Category Archives: Diversity

Significant Events of a Generation: Gen Y – Y2K

   “I came here today because I wanted to stress the urgency of the challenge…Clearly, we must set forth what the government is doing, what business is doing, but also what all of us have yet to do to meet this challenge together. And there is still a pressing need for action.” – President Bill Clinton, in a speech about Y2K at the National Academy of Sciences, July 15,1998

As the approach of the 21st Century loomed in the distance, there was widespread speculation that the date change to the year 2000, as cataloged by computers and other digital technology, would result in worldwide technological failure. Y2K was the first threat of widespread calamity due to technological failure, causing the world to face its vulnerability as a society reliant upon technology in the new digital era. What would happen if all the computers failed to operate at the turn of the clock?

Before 1996, many computer programs stored years with only two decimals, so that 1960 would read 60, and so forth. Therefore, when these programs reached the year 2000, they would not be able to distinguish between 00 as 2000, or 13000000, or 1800, etc. The resulting faulty date logic could cause computer systems to produce incorrect results or fail. Since much of modern societies’ utilities and crucial infrastructures are reliant upon computer systems to function, the result of widespread computer failure would be disastrous on a global scale. As programmers started to become aware of a potential problem, the British Standards Institute developed the “Year 2000 Conformity” standards, stating that “the century must be unambiguous, either specified or calculable by algorithm.” Companies, governments, and organizations all over the world set to fixing and upgrading their computer systems. There was amazing effort and collaboration to quickly make sure that major industries were squared away, as well as an estimated $300 billion spent globally .  However, there were still concerns as to whether the precautions would work at the turn of the millennium.

The response to the threat of Y2K from the general populous varied. Some people were not concerned or convinced that Y2K would be an issue, while many were swept up in the media’s sensationalism. For those who were concerned about shut-down, precautions varied. Sales in solar electricity equipment increased 110% in the two-year span from 1998-99.  A Scripps and Howard News Service National Survey taken 6 months before January 1, 2000 found that 36% of people would avoid flying a commercial airliner and 34% would stock up on extra food. The more extreme responses, such as underground bunkers,  spawned a National Geographic series called “Doomsday Preppers.” However, when the clock counted down to January 1, 2000, there were luckily no devastating results due to the Y2K bug because of the thorough precautionary measures that had been taken.

Though Y2K is often remembered by poking fun at the sensationalism, it is also a great example of how the world rallied quickly and efficiently to prevent global disaster. The Y2K scare was an example of international commitment and collaboration that quickly eradicated a global threat. Let us hope that governments and corporations worldwide will be willing to invest as much money and sense of urgency to fixing our current impending environmental threats and to upgrading the way we view our role as a species on this planet.

Whats Currently Trending with Gen Y

Human Workplace
“The Truth About Millenials”

This article written by Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, is outlines how millennials bring a refreshingly truthful perspective and honest look at old, established workplace standards, protocols, and policies. She explains that they do not accept established rules for the sake of accepting them, but instead have an “appetite to reinvent crusty systems for a human-powered era [that] is exactly what our organizations need.”

Today Money
“Gen Y Women: Sexism Exists at Work, but Not in My Office”

This article, written by Allison Lin of Today Money, outlines how the gender discrimination in work tends to occur later down the career path for older women. A recent Pew Report showed that 60% of millennial women believe that men earn more for the same work, yet a new report showed that only 15% of millennial women age 18-32 felt that they had been discriminated against at their workplace. Why the gap? For the most part, millennial men and women tend to have more equal wages, whereas professionals who are older with more experience tend to note a much more significant wage gap between men and women.

Tinder

Tinder is the next generation of online dating and apparently, users who have the app, are addicted to it. When you sign up for Tinder, it uses information from facebook and crosses that information with Tinder users in the local area of the user at the moment of signing in. The user can rate profiles they like or reject profiles they don’t like. If both profiles are a match, the people can start a private conversation and maybe meet-up.  It combines the entertainment of rating people’s profiles with the ability to actually meet-up with someone in the vicinity if it is a good match.  According to recent data, the Tinder app is downloaded 200,000 times a day and the user population is growing steadily.

Gen X is from Mars, Gen Y is from Venus: A Primer on How to Motivate Millennials
Forbes

This article interviews a Gen X and Gen Y employee and assesses how they both have very different cultural backgrounds and viewpoints on the workplace. It also offers some very insightful tips on how to approach these differences, including “the benefit of shifting from ‘a command and control style to a more inclusive management philosophy.’”

 

Cultural Quick Tip: Create Structure to Help Bridge Barriers

Foosball is a tabletop soccer game featuring players that are fixed in position, meaning that each player can only cover a predetermined area. Flexibility, adapting or helping out are all out of the question. This lack of flexibility is similar in some ways to teams that are spread out over multiple locations or across borders, as their interactions are also limited in a predetermined way. The lack of face-to-face interaction reduces the team’s ability to adjust and adapt as quickly as a team that is located all at one site. In situations like this, having a clearly defined structure detailing everyone’s role and responsibilities is a key to success. Having this structure articulated will also help bridge language and cultural barriers that impact global teams.

Action Step:
Have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and goals when working on a team that is scattered across multiple sites.

Generational Quotes

“Use your lives wisely, my friends, and conserve these precious freedoms for future generations.”
-Ted Nugent, Musician

“Education can counteract the natural tendency to do the wrong thing, but the inexorable succession of generations requires that the basis for this knowledge be constantly refreshed.”
-Garrett Hardin, Ecologist

“The year I was born, 1956, was the peak year for babies being born, and there are more people essentially our age than anybody else. We could crush these new generations if we decided too.”
-Tom Hanks, Actor

“The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
-Abraham Lincoln

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
-Robert Kennedy

Generational Quick Tip: Flexibility Incentives for All Generations

Studies have shown that Gen Y employees greatly desire flexibility in the workplace as a major criterion for selecting employment. However, what is not commonly discussed is that all generations in the workplace, not just Gen Y, find great value in flexibility and flextime, though for different reasons. Baby-Boomers desire flexibility because it allows them time to pursue their interests and spend time with grandchildren or other family members. Gen X employees want flextime because they may be caring for elderly parents or children, or are looking for better work-life balance. And the young Gen Y constituency desire time outside of work to partake in hobbies, activities, and have enough time to socialize.  It is important that employees of all generations understand that flexibility benefits everyone and is not just an incentive given to Gen Y to meet recruitment demands.

Action Step:
When creating policies that offer more flexibility and flextime, make sure you appeal to all employees as a company-wide incentive and not just in targeting new hires.

Generational Quick Tip: Communication Styles

Each generation in the workplace will have very different communication styles because of their cultural background and how they view themselves in the workplace. Baby-boomers, who have been around the block, are diplomatic and politically correct. They like connecting with people in person.  Generation X, however, is more blunt and direct in their communication style. They like to present facts and straightforward language. They like to use email because it is efficient and timesaving. Having grown up in a quickly changing world, Generation Y prefers short communication interactions such as text messages. If they are communicating on email for work, their style will be more informal. They will not seek out in-person meetings unless a detailed conversation is needed.

Action Step:
Making the effort to learn how another generation communicates and taking strides to be conscientious in your communication could greatly open up your ability to communicate successfully with people from all generations.

Cultural Quick Tip: Adapt to Collaborate

Films are based upon the foundation of the screenplay. While the screenplay is the script and the game plan for the film, the work of turning the screenplay into a movie generates ideas that improve upon the screenplay. All great screenplays become better during the process of making them into a movie. The improvements come from the production team being able to recognize and utilize the new ideas created by the work of making the film. Like having a screenplay for a film, it is important to have a well thought-out plan for complex, collaborative projects to ensure a smooth execution. This is especially true for projects that involve groups of people with diverse backgrounds because the group will examine the work from a multitude of unique points of view. As the project commences, remember to keep an open mind and remain flexible to inspired ideas that improve upon the original plan.

Action Step:
When collaborating on a project, keep an open mind to ideas that improve upon the original plan.

Significant People of a Generation: J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling, or Joanne Rowling, is the author of the Harry Potter series and one of the richest, most successful women in the world. Her books have been especially influential on the young Generation Y that grew up reading her series and came-of-age along with the young heroes of the story.  Not only Gen Y, but generations young and old all around the world have been touched by these tales of epic heroism and magical wonder. Along with her series, Rowling’s personal rags-to-riches story has inspired many to believe in following their dreams, making her an icon the world over.

J.K. Rowling  was born on July 31, 1965, in a small town English town called Yate, 12 miles northeast of Bristol.  At the age of four, her family moved to Winterbourne, where Rowling and her younger sister, Dianne, attended St. Michael’s Primary School. At secondary school, Rowling was made Head Girl and enjoyed reading and writing. It was during these formative years in her early to late teens that she met many of the friends that inspired the main characters her books.  From early childhood onward, Rowling wrote many fantasy stories and read them to her sister. However, Rowling’s parents encouraged her to view story making as a fun hobby rather than a viable course of study.

In 1982, she attended college at University of Exeter for Foreign Language studies, during which time she claims to have done no work and instead, spent time reading Dickens and Tolkien and scribbling stories at the local cafes and pubs. However, professors claim that Rowling was a competent, bright student. In 1986, Rowling moved to London and worked for Amnesty International as a bilingual secretary. It was an experience that greatly impacted her and can be seen in the dark themes of human rights violations and political injustice in her books.

Shortly thereafter, she moved with her boyfriend to Manchester. It was on the four-hour train trip from Manchester to London that the idea for the Harry Potter series “came fully formed” into her mind and that evening she began to write the first installment of the series.  A couple months into her starting the book, Rowling’s mother died after a ten-year long battle with multiple sclerosis.  Rowling claims that the event made her sympathize with Harry as an orphan and that she added darker, more realistic emotions about death throughout the series as she dealt with her own mother’s passing.

While continuing to write her first book, J.K. Rowling moved to Portugal to teach English in the evenings and write her novel in the daytime. On October 16, 1992, she married a Portuguese journalist and had a child together, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes, on July 27, 1993. After a tumultuous relationship, rumored to be physically abusive, Rowling filed for divorce 13 months after her marriage and moved to Edinburgh to live near her sister.  This was a very dark period in Rowling’s life, where she claims felt like a complete failure. She was living off of welfare and could barely support herself and her young child.  She also suffered from clinical depression and often had suicidal thoughts. However, it was during this time that she truly devoted herself to her novel, a devotion that she was only able to realize “because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.” (J.K. Rowling, Harvard Commencement Speech, 2008).

In 1995, Rowling finished the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The manuscript was picked up by Bloomsbury publishing house in London. Allegedly, they chose to pick-up the book after the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomberg’s chairman read the first chapter and demanded to read the next immediately. In 1997, the first 1,000 copies of the book were printed. The book was awarded the Smarties Book Prize and won the prestigious British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year. In 1998, the book was picked up by Scholastic and began circulation in the United States. With the money from these successes, Rowling was able to move out of her apartment and get a nice home in Edinburgh.

The next two installments of the book series, Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban, both won the Smarties Award and showed increased sales. However, it was not until the fourth book, Goblet of Fire that sales records in the United States and the UK began to skyrocket. Within the first 48 hours in the US, the book sold three million copies, historically breaking all literary sales records by a huge margin.  Subsequently, the rest of the series only grew in popularity and continued to break sales records. The sixth book of the series sold nine million copies in the first 24 hours and the final book , finished on January 11, 2007, sold eleven million copies on the first day.

Since then, the Harry Potter global brand has grown to be worth more than $15 billion. It has been turned into eight feature length films and a Universal Studio theme park. At one point, Rowling was marked as one of a handful of top British billionaires. However, she has since donated vast amounts of her money to various philanthropic causes and is now only in the top 1,000 richest people in Britain. (Still, not bad considering her humble beginnings.) She remarried in 2001 and had two more children. She lives quietly with her family, and continues to write.

Cultural Quick Tip: Teach Team Shorthand to New Team Members

The deck of an aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous places to work, as it requires precise and exact communication in order to safely land planes on a pitching deck in high winds. To an outsider, it may look chaotic, but this setting has been refined over time to be a highly organized workplace. One part of this success is the crew’s use of a shorthand communication style that has its own vernacular, acronyms, hand signals and subtext. While most work teams operate in a fairly safe work environment, they still develop their own compressed language that allows team members to communicate quickly and easily with each other. When outsiders join the team, this shorthand may be hard to understand or learn resulting in conflict and frustration, especially if people are from different cultural backgrounds. It is important when bringing new people onto a team that the team’s shorthand is shared with them.

Action Step:
Collect the acronyms and vernacular unique to your team so that new team members can quickly learn your team shorthand.

Whats Currently Trending with Gen Y

NPR Story
“Why Millenials Are Ditching Cars and Redefining Ownership”

NPR’s Morning Edition reports on Gen Y’s views on ownership.  Millennials want access to cars, but are less interested in owning them than in owning smart phones. Confused car companies cannot understand what has changed. However, it is not just cars, but Gen Y attitude towards ownership in general which seems to suggest that they are more discerning than previous generations when it comes to what they can afford, what they really need, and the practical hassles of ownership.

Time
“Flip-Flops at Work: Millennials Finally Get What They Want

This article outlines how Millennials are starting to make demands in the workplace.  They lost leverage with their bosses when the economy made it more difficult to find jobs, however, now that they are entering the workforce in higher numbers,  they are starting to make more demands. They are particularly interested in more flexibility in work dress and hours. The surprising discovery: most of their demands for more flexible hours align with the desires of the older Gen X and Baby Boomer constituencies. Perhaps we are not all as different as we think…

NBC Politics
“Not that liberal: 5 surprising facts about Millennials and politics”

This article offers an in depth view of the realities of Millennial political beliefs. The survey of 434 people within the age group of 18 to 29 showed that 59% landed in the center with regard to their political beliefs, while only 20% identified as left and 21% as conservative.  Often, millennials fall in the center because they are divided on issues: many support gay marriage, while taking more conservative views on immigration and voting rights. Either way, the study seems to debunk the common belief that the majority of millennials fall to the far left.

Generational Quotes

“We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.”
-Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father

“It is fortunate that each generation does not comprehend its own ignorance. We are thus enabled to call our ancestors barbarous.”
-Charles Dudley Warner, Author

“Coming generations will learn equality from poverty, and love from woes.”
-Khalil Gibran, Poet and Writer

“Back, you know, a few generations ago, people didn’t have a way to share information and express their opinions efficiently to a lot of people. But now they do. Right now, with social networks and other tools on the Internet, all of these 500 million people have a way to say what they’re thinking and have their voice be heard.”
-Mark Zuckerberg ,
Founder and CEO Facebook

“I think we may be seeing the beginnings of a resurgence of civic-mindedness in this country. Hopefully the younger generations, which came out in record numbers during the last presidential election, will pass their enthusiasm on to their children.”
-Sandra Day O’Connor,
Supreme Court Justice

Significant Events of a Generation: Million Man March

“We are standing in the place of those who couldn’t make it here today. We are standing on the blood of our ancestors.” –Louis Farrakhan

February is African American History month and so this month we are focusing on an event in history that has both a generational and African American connection.  On October 16, 1995 the Million Man March took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  The event was intended to be a call for African American men from across the nation to gather together and draw attention to significant economic and political issues disproportionately affecting African Americans across the United States.  Organizers of the march were also hoping to redefine the public image of the African American male.  The march was the brainchild of Louis Farrakhan and was organized by the National African American Leadership Summit and the Nation of Islam as well as local chapters of the NAACP.

The march itself is an interesting event to examine from a generational perspective.  Louis Farrakhan, the main organizer, was born in 1933 and is a member of the Traditionalist generation, as were many of the other organizers.  Participants spanned all generations from Traditionalists to Gen Y.  The children that were brought along to the event were all members of Gen Y, as in 1995 the oldest members of Gen Y (1980 – 2000) were 15 years old and any child younger than that would have fallen within the Gen Y category.  Gen X (1965 – 1979) was solidly in their teens and 20s when the march took place – members of both generations no doubt both paid attention to news reports and participated in the march itself.  Older Gen X and Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964) were the adults and parents of the march, showing up in large numbers to support a cause they viewed as significant to both themselves and future generations.

The march began at 6 a.m., with busloads of attendees coming from all over the country. Community leaders, pastors, elected officials, and other public figures made up a long list of speakers who spoke powerful words to the crowd on the National Mall.  The agenda for the day included: voter registration, adoption, unemployment, poverty rates, law enforcement, education and health issues. The number of marchers was a topic of dispute, as organizers of the march claimed upwards of 800,000 and representatives of the National Parks Service claimed only 400,000 people showed up.  Regardless, even at its lowest estimate, the event was one of the top five largest events in terms of participants, to ever be held on the National Mall.

Certainly the Million Man March was a significant event in African American history and one that shaped the younger generations, Gen X and Y.  The year after the march took place there was an increase in black male voters in the 1996 presidential election, by over 1.7 million.  In addition, the march has inspired countless other “Million” marches such as: Million Worker March, Million Letter March, Million Mom Challenge and Million Hoodie March – to name a few.

February 19: Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival in China, is based off the Chinese lunisolar calendar and celebrates the beginning of the new calendar year. This means that according to the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year falls on a different day every year. It is celebrated as a public holiday in many countries including China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Phillipines, and is a very important cultural holiday in Chinatowns the world over.

Chinese New Years celebrations are centuries old. The traditional myth behind the holiday is that every new years day a horrible beast called a Nian would come to the town villages and eat the livestock, crops, and people (especially children). However, the people learned to placate the beast by placing food outside their door and by wearing red and lighting firecrackers to scare it off.

The public holiday lasts for 3 days starting on New Year’s Day.  To celebrate, families will often have a reunion dinner with extended family.  It is also common clean the entire house to get rid of bad luck and open the premise to good luck.  Another tradition is the giving of red envelopes, typically from adults to children. The red envelopes contain money. The amount of money can vary, but it is important that the money is an even amount, as this is lucky, and 8 is a particularly luck amount.  On this day it is also common to see fireworks and firecracker displays, a dragon dance, and New Year markets/village fairs set up.

Generational Quick Tip: Loyalty

Whether employees are loyal to the company, to leadership, to managers, or to colleagues is an attribute of their generational cultural filter and varies from generation to generation. In the workplace, employee loyalty can have a great impact on the overall company culture. Baby-boomers tend to be more loyal to their career and employers. Though they tend to challenge authority when it confronts their sense of morality, they will loyally dedicate very long business hours to the company in order to climb the corporate ladder. Generation X is loyal to their managers. Highly independent workers, Gen X appeal to managers for independent projects and assignments, as well as opportunities for flexibility, self-sufficiency, and entrepreneurship. On the other hand, Generation Y is loyal to their colleagues, particularly their Gen Y peers. They are very sociable, making many diverse workplace friends, and use their camaraderie as a support system while treading the daunting new world of corporate life. Having a better understanding about loyalty in the workplace may lend interesting and helpful insight into why a colleague of a certain generation is motivated to respond in a particular way.

Action Step:
Keep in mind generational differences about loyalty when working with colleagues on teams or across departments.

Cultural Quick Tip: Check Your Assumptions Before Judging

The Argentine tango is a dance of passion and elegance. When novice dancers start to learn the tango, they often focus on their feet. Although the footwork of the tango is fast and flashy, there is much more to the tango than just the footwork. Dance partners communicate with each other in a subtle way through the connecting points of the hips as well as the dance frame formed by the arms, where the duo adjusts their pressure and balance. While many people judge a dancer by the way they move their feet, there is much more that goes into being a dancer than just footwork. When judging the ‘dance’ of another person, especially across differences such as culture, be careful about making judgments based on what you think is important. Focusing on their ‘feet’ while communicating may mean you are missing the most important part of the dance.

Action Step:
Stop and ask yourself what other factors you need to take into account before taking an action based upon an assumption.