Risk Management Sochi Style: Snow and Surveillance Top Priorities

I wonder if Edward Snowden will show up in Sochi. That would boost the ratings!  Speaking of  snow—,  did you know that Sochi has stockpiled snow from last winter just in case they run low during the games?  They should get a gold medal for risk management.Sochi Olympics 2014

The Russians will be managing other risks, as well, by listening in on all communications. “Athletes and spectators attending the Winter Olympics  … will face some of the most invasive and systematic spying and  surveillance in the history of the Games.”

University of Toronto Professor Ron Deibert,  has dubbed the Russian FSB’s   Surveillance System PRISM on Steroids.

Presumably the primary purpose of the system is to protect against terrorism, with Chechen terrorists already threatening to sabotage the games.

Meanwhile, there is some concern among the international LGBT community  that Russia may use its comprehensive surveillance system to identify and target promoters of gay rights, as the country recently  passed a controversial  law banning gay propaganda.

On second thought, this is the sort of event Snowden, Patron Saint of Privacy, is likely to boycott.

Recipe for Success – Melt or Stir Gently? Homogenization vs. Diversification

A growing number of Americans now drive out to the countryside to buy non-homogenized milk directly from small, family-owned farms. Why? Because it has more flavor than the sanitized, grocery store variety. It’s also more satisfying.

Diversity in the workplace isn’t about eradicating the attitudes, styles, characteristics, and cultural traits which make people different, but about respecting and celebrating those differences. Studies show that diverse workforces have an edge over their more homogenous competitors when it comes to innovation. A team made up of people of different genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and religions will, by its varied nature, be more dynamic in its approach to creating new products and services and improving old ones. Such teams also put a more diverse spin on the advertising of these products and services. Bland down your employees’ differences by, overtly or subtly, encouraging them all to think and act the same and you will end up with the human resources equivalent of homogenized grocery-store milk.

When I was in school, teachers taught us that America was one big melting pot into which generation after generation of immigrants was assimilated. Today the trend in American schools, as well as in American society, is to move away from assimilation and towards multiculturalism. Drawing on the art and music and cuisine and traditions of  immigrants makes our country more colorful and more interesting than any melting pot ever could. To derive the greatest benefits from your employees’ backgrounds, do not push a culture of assimilation but one of mutual respect. This, in turn, will attract a more diverse customer base.  As whites slowly lose their foothold as the majority race in our country, appealing to more diverse clientele simply makes good business sense.

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In her recent commentary “2013: The Year Men Became Obsolete?” for Time Magazine (December 30, 2013) Camille Paglia addressed the error Americans have made in expecting successful, high-achieving women to act like men.  “In France, Italy, Spain and Latin America, by contrast, many ambitious women seem to have found a formula for asserting power and authority in the workplace while still projecting sexual allure and even glamor. This is the true feminine mystique, which cannot be taught but flows from an instinctive recognition of sexual differences.”

The purpose of diversity training should not be to create a gender-blind, race-blind, homogenous workforce, but a workforce which values and capitalizes on the diverse merits and strengths of its employees.

The Ceiling May Have Been Cast from Glass, but The Women Had the Floor.

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Today my husband had one of the best ideas I’ve heard yet for solving the ongoing crisis in the Middle East: provide all the women with arms so they can take over their societies. Then they’ll work together for peace.

While he may be accused of reverse gender-discrimination, there is an element of truth behind his idea. In fact, we recently experienced the power of women to set aside conflicts and promote peace right here in the U.S.  Last October, jeopardizing re-election in their home districts, women senators from both parties joined forces to break through the  partisan impasse that was on the verge of shutting down our country. Their “negotiating framework formed the centerpiece of a tentative Senate deal to reopen the federal government and avert a disastrous default.

As Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) put it, “The truth is, women in the Senate is a good thing. We’re all just glad they allowed us to tag along so we could see how it’s done.

I’m still trying to figure out precisely why the women were more willing and more successful at working towards the common good than so many of their male colleagues.  Are women, as a gender, more concerned with the good of the whole than with stoking their own egos or pursuing their own ambitions?  (Certainly I have known many women for whom this is not true!). Could the very characteristics which make women more effective peacemakers or, at least, more inclined to take personal risks to promote peace, be the reason  they do not move up corporate and political ladders with the same speed and alacrity as men?

When Business Executive Jack Donaghy (played Alec Baldwin  in the sorely-missed television show, Thirty Rock), is passed over for a promotion to CEO, he sadly proclaims, ” I cannot go to another business school reunion and sit at the non-CEO table with the women and nice men.”

I would like to think that one’s ability to move up  the ranks of power (be it in business or in government) and one’s ability to work for the good of the whole are not mutually exclusive.  But the truth is I’m not so sure.

Foot-in-Mouth-Disease – The Benefits and Pitfalls of Maintaining a Presence on the Web

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Shortly before boarding her flight out of London’s Heathrow Airport,  IAC Director of Corporate Communications  Justine Sacco tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

By the time Ms. Sacco landed  in Cape Town,  her words had gone viral, sparking thousands of  tweets worldwide.  Or should I say thousands of angry buzzes? It seems  Ms. Sacco had become the Girl Who’d Kicked a Global Hornets’ Nest, as well as the poster face for over-privileged-white insensitivity.   The next day, IAC announced that Justine Sacco was no longer employed by them.

While I have no sympathy for Ms. Sacco, her story reminds me of the delicate balancing act we must all perform in today’s social media engulfed world.   An ever increasing number of employers now Google job applicants as part of their initial screening process. If you don’t have a ‘presence’ on the web, many prospective employers will not consider you, based on the assumption that you are not technologically savvy and that you lack twenty-first century social networking skills.

However, it’s not simply enough for just your name, photo, and a few dull facts to show up on LinkedIn or Facebook. A lot of employers are specifically seeking out employees who are a cultural fit, meaning they are looking at your hobbies, the type of volunteer work you do, the groups you belong, and the social and political comments you make to determine whether you are a good match for their organization. Career-minded job applicants are learning they have to brand themselves through their online image in order to sell themselves to employers.

At the same time, the more we reveal about ourselves  online, the greater the risk that we will commit some faux pas. It may not go viral as Ms. Sacco’s did, but it may linger on the web for years, readily accessible to anyone who Googles our name.  In fact, some employers are actually contracting firms to run Social Media Background Checks.

This, in turn, has spawned yet another type of business. Repplers,for example, now offers  a ” a tool for scrubbing your social networking accounts of job-damaging material.”

By the way, Ms. Sacco’s viral tweet does not mark the first time she’s shown a lack of judgement in the world of social media. Last January she tweeted, “I can’t be fired for things I say while intoxicated right?” Sober or otherwise, she has much to learn about public relations.

In the meantime, what do you bet that IAC will be scrupulously vetting the social networking history of its next Director of Corporate Communications?

“Merry Christmas” the man threatened.

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Kudos to the Paris Review for publishing this Christmas card which sums up the ludicrous controversy surrounding Christmas greetings  in U.S.

The State of Texas has just passed a Merry Christmas Law protecting the celebration of Christmas and other religious holidays (such as Chanukah) in its schools.  The Texas law drafted as a backlash after schools in some other states banned all references to Christmas (including Santa himself) and replaced the traditional holiday with non-religious “Winter Festivals.”

As Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law, a group known as the Lone Star Santas (ten men sporting long white beards) cheered and rang bells. Students of all faiths, including Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, can seek support under this law if their own expressions of faith are censored.

Texas students and teachers can now sing Christmas songs, decorate their classrooms with Christmas Trees and menorahs and red-nosed reindeer and wish each other a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Chanukah” without fear of retribution.

She’s a BRIC House

In their recent interview with Alice Andors for  HR Magazine (“Hidden in Plain Sight” January 2012), economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett and executive vice president of the Center for Talent Innovation Ripa Rashid postulated that there is a direct correlation between the education and corporate advancement of a country’s female workforce and the country’s economic growth. They specifically pointed out that the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), whose combined markets have accounted for forty-five percent of global economic growth since 2007, have this very thing in common. These countries are educating their young women at higher rates than they ever have before and they have outpaced the United States in the percentage of senior management positions held by women.

According to Hewlett, in 2009 Brazilian women held thirty percent of executive positions compared to the twenty percent held by women in the United States.  Likewise, women hold thirty-two percent of  senior management positions in China. In the United States only twenty-three percent of senior management positions are held by women.

There is, however, a dark side to the professional success of women in these countries. According to Rashid’s research, women working in management positions in the BRIC countries commonly put in over sixty hours a week. Highly qualified Chinese women employed by global companies work an average of seventy-one hours a week, while Russian women in senior positions put in seventy-three hours a week.

The emphasis on work-life balance here in the United States may be holding some women back from making the same strides as their ambitious counterparts in BRIC countries. At the same time, taking steps to enable and encourage more young American women to pursue degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM fields facing a shortage of qualified employees) and encouraging the promotion of deserving women into senior and executive management positions could spur economic growth here at home.

Declaration of Interdependence

It’s common knowledge that the original Declaration of Independence was, for all practical purposes, written by, for, and about white male property owners. What would happen if we gave that declaration a twenty-first century makeover? The heart of the revised text might read something like this.

We hold these truths — following years of eye-opening civil rights marches, presidential proclamations,  and federal legislation — to have finally been made evident, that all men and all women, of all ages, races, religions, ethnicities, national origins, sexual orientations,  abilities, disabilities, and perceived disabilities, are endowed by their Creator — or by One Big Bang Randomly Scattering Sub-Atomic Particles — with certain Litigable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Equal Pay for Equal Work.  To secure these rights, the EEOC, along with local, district, and supreme courts, are instituted among Men and Women and Transgenders, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed — that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to hold Tea Parties and to Occupy Wall Street and to pose questions via Facebook to Candidates Competing in Endless Televised Debates to institute a new Government as most likely to Lower Unemployment, to  Raise the Stock Market, to Protect Property Values, and to keep Terrorists, Tax Collectors, and  Drug Lords at bay.