Commentary

About that question…

Apr 20, 2017

Yesterday we ran a reader survey which included a question that failed to consider non-binary or non-conforming gender identities. I’m still slapping my forehead.

I was alerted to the oversight by a slew of reader mail, all of which was kind, clear and direct.

Rebecca Schatschneider from Temple University was the first to hit my inbox. “Ouch! You usually do such a fantastic job using language that's inclusive of non-binary gender identities,” she began. “So imagine my chagrin when your first survey question served up a big old M v. F either/or! I hope it was just an administrative oversight, as I'm sure you have other readers for whom this is a false choice as well.”

Ouch indeed! Rebecca was absolutely right, and it was my mistake. The first part of the survey used "standard" questions that are applied to all of Fortune’s newsletter surveys; in my haste to focus on the raceAhead-specific questions, I missed it, and the opportunity to revisit the gender framing. I apologize to our readers and my colleagues.

Thanks to all the feedback – an astonishing number of you wrote to alert me to the problematic item– the survey team, equally chagrined, immediately changed the question so future inquiries will be more inclusive and better reflect our true values.

“Don't beat yourself up too much, Ellen. We're all on a journey here, right?” reader Kurt Greenbaum said by email. “And the truth is, I probably wouldn't have noticed it myself not that long ago, were it not for the work of people like you and the grace of many others who have led me into a deeper understanding of these issues.”

The grace of many others, indeed. Thank you to all who helped us do better- - the response to the survey across the board was incredibly helpful. And again, I offer my heartfelt apology. We see you.

On Point

Eight ways to measure the strength of your diversity programs without focusing on hiring

This is the first of what I hope will be many contributor columns from Bärí A. Williams, currently head of business operations for StubHub North America. In a past life, as counsel for infrastructure and global operations, the Facebook alum played a key role in establishing the company’s extraordinary vendor diversity program. (More about that in a separate column.) Williams is a seasoned advocate for diversity in tech and beyond; these tips are nuanced and applicable to any sector. She cites several logjams ripe for better monitoring: Are underrepresented employees getting stretch assignments? Do they have real access to upper management? Are incentives for older employees as strong as the ones for new hires? “The answers to these questions can tell you if your organization offers everyone, regardless of race and gender, a chance to thrive,” she says. Or as she told raceAhead – “There are better ways to figure out how a company is doing. This is where the real juice is."

Fortune

Meet some of the H-1B visa holders worried about their futures

After President Trump declared his intention to change the rules around both immigration and H-1B visas, the mechanism that allows highly skilled workers from other countries to work in the U.S., ripples of alarm spread through the tech community. “What I have loved about the U.S. is that it didn’t matter where you came from,” Kaushik Gopal, a Bay Area technologist and podcaster told the New York Times. “Your past, your color or religion didn’t matter. If you did good work, there was a place for you here.” Now, nobody is certain what the future will bring. For many, losing their visas would mean returning to a place they don’t really know. “I have spent my adult life in the United States and it definitely feels like more of a home to me," said one engineer.

New York Times

Where are the gifted black and Latinx students in public school?

It’s not a numbers thing: Public schools educate kids of color in large numbers, yet they are consistently overlooked for gifted programs. Research indicates that bias leads to widespread underestimation of the abilities of black and brown kids, but one school district in Florida is bucking that trend. In 2005, Broward County instituted a universal screening test for all second graders, previous tests were conducted only by teacher or parent referral. “The share of Hispanic children identified as gifted tripled, to 6% from 2%. The share of black children rose to 3% from 1%,” a leveling of the playing field that researchers call “striking.”

New York Times

The Southern Poverty Law Center files suit in support of a victim of a neo-Nazi “troll storm”

Whitefish, Montana remains an unwilling epicenter of bigotry and drama. Now this: a lawsuit was filed this week in federal court on behalf of Tanya Gersh, a Jewish mother and business owner who was the target of a series of online attacks coordinated by neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin. The problems began after Sherry Spencer, mother of white supremacist Richard Spencer, accused Gersh of pressuring her to sell a building in downtown Whitefish and publicly denounce her son. The “storm” included threats against Gersh and the small Jewish community of Whitefish; Gersh personally received more than 700 threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets and voice mails.

Yahoo News

Nebraska state liquor board votes to revoke sales license to beer stores near Pine Ridge

I’ve visited Whiteclay, Nebraska, a small strip of land that runs barely a few blocks, yet seems to exist only to sell millions of cans of beer into the neighboring dry Pine Ridge Reservation. Activists have been demanding the end to the beer sales for two decades, citing rampant alcoholism, alcohol-fueled crimes, an epidemic of fetal alcohol syndrome, and a dangerous bootlegging marketplace. “A dark cloud has been lifted over the State of Nebraska,” John Maisch, an Oklahoma attorney told the Omaha World-Herald. His 2014 documentary film about Whiteclay, Sober Indian, Dangerous Indian, helped reignite the effort to halt beer sales. But if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, and stepped over the bodies of men lying in the streets, passed out and forgotten, I would never have believed how serious the problem is. Shut it down for good, I say.

Omaha World Herald

Film festival explores the Latinx identity in the American South

In 2007, a tiny indie film festival was born in Columbia, South Carolina, with the aim of exploring the many facets of the southern identity. Now, Indie Grits has grown from a homespun shindig to a sprawling four-day event. The theme of this year’s festival, which starts today, is Visiones, and invites visual artists to explore ideas about Latinx identity in the country's lower right quadrant. “We were aware of how fast the Latinx population is growing in South Carolina. But at the same time, being in the downtown area, where are they?” co-curators Amada Torruella and Pedro Lopez De Victoria told writer Paula Meja. “It’s really important for us to show that this is a safe space for conversation… because it’s all these films that expose the audience to new ideas.” Click through for a list, with trailers, of six of the films being screened. Some feel more like documentary fare, but others, like Selva, meld mystical themes into stories of seeking and displacement.

Remezcla

The Woke Leader

Making messy coalitions: When the people you love believe something you hate

Journalist Ana Marie Cox’s new podcast is all about surviving the difficult conversations we need to have to make the world better. In this installment, she sits down with author and journalist Jeff Chu, who has made difficult conversations his life’s work. He’s the author of “Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage In Search of God in America,” an extraordinary book that explored faith and exclusion through the stories of people who have been told that who they are is a mortal sin. Chu comes from a long line of pastors, deacons, and faithfuls; as the only gay member in his family, he’s struggled to reconcile, among other things, his mother’s love for him with her deep fear that he’s going to hell. Now in the seminary, he’s coming to understand that surviving those cognitive dissonances is the only way to stay connected to others in a divided world. A rich, funny and poignant conversation that gets, as Cox warns, “pretty Jesusy!” But it's really about love.

With Friends Like These Podcast

The stress of being poor overwhelms the brain; a start-up uses brain science to break the cycle of panic and poverty

A growing body of research suggests that poverty is so stressful, it actually changes your brain. Flooded with fear and stress signals, the prefrontal cortex quickly becomes overwhelmed, impeding a person’s ability to think and make effective decisions. While this response happens to everyone, poverty is a constant stressful state that leads to bad decision-making and chronic despair. A Boston-based non-profit, Economic Mobility Pathways, or EMPath, has changed its model to use the same brain science to interrupt that cycle. “What we’re trying to do is create virtuous cycles where people take a step and they find out they can accomplish something that they might not have thought they could accomplish, and they feel better about themselves,” said EMPath’s CEO Elisabeth Babcock. The results sound startling. “We have people in our programs that have made it all the way out of poverty to a family-sustaining wage,” she said.

The Atlantic

From the archives: The racial horror stories of Texaco, 1998

How’s this for a headline? “A former employee of the oil giant describes a corporate culture that treated minority workers to pay discrimination, periodic harassment, and outright ridicule.” Fortune unpacked the race discrimination suit filed against Texaco, which included leaked audio of executives conspiring to destroy evidence related to the action. (Two executives were later found not guilty on obstruction-related charges.) One of the plaintiffs in the case, Bari-Ellen Roberts, was called “uppity” and had her performance review tampered with. When she earned a coveted office with two windows, one staffer said, "Well, Jesus Christ, I never thought I'd live to see the day when a black woman had an office at Texaco." The man in charge of human resources referred to HBCUs as the militant rantings of Black Panthers. Even Black Sambo made an appearance. In 1996, Texaco agreed to pay the plaintiffs $176 million, which was one for the record books. A horror story, yes, but a good reminder that the conversations we’re having about diversity now are being built on a foundation of bigotry that is more recent than we may care to remember.

Fortune

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