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raceAhead: A Thousand Paper Cuts

October 5, 2017, 7:33 PM UTC

Good afternoon! It’s Laura, filling in for Ellen. Reset, Ellen Pao’s half-memoir, half-account of why she decided to sue the powerful venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, includes allegations of openly terrible behavior at the firm. But it’s the less conspicuous moments that stayed with me. In a meeting, a male partner passes a plate of cookies around the room—but ignores the women. On more than one occasion, Pao eats alone while her male colleagues go out for dinner together. Women’s looks are a frequent topic of conversation among the firm’s male partners and entrepreneurs.

These details paint a specific but convincing picture of exactly why the tech industry’s diversity problem is so systemic. Or, as Pao puts it, “Taken all together, these seemingly minor moments, these 1,000 paper cuts, create an unwelcome, subtly hostile culture.”

It’s not just the tech industry, of course. I was reminded of this when reading the following quote from Insecure star and co-creator Issa Rae. “It feels like a vicious Catch-22 when there aren’t diverse people behind the scenes. That [lack of diversity] alters the company or organization perspective, which means they’re not going to have people who look like the people they are trying to recruit,” she told New York Magazine.

Tech is bad, and finance perhaps even more so. But journalism also struggles with a lack of diversity. Media organizations are tasked with telling a range of, yes, diverse stories and perspectives. Yet the news rooms at many publications remain overwhelmingly male and white, if not throughout every facet of the organization, then certainly at the executive level.

Having edited Ellen’s insightful, comforting, and frequently heartbreaking column for the past few months, a standout theme is her insistence that diversity takes work. In most industries and at most companies, the playing field is far from level, a reality compounded by our tendency to seek out people who look, talk, and act like ourselves. At some level, this is human nature. But when people in an organization, particularly those in charge of making decisions around hiring, promotions, and raises, look the same way, it’s also a problem.

As the stubborn homogeneity of tech, finance, media, and many other industries spells out in no uncertain terms, combating this problem isn’t easy. Looking beyond one’s immediate network to fill open positions takes effort! And that’s just step number one. Meaningful headway requires refusing to take the path of least resistance again—and again.

But Ellen’s column is also a testament to how incredibly worth it this work is. From a moral and cultural perspective, absolutely—but also from a financial one.

On Point

Jackie Chan doesn’t do retirementNow in his 60s, Chan isn’t slowing down. Along with steady work as a voice-over actor (credits include Kung Fu Panda, and the Lego Ninjago Movie), he’s back on the live-action big screen with The Foreigner, in which viewers will get to see a “different Jackie Chan.” GQ writer Alex Pappademas captures Chan’s generosity, eccentricity, and restlessness, which has made him an enduring international star. GQ

75% of the finalists for the National Book Award are female.
Fifteen out of the 20 finalists for the prize, which is broken out into four categories (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and YA literature), are women. And in fiction, four of the five shortlisted authors are women of color. The National Book Award is a big deal -- it's the kind of recognition that high-profile careers are made of. “Women and WOC have always told stories, and have always won prizes, but now I think it is normalized in the most wonderful of ways," Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, told Elle. "When we are not shocked to see women and POC sitting at the table, but understand it as totally normal, we are on our way to a better world and a better, more rounded and realistic, body of literature." Click through for the full list of finalists.

Jeff Sessions reverses a policy that protects transgender workers.
Under Obama, employment discrimination laws were expanded to explicitly protect transgender workers. The Justice Department, under the leadership of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, just reversed that decision. “Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se,” Sessions writes. It’s not the first time the Trump administration has targeted transgender workers. In August, the president announced (via Twitter) that he would ban all transgender individuals from serving in the military. (The Department of Justice is currently seeking to quash a lawsuit that seeks to block the ban.) "This Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions has time and time again made it clear that its explicit agenda is to attack and undermine the civil rights of our most vulnerable communities, rather than standing up for them as they should be doing," James Esseks, director of the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.

It’s a big day for Kazuo Ishiguro.
The author, 62, was just awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His best known works include The Remains of the Day, which chronicles the relationship between an English lord and his butler, and Never Let Me Go, a dark, dystopian (and ultimately tragic) romance also set in England. Born in Nagasaki, Ishiguro moved to the U.K. at the age of five. In this 2015 interview, he discusses the how his background has -- and hasn’t -- shaped his work.

The Woke Leader

Conde Nast to launch an LGBTQ-focused publication.
Called “Them,” the multi-platform, independent brand will be headed by Phillip Picardi, Teen Vogue and Allure’s 26-year-old digital editorial director. “If I've learned anything from my time at Teen Vogue, it’s that young people are dominating our culture and they're going to shape it in a way that we really weren't expecting, particularly in matters of gender and sexuality,” Picardi told the Business of Fashion. “Wouldn't it be incredible if Condé Nast were the first publisher to really step up to the plate and want to be the ones who were telling those stories in an authentic and personal way?” Unlike many other digital brands, that have “pivoted” to exclusively focus on video,  Them will include editorial content, podcasts, data graphics, membership experiences, as well as, yes, videos.
Business of Fashion

A film about immigrants and New York City.
Last night, photographer Hugo Arturi debuted his short documentary, 4 New Yorkers for New York at the SVA Theater in Manhattan. In the film, Arturi speaks to four young adults who came to United States as children. Each has a unique immigration experience, but they are connected through Liz Markuci, the director of the immigration project at Volunteers of Legal services, an organization that provides pro-bono legal services to low-income residents. Thanks to persistence Markuci and VOL’s resources, all four young adults are citizens or on the path to becoming citizens. The night was bittersweet: for the four young adults featured in the film, who are in college and/or working, the future looks bright. But after the Trump administration declared it would stop accepting applications for DACA, the fate of 700,000 young Americans remains up in the air.

Gun control is an American problem.
In response to calls for gun control following the Las Vegas shooting, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had this to say: “I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn’t helped there.” But guns aren’t a Chicago problem -- they’re an American one. In an op-ed for Fortune, Jen Ludwig, a professor at the University of Chicago, and Michael Nutter, a former mayor of Philadelphia, convincingly make the case that gun control needs to operate on a federal level. For example, a report prepared by the University of Chicago Crime Lab found that 60% of the guns used to commit crimes in Chicago 2009 and 2013 came from other states with weaker gun laws. “America’s decentralized, federalist approach to gun regulation sets a very low minimum level of gun regulation that each city and state must abide by, but then lets individual jurisdictions supplement federal law by imposing stricter local regulations if they want,” Ludwig and Nutter write. “This system would make perfect sense in a world in which each city or state were an island.”


So that's why I'm looking for different script, different character, different Jackie Chan. I want the audience look at Jackie Chan as an actor. Not the action star. Actor who can fight. Look at Clint Eastwood. If he continue to 'Make my day'? Gone. So he change to directing. He change some other things. Look at Al Pacino. Robert De Niro. I wanna be an Asian Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino.
—Jackie Chan