Category: Who is:

Profiles of prominent figures whose identities are a primary focus of their story.

Yes, Gender Impacts Journalism

Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, recently said “The idea that women journalists bring a different taste in stories or sensibility isn’t true.”

Really?

These are surprising remarks from the first woman to be placed at the top of the Times masthead. Still, we sympathize with her fantasy that gender doesn’t matter in journalism, and Ken Auletta’s story last year in the New Yorker offers a hint why Abramson would maintain this narrow-minded view. He reports:

When Eileen Shanahan, who went on to become a well-respected economics reporter, arrived for an interview with Clifton Daniel, the assistant managing editor, in 1962, she hid her desire to become an editor. “All I ever want is to be a reporter on the best newspaper in the world,” she told him.

“That’s good,” Daniel responded, as Shanahan told the story, “because I can assure you no woman will ever be an editor at the New York Times.”

You see, @JillAbramson is in a tough spot. She aligns her worldview with that of past senior editors, perhaps to show that as the Times‘ most powerful woman executive ever, she won’t subvert the patriarchy. If she were more frank about the gravity of being the Gray Lady’s first female executive editor, she’d likely pay a tall price. She’d:

  • be attacked by her colleagues
  • need to defend herself
  • feel seduced away from her formal task of leading the newsroom, and ultimately
  • waste her energy and be de-authorized in her role.

An experience none of her predecessors faced on account of their gender.

And in being so politic, she misses the truth. What truth?

Continue reading

Come Out at Work: As Inexperienced

Try to find someone on LinkedIn who acknowledges his inexperience. OK, you can find a few, yet out of 150 million+ users, rare is the individual who openly claims his lack of practical knowledge.

Until now.

Thanks to Sir Richard Branson, we see that a dearth of experience is less of a problem, and more a path to advancement.

In a recent Q & A at Entrepreneur, the chair of the Virgin Group debunks the stigma of inexperience. He writes:

A lack of experience does not have to be a liability — it can be an asset. It is something you should play up when you discuss your ideas with prospective investors, partners and employees.

He drives his point home with a personal story:

I have always used my own and my team’s lack of experience to our advantage. In fact, at our first venture, Student magazine, we used our newcomer status to secure great interviews and generate publicity — people were excited about our new project and wanted to get involved. Our inexperience fed our restless enthusiasm for trying new things, which became part of our core mission.

Don’t you love the way he turns something potentially mortifying into an opportunity, and seizes it outright? Perhaps it’s time for you to come out at work with your inexperience.

As Branson points out, you have nothing to hide, and a lot of business to gain.

Image via

7 Secrets to Center Your Self at Work [video]

It’s one of the most underrated ways of doing work.

In the course of a day, we tend to chase appreciation and approval of our work, and avoid confrontation and criticism. Problem is, it’s almost impossible to feel secure and grounded when these things come from outside of our selves.

We need ways to feel more centered in the workplace. Webster’s dictionary defines being “centered” as being “emotionally stable and secure.”

What does that mean?

Alicia Graf Mack has an answer. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Company dancer was recently interviewed by William C. Rhoden about the dancer as athlete (video below), and along with Gia Kourlas’s interview in TimeOut New York, we see an outline of Mack’s insight about how to be more emotionally stable and secure on the job.

Here are the dancer’s 7 secrets to center your self at work:

1. You can tolerate pain. Writes Kourlas:

[Mack] suffers from an autoimmune disorder classified as reactive arthritis, which led to swelling and pain in her joints … [She] began teaching dance… What happens when you start teaching? You start dancing again.

Alicia Graf Mack loves to dance so much, she willfully works through her physical pain to do so. Really, for what kind of work would you accept physical pain?

2. You can’t tolerate pain. Continue reading

Mayim Bialik Brings Whole Self to Work

Mayim Bialik is quite popular these days. How do we know? “Mayim Bialik” is one of the top search queries leading readers to WWW.

Evidently fantasizing about her is also popular.

Bialik’s fame makes sense; she stars in the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” she blogs at both TODAYMoms and at Kveller.com, and she’s written a book about attachment parenting called Beyond the Sling.

Which is how the actor with a doctorate in neuroscience brings her whole self to work. How specifically does she do it? She wrote about the tribulations of working outside and inside the home in her first post at Kveller:

As a mom, my first focus is truly on my kids, even when I am filming or teaching.

Her priorities are obvious:  mother first, professional second. She speaks this unapologetically and publicly, so she’s clearly confident in her decision to live this way.

She continues:

The house is not as clean as it ought to be, but if it were, I wouldn’t have time to brush my teeth or prep for teaching. You get the picture: I can’t do it all; if I could I would have it all. So instead I do what I can. And I lower my expectations for what “has” to get done every day and I try to be gentle with myself.

It reads like an afternoon breeze. How do you balance work and family? You don’t. Bialik details the nature of the imbalance, and it feels reassuring that she, too, lets go of some obligations. So in accepting her limitations, she helps others do the same. The former “Blossom” star shares one more set of wise words:

Here is one thing I must remember to drop everything to do, and that is to be as perfectly imperfect as I can be.

Right. On. Ultimately she raises 3 important questions for parents with careers to consider:

  1. Are you OK with prioritizing parenting work over professional work?
  2. How do you feel about letting some responsibilities at home slip? Are there ways you can go easier on yourself?
  3. What does “perfectly imperfect” look like for you?

OK, that was 4; nobody’s perfect. While she doesn’t go into finding ways to ease up at work, perhaps that’s something we’ll explore in a future post.

By discussing the intersection of her acting, science teaching, writing, and parenting, Bialik effectively brings her whole self to work, and promotes herself. Quite a winning combination.

Image via

How to Bring Whimsy Back [video]

Oy, work can be so serious sometimes. We’re guilty of looking at the sober side of things — well, because we take work seriously, too.

Just as Joseph Herscher does, and yet the product of his efforts brings about serious smiles.

Herscher is a kinetic artist who creates Rube Goldberg machines, contraptions that delight viewers with their silly premises and whimsical movements.

His work was recently featured in the Daily Mail, where you can see still shots of “Page Turner,” an installation that–you guessed it–turns a newspaper page. By tapping into his sense of whimsy, he’s created a complicated machine that prompts viewers to experience wonder, joy, and exhilaration.

And he’s wildly popular. The Internet has played “Page Turner” about 5 million times and counting. Herscher has attracted significant media attention, which will likely lead to more commissioned work. To be sure, this artist’s star is rising.

What would result if you were to reveal and engage the extent of your whimsical nature in the workplace? At least, you might bring some levity to your surroundings. And levity, wonderment, joy, and exhilaration are all things that can lead to increased engagement and productivity.

What are you waiting for? You, too, can help bring whimsy back to the workplace.

Watch his very watchable work below:

Image by Fletcher Lawrence via

Grief, Gender, and Ecology at Work

We were totally excited recently to come across Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons, a performance group firmly grounded in the 2010s. Part social commentators and part Nina Simone-inspired musicians, AATJ was spotlit in the Village Voice on the eve of Swanlights, their MOMA-commissioned performance at Radio City Music Hall.

In the Voice interview, English-born and transgender Hegarty reflects on the world he inhabits, and touches us at our core. In one moment — among many — of poignance, he relates his experience as a transgender person with the ecological devastation he sees:

“I see them as parallel issues, as a tiny reflection of a greater problem,” he notes. “Even as a transgender person, I’m excruciatingly aware of my privilege as a white male, and the subjugation of women is critical to understanding the subjugation and destruction of the ecology.”

Brilliance! See him working the dual oppressor and oppressed within him?  He continues:

“America is less willing to consider a gay or transgender having a platform outside of gender identity,” he says. “But we are barely acknowledging that the weather is changing, either.”

Say it, Antony. Americans’ purported less-willingness to see the world broadly can lead to pigeonholing one another, and to misperceiving the continuing transformation of Earth’s geography. He’s grounded in his emotions when he says, “We need to start grieving, at the very least.”

And then he drops a profound mind-bender:

“People can more easily imagine the collapse of the world than they can imagine stepping away from capitalism or patriarchy.”

We’ve been thinking about this idea ever since we first read it. Do you think it’s true, that capitalism and preserving the world can’t coexist? While it pains our brain to ponder, it’s certainly worthwhile to consider.

Still, he seems hopeful when he thinks about his ethnicity and place in the world. “I am as American as it gets,” he shares.

And we remain hopeful, too. Not only about our ability to solve some of these worldly problems, but hopeful that revealing our whole selves at work, as Antony does, will help lead us there.

Image via

Oscar Pistorius Forges New Workplace Culture [video]

Describe the culture of your workplace.

Can you even?

It’s not  easy to pinpoint, since workplace culture typically comprises unconscious assumptions shared by the people involved.

Not easy, unless you’re sportswriter Michael Sokolove, who recently wrote about Oscar Pistorius, the top-ranked 400-meter runner and 2012 London Olympics hopeful.

Pistorius runs with extraordinary athletic ability, and uses prostheses called Flex-Foot Cheetas because he was born without the fibula bone in either of his legs.  Sokolove wrote in The New York Times Magazine about the ways Pistorius is forging a new culture on the track field, and more generally in competitive athletics.  Sokolove talked to a colleague about his experience following Pistorius. In the interview, he says:

In my mind, there is an image of an Olympic-level runner. He is a human thoroughbred, powerful and graceful, like Michael Johnson, the world-record holder in the 400 meters. Oscar is certainly powerful, and graceful in his own way, but I could not look at him and say: this is the highest order of the human form. You can’t. There’s something missing. So I had to adjust my mind and say: this is also a runner, possibly an Olympian, and regard him on his own terms.

Sokolove speaks for so many when he describes this mental image of an Olympic runner, which is laden with assumptions about gender, physical looks, age, as well as ability. These are some of the intangible components of the culture of competitive sports, which Pistorius continues to challenge.

How? Continue reading