An Executive Director's point of view


March 03, 2015: The only one in the room

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Many associations strive for diversity of race, gender, age, religion, or sexual orientation on their Boards of Directors. But despite their best efforts, they don't always succeed.

Here are some reasons:

1. People don't always want to be the only one of their group in the room. Having one person of color, or one woman, or one young person, or one non-Christian, or one gay man or lesbian, does not create diversity. It creates tokenism and fails to provide the "diverse" member of the group with the same supporting community the majority enjoys. And that "diverse" member may often be outvoted.

2. People don't always feel comfortable in a group when they know their only reason for being there is their demographic difference from the others.

3. People don't want to be pigeon-holed and expected to explain what "those" people believe. They want to be treated like everybody else.

4. One person does not represent an entire population segment. One person cannot, and may not want to, speak for everybody of their race, gender, age, religion, or sexual preference. And their views are not always reflective of those groups.

Diversity should be something that happens naturally, not something that is forced. If everybody on an organization Board hails from the same cultural group, there may be a problem with the selection process. The association should fix that, not just shove different kinds of people into leadership and then claim to have achieved diversity.

Board diversity is not just about displaying a "diverse" demographic head count. It's about creating a decision-making process that routinely includes people with different backgrounds and different perspectives, allowing the association to make better, and more effective, decisions.

February 10, 2015: When women speak

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's what often happens.

Thanks to Joan Eisenstodt for pointing to this.

November 13, 2014: Men who don't think

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's an account of an episode in which a man donned apparel that was inappropriate for a professional gathering (or any gathering, really).
Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
The association profession tells us that racial discrimination is bad for business. And that it is illegal.

But I don't recall ever being told that it was wrong.

What if racial discrimination was not bad for business and was not illegal? Would it then be an acceptable practice?

Before engaging in any activity, first ask yourself if you are doing the right thing.

If discriminating against people on the basis of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, or sexual preference is not the right thing to do, then you should not do it.

No matter what.
Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
"Although most nonprofit employees and volunteers are women, most nonprofit leaders are men," reports Forum, in its summary of a study conducted by the University of Denver's Colorado Women's College.

Unfortunately, one of the recommendations offered for closing that gap is for women-focused non-profits to teach girls and women negotiating skills.

But blaming women for being discriminated against is wrong. Instead, men (who make most of the decisions about promotions and leadership), should be taught how to practice gender equality.

April 16, 2014: Culture clash

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Associations with multi-cultural audiences often claim they cannot accommodate the holidays and customs of all the groups they represent. So, they don't try to accommodate any of them.

That's wrong.

Dealing with many different cultures, whether internationally or within the United States, does not absolve the organization of the responsibility to respect what each considers important.

So, identify those days that can and should be respected. Learn when it is best not to schedule events, when to refrain from serving food, when members and prospects should not be phoned, and any other procedures that can be adapted to minimize conflict and display cultural sensitivity.

Be practical when making these decisions. Some groups may be more concerned about conflict, so it may be necessary to bend more for them. Others may understand why conflict may be unavoidable and won't be offended by the association's actions.

But don't ever appear uninformed or insensitive. And if you make a mistake, apologize for it.

NOTE: When determining whether or not a conflict is likely to exist, consult an official organization that represents the culture in question. Don't merely ask a member of that religion or nationality. That person may not be representative of the group that concerns you.

December 03, 2013: She's no lady

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
When will apparel companies stop identifying sizes as men and ladies and start calling them men and women?

June 06, 2013: Don't call them "ladies"

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Don't do these things. They establish women as subservient to men:

1. Don't snap pictures of association leaders with men standing and women sitting.

2. Don't describe women, when introducing them, by their physical attributes. Use the same descriptive words as you would for men.

3. Don't kiss women on stage when greeting them or presenting them with awards.

4. Don't institute a "ladies first" policy at buffet tables.

And don't refer to people as "ladies." When necessary to identify people by gender, the appropriate terms are "men" and "women."

May 24, 2013: Women more ethical

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's a report about a study that found women to be more ethical than men in the workplace.

January 07, 2013: Gender travel differences

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt
A recent article discussed some gender differences that have been observed by airlines and hotels. But it didn't always explain those differences adequately.

On airplanes, it was noted that men often spread out from their seats, commandeering armrests, and letting their legs cross the invisible line between seats. Women, on the other hand, often shrunk into their seats.

Well, the reason is obvious. Men are bigger and take up more space. And women, who are usually smaller, are loathe to fight with them about it.

A female television announcer, who interviewed the author of the study, remarked that she looks for hotels with good hair dryers in the rooms. Well, that's not a function of female vanity nor the societal custom of women appearing more well-groomed than men.

It's because women usually have a lot of hair that needs to be dried. Men frequently have very little.

Some differences are just practical.
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