Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou, Thurgood Marshall, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis, Jackie Robinson, Katherine Johnson, Barack Obama, Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, bell hooks, Michelle Obama, Janet Helms, and Carter G. Woodsen. This is but a small list of the multitude of African American activists and pioneers who have fought long and hard to bring about much-needed change in the United States. Their intellect, leadership, social justice activism, and tireless labor have brought sociocultural enrichment to all of us. Sadly, achievements by African Americans have often gone uncelebrated. You may not have heard of some of the individuals listed above. If not, I urge you to spend a few moments familiarizing yourself with who they are and their accomplishments.
As the members of the 116th Congress were sworn in earlier this month, one Representative stood in violation of the 1837 House rule banning head coverings on the house floor. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Muslim, is the first Congressional representative to wear a hijab. Later that same day, a rules change adopted by the House permitted religious head coverings on the floor, allowing Rep. Omar to wear her hijab without running afoul of House rules on a daily basis.
Empathy: Expressing understanding, a sense of concern or interest in another person’s situation without needing to have the same feelings they may be experiencing.
- Have you complained about your supervisor or co-workers to others without sharing the feedback first with that person?
- Do you tend to blame others for things that go wrong without looking at what you can do to change the situation?
- Do you take feedback or constructive criticism personally?
In a training video I used many years ago, an African American man told a group of other men:
When I look into the mirror I see my black face. I cannot change this; this is who I am and I go to the workplace every day with this black face. So, often, people cannot see beyond it.
The man was stating the obvious about his physical appearance, but also pointing out that people may not get to know him more fully if they have immediate thoughts and emotions about his appearance. In fact, this is a reality that many individuals experience in the workplace. In the model below, Dimensions of Personal Identity (Arredondo, 2017; Arredondo & Glauner, 1992), I propose intersecting dimensions of identity. While the ‘A’ dimensions are the more visible, dimensions ‘B’ and ‘C’ are more invisible, yet very much part of an individual.
In the past year, Dr. Patricia Arredondo has posted several blogs on the topics of Gender Microaggressions at Work: The Visible and Invisible (July 2018) Bullying in the Workplace (August 2018) and Historic Pervasiveness of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (November 2017). These blogs describe the microinsults that occur and the sense of disrespect experienced by the targets of bullying, sexual harassment, and “everyday microaggressions”. This month’s blog builds on contemporary sociocultural realities that affect individuals in the workplace.
Many workplaces and universities are getting ready to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, signed into law in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, and intended to honor the contributions of persons of Hispanic and Latina/o heritage in the U.S. This month-long event (September 15th-October 15th) is an opportunity for more than 56 million individuals to celebrate their collective and country-specific ethnic heritage. The celebration is also a time for awareness and knowledge-building about self, friends, and workplace colleagues.
Hispanic, Latina/o, Latin@, and Latinx are all terms that have been used to categorize or label people from 21 Spanish-speaking countries. As a psychology scholar of Mexican-American heritage (born in Lorain, OH), I have lived through the evolution of identity monikers that do not always fit who I am or how I want to identify ethnically. In fact, many colleagues and friends prefer to call themselves Puerto Rican, Colombian, Dominican, or Chicana because this expresses their ethnic heritage, their family history—something more personal.
Bullying in schools continues to receive deserved and extensive attention. Originally, the focus was on playground and hallway behavior with individuals or groups ganging up on an individual perceived to be weaker, different, or otherwise, a good target for aggression. Boy-on-boy violence today continues to be more commonplace.
The workplace, the setting where individuals go daily to “make a living,” advance their career, and to otherwise contribute to an organization’s mission and bottom line, is a site of daily bullying to both men and women alike.
At work, this guy is always eyeing me up and down; it makes me feel awful.
During our team meetings, one guy invariably interrupts and talks over all of the women, even the team leader; why doesn’t someone call him out?
I shared with my female colleague that her jokes about women were creating an unhealthy dynamic in the department; she told me I was being too sensitive and should join the #metoo movement.
Gender microaggressions are defined as brief and everyday verbal and nonverbal behaviors and environmental conditions that communicate demeaning, hostile, and otherwise sexist insults towards women (Nadal, 2010). Nadal also describes three types of gender microaggressions:
- Gender microassault: Blatant sexism, verbal, nonverbal, and behavioral. For example, verbal demeaning by calling a woman a “bitch” or a “whore.”
- Gender microinsults: Often unintentional behaviors and statements that still convey negative messages about women. For example, in professional association meetings or classrooms, the convener may call primarily on men although women are raising their hand to speak.
- Gender microinvalidation: This takes many forms, from exclusion from an activity because of a women’s sex, negating a woman’s ideas with jest, and ignoring a woman in the room of all men, even though she is a co-worker.
Swim, Hyers, Cohen, and Ferguson (2001) also calls these behaviors “everyday sexism” because they occur so often that they then become taken for granted as typical in that setting. We may all be in settings where everyday sexism is ongoing yet fail to notice but make attributions such as: That’s just John, being John; don’t take him seriously; or Carl is basically a good guy, just from an older generation, calling you sweetheart is not a big deal.
The past year has been filled with milestones and disappointments for the LGBTQ+ community. These events have affected colleagues in the workplace and our communities, and our “need to know” is essential to provide support and understanding. It is difficult to dispute that the current administration has chosen to oppress the rights of this community. The president announced that the military would “not accept or allow” transgender individuals to serve – fortunately, this gesture was short-lived after being struck down by four federal judges. Next, Attorney General Sessions made claims that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not provide protections from discrimination at work for transgender people. What policies are in place in your organization?
Despite the tumultuous social and political milieu emboldened by the current administration, the LGBTQ+ community has continued to make enormous strides. In recognition and celebration of PRIDE month, we would like to reflect on the strength and resilience of this community by outlining but a few of the historic political gains and positive shifts in representation and visibility seen throughout the past year.
In acknowledgement of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month, we highlight the contributions and experiences of AAPIs in the workplace. First, it is important to note the vast diversity among AAPI groups which represent persons with heritage from many regions across the world.** Similarly, AAPI workers span many industries and occupations with some of the most popular sectors including management, business, science, and the arts.
As for other marginalized groups, professional gains for AAPI workers require an ability to navigate the many existent barriers among U.S. economic and educational systems. Misconceptions and stereotypes also negatively influence the experience of many. Nevertheless, continued themes of persistence and resilience shine through.