food for thought: failing at diversity

This week’s round up includes many links that explore the limits of diversity rhetoric as we struggle to translate theory into action.

Amanda Hess @ Slate shares findings from a new study out of the University of Colorado-Boulder that suggest people of color and women (presumably women of color and white women) are penalized for hiring and promoting others like them — i.e. improving diversity — while white male employees are praised for the same activities:

White male managers who promote women and people of color aren’t penalized for valuing diversity. Perhaps that’s because, when a white man recruits a diverse group of people to work beneath him, he’s improving the company’s optics without disrupting the composition of its upper rungs. But when a woman or person of color does it, she’s threatening the system. As the authors put it: “Minority and women leaders’ engagement in diversity-valuing behavior may be viewed as selfishly advancing the social standing of their own low-status demographic groups.”

This is why “token” female and minority managers are particularly valuable to their companies—they allow executives to point to their commitment to promoting women and people of color (or rather, a woman and a person of color) without actually fostering widespread diversity in the ranks. Women and people of color who succeed in being seen as warm or competent (by disavowing a commitment to diversity) are then coded by their companies as what the researchers call “social outsiders” from their gender and race. Most of the bosses included in the study were white men (no duh), but female and minority bosses surveyed rated their diversity-minded colleagues similarly—perhaps because reinforcing the status quo is a requirement for cracking the glass ceiling.

In a piece that should be read in tandem with the above, Sarah @ The Evolving Ultrasaurus offers some suggestions for recruiting and retaining diverse talent in your workplace. Her suggestions are geared to the tech industry, but are broadly applicable as food for thought in most professions:

Make sure the women and people of color on your team already are happy. See if you can find out if is any aspect of your current workplace or team that might create a hostile or unproductive workplace for any team member. Fix that without making it the responsibility of minority folks. If your team is bigger than 2-3 people and you don’t have any women or people of color, be aware that you may have teammates who would alienate the person you are trying to recruit. Develop stated values. Publish a code of conduct. Create ways you can put yourselves in a diverse crowd with customers or community events, and talk to your team about how to be open and respectful to people who are different than they are.

And closer to home, professionally-speaking, Nicole Pagowsky @ The Pumped Librarian suggests that part of promoting diversity in a workplace is putting your money where your mouth is — i.e. supporting risk-taking and innovation, even when it’s uncomfortable for the status quo:

I think explicitly stating in the job ad that not only is the library committed to seeking out and hiring diversity, but also that the library is committed to retaining diverse talent by supporting (or even advocating) the risks these individuals may take would make an impact. Will the library step up if these new hires engage in potentially controversial research? Will the library encourage new hires to take risks and integrate critical pedagogy into library instruction (for example)? Will the library overall agree that these sorts of activities are positive things that will improve campus, student learning, and the field as a whole?

Sometimes, promoting a diversity of thought and action creates change that sparks conflict within a workplace. Nate Kreuter @ Inside Higher Ed offered some advice on how to deal with conflict in academe — advice applicable in many of the cultural institutions in which we work as librarians, archivists, and other knowledge professionals:

With my admittedly limited and anecdotal experiences, I am increasingly convinced that an important quality for leadership, and perhaps even simply citizenship within our universities, is developing the skill of recognizing which conflicts to avoid and starve of their energy, and which conflicts to confront directly and resolve, however painfully, before they grow. Some of the conflicts that we neglect to resolve have the potential to become cancerous, growing silently, perhaps even initially unnoticed, but with potentially devastating manifestations.

Of course, at times we struggle and fail to live up to our goals. Miss Ingrid @ Magpie Librarian offers up her preliminary results from the survey on violations of ALA’s code of conduct:

Bar chart showing responses to the survey question

Bar chart showing responses to the survey question “If you have experienced or witnessed harassment or intimidation, what was it based on? Check all that apply.” From Magpie Librarian (click on image to go to post).

And in what I’m sure was a cathartic post for many, dexdigi @ Medium wrote a response to Steve Friess whose recent article in Time attempted to tone-police black women in classic white savior fashion:

I noticed that throughout your article, you only talk about black women as recipients of either white discrimination or white benevolence. You never once mentioned your personal connection with black women as people — only as entertainers or decoration at a festival. As fascinating objects to be consumed.

I also wonder why it is that you aren’t reaching out to Native Americans, or Arab Americans. (You say that you are Jewish, so I assume you make that connection personally.) Is it perhaps because they have not been commodified into a globally popular entertainment like blacks have?

As a white gay person I’ll confirm the rhetorical question dexdigi asks in the lede: Nope, I’m not too fond of Professor Friess’ paternalism myself.

This has been another installment of “food for thought,” a weekly link round-up posted each Wednesday here at the Amiable Archivists Salon. If you have links to share, you can email, Tweet, or comment here; we’ll include them in next week’s round-up.

question time: personalizing work spaces

Workspace from my graduate student days, featuring bookshelves, a desk and computer, photographs, posters, and piles of paper. Photo by the Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, circa December 2009.

Workspace from my graduate student days, featuring bookshelves, a desk and computer, photographs, posters, and piles of paper. Photo by the Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, circa December 2009.

Last week, my wife was interviewed by an LIS student who asked for advice about professionalism at work. Afterwords, my wife tweeted:

So my question this week for y’all is:

How do you personalize your workspace? Do you have a workspace to personalize? If you had to pick one item you leave at work as symbolic of the way you establish your territory (a picture, a coffee mug, a piece of clothing) what would that item be? What story does that item tell about you and your relationship to your job?

As always, answer in comments, via Twitter, or email!

food for thought: the good and the bad (online and off)

We may not all like the term “mansplaining” to describe the tendency of some men to speak authoritatively on subjects about which they may not be authoritative, but Lucy Vernasco @ Bitch Media offers us seven studies that demonstrate the existence of such a phenomenon:

While individual women might feel like they’re the only ones frustrated at being ignored or interrupted, there are numbers that show it happens all the time: studies show that men interrupt women during meetings, while in groups with friends, and while speaking one-on-one. In the interest of showing how mansplaining is a proven phenomena, I’ve gathered seven studies that show how men often dominate conversations.

Samantha Allen @ The Daily Dot reminds us in For Women on the Internet, It Doesn’t Get Better that (certain) men dominating conversations is sometimes on the lesser-consequences end of the spectrum of challenges we face being in public (online or off) while female:

In the West, we still tend to think that social progress is like river tubing, we just have to hop on board, pop open a brew, and float to Shangri-La. Women’s rights? Check! Civil rights? We passed that ages ago! LGBT equality? Just relax, man! We’ll get there.

The sobering truth is that things don’t get better on their own, no matter what Dan Savage wants you to believe. In fact, if you belong to a member of a marginalized group, you probably are acutely aware that things can get worse. Much worse. If, like me, you’re a woman on the Internet, you’re probably starting to realize just how bad things can get.

Part of dealing with the truth of harassment and inequality online and off is, of course, acknowledging there is a social problem that needs a social solution — and being clear and consistent following through. Galen Charlton @ Meta Interchange points out that it’s not enough to have a Code of Conduct on the books; as a community we actually have to make people aware of it and hold them accountable if they violate those community standards:

A key aspect of many of the anti-harassment policies and codes of conduct that have been adopted by conferences and conventions recently is that the policy applies to all event participants. There is no reason to expect that an invited keynote speaker or celebrity will automatically not cross lines — and there have been severalincidents where conference headliners have erred (or worse).

There’s also hope to be found in research indicating that our young people are actually more caring online participants than are their elders. Diane Stirling @ the University of Syracuse iSchool shares research showing that “young people are careful and conscientious about how they present themselves in online communications.” 

Younger people are expressive, but also careful in their choice of language and so conscientious about how they are represented online, evidence by their correcting typos and adjusting messages and responses based on specific communication environments, the professor said. Those patterns “may suggest that people under 30 are very aware of the different online environments they are using, and that they recognize that if on a cell phone, short simple, and sweet will do, but if in an online game, there’s a chance to more completely round out their character–the presentation of their self to others.”

h/t to @NixoNARA for the link.

And finally, the Women’s Collections Roundtable @ SAA encourages us to Discover Archives on Tumblr! (As a transplanted local, I’m a devoted follower of the City of Boston Archives myself. What library, archives, and/or history Tumblrs do you follow?

food for thought: intersectionality and intervention

The past week brought us some thoughtful pieces on the hard work of being meaningfully intersectional in our communities.

Arthur Chu @ The Daily Beast writes about white (and male) saviors, and what it takes to ally yourself, as a person of privilege, with the disenfranchised in a given situation or society:

Even though I remain enormously glad I did write that article everyone shared and hopeful that it makes a difference, I don’t feel personally pleased or gratified that people liked it. I get worried when I catch myself feeling that way, because feeling gratified and validated and lapping up the praise—as Chris Rock would put it, eagerly accepting “cookies” for doing and saying shit everyone should be doing and saying—would be easy. And the easy path is the path to the Dark Side—male feminists who get off on female fans telling them how awesome they are should keep the horrible visage of Hugo Schwyzer in their mind to remind themselves where that path of temptation leads, the way Luke Skywalker does with Darth Vader’s mask or Frodo does with the Ringwraiths.

Tech journalist Leigh Alexander on what to do and not do when you are a bystander or witness to someone else’s experience of sexism (or [insert discriminatory action here]):

Instead of Tweeting “it sucks what’s happening to @thisperson, why are people so evil and why is this industry so terrible,” consider something more like “I support @thisperson, author of this impactful paper [link]” or “I respect @thisperson, one of the best speakers on [topic] that I’ve ever seen.” Be sincere and not flowery or excessive — sometimes when people are trying to diminish someone because of their gender, talking about their achievements instead is the best countermeasure. Keep the individual at the center of the story, not the people harassing her nor the fact of her harassment. Don’t say “it’s so brave, what you do.” Say “I like something you created.”

Erin McKelle @ RH Reality Check shares some of what she’s learned about being intersectional in her work:

I started blogging about reproductive rights issues during high school, and a lot of the feedback I received from editors and feminist peers was based around a lack of inclusivity. At first, I felt defensive, as most people do when they get called out. But as I thought more critically about my writing, I realized that the knowledge and sources I was pulling from weren’t intersectional.

While Erin is speaking from the perspective of reproductive rights issues, Fobazi Ettarh @ In the Library with the Lead Pipe challenges our profession in particular to be intersectional in more than just a lip-service way:

“Diversity” is a hot button term in librarianship. Every few months, there is a new editorial about diversifying the profession. As the field remains mostly white and middle class, each author reflects on the disparity and presents their ideas on how to increase and improve diversity recruiting of both students and faculty. Within the past year, articles such as “The MLS and the Race Line” and “Diversifying the LIS Faculty” have continued the conversation about recruitment of people of color (POC) into the field. However, there is not nearly enough discussion on how to remove barriers for librarians and library students within the field. How do we make sure that both existing and aspiring librarians interact with patrons and other librarians in a manner that is respectful? The answer to that question is intersectional librarianship.

Codes of conduct are a topic of some discussion in library and archivist circles these days. Over at the Geek Feminism Blog the bloggers share how the adoption of their own code of conduct will change their approach to dealing with harassment:

With a Code in place, everyone has agreed ahead of time that these are the rules. Whether the harasser personally feels that it’s okay to — say — hug people without consent, they are bound by a harassment policy that forbids it. It takes the conflict out of the realm of values and concepts — “is it okay to hug people without consent?” — and into the realm of facts — “is this person hugging people without consent?”

And finally, Anna North @ The New York Times offered up a piece on how The New Business Casual is Still Uptight, or how workplace cultures replicate themselves:

Every workplace imposes certain behavioral standards on its workers — dress this way, talk that way, get lunch here and not there. Learning these standards is, we’re told, a big part of being successful. But what do we do if they’re constantly shifting, or if we’re not even sure what they are?

Blogs of the week: Librarian Wardrobe & Microaggressions in Librarianship.

“Food for Thought” is a weekly links post. If you have links to share, drop them in comments or email them to amiablearchivists [at] gmail [dot] com for inclusion in the next week’s post. In the email, please indicate whether you want a shout-out  (or want to “hat tip” another source) for the link or not. 

food for thought: women documenting harassment

A number of thoughtful, articulate women have recently written on the subject of online and real world harassment that turns on some aspect of their embodied selves: gender, size, race, and so on. Here are teasers from those pieces; I encourage you to read them in full!

Melissa McEwan @ Shakesville reminded us all that We Need to Talk About This because silence allows naysayers to avoid the widespread reality of harassment (and worse):

That’s not a criticism of the people who don’t know. They don’t know, because we don’t talk about it. I don’t just mean we, the women who are targets, but we, the people. The readers who consume the content produced by those women. The media who refuse to have a loud and ongoing conversation about it. The law enforcement who ignore it. The lawmakers who have refused to create legal avenues of recourse for us. Our ostensible allies, who stay out of it, lest the sights gets trained on them. The harassers who silence us via more harassment. 

Tressie McMillan Cottom did a presentation on how race complicates our understanding of gender-based harassment in “Who The Fuck Do You Think You Are?” Academic Engagement, Microcelebrity and Digital Sociology from the Far Left of the Matrix of Domination (PDF) (h/t Geek Feminism):

I am not just a woman but a black woman performing a particular type of expertise for large, multiple publics. As such, my experience of negative comments differs from the dominant gendered narrative of online abuse. For example, I have never received a single rape threat. Instead, increased scale and multiple publics (generated by both digital writing and social media) have elicited comments and threats specific to my illegitimacy as an intellectual, e.g. expert. It’s why, “who the fuck do you think you are” is a common refrain among the thousands of negative comments on my blog, As a public writer, academic and black woman my location at the bottom of a racist, sexist social hierarchy mitigates the presumed returns to academic public engagement specifically and makes a case for reconsidering the theoretical assumptions of microcelebrity more broadly. 

Shanley Kane @ Model View Culture questions the universal value of being “Internet famous” if that means you’re pushed out of a job, intimidated away from professional gatherings, and made to feel unsafe in your own home and skin (h/t @sarahkendzior):

It is highly lucrative, much sought after. And yes, it is a huge asset in the careers and companies of many cishet white men. Visibility gets them jobs, raises, venture capital, customers, community support… chances at more visibility in a bountiful cycle of pageviews and cash, money and power. With visibility is supposed to come admiration, respect, access, affluence – and for most of such men, it delivers.

Yet for the rest of us, with visibility comes harassment, stalking, threats, loss of career opportunity and mobility, constant public humiliation, emotional and sometimes physical violence.

Ragen Chastain @ Dances With Fat describes both the overall pattern of harassment she experiences as an activist and one specific incident in hilarious detail in Trolls Gone Wild:

A troll pretending to be a “fact checker” e-mailed the person in charge of the dance circuit that I used to compete on, saying they need to confirm my three National Dance Championships.  The troll sent the e-mail from, and signed it “Jaime Rund, LIU, CW Post Campus.”

And finally, Rebecca Solnit’s classic piece on Men Who Explain Things To Me has been making the rounds again, thanks to the publication of her latest collection of essays by the same name:

The battle with Men Who Explain Things has trampled down many women — of my generation, of the up-and-coming generation we need so badly, here and in Pakistan and Bolivia and Java, not to speak of the countless women who came before me and were not allowed into the laboratory, or the library, or the conversation, or the revolution, or even the category called human.

If you have reflections or other links to share, please do so in comments!

…and we’re off!

Boy riding on self-made sailboat wagon. By Upper Arlington Community (Ohio) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Boy riding on self-made sailboat wagon. By Upper Arlington Community (Ohio) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Welcome to the Amiable Archivists’ Salon!

If you responded to my original sounding of interest for this group, you will be receiving an email today and an invitation to join the Salon’s Google Group email list.

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tea time and teach-in

This blog was created in response to the need for an intentionally welcoming space for archivists and those in associated fields to come together and discuss experiences of harassment, discrimination, and marginalization within our professional community. 

For background about the founding of the Amiable Archivists Salon, please see the original sounding of interest issued by Anna Clutterbuck-Cook in mid-June. While the original sounding survey is now closed, please watch this space for updates within the month of July as we formally launch the group and open it to additional members.

In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact the group at amiablearchivists [at] gmail [dot] dom.