Welcome to: THE INTERCULTURALIST: A PERIODICAL OF SIETAR USA

Like to submit an article to the SIETAR USA periodical? If so, click here to see the guidelines. 

  • 10 Apr 2021 7:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Across many cultures and traditions, spring often represents the time for celebration and renewal – and 2021 has been no different. This year, the U.S. Department of State designated April as Arab American Heritage Month (NAAHM). It celebrates the history, culture, and contributions of Arab Americans across all spheres of American culture. Throughout American history, Arab Americans have made many significant and positive impacts in medicine, law, business, education, technology, government, military service, arts and culture and literature. (Rivera, 2021)

    In the late 1800s, immigration to the United States from Arab countries started. According to the Migration Policy Institute, many Arab immigrants were fleeing war, persecution, and economic hardships. Currently, the largest populations of Arab American reside in California, New York, Michigan, and Illinois. (Alsharif, 2021) More than 3.5 million Arab Americans live in the United States and represent a diverse array of varying cultural and faith traditions. They trace their origins from 22 countries from northern Africa through western Asia: Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. (Aleksandrova, 2021) 

    For over 20 years, advocacy groups such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the Arab American Institute (AAI) have been advocating to get April designated as a month to celebrate Arab Americans. (Alsharif, 2021) In 2019, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) issued a congressional resolution for NAAHM to be recognized on a national scale. (Staff, 2021) Maya Berry, executive director of the AAI, sees the recognition as a high-level opportunity to celebrate Arab American life in a visible way. (Alsharif, 2021) Throughout 2021, in support of Arab American Heritage Month and to celebrate diversity and inclusion as core American values, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs is highlighting the diversity of Americans serving in the EUR. (U.S. Department of State, 2021)

    Written by: Emily Kawasaki



    Works Cited


  • 10 Apr 2021 7:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    April 17, 2021 – SIETAR USA WORKSHOP: “Keeping Them Engaged 2021: Live Online Learning Activities (LOLAs)” with Dr. Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan and Matt Richter. Visit SIETAR USA Events to register!

    April 21, 2021 – SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “A different kind of happy - positive psychology and coaching psychology in the Middle East” with Silvia King and Dr. Louise Lambert. Visit SIETAR Europa Events to register!

    April 21, 2021 – SIETAR Southeast Asia VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB: “Critical Leadership Skills for a Disrupted World” by Michael Jenkins. Visit SIETAR Southeast Asia Events to register!

    April 28, 2021 – SIETAR France WEBINAR: “Made in France and elsewhere: Will COVID-19 Change Culture(s)?" with Michael Gates (presented in English). Visit SIETAR France Events to register!

    May 12, 2021 - SIETAR USA WEBINAR: "Silk Road Rising: Art, Activism, and Why Representation Matters" with Jamil Khoury. Visit SIETAR USA Events to register!


    April

    April is Celebrate Diversity Month, started in 2004 to recognize and honor the diversity surrounding us all. By celebrating differences and similarities during this month, organizers hope that people will get a deeper understanding of each other.

    April is also Autism Awareness Month, established to raise awareness about the developmental disorder that affects children’s normal development of social and communication skills.

    April is National Volunteer Month, which was started in 1991 to encourage volunteerism at a young age. By volunteering, people can help save lives and create better environments for us all to live within. Thanking volunteers, such as volunteer fire and ambulance departments, is also an aspect of the celebration.

    April is National Arab American Heritage Month, celebrating the heritage and culture of Arab Americans, as well as honoring contributions from Arab Americans, such as Linda Sarsour, an activist for immigrants, women, Black victims of police violence, and indigenous Americans, and Rashida Tlaib, America's first Muslim Congresswoman.

    April 16-17 (sundown to sundown): Yom Ha’Atzmaut, national Independence Day in Israel.

    April 20-May 1: The Festival of Ridvan, a holiday celebrated by those of the Bahá’í faith, commemorating the 12 days when Bahá'u'lláh, the prophet-founder, resided in a garden called Ridvan (paradise) and publicly proclaimed his mission as God’s messenger for this age.

    April 21: Ram Navami, a Hindu day of worship and celebration of the seventh avatar of Vishnu (Lord Rama). Devotees typically wear red and place extravagant flowers on the shrine of the God.

    April 22: Earth Day promotes world peace and sustainability of the planet. Events are held globally to show support of environmental protection of the Earth.

    April 23: The Day of Silence, during which students take a daylong vow of silence to protest the actual silencing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students and their straight allies due to bias and harassment.

    April 25: Mahavir Jayanti, a holiday celebrated by the Jains commemorating the birth of Lord Mahavira. It is one of the most important religious festivals for Jains.

    April 28: Ninth Day of Ridvan, a festival of joy and unity in the Bahá’í faith to commemorate the reunification of Bahá'u'lláh’s family, and by extension the unity of the entire human family the Bahá’í faith calls for. It permeates the symbolic meaning of the Ninth Day of Ridvan.

    April 29-30 (sundown to sundown): Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday marking the day of hillula of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

    May

    In the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks on the project were Chinese immigrants.

    May is Older Americans Month, established in 1963 to honor the legacies and contributions of older Americans and to support them as they enter their next stage of life.


    May is Jewish American Heritage Month, which recognizes the diverse contributions of the Jewish people to American culture.

    May is Mental Health Awareness Month (or Mental Health Month), which aims to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses.

    May 1: Beltane, an ancient Celtic festival celebrated on May Day, signifying the beginning of summer.

    May 5: Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). This day celebrates Mexican culture and heritage, including parades and mariachi music performances.

    May 7: National Day of Prayer, a day of observance in the United States when people are asked to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

    May 17: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, a global celebration of sexual-orientation and gender diversities.

    Holidays list courtesy of:  https://www.diversitybestpractices.com/2021-diversity-holidays#april

     


  • 15 Mar 2021 4:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Welcome to March and another wonderful edition of the SIETAR USA Interculturalist. As always, lots of informative content to keep you up to date on the happenings in your SIETAR USA. Planning for the conference coming up in Omaha later this year is in full swing, driven by an amazing team of dedicated people. Calls for proposals have just gone out and we know that you all have so much to offer in terms of workshops and sessions, so get them in ASAP.

    We’ve also just celebrated International Women’s day, and March is of course Women's History Month. This is an additional chance to honor the leadership and inspirational roles women have played in so many aspects of human accomplishments. May we continue to progress towards even more visibility and recognition.

    Of course, many are excited about the continued rollout of the vaccine program to help humanity combat this terrible virus. We are all yearning to be physically closer to our family and friends, and while the impact on our global village has been devastating, it is worth pausing to celebrate the many examples of true humanity that inspire us all to be mindful of the many gifts we share. Let’s not forget also the amazing scientific accomplishment that has resulted in allowing us to so quickly see a return to normality, even if that normality might look slightly different.

    I believe as interculturalists we have a huge opportunity—if not responsibility—to model the very skills that may be helpful in navigating that new future. The deep curiosity towards the variations of the human condition bring learning, understanding, and yes at times discomfort. That discomfort may come through witnessing a change in the focus of the organizations we engage with.

    As a societal organization, SIETAR itself has an obligation to reflect its membership, as well as being a portal through which we can have dialogue. My personal view is that much of the great work that has been done in SIETAR throughout its history has had the intention of embracing all ideas and viewpoints through a non-judgmental lens, again, taking an approach of curiosity towards understanding. Certain situations and topics in the world need to be addressed, and there needs to be no line in the sand regarding those discussions. The higher visibility of social justice, as well as equity and inclusion in organizations such as ours is integral to the work we do. The groups that these issues impact the most are by their very existence rich and empowering cultures in and of themselves. They deserve the same affirmation and recognition than any other cultural identity.

    So, when these cultures are threatened in any way, it is our responsibility to take a stand against that threat. To do any less is an abject failure of care.

    Ultimately I understand that such an evolution towards identifying those boundaries, for a society that espouses validation and recognition of all sides of a subject no matter what, can leave some feeling left behind, or that it does not align any more with one’s values. If that is the case, then let’s have that discussion. I for one am willing to have it personally and know that everyone that serves you in this organization are as well. To me, this is as exciting an opportunity as any that this organization has had before in doing more to lift up the voices of those that have long been silenced by structural frameworks of inequality that exist in the world.

    As always, please reach out to me or any of our wonderful board members with your thoughts and feedback. I am looking forward to many discussions like it.

    Good-bye for now.

    Brett Parry
    President, SIETAR USA


  • 15 Mar 2021 4:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Lee Gardenswartz, Ph.D. and Anita Rowe, Ph.D.

    We’ve been doing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion work in the United States since 1980 and in that time, we've experienced a gradual and significant evolution in the field.

    1. From race and gender to a broader, more inclusive definition

    In the early days of diversity work, the definition was generally limited to race and gender and sometimes age. Our 4 Layers of Diversity model (1995), built on Loden and Rosener’s two-layer depiction, expanded the definition and discussion to many more dimensions of inclusion and exclusion. Now intersectionality is a common concept that expresses the complexity of our human differences. In addition, new dimensions keep being added such as mental ability and political affiliation as well as more accurate labels such as gender identity replacing gender.

    2. It’s not just for them, it’s for everyone and everyone has a role and responsibility

    When the conversations began years ago, discussions about inclusion did not encompass everyone and the issue was most often positioned as oppressed vs. oppressor. Now there is more of a sense that all have something to gain from inclusion and also all have responsibility to address inequities and biases. Allyship is front and center in the conversation, calling on those with privilege to use it in removing barriers to equity. There is an attempt to have all groups considered and included in both identifying obstacles and creating solutions.

    3. Moving from individual development to systemic action for culture change

    Early on, most of the effort and resources in DEI were focused on training as the “fix” for all that was wrong. Ranging from sheep-dipping and check-off-the-box sessions to deeper work on bias, isms and culture, training centered around giving individuals awareness, knowledge and skills. However, it soon became apparent that no matter how effective, training alone was not enough to change organizations. Attention turned to systems changes by focusing on policies and processes that needed to be addressed to remove barriers to equity and inclusion and truly leverage diversity. Now most organizations have detailed action plans that target changes in systems such as recruitment, reward and accountability as well as processes such as promotion and performance management.

    4. Greater accountability with emphasis on leaders walking the talk

    One of the most formidable and important changes we have seen is a focus on leadership accountability. More and more, leaders are expected to not just say the right things but also match their behaviors to those words. Lip service no longer works, and organizations know that what makes a major difference is leaders who walk the talk. They are held accountable for new norms and behaviors around equity and inclusion.

    5. Clear strategic business case for EID

    Early pitches for DEI tended to focus on appeals to morality and ethics. It was the right thing to do. However, it soon became clear that a more compelling case rested in the strategic arena. Leveraging diversity and developing inclusion were not an end in themselves but a means to an end. Achieving goals, whether that was reaching new market, closing the achievement gap, reducing health disparities or retaining satisfied customers, became the end and DEI was the means. DEI is now generally seen as increasing both individual effectiveness and the organization’s ROI.

    6. Vocabulary has evolved

    Before there was diversity there was multiculturalism, the indication that employees and customers did not all have the same background, beliefs, customs and language and that attention to those differences was needed. In the 1970’s, EEO laws focused attention on equality and Affirmative Action until the Hudson Report in the late 80’s moved the focus to diversity. It soon became clear that having differences wasn’t enough, though. Leveraging them through inclusion was required so Diversity and Inclusion became the name for this arena. Most recently, a renewed emphasis on equity has broadened the label and focus to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

    7. Greater sensitivity to language

    How we talk about differences matters and there has always been a focus on language and terminology in EID work. Though complaints about political correctness continue, the words we use about differences continue to change add to the vocabulary. Moves from Colored to Negro to Black or from Hispanic to Chicano to Mexican-American to Latino in the past have counterparts now in BPOC, LBGTQ and Latinx. Words like microaggressions, microinequities and cisgender are now common concepts and the use of preferred pronouns in introductions to indicate one’s gender identity is becoming more routine. The focus has shifted from knowing the correct label to an increased sensitivity in honoring how people want to be addressed and treated.

    8. Understanding of bias as a human condition

    Early in the days of Diversity and Inclusion, bias and prejudice were talked about as though they were blots on one’s character that had to be eradicated. People often came to diversity sessions with fear and trepidation thinking they would be shamed, blamed and chastised. Over the years, this work has moved to an understanding that bias is part of the human condition and that all of us need to be aware of it, understand it and then manage it so that it does not result in behaviors and systems that cause inequity and ineffectiveness. Neuroscience and work on unconscious bias has contributed greatly to this more helpful way to deal with prejudice.

    9. Greater emphasis on results and evaluation

    One of the weakest areas in DEI work has traditionally been measuring results – what works and what doesn’t and what is the impact of changes and interventions. Because of the increase in a strategic mindset, there is a greater emphasis on metrics. It is common for organizations to have DEI dashboards and scorecards where specific measures are monitored, and results quantified. In addition, measures have moved beyond demographics. Employee engagement as an indicator of inclusion, market share, and customer/end user feedback are examples of results that are now part of the evaluation landscape. And evaluation results are often tied to performance objectives.

    10. Increasing polarization

    As the desire for equity and inclusion has evolved, so has increasing polarization. Politics and religion have increasingly played roles in this division, often attempting to discredit DEI as a liberal and left-wing issue. This polarization has fueled a new level of emotionality that makes it more difficult to create environments of inclusion where all can belong and have a chance to thrive.

    Most of these changes have helped create a climate of greater receptivity to DEI that has enabled the work to go deeper and have greater impact. However, increasing polarization in response to the hot buttons of our time - racial injustice, immigration, LBGTQ rights and Covid, has heightened emotionality and stoked the fires of resistance. Not only does dealing with differences often give rise to powerful feelings of fear, anger and frustration, but the challenges due to Covid have brought additional emotions to the work arena. Professionals across the board talk about feeling overwhelmed, isolated and disconnected. Our Emotional Intelligence and Diversity approach has been a way to engage people in the work of inclusion through their feelings, giving them the understanding and tools to remain resilient and effective in dealing with differences and change.


  • 15 Mar 2021 4:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Announcing a Correction of Dates for the 2021 Conference. In the switch from 2020 to 2021 contract with the hotel we mistakenly noted the dates of the conference as Oct 7-10, when in actuality the dates are October 8-11, Friday to Monday. The conference will conclude midday on Monday, the 11th to allow time for people to catch return flights if they wish. Please make note of the change. Our apologies for the confusion, but hopefully it is early enough to not cause any disruption in your planning.

    The basic conference schedule will be as follows:

    • Friday, October 8: Master Workshops during the day; the Opening Ceremony followed by a Welcome Reception
    • Saturday, October 9: Opening Keynote and concurrent sessions with evening program 
    • Sunday, October 10: Concurrent sessions and Gala Dinner in the evening
    • Monday, October 11: Concurrent sessions and closing session

    More details on events taking place during the conference will be forthcoming as planning continues. Stay tuned!

    The 2021 SIETAR USA Conference CFP is now OPEN.

    You can find all the details and the Guidelines for submitting your proposal on the conference webpage at: https://www.sietarusa.org/2021CFP.

    The conference team has been working hard and the plans are really starting to take shape. But, as always, YOU make the conference. Our presenters are the soul of the conference. Take a look at all the exciting ways you can contribute and get your proposal ready to submit by the Priority deadline on April 30th.

    We look forward to seeing you in Omaha!!

    Meet the Conference Chairs

    Introducing the Conference Leadership Team. We are delighted to introduce you to the 2021 SIETAR National Conference Chairs: Dr. Helen Fagan and Thorunn Bjarnadottir.  Both women bring a wealth of experience and expertise as well as passion for SIETAR USA and are working hard with their amazing conference team to bring you a fabulous conference in October.

    Dr. Helen Abdali Soosan Fagan

    “As an Iranian-born American, I was raised with a strong sense of hospitality. I am excited to welcome you all to Nebraska, and invite you into conversation about the important intersection between DEI and Intercultural work. Additionally, I’m excited to connect with friends who have been singing the praises of SIETAR for as long as I’ve known them.”

    Dr. Fagan is a Leadership, Diversity, and Inclusion scholar and practitioner. She is the founder of Global Leadership Group, which provides consulting and leadership coaching to organizations, communities, and executives in the field of Diversity, Inclusion, Cultural Competence and becoming an Inclusive Leader. Since 2018, Fagan has been a faculty member and program lead for the Inclusive Community Leadership Fellows program at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Helen has a passion for inclusiveness and developing the potential in others and is looking forward to putting that expertise to work in designing the 2021 SIETAR USA Conference.

    Thorunn Bjarnadottir, M.A.

    “As an Icelandic-born American, I grew up in one of the smallest countries in the world and I have been attracted to ideas that help people work across cultures ever since I left my native home. SIETAR is a great place to be with people who both develop theories and those who practice this work daily. You come back from SIETAR with a renewed sense of hope for our world.”

    Ms. Bjarnadottir is an experienced cross-cultural trainer with over 20 years’ experience in cultural competency development within higher education, global leadership development, and the facilitation of the Intercultural Development Inventory, Cultural Detective, and Personal Leadership. Intercultural learning and leadership development are her passion; she never tires of teaching people to leverage cultural differences as it truly creates original and creative outcomes. She is the former Director of Intercultural Education at the University of Minnesota, International Student and Scholar Services and has prepared countless University students to work in a more interconnected global world. Thorunn looks forward to bringing all these skills and experiences to her work as Conference Co-Chair to ensure the best possible conference experience for everyone.

    Please check out the video interview with Helen and Thorunn here.

    You can also find more complete BIOs on the Conference Website under Meet the Conference Co-Chairs.


  • 15 Mar 2021 4:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Omaha is overflowing with the Art Scene!


    Between the Joselyn Art Museum, Hot Shops Art Center, Bemis/Kaneko Arts Center, Love’s Jazz and Art Center, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during your visit to Omaha. Each one with its own vibe, feel, and groove. You won’t want to miss the chance to explore and engage your senses. Next Month, we’ll invite you to learn about the animals of Omaha!


  • 15 Mar 2021 3:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thanks to COVID-19, virtual events have become the dominant player in the world of conferences, meetings and seminars. However, as we start to see the impact of vaccination initiatives increase and lockdown restrictions slowly start to be relaxed, we can anticipate that in-person events will return – albeit perhaps in a modest size and in a modified format, such as the hybrid event. It’s realistic to expect the popularity of hybrid events to grow as they provide a way to increase participation in traditional events at a relatively low cost, especially for those unable to attend in person due to travel or time zone constraints or restrictions.

    The ‘Hybrid Event’: What IS it?

    In its simplest terms, a hybrid event is a conference, tradeshow, seminar or other meeting that combines a live, in-person event with a virtual, online component, enabling both in-person and virtual attendees to participate and connect. Planned effectively, hybrid events combine the best elements of live, face-to-face events with virtual components and provide your audience with the opportunity to participate, learn, and engage even if they can’t attend in person.

    The Benefits of the Hybrid Event

    Expanded Opportunities for Attendees and Organizers. Some people may not have the time, budget or other support necessary to allow them to go to a conference event as an in-person attendee. However, with the virtual component of a hybrid event, there is no reason for potential attendees to miss out. They’re able to take advantage of presentations in real time or via recording, and they’re also able to connect with other participants and the event organizers.

    From the perspective of the event organizer, they’re no longer restricted by the capacity of the physical venue space and have the opportunity to reach an even wider audience, especially those who don’t traditionally attend in-person events. Some organizations are even developing a ‘hybrid hub’ approach that links virtual delegates with hubs of people attending the event in-person.

    Greater Audience Diversity and Inclusion. Greater inclusion of attendees is one of the best things about the hybrid event model. It allows participants who might otherwise not be able to attend to take part. Greater attendance also brings in a greater diversity of experience, education and opinion among the participants. This diversity leads to deeper and richer discussion, debate, and communication – all things that lead to a rewarding and enriching experience for the audience and organizers alike.

    Opportunities for Sustainable Connection. Hybrid events offer great benefit in terms of their environmental sustainability. The reduction in travel and hotel nights can provide a reduction in climate pollution and use of resources.

    However, sustainability isn’t just about the impact on the planet. The extended reach of the hybrid event is also good for sponsors, exhibitors and advertisers, and can also prove to be sustainable when it comes to generating income and profitability for the organizing group.

    Drawbacks of the Hybrid Event

    While the hybrid event offers numerous benefits, there are many reasons why organizers may struggle with their hybrid event strategy. The following are some of the more common challenges and issues that must be addressed in building a hybrid event.

    Hybrid Event are More Complex. No matter how well-integrated your efforts, delivering a hybrid event essentially means you’re producing two events at the same time. The in-person and virtual aspects of the attendee experience must be taken into consideration, and a balance achieved between the two. Are your in-person attendees concerned about the experience of the virtual attendees? Probably not. Will access and connectivity be of critical importance to your virtual attendees? Absolutely. Long gone are the days of streaming to a virtual audience by placing a camera in the back of a plenary or workshop session. Today’s attendees are more sophisticated, and the virtual component has to be a production in its own right, distinct from the in-person experience.

    Hybrid Events are More Costly. With the added complexity of a hybrid event comes added cost. Apart from the financial resources required for a physical event, the organizer also must factor in extra expenses to select a suitable online platform, adopt live-streaming equipment, and facilitate effective engagement for both offline-and-online participants. In addition to the technology required, the manpower required is also increased when you factor in dedicated staff to manage and monitor both the offline and online environments.

    Event organizers must also think strategically about pricing decisions. What will you charge for an in-person attendee? How much should you charge for a virtual attendee? What will the COVID-19-affected budgets of your audience be able to manage? Pricing also needs to be adjusted for sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities, which will impact your event budget.

    Audience Satisfaction is a Challenge. Any conference event needs to leave participants feeling their money and time have been well-spent, and this is where hybrid events need to not only deliver but exceed expectations. Perception is tricky; the last thing you want is for one audience to believe that they are being adversely impacted by you providing your other attendees with a better experience. Even if your virtual participants are watching from their office half-way around the world, they want to feel like they’re right there in the thick of things and feel connected to the event.

    Conclusion

    Whether or not hybrid events are the future and the ‘new normal’ for any organization is up to that organization, their objectives – and their budgets! Beware of any ‘unconscious bias’s that may exist within your organization and be willing to recognize that while hybrid events can offer an exciting new alternative to the traditional conference event, they are also complex to plan and come with their own set of risks. Take a proactive approach to establish how and when the hybrid event can most effectively be used for your organization and your attendees. While they can be hard to prepare for and navigate, they also offer endless possibilities.

    Written by Karen Fouts

    Have you had experience attending or planning a hybrid conference? What worked? What would you prefer to see done differently? Please share your experiences with SIETAR USA! You can email your comments to admin@sietarusa.org, or submit them to The Interculturalist at ‘Our Readers Write Us’ at editor@sietarusa.org.


  • 15 Mar 2021 3:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Craig Storti The View from Breast Pocket Mountain by Karen Hill Anton
    Reviewed by Craig Storti

    Readers have good cause to be wary of memoirs. They usually only work if the writer is very well-known, which means the details of his or her life are automatically interesting precisely because they apply to that individual. But if the memoirist is not well known, then there is no built-in interest of any kind; the details themselves have to be interesting. But not to worry: Karen Anton’s details pass the test—and then some.

    I should say at the outset that it is not a typical cross-cultural memoir or even an especially cross-cultural book at all, for that matter. By that I mean that Karen Anton does not write about The Cross-Cultural Experience; she writes about her experience, which just happens to have taken place in a lot of other cultures, most notably Japan. It’s a very personal story, in short, and contains very few of what we might call overt cross-cultural insights, which for this reader made it even more interesting. When people set out to write deliberately about crossing cultures, they sometimes get so wrapped up in making their points, they forget to be interesting (I should know!).

    Karen doesn’t try all that hard because she doesn’t have to; her life just is interesting. The impact of culture is there in this book, of course, and you will certainly take some cross-cultural lessons away with you from the book, but you probably won’t realize you were ever in a classroom. Once in a great while she pauses to make a cross-cultural statement, but it’s just not in her to pontificate. God knows she could: a black woman married to a white man of Jewish background, driving from Amsterdam to Afghanistan in a Volkswagen Beetle, ending up living in rural Japan, whose father and then whose brother…well I don’t want to spoil it for you.

    To my mind one of the most interesting cross-cultural moments in the book comes in a briefly sketched scene that occurs when she returns to New York City from her first time living abroad (in Scandinavia).

    My good friend Keith Johnson picked me up at the airport. He took me to a loft he and some friends were sharing downtown on Pitt Street.

    “What happened here?” I said to Keith, noticing a garbage-filled empty lot between two apartment buildings?

    “What do you mean?”

    “It’s so dirty.”

    “Karen, “ he said. “It’s always been like that.”

    I actually had not noticed before. Coming back from Copenhagen, where I felt I could have eaten off the streets, I realized I was seeing New York City for the first time.

    This scene is unusual in that it is one of the very few places where Karen underlines and draws attention to the “cross-culturalness” of the moment. “It was my first experience,” she writes, “seeing my country…from a new perspective.”

    It’s one of the strengths of this book that that’s about as didactic as Karen gets. But she doesn't have to be didactic; her life is the lesson. It doesn't matter what experience she is telling you about—living on a farm in rural Denmark, talking with three Afghan women outside Herat, trying to find a sympathetic doctor when she’s ready to give birth to her second child—her encounters with others are so inherently cross-cultural, she doesn't have to spell anything out for you. She could, of course—“Now what that experience taught me was…”—but that would have been a much less compelling book. She trusts her readers enough to let them draw their own conclusions from the anecdotes she describes. Here’s the life, she seems to be saying; you do the work.

    At the time she wrote The View, she had lived in Japan almost five decades and raised four children, and the second half of the book is a fascinating account of what it’s like for a foreigner who is also a black woman and an American to make her life in Japan. She is amazingly non-judgmental—some of the more extreme cultural differences she has to confront would defeat most of us—always trying to understand, but she is not afraid to stand her ground, culturally speaking, when she must.

    On a personal note, I’d like to point out that Karen makes a comment in her author interview (see below) that struck me almost as much as anything she writes in the book. It is the one-line observation she makes in answer to question #5: “Crossing cultures is a two-way street.” My instinctive reaction was: No, it’s not; it's up to the foreigner to do the crossing, to adjust. And then I thought: Hmm. Is that altogether true? If you are in your own culture interacting with foreigner, is it too much to ask that you should be sensitive to the fact that the foreigner is out of his/her comfort zone, unsure, struggling, and that you might want to extend a helping hand? I have no idea if this is what Karen means by that statement, but it made me think.

    1. Why did you write this book?

    I had a dedicated readership of my Japan Times column “Crossing Cultures”. But I always knew my readers were only getting part of my story—the story of an American woman married to an American, raising four children in rural Japan. I had more stories to tell and experiences to share.

    To say my life has been unique is not to say much since every life is unique. However, I am fully aware my life has not only been different, but unusual. For instance, I imagined there were those who’d be interested in the details of how I travelled to Japan. I know there are not many women who can say they drove from Amsterdam to Afghanistan in a VW Bug with a 5-year-old child.

    2. What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this book?

    If we could see the future, we could prepare ourselves for tragedy, steel ourselves against heartbreak. But that prescience would also ensure that we be cynics.

    We all may face adversity, be it loss, hurt, or rejection. We can overcome these by choosing to highlight those instances in our lives of caring and friendship, encouragement, support, and love. It is what makes us resilient.

    3. Name one or two books in our field that influenced you the most, that you think all interculturalists should be familiar with? Why?

    Education for the Intercultural Experience (R. Michael Paige, Editor, Intercultural Press). I had the pleasure to be in Michael’s seminar at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication in Portland, Oregon. The book is a compilation of essays by established interculturalists, and I remember telling Michael that I’d actually checked the copyright date (1993) because I was sure I had been plagiarized! Michael laughed and responded: “It just means you are entirely original.” The book may now be dated, but I recall its many insights closely aligned with mine.

    Deep Culture (Joseph Shaules, Multilingual Matters) stands out among his many excellent books. Shaules is an astute observer, and participant, of the intercultural experience, and his well-written books are a valued contribution to the field.

    4. What is one of the most significant, most memorable cross-cultural experiences you have had?

    In 1982, I planned to attend my daughter Mie’s kindergarten recital. I knew all of her classmates’ grandparents would be there. Not having grandparents in Japan ourselves, I decided to invite my neighbors, Ōi-san, Ōtani-san, and Arai-san. Farmers, and ladies born in the Taisho Era, they accepted my invitation, donned kimono, and accompanied me to the recital. I felt I had their support.

    5. If you could pass on only one insight/one lesson learned to others about crossing cultures, what would you say?

    Crossing cultures is a two-way street.

    6. This newsletter goes to nearly 1,000 readers, folks who are either in or interested in the field of intercultural communications. If you’d like to say something else to these folks, something we have not asked about in this questionnaire, feel free to add your brief comments here.

    Even with its challenges, many of us may count ourselves fortunate that we have had the intercultural experience. We’ve come to know the many benefits of living outside the cultures we were born into. And we may learn that although we appreciate and respect how different cultures are, there is a deep joy in finding how much we share and are alike in the things that matter. We are all, truly, connected. Transcending the bonds of identity, by strengthening those bonds of our shared humanity, gives us the world.


  • 15 Mar 2021 3:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Executive Diversity Services

    These tips are helpful as a general guide. Individual differences are considerable so it is most useful when in doubt to ask the person what would be most helpful to them.

    • Learn about your own culture and values, focusing on how they cause you to behave and communicate, both verbally and non-verbally. Accept that different cultures and values are valid and can be understood or learned.
    • Acknowledge that we have each learned about other cultures and may not be objectively “factual” and may lead to stereotypes, misconceptions, or conflicts.
    • Be responsible for your own learning. Read, listen, and observe without expecting someone else to teach you. At the same time, when you are part of a work team, be willing to share your experience to move the entire team forward toward a goal.


  • 15 Mar 2021 3:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Elmer Dixon with Deanna Shoss for Executive Diversity Services

    On International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021, President Biden announced the creation of the White House Gender Policy Council, to focus on uplifting the rights of women and girls in the United States and around the world. The council will coordinate federal efforts to combat gender-based discrimination, systemic biases, and structural barriers, among other issues. It comes nearly 100 years after woman began to fight for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1923. And that was 75 years after the first Women’s Rights Convention in the US in 1848.

    Women’s issues continue to be at the forefront in the news. However, the ERA continues to languish. It finally passed the House of Representatives and the Senate in 1971 and ‘72 respectively. It then went out for ratification by the states. It needed three quarters (38) states approval to be added as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 35 states ratified it within the original seven-year deadline. Then, after four decades of inactivity, Nevada unexpectedly voted to ratify in 2017, followed by Illinois in 2018. Virginia became the 38th State to pass it in January 2020, finally achieving the necessary three-quarter state approval. But it’s future is still not secured. The statute of limitations is long gone—the extension expired in 1982. Following Virginia’s passage, three state attorneys general sued to waive the previously set expiration date and enact the amendment. A federal judge ruled against the states, saying in early March of this year that it was “just too late.” And in the meantime, five states have rescinded their approval.

    Over the years, however, many other laws have passed that aim to protect women’s (and other protected classes) rights under the law and in the workplace. Six to be specific:

    The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 1974; The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (yes, that’s been a law since 1963); The Fair Housing Act, 1968; The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which amended Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

    SO, IT’S ALL FIXED, RIGHT? (IS THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT STILL NEEDED?)

    In terms of protection, until there is a national ERA, states still can interpret laws differently, which can lead to different outcomes for women depending on where they live.

    As relates to women in the work force, according to Catalyst, a global nonprofit that helps organizations accelerate progress for women at work, in 2018, women made up 44.7 % of all employees at S&P500 companies. But they only accounted for 21.2% of board seats, 11% of highest earners and 5% of CEO’s. 29% of senior management roles were held by women in 2019, the highest number ever on record.

    Many know the term “glass ceiling”, referring to an invisible barrier against promoting women to high positions in corporations. A newer term is the glass cliff. It’s the phenomenon of women in leadership roles being likelier than men to achieve those roles during periods of crisis or downturn, when the chance of failure is highest. Clearly there is more to understand and more work to do.

    In the meantime, there’s plenty that individuals and companies can do to keep the momentum moving forward.

    THREE IDEAS FOR PROMOTING EQUITY FOR WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE
    GO BEYOND THE LAW

    Samantha Bee, host of the late-night show Full Frontal on TBS announced in January of 2020, 20 Weeks of Paid Leave for ‘Full Frontal’ Staff. And she challenged other late-night hosts to do the same. “Full Frontal is now offering our employees the best-paid family leave policy in all of late night,” Samantha said in a video posted to Twitter and Instagram. “This kind of policy isn’t mandated by the government, but it should be! Having a baby without going broke should be possible for all workers.”

    Flexible schedules that value work completed, as opposed to specific hours at a desk, can also boost employee morale and expand your talent pool. And it’s not just for parents. In a global market, employees might use flexible schedules to drop off or pick-up children. Or they may use it to schedule a 9 p.m. call with the team in China, where it’s morning.

    What policies can you adopt that recognize the value that your employees bring to your company while acknowledging and respecting their desire for work-life balance?

    EXPAND REWARD BANDS

    According to a 2005 study of the US workplace, perceptions of women’s leadership are influenced by common stereotypes held by both men AND women. This is despite analytical reviews of over 40 studies on gender differences which indicate there are more similarities than difference in women and men leaders in an organizational setting. According to the Catalyst study “Women ‘Take Care,’ Men ‘Take Charge:’ Stereotyping of U.S. Business Leaders Exposed,” women are associated with feminine, less-essential, skills such as supporting, rewarding, team building, and consulting, whereas men are associated with more masculine skills such as problem solving, influencing upward, and delegating.

    Many company’s reward bands, how they reward employees with raises, bonuses or other recognition favor the “male-associated” skills. Studies, however, show that EQ, Emotional Intelligence which sounds a lot like the “less-essential” skills above, is exactly what is needed to for the most effective leaders (Korn Ferry, 2016). Rather than providing rewards only for output and task achievements, companies can be more inclusive by measuring things like how managers include mentoring and professional development in their management plans.

    BE TRANSPARENT: KNOW YOUR COMPANY

    Equal pay has been the law since 1963. And yet in 2019 woman made 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. Events like Equal Pay Day, started in 1996 (and coming up again on March 31) as well as state laws that add to the federal mandate, are making a difference. Note that Glassdoor cites that after applying statistical controls for worker and job characteristics to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison, the difference drops to 95 cents, or women earning 5% less for comparable jobs in the US (Glassdoor, 2019).

    How is your company doing? Salary audits can reveal any unintended inequality in pay. It’s also important to do an audit of job titles. Different job titles, if they entail similar responsibilities, cannot be compensated at different levels.

    WHEN EMPLOYEES FEEL VALUED, THEY CAN PERFORM AT THEIR FULLEST POTENTIAL AND HIGHEST PRODUCTIVITY.

    The US workplace was designed by men, for men, in a different era. Today women account for more than 50% of the US population, and nearly that for the workforce. This is not about how to fit women into the mold as it exists. It’s about creating a new work model that engages and promotes men and women, on an equal playing field. For true change to happen it must start at the top, with the leadership team, and with a new vision and design of what a truly inclusive workplace can look like.


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