always thought I was pretty aware of the issues of race relations. I know now that I really didn’t have a clue.

A few years ago, I worked for a large minority organization.  I was one of two white employees.  I was aware of my “whiteness” all the time.  My mind did that to me.  It made me think about it all the time. There are lots of studies about this–we notice differences.  Most importantly, we notice how we’re different.  I was aware of my difference.  It was a new experience for me.  Minorities feel this all the time–wherever they are in the minority–in the grocery store, at movies, at restaurants.  That awareness–that you are different–and the assumptions you make about what the others are thinking shape your interactions with people.

A Fish In Water

If you never have a minority experience, though, you never become aware of your “whiteness” or your “otherness-of-any-kind”  (this doesn’t just apply to white people–it applies to all majorities).  If you never have that experience, then you never really “get” it.  Being white in many communities in the United States,  is like being a fish in water–the fish isn’t aware of the water.  It just exists in that environment.  There is a lot of baggage that goes with that water–privilege, history of mistreatment, institutional racism–that many white people are not consciously aware of.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, though.

The hyper awareness that minorities experience helps create the assumption that white people are equally aware of minorities.  They aren’t.  Of course there are situations where what I’m saying isn’t true.  And certainly, there are racists who are more aware.  Most white people, though, are not only unaware of their own “whiteness,” they are pretty oblivious to non-white people, too. They don’t walk into a grocery store and notice all the minorities.   At a conscious level.  There is stuff happening at the subconscious level, though, for everyone.

I learned from one of the best professors I ever had, Dr. Martin Gooden at Wright State University, that there is a thing called in-group favoritism.  People see  members of  their in-group as having positive characteristics and members of their out-group as having more negative characteristics.  This applies to OKC Thunder and Dallas Maverick fans, to Democrats and Republicans, and to majorities and minorities.  This happens without our thinking about it, at the unconscious level.  It has very far-reaching impact though.  It gets in the way of openness to getting to know each other.

Let’s Make It Better

So, why is this important? Because it plays out all over the place.  Non-white people don’t experience the freedom of not thinking  about being a minority.  They also aren’t aware of what they experience at the unconscious level–their unconscious assumptions. White people don’t understand that  non-white people have a difference experience.  And all that unspoken/not understood stuff plays out at work, at church, in politics, everywhere.

Until we understand this and pull it out into the open, it never gets any better. That means that we need to talk about it.  We need to understand the tricks our brains play on us.  We need to understand the water we swim in.



Filed under Communication, Diversity, Inclusion