What I Learned the Week of March 11th, 2022

Hard Truths – We All Need Someone to Hold Us Accountable

Podcasts – Its been a Minute

I have heard this phrase “it’s been a minute” several times for the past few months in several podcasts. I notice that it comes up mostly with podcasts interviewing people in the entertainment business. The first few times I heard it I was slightly confused by the person as I wasn’t entirely sure if they meant it literally or not. Sometimes it was delivered with a tinge of sarcasm which was my hint that it did have another meaning.

I finally looked it up on urban dictionary this week to be certain I understood it. And I also asked a few friends were they familiar with the phrase. Notably, these friends are not in the same industry and much older than most of the people these podcasts were interviewing so I was not surprised they were unfamiliar with it either. I was a little pleased as I wasn’t sure if I was behind the times or ahead. In this instance, I’m not sure that it matters as I can’t imagine using the phrase myself and I’ve never heard it used in any other conversations I have actually been a part of. I don’t imagine I will either.

The phrase has become popular in the last decade, according to Linguablog. According to the urban dictionary, this new interest kicked off from a song by Drake, “From Time” with Jhene Aiko, back in 2016.

So, it’s been a minute, since this phrase has existed and it will probably be another minute before I actually find myself in a conversation where it will be used.

Book – The Culture Map by Erin Meyer

I started this book a few weeks back, paused to take in Breath (pun intended), and returned back to it this week. This is one of those books that with each chapter I keep repeating “Where was this book all my life?”. Granted it was only published in 2014 so there is not much I could have done about it before then, however so much of my work experience since that time would have been significantly more impactful if I had the wisdom that is provided in this book.

To net it out, Erin provides 8 dimensions to consider when evaluating cultural differences or alignment. Those are Communication (low/high context); Evaluating (direct/indirect negative feedback); Persuading (principles-first vs applications-first); Leading (egalitarian vs hierarchical); Deciding (consensual vs to-down); Trusting (task-based vs relationship-based); Disagreeing (confrontational vs avoids confrontation); and Scheduling (linear vs flexible). Each country has a relative position on the scales as compared to other countries. A few countries, in certain dimensions, are so distinct they do not even fit on the scale.

Being a person that was born and raised in America (North Carolina mostly), has lived in Canada (Vancouver) for the past 20+ years, married to an Englishman, worked with and physically in many other countries with extreme differences (e.g., India, Morocco), the overall concept of being sensitive to cultural differences is not a new topic. However, I still found many aha moments in the book where I recalled perplexing contradictions in past experiences that were explained by oversimplified generalizations that were made. It reminds me of the importance of listening, curiosity, and alignment in managing cross-cultural teams. Taking the time to get curious about even simple things like the word hierarchical and what does that mean, how is it reflected in our behaviors, where does it not quite follow expectations or the norm; these are important questions to ask when working with another culture. Reading a book is a great start to exploring what might be. But as we each know we have distinct personalities, often that are slightly off the scale of our own countries’ culture standards. Leveraging these dimensions as a start to the conversation will be a great tool for anyone trying to be more effective in cross-cultural relationships.

People – Be Inclusive with your Insults

A dear friend, who happens to be an executive within her organization, is in the last weeks of her career, is almost giggling as she gets ready for her retirement. She was sharing a conversation in one of her meetings as an example of how she feels a lot more freedom to speak her mind (not that I can imagine she ever really held back before) which was both clever and funny. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, which I know many celebrated this week, I felt this little exchange was the perfect learning moment to share with others.

Warning: the below may be offensive with the language used.

A male in a meeting is complaining about another group of people and how they are just being dickheads. A female counterpart stops him mid-sentence and says he can’t talk like that. He needs to be more inclusive with his insults and simply say how they are all being assholes. Everyone has an asshole but not everyone has a dick.

Social Media – Hard Truths – Companies Being Called Out on International Women’s Day

I learned about a new bot introduced onto Twitter sometime in March 2021 that works through the handle @PayGapApp. The bot’s purpose is absolutely brilliant. Anytime a company posts a tweet about International Women’s Day then it retweets their tweet adding to it the gender pay gap for this company. This is based on information that is publicly available on https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk (note this is specific to companies n the UK).

This was by far my favorite thing for this year’s IWD. There is nothing like having hard truths exposed and noticing what happens next.

I did a quick scan to note what did happen. A few stats:

  • This bot has almost 250k followers
  • 2,886 Tweets as of writing this
  • In most cases (~80% of the time) someone did comment on the Tweet
  • In what appears to be 100% of the time the tweet was retweeted and most often by double-digit figures
  • In what appears to be 100% of the time the tweet was liked and most often by triple-digit figures
  • In reviewing the comments on the tweets they were mostly shocked. Occasionally someone would voice that this bot is mixing the gender pay gap with equal pay. To be clear the bot tweets a message that is simply “women’s median hourly pay is xx lower than men’s” for this organization. So technically these few criticisms are accurate as the bot is not able to verify that two people of different genders, in the exact same role, are receiving different pay. But of course, these voices are missing the bigger point. Hopefully, I don’t need to explain that here.
  • In most cases, 9 out 10, the pay gap was indeed lower. And most often (>50%) by double digits. There were very few occasions where women were being paid more.
  • The largest company I noticed posted which had a favorable stat was Infosys with a pay gap of only 0.4%. For those who do not know this company, they are in the technology company, mainly services business. According to Wikipedia that had a total global employee population of ~250k out of which 38.6% were women and 89% were based in India. So for the UK, we are probably talking ~10k employees.
  • I was surprised with how few large, recognizable organizations tweeted based on viewing this bots retweets. It made me wonder whether the larger companies had figured out this bot existed and strategically avoided tweeting? Most of what I saw were on the smaller side and public service organizations.

I know this can feel like a complex issue to solve but having accountability such as this really does matter IMO. We can make choices about where we choose to give our business based on this information. Certainly, for employees looking for employment it would hopefully make a difference in one’s decision. This one number is not the only number that we should be paying attention to, but it is certainly an important one to track.

The number I really dislike hearing is when a leader is asked how are we doing to improve DE&I within our company and the leader answers something like “We are hitting our targets”. Please give us the actual numbers. Don’t gaslight us with these sorts of phrases. Your targets, for all we know, do nothing to really move things forward with any sort of meaningful momentum. The more transparent you are the more we trust and believe you. And the more we each get to hold ourselves accountable for doing better.

My Reflections – I Get To Choose To Imagine Better
Humans have the unique talent of creating things that do not exist. We get to believe in stories or myths and let those pull us forward. Putin is believing in a story that is based on the past. A story that suggested Ukrainians would welcome him into their country with gratitude for saving them. Ukrainians have shown us they believe in a different story. One that is a blend of nationalism and liberalism and not a place for dictatorship. One that is reflective of individuals who can respect each other’s differences and accept them, without giving up their own. A good friend shared a video on YouTube from three Ukrainian thought leaders + one Ukrainian soldier who came in from the fight to briefly share his thoughts. Their conversation offers a broader perspective on the country of Ukraine, Ukrainian people, what we can learn from them, their role in history, and how we can most help them during what may be their biggest time of need.

As I reflect on the video now, I’m reminded of the final saga in Twilight books/movies where the Cullen’s were being hunted down by the vampire dictatorship The Volturi. In the typical final climactic conflict scene, other vampire families of different beliefs and practices come together to stand with the Cullen’s as The Volturi came to deliver both judgment and punishment. Many of these families were there just as a witness to hold The Volturi accountable for a fair trial even though it was quite clear they had an agenda that had nothing to do with democracy but the destruction of the Cullen’s and the capture of their biggest assets. Thankfully the mystical powers of Alice Cullen showed a potential outcome of immense death on both sides, including The Volturi leader, Aro. Alice’s ability to capture Aro’s attention with a very compelling and frightening alternative ending created enough of a pause for him to step back and return to his coven and the safety of Italy.

Nothing is inevitable, as noted several times in this very informative discussion. We get to recreate, renew, imagine, etc. The worse we can do is to keep repeating the past and never learn from our mistakes. While that may be Putin’s fate it does not have to be ours. If we do nothing but bear witness to these atrocities and make it clear to those we influence, and we do have a lot of influence, that this is not acceptable and that it matters. I do not believe that we can end all pain and violence in the world as the circle of life depends on the death of one thing for the birth of another. However, while pain may always exist, I don’t believe suffering is inevitable. We need both big actions and small actions to make this world a better place. Each of us has a responsibility as a steward to the planet and each other. Each day for me is about what can I do today to have a positive impact. Some days that is simply using my human ability to imagine it can be better and share that story.

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