Posts tagged ‘Diversity’

Are Marriage rates trumping our Unemployment rates?

While the rest of the Black Blogosphere is still reeling from that Nightline Faceoff about why Successful Black Women Can’t Find a Man (I guess unsuccessful Black women fare better, whatever that means), I think we’re all failing to pay attention to a bigger issue: why successful Black women can’t find a job.

A friend of mine shared this NY Times chart that shows  how different groups are effecting certain groups of people. Depending on what group you select (Black Women, White men with a degree, Black men without, etc), it shows you the unemployment rate for that group.

For Black women of all levels of education, the unemployment rate is at 11 percent. What bothers me is the gap between White and Black women’s unemployment–the same chart showed that the unemployment rate is just under 6%.

Does anyone see a problem here?

It really does seem as though perhaps Black women are being passed up for jobs that are otherwise going to white women or men. But more troublesome is that we are so stuck on how single Black women are that we don’t stop and reflect on how unemployed we are, which whether we know it or not DOES effect our dating and relationship life; if you’re not gainfully employed, your focus won’t be on finding a man; most times you’re busy hustling trying to find a job that will afford you the time and the money to actually go out and meet someone. And yes, I do think unemployment is why so many Black men are single as well (but no one wants to discuss those numbers either).

Granted, it’s not a sexy topic at all and it’s not one people are writing books about or putting on panels about how Black women can find job. But to me, this is a much bigger issue than whether or not I’ll find a Black man to marry or whether I’ll marry my current partner. To hear other people tell it, you’d think being single and a Black woman was a crisis, but what bothers me is that being single is being presented as a crisis while our unemployment rates are hardly even whispered about. The Economist of all things had a whole article about why Black women are sooo single and yet no article about the fact that some of us can’t find a job? #iCant.

Even though I’ve recently found a new job,  but I went several months without finding something after being laid off in January. But just because I was able to find a job in three months doesn’t mean that there isn’t a Black woman out there who is still looking and wondering how she’ll pay her rent. Let’s deal with that situation instead of berating her for being single (or just not married).

Surprise! For many orgs, Social Media=more success

Image courtesy of Bio Job Blog

A recent study shows that organizations that use social media are more financially successful than those that don’t. There’s been some talk about what this means for corporate companies and non-profit organizations as well.

Organizations that were measured to have the greatest depth and breadth of social media engagement grew company revenues by an average of 18 percent of the past 12 months. Companies that showed little engagement or interest in social media experienced an average decrease in company revenues of six percent.

The study, ENGAGEMENTdb: Ranking the Top 100 Global Brands, reviewed how the top 100 most valuable brands (as identified by the 2008 BusinessWeek/Interbrand Best Global Brands rankings) use more than 10 different social media channels, including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, wikis and discussion forums. The study examined the width and breadth of each organization’s social media use, and scores for overall brand engagement ranged from a high of 127 to a low of 1. The top ten brands with their social engagement scores are:

  • Starbucks (127)
  • Dell (123)
  • eBay (115)
  • Google (105)
  • Microsoft (103)
  • Thomson Reuters (101)
  • Nike (100)
  • Amazon (88)
  • SAP (86)
  • Tie – Yahoo!/Intel (85)

As a pr and social media professional, I have worked primarily with non-profit and social justice organizations, The findings from this study was no surprise to me, but it begged the question: what does this mean for non-profits? How important is social media to the way we raise money, recruit volunteers and most of all, build our base?

Rosetta Thurman has a few answers:

The web has created new and low-cost options to get the word out about your organization. This new study just goes to show that if you want to achieve maximum success in the work you do, social media will have to become part of your communications strategy with clients, donors and customers. If your organization is not yet engaged in social media, now is the time. Seriously.

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending the Women Action and the Media Conference. It was a great place to meet and network with other young women activists from across the country, and there were a lot of panels devoted to the impact of social media–especially blogs and viral video–to the women’s movement. I really loved how intentional the Center for New Words was with keeping developments in social media at the forefront. I was really excited to see how WAM! would integrate a social media strategy into future conferences.

And then, around August of this year, I learned that the Center for New Words was phasing out and that Women, Action, and the Media would become an independent organization. I’m excited for this new development, but the pr/social media nerd makes me wonder how big of a roll will social media play in this transition. How will they keep conference goers engaged in the next steps of the organization? How can people get involved as donors or volunteers?

Having a good mission, vision, and tool$ to form an organization are all important, but just as important is building a base and using a variety of strategies to make that base strong, and diverse.  It can also keep past conference-goers connected to WAM’s mission…and keep them coming back to see what the organization’s next moves will be.

Bottom line, building and maintaining a base–a community of supporters–should be just as important as building all the other aspects of a non-profit.

(h/t: Rosetta Thurman)

Black people on Mad Men (or lack thereof)

As a pretty big Mad Men fan, I was so excited about last night’s Season 3 premiere. Not only did I want to know how the rest of the story unfolded but part of me hoped that maybe, just maybe, we’ll see more than a passing glance at a Black character on the show or the mention of race as an afterthought. Every time I watched the show, I couldn’t help but think, “gotdamnit! When are they going to say anything about race or Blackness! It’s the sixties for cryin’ out loud!”

It wasn’t until I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent post that I realized that it the absence of Black people is precisely what we love about the show as it explores what white privilege and masculinity is—and in the case of Mad Men it does mean that people of color are rendered invisible.

I actually think it’s a beautiful, lovely, incredibly powerful omission. Mad Men is a show told from the perspective of a particular world. The people in that world barely see black people. They’re there all the time–Hollis in the elevator, women working in the powder-room, the Draper’s maid, the janitors, the black guy hired at Leo Burnett–but they’re never quite seen. I think this is an incredible statement on how privilege, at its most insidious, really works.

It’s been argued that the absence of people of color is a romantic view of “the good ol’ days”, but I beg to differ. The fact that Black people are so absent and silent in the face of white privilege is exactly a commentary on race in the 60s, especially as there were already so few Black people who lived in worked in the type of environment that Don Draper and company were so accustomed to. There are several female writers on the Mad Men team, which is why the gender commentary is so on point, but I often have to wonder what would have happened on the show if there were people of color on that team. Would we be more present? Or would things remain the same?

Amber Rose in Complex Magazine: Sexy Beast (?)

500x_amber_cage_01

saartjiebwJezebel talks about Amber Rose’s most recent photo shoot for Complex Magazine:

The industry’s general unwillingness to embrace models of color as anything besides the exoticized “other” is thwarting the development and popularization of other kinds of black beauty. Even Alek Wek, the Sudanese supermodel, noted that she was often asked to pose in spreads that she felt fitted into a wider and more troubling tradition of black peoples representation in the mainstream media, particularly with regard to a Lavazza calendar where she posed inside a coffee cup, her skin intended to represent the espresso. As Wek wrote in her memoir, “I can’t help but compare them to all the images of black people that have been used in marketing over the decades. There was the big-lipped jungle-dweller on the blackamoor ceramic mugs sold in the ’40s; the golliwog badges given away with jam; Little Black Sambo, who decorated the walls of an American restaurant chain in the 1960s; and Uncle Ben, whose apparently benign image still sells rice.”

It’s worth noting that in re-creating these pictures, Complex did tone them down; gone are the chains from the whip photo, and so too is the raw meat and the sign explicitly referring to the model as an animal in the cage photo. The choices the Complex art director made are almost certainly intended to mitigate the offense of the original images; we’ve come at least some way as a society since Jean-Paul Goude’s day. But how long will it be before we automatically recognize any picture of a black woman caged up like an animal as offensive?

If the pictures above look oddly familiar and even similar to you,  they should. When I see the image of Amber Rose  or Grace Jones in a cage, I immediately thought of Saartjie Baartman, a black woman in the 18th century captured in S. Africa by British imperialist and then put on display at carnivals and fairs because of her voluptuous body.

It’s no secret that the “black woman as sexual beast” meme is still very prevalent in portrayals of Black women, particularly in fashion and music. That said, I really don’t think it was that deep for Complex. What I mean is, I don’t think their intention was to fetishize Black women at all in these pictures. It seems as though they just wanted to pay homage to Grace Jones* and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. However, even though the magazine had the best intentions it doesn’t mean that the implied racial and sexual implications of these picture don’t exist.

*and stereotypes aside, Amber Rose ain’t SEEIN Grace Jones in these pictures. Grace Jones is SO stylin on her.

James Walker: Diversity in Social Media & PR

As a Black woman in social media I too have noticed the lack of women and people of color in conferences, panels, and top 50 lists. This is something I’ve referred to when I attended the WAM Conference in March. I recently moderated a panel at Campus Progress about how Social Media is changing the way we break news, but it was then I began to reflect again on how rare it is that you have a woman of color moderating a panel of that nature, let alone participating on one.  My colleague and fellow GW Alum James Walker talks about diversity in social media and communications — or lack thereof–in this piece originally posted at his blog, Gen Y PR Prescriptions.

If I had to assign the last week one overarching theme, there’s no question that it would be diversity.

It started with Sunday afternoon thoughts about one social media heavyweight who just does not seem to get the credit she deserves, Corvida Raven. I could try to describe her, but I think she does a better job in her twitter profile:

  • – Oprah of the web
  • – @MrTweet blog editor
  • – New Media Specialist
  • – Awesomesauce

She was on USTREAM not too long ago talking about issues she had with the social media tweetups and other events being held in the Atlanta area. Her main concern seemed to be that the events were all being held in places convenient to a certain circle of people. This normally meant that events were held in a section of Atlanta that was:

  1. Close to that circle of people (work and/or home)
  2. In places (bars/restaurants/meeting spaces) that they and their group frequented
  3. Not *reasonably metro accessible (long travel time or just inaccessible by normal standards)

She noted that she makes an effort to go whenever possible but can’t always go mainly because of number 3. One thing that is apparent when she does go is that she sees the same faces all the time. My guess is that those are faces unlike hers. There are several questions that come to mind, but they are tied to my next “diversity week” event, Women Who Tech.

Every month, DC Tech Titan Jill Foster holds great sessions at NPR as a part of her DC Media Makers series. The July meetup included a presentation from fellow Tech Titan Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech. Without mincing words, women are underrepresented in the tech industry and often are nowhere to be found when you look at speaker panels at major conferences.  Women Who Tech was created to “to break down the barriers and showcase the brilliant talents of women who tech out” and also to “create a database of women technology experts to be used as a resource for the media and tech conference organizers.”

I agreed with everything that Allyson had to say until she said that  she’s begun to boycott sessions that aren’t representative of women in the industry in terms of panels and attendance. I didn’t agree with that because I thought that she was contributing to the problem by not participating, but event attendee D.C. Hughes hit her with one better. He said, “I look around and see five black males [in a room of about 40]. If I were to apply that here, I’d boycott this event.”

I couldn’t help but laugh because of the way he said it, but he was right. The entire time I sat there listening to Allyson’s issues and the steps she was taking to address them, I was wondering if there was a way to transfer that and if someone should take up the charge to work towards equal (or at least more equal) representation for people of color in the Tech, PR and Social Media sectors.  The clear answer is yes.

However, addressing the diversity issue will not be as easy and clear cut as the picture I included above. There are several questions that will need to be answered in order to get to the roots of the *problems* helping diversity remain an issue.

Now that I’ve had my say, I’d like to do my part, but I can only do that with your help.

Here’s what I need from you.

  1. If you’re even remotely interested in this issue, email me at james.walker@prprescriptions.com.
  2. If you’re not interested but think this might be of value, please tweet this, forward the link out to your networks, send smoke signals, messenger pigeons…you get the idea!
  3. If you know people I should be reaching out to, feel free to email or include their info in a comment below.

The Sotomayor Hearings and White Male Condescension

Picture Courtesy of the New York Times

Picture Courtesy of the New York Times

By the way: For those of you who missed the hearings or just want to see a good rundown of who’s who in all of this: Check out Adam Serwer’s post over at the American Prospect.

Okay, I’ll admit it.

I really did watch all 4 days of the Sotomayor hearings.  I didn’t watch so much to hear what the Republicans were going to say. I was pretty sure that they were going to harp on her speeches and the “wise latina” comment in particular, and do some failed race-baiting. I really did it to hear Sonia Sotomayor speak, and to watch her play hardball in the face of all of that racist and sexist adversity.

But what I wasn’t counting on was how offensive the tone of Republican’s questioning was going to be. I was more offended by the condescending and bullying tone peole like Tom Coburn used than the words themselves. They spoke to Sotomayor for 4 days as if she was a 12 year old on the street. Jessica Faye Carter talks more about this in her column at True Slant:

There’s another way to describe how certain Committee members have spoken to Judge Sotomayor: microaggressively.

The term “racial microaggressions” was originally coined in 1970 by Dr. Chester Pierce, a psychiatrist, to describe the (sometimes unconscious) mistreatment and humiliation of Blacks by Whites. But the definition has evolved over time to include behavior exhibited towards women and all people of color.  According to Dr. Derald Wing Sue of Columbia University, microaggresions are subtle behaviors that communicate slights, hostility, insults, or disrespect toward a specific person or group. In other words, they are put-downs that don’t really seem like put-downs—making them all the more challenging to identify and address.

Microaggressions generally fall into three categories: microassaults, an overtly racist act or communication, microinsults, which are demeaning or insensitive behaviors, and microinvalidations, or the negation and invalidation of a person’s life experiences.  The more subtle microaggressions were not only present in Judge Sotomayor’s hearing, but seem to have gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream media.

Still don’t believe me or Jessica? Look at this example:

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina seemed unconvinced that Judge Sotomayor, a sitting appellate judge, understood specific legal doctrines. So he questioned her on them, praising her when she answered correctly—as if he were her instructor—and consistently interrupting her as she attempted to respond:

SEN. GRAHAM: When Judge Rehnquist says he was a strict constructionist, did you know what eh (sic/he) was talking about?

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: I think I understood what he was referencing, but his use is not how I go about looking at –

SEN. GRAHAM: What does strict constructionism mean to you?

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: Well, it means that you look at the Constitution as its written or statutes as they are written and you apply them exactly by the words.

SEN. GRAHAM: Right. Would you be an originalist?

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: Again, I don’t use labels. And — because –

SEN. GRAHAM: What is an originalist?

via Transcript – Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings, Day 2 – Text – NYTimes.com.

It is wholly appropriate for Mr. Graham to ask Judge Sotomayor what a specific legal term means to her, or whether she considers herself to fit into a certain legal category. But the questions testing her legal knowledge are a microinsult.

This is just another example of sexist and racist overtones to the treatment of Sotomayor at the hearings and in the press.  Moreover, they went back to Sotomayor’s background, saying that it would influence decisions she’d make as a Supreme Court Justice.  Right, as if their white male backgrounds wouldn’t. Perhaps if I got the feeling that the Republicans not supporting Sotomayor held themselves to the same standard, I wouldn’t be so bothered by this particular concern, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they do not.

Let’s face it, most of the white people–mostly males–who are coming forward as being so strongly against Sotomayor’s confirmation are doing so because they are deathly afraid of  smart woman of color who has truly gotten to where she is on her own merit and ability. They are afraid of the idea that she may very well do a better job than a white male and could quite possibly be smarter than them.

With that said, I am so very proud of Sonia Sotomayor and the intelligence, grace, and humility she showed during the course of this 4-day hearing. She makes me so proud to be a woman of color at this particular moment in our nation’s history. That wise Latina really knows how to shake them haters off.

The Audacity of Spirit: Lessons from a New Modern Woman

June 20th marked World Refugee Day. Here in Washington there have been events throughout the month to bring awareness to the issues that refugees face here and abroad.  Ihotu Ali, a Center for Progressive Leadership New Leaders Fellow, talks about the images of refugee women here in America. I had the pleasure of meeting Ihotu at a Message Development training a few months ago and of course,  she is yet a another smart, fabulous black girl blogger.

After a college degree and several months of working in the political capitol of the Western world, I know a bit about power. Daily, I experience the power of crisp black suits, sleek cars, and boldly colored heels clicking their own new rhythms into the echo of marble halls.

However, Washingtonians may encounter an affront to this idea of power, through the advertisements of CARE, a nongovernmental refugee organization. In its trademark public campaign, CARE portrays a refugee woman, very young or very old, dressed in the tradition of her country and looking deep into the camera’s eye. The universal caption: “I Am Powerful.” In the midst of Washington, D.C., this may seem more a wistful ideal than reality. Reality teaches that even the most educated and top-earning women only make 72 cents on a man’s dollar, and that women around the world are most vulnerable to illiteracy, poverty, domestic abuse, and a lack of access to the handbag of characteristics which we call “power.” Yet these women stare out evenly from photographs and billboards to silently declare that they, even in a displaced state, are powerful.

A refugee woman may actually be the most powerful being you will ever meet. Whether she walked in tatters or designers, reality tells that she likely walked past dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people whom she left behind. People who didn’t make it out, and yet people exactly like her. She may recall their stunted journeys with every step. And yet she continues to walk. You might be unaware of the expression on her face. She may not disclose how many different lives she led, from fear to hope to indifference to ferocity. Reality provoked her to emotions of such nuance and contradiction that one would think humanity had not discovered them, before inhuman circumstances broadened the capacity of her human face. What you may see is blind faith, or a steeled persistence. You may have never seen what power it took to keep eyes so willing to remain open to new sights, a mouth so willing to continue to speak and engage and a face turned toward a new, possibly terrifying reality.

You may not see all this. Or you may equally see it in the faces of fellow American women who struggled for their power. But take a moment to look deeply into the power of these women. They may not have the traditional trappings of wealth or fame. And they may not vie to be recognized among the masses, nor do they wield their strength like a sword to bring others beneath them as they rise. Instead, consider their power as a catalyst, with which we all regard one another and ourselves with more clarity and humanity. This is a power of faith, hope, and resilience despite the most dire of circumstances. These women are not unbreakable, but they never allow brokenness to be a permanent state. They teach others the power to learn, to forgive, to accept and adapt.

As a friend and family member to such women, I often visualize their faces when I want to embody that power. What we all in Washington could learn from these women is not just the power to win the war or survive the battle. We already know this. They teach us the power to thrive, with an audacity of spirit, in the face of reality.