Showing posts with label Penelope Trunk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Penelope Trunk. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 11

Thinning The Workforce: Those People


With increasing fervor, some bloggers are thinning America’s workforce into desirables and undesirables. Who’s undesirable?

Those people, of course.

“Those people” are people with kids, according to Penelope Trunk. When she shared ten tips on how to start a business, she wrote “In general, when I have started companies, I tried not to hire people with kids because they are less able to jump for investors, more torn between where their head and heart are at any given time, and anyway, today’s parents generally do not work insanely long hours.”

She defends her statement here, a contrast that doesn’t appear on her own blog. But “those people” are not only people with kids. Fat women have to go too.

“One thing I learned is that fat women don't have a lot of empathy and defendants usually try to strike those jurors,” Trunk said as quoted by David Maister, who defended her statement by surmising she was not advocating anything (Maister, she advocates all the time) before pointing out the obvious.

Some companies are hiring people based on looks, which means “those people” may as well include anyone who is less attractive. Playing the appearance game isn’t always as easy as that. Stephanie Bivona wrote about a talk show conversation she heard on the radio, where one caller “even said she ‘uglied’ herself, just so she could be taken seriously.”

So, as crazy as it sounds, let’s toss the “overly attractive people” into the mix of “those people” too. And, based on the comments alone in another Trunk post, men, because they cannot handle assertive women as several Trunk readers pointed out. Especially those who choose to stay at home. And women. And Hispanic people. And black people. And white people. And conservatives. And liberals. And reglious people. And atheists. And those of differing sexual orientation. And Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.

Those people.

Sometimes I wonder — as each group based on race, gender, lifestyle preference, and appearance all try to outdo one another as the bigger victim — if we’ve learned anything.

In the 1930s and 40s, Nazis, originally under the banner of being discriminated against, also armed themselves with statistical information. It’s not hard to do. “Those people” also veiled their words as simple observations and personal experiences like Trunk and now Maureen Sharib, who wrote: “Speaking as one small voice, I can tell you this, I have run a company and I have experienced the mind sets of those with kids and those without.”

To all of it, I say gumballs. Give someone a statistical study and they can vilify or victimize any group you want to pool together, even if it is based on something as ridiculous as blood type.

Discrimination in our country not only exists, but it is much more pervasive than we like to admit. Anymore, the truth is that “those people,” the victims, have become each and every one of us.

If we are ever going to break away from this apparent need to label each other, it will take a general willingness for individuals to make the decision not to discriminate based upon whatever divisive characteristics people dream up. As Geoff Livingston said in an unrelated but pointed post, maybe we all need to lighten up.

Not just in this country. Americans aren’t alone in labeling people. It is a Korean problem, an Australian problem, and a Nigerian problem. It is a human problem.

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Friday, August 17

Understanding Gumballs: From Trunk To Maltoni

If there is one secret to be learned after conducting hundreds and thousands of interviews, ranging from an emotionally exhausted mother staying at a Ronald McDonald House to billionaire Sheldon Adelson, it is that the success of any interview hinges on effective communication.

And, if there is any prerequisite to ensure effective communication, it is to see the interviewee as a person, regardless of any perceived labels — status, position, gender, whatever. The concept is simple. The execution is not.

For the past few months, one label that seems to have galvanized, if not polarized, online communities and bloggers is the most basic of all — gender. To this ongoing discussion in its numerous forms, I say gumballs.

Right, gumballs. You know what I mean. When we were all kids and could not care less about silly things like gender, most of us claimed certain gumballs were better than others — blue, red, yellow. We were all delusional. The gumballs all tasted the same.

The gender issue is much like that. It doesn't matter where it turns up. Last month it appeared on a post penned by the popular blogger Penelope Trunk when she abandoned career conversations in favor of sharing her perspective on her marriage, which quickly turned into a war of words about gender.

“So I’m going to tell you the truth about stay-at-home dads…” she wrote.

Not surprisingly, most of the discussion quickly descended into non-communication, with some claiming that any man commenter who disagreed was somehow invalid, if not sexist, because, well, they were men. Never mind that not all of them were men.

Ho hum. What most missed was that if there is a "truth" about stay-at-home dads … it is that there is no truth about stay-at-home dads. Just as there is no truth about stay-at-home moms. Just as there is no truth that accurately defines a good marriage, spouse, or parent. Just as there is no truth to any discussion that revolves around a label.

We saw the same descent into non-communication after Valeria Maltoni published her Top 20 PR PowerWomen list, which prompted Lewis Green to write his much discussed post, which questioned the validity of an all-woman list (he has since yielded and agreed to support it).

Before I continue, I might point out that I already commented at the The Buzz Bin and agreed with Geoff Livingston’s decision to support the Top 20 PR PowerWomen. However, I also understand what Green was asking, but think that he asked the wrong question.

In sum, it seems to me that Green asked whether any list segregated by gender, race, or ethnicity was valid. In other words, he may as well have asked if we group our gumballs by size or color, does that place the other gumballs at a disadvantage. Um no, they still taste the same.

But let's say he asked a slightly different question. Does the promotion of a label — status, position, gender, whatever — further erode the ability of people to interact as individuals without regard to labels (such as gender) or does it simply draw more attention to their differences as identified by such a label and breed resentment?

Well now, that depends solely on the gumballs who make up the group. In this case, there is no evidence that the Top 20 PR PowerWomen are promoting that pink gumballs somehow taste better than blue gumballs simply because they are pink, which basically means that the list is no more exclusionary than a Top 20 PR PowerPeople in the Washington D.C. Area list or a Top 20 Bloggers Who Own Red Socks list.

However, Green's question also illustrates why labels are tricky things. On one hand, humans have great cognitive capabilities, which includes processing large amounts of information by categorizing it by labels. On the other hand, if we are not aware of this process, we can become enslaved by it — either by subconsciously taking on stereotyped behaviors that are identified with a specific label or assuming other people will likely act like the labels that they are assigned.

The simplest truth is there are no typical women and there are no typical men. And if you approach either with the preconceived notion that they will react or respond to you as their label suggests they might, you will likely be disappointed. Worse, you could greatly increase the likelihood of label-centric non-communication.

In a different context, freeing us from the trappings of gender: there are no typical mothers to be found at Ronald McDonald House. And there are no typical billionaires. They are all people and each of them deserve to be treated with respect as individuals. Treat them any differently and you may as well argue that one gumball is better than another gumball, when we all know that they taste the same.

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