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Voices of our Nation

Our Co-op Experience

Our Co-op Experience

Ishita Malhan, B.B.A & M.B.A, Social Media Analyst
Patrick MacIntyre, B.A & B.Ed, Social Media Analyst

My colleague and I were employed as Volunteer Social Media Analysts for a not-for-profit organization known as Journey to Diversity Workplaces (J2DW) from October 2017 to mid-December of the same year. We are so thankful to have had this co-op opportunity available to us through our Research Analyst program at Georgian College. J2DW first caught our attention because it provided us with the ability to work from home and communicate with one another using different types of multimedia tools. We were motivated to work with an organization that we found so inspiring and shared similar perspectives on business ethics as we do.

The time we spent working for J2DW has granted us the opportunity to build and enhance our skill set that we will utilize throughout our career. There was no designated team lead within our social media analyst team, therefore, we approached each assignment with a very democratic perspective. Communication was a crucial factor to our success, as each member would offer his or her thoughts and opinions on the best approach to each task. Through this method, we were able to understand the importance of clarity on tasks at hand, allowing everyone to focus towards the same goal. Each member of the team had specialties and was able to provide a unique perspective on how to best approach each task. We held one another and ourselves accountable for assigned sections that enabled us to further develop our teamwork and communication skills.

After completing our co-op, we can honestly say that we have learned and developed new skill sets. Some of our assignments required collective work and at times it was challenging because we were not in the same city. Setting a plan, sticking to it and holding one another accountable while working remotely was not an easy task. My colleague and I had the privilege of working together prior to this experience, which was a great asset to the team. We had the opportunity to complete diverse tasks, learn new programs, problem solve and overcome challenges.

Below are examples of the tasks we assisted with during our co-op with the J2DW organization:

• Conduct User Analysis
• Social Media Platform Comparison and Trend Analysis
• Key Word Analysis
• Crowdfunding Analysis
• Post on various Social Media Platforms
• Conduct Research on various topics for the organization
• Google AdWords’ Marketing Campaigns
• MailChimp Marketing Campaigns
• Google Forms Survey Development, Distribution, and Analysis
• Drafting Policy Guidelines
• Blog Post

J2DW is an organization bent on setting the standard for diversity in the workplace and has been spreading its message and gathering new followers every day. By focusing on issues that influence the Canadian workforce, it is relatable knowledge that both employers and employees should be aware of. Subjects such as labour, education, and equality are things that are becoming more readily spoken about in public and J2DW is a resource bent on ensuring that employees know their rights. J2DW wants to set a workplace standard for equal treatment that will spread to other businesses, illustrating that equality is attainable.

This post was written by volunteer co-op students Ishita Malhan and Patrick MacIntyre. It was edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

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Voices of our Nation

Communication and Other Workplace Barriers

Communication in the workplace is affected by a number of factors, some of which are recognizable to the worker while other are more complex and require a closer look. For example, there is a co-worker that you feel is unapproachable and as a result, you might prefer to procrastinate and not ask them questions or notify them of certain information. It could be any numerous of reasons that you feel this way, they looked at you funny, said a rude remark or cut you off in a meeting. However, without cutting to the chase of the problem and approaching them, you unconsciously created that barrier that made it difficult for you to approach them.

Over time, if there is no effective communication, it does weaken the bonds between the employers, employees and the organization as a whole. For example, a newly recruited employee is unsure if their work is up to par and if they completed it correctly, but they are intimidated by their senior. They may choose to go to a co-worker or other senior who may or may not be able to guide them as effectively and could consequently cause the work to suffer along with the credibility of the employee.

We underestimate the power of communication at a workplace such as sending quick emails, texts, phone calls, memos and of course the coffee breaks. Misunderstanding and miscommunications are common, hence it is important to overcome these barriers to build a healthy working environment.

Some common communication barriers are:

1) Distractions – getting distracted during a presentation or meeting and wanting to save face and not admit to these distractions, you don’t ask a colleague on what was said while your mind wandered (we do have an attention span of only 20 mins). Therefore you choose to input whatever you thought they said, which can lead to confusion and mistakes.

2) Shyness and Discomfort – these are real things that do hinder a conversation at a workplace. You have a great idea that you want to contribute but every time you are about to speak, the thought of having ‘all eyes on you’ and actually articulating this idea is too much and uncomfortable. Being too shy and uncomfortable in a workplace doesn’t allow for the worker to show what they are capable of doing and hinders the production of work overall.

3) Trivial Doubts – you might be thinking to yourself ‘why must I ask my senior such a trivial doubt such as rounding off one digit in a transaction’ and end up costing the firm thousands of dollars. Prevention is better than cure. It is a good idea to ask co-workers or management even a trivial doubt question (it may be a big deal and you’ll be grateful you asked) to prevent any further issues.

4) Body Language – I cannot stress enough how non-verbal body language speaks louder than words. Mixed signals (are they listening or not, should I repeat myself, how much have they understood) all cause confusion and work may suffer because of it. It is important to make sure (as my teacher used to tell us in class) that you are there both in body and mind. If you miss something because you got distracted for a few minutes, make sure you catch up either with a colleague or just ask them directly. They might appreciate the honesty (no one can pay attention 24/7 and the mind is bound to wander).

Some other barriers that one may face are:

5) Cultural Barriers – how people think, react and see the world can vary widely because of culture. This might give rise to stereotypes and other preconceived notions and sometimes make the person feel uncomfortable. For example, telling a person of Asian origin to handle the finances just because they are known to be good at math, is a gross violation of an employee’s personal merit.

6) Multitasking – with access to technology at work, employees feel that it’s necessary to check e-mail, answer customer calls and send text messages at the same time. Multitasking is a barrier to productivity because it can prohibit an employee from remembering important information and not being able to perform their job satisfactorily.

7) Stress – the amount of stress an employee feels when faced with many uncompleted duties prevents one from actually completing said tasks or opening up to a superior about it for fear of repercussions. Please speak up if you think your plate is too full. It is not healthy with regard to mental fatigue and physical health.

8) Physical Barriers – the closed doors and cubicles can be a subtle hindrance to communication. People in open rooms tend to talk more and walk about more freely.

These are just some of many different barriers that arise every day at one’s workplace. At the end of the day, open and effective communication between employers and employees goes a long way in solving issues and prevents new ones from cropping up.

This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

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Voices of our Nation

Causes and Solutions to Workplace Stress

“You are allowed to be human”

According to a number of surveys, a common type of stress that we see in everyday society is workplace stress. The files piling up on your desk, the phantom phone rings and the constant humming of the computers is a few of many parts and parcels of the workplace. These coupled with nepotism, ready to climb up the corporate ladder but being held back because of competition, lack of incentive and longer work hours all seem to be common causes of workplace stress.

We all have been at that job where we had a boss we were terrified of making a mistake in front of or wanted 25 hours of work in a 24-hour day (sleep was for the weak). The one who wanted you to put in all your waking hours on the job and still withheld that promotion because they “did not feel you were up to the task.” Those bosses are now responsible for half of the psychologists’ clients all around the globe.

Some of the common workplace stressors are increased responsibility, higher production demands, fewer benefits, pay cuts, layoffs, etc. Even bosses and senior management face workplace stress because they need to keep productivity levels high in order to keep the company running successfully and meet certain demands. They face hard tasks such as laying off employees that may have been with the organization for years, making cuts (budget and salary) and doing what is best for the company even at the cost of being called a tyrant. Some common workplace causes are:

• Overload of tasks – Heavy workload, infrequent breaks, long work hours and shift work. Hectic and routine tasks with little inherent meaning, lack of skills required, and little sense of control

• Management style – Lack of participation by workers in decision-making, poor communication within the organization and lack of family-friendly policies.

• Interpersonal relationships – Poor social environment and lack of support or help from coworkers and supervisors

• Work roles – Conflicting or uncertain job expectations, too much responsibility and too many “hats to wear”

• Career concerns – Job insecurity and lack of opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion and rapid changes for which workers are unprepared

• Environmental concerns – Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions such as crowding, noise, air pollution, or ergonomic conditions*

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the causes of stress mentioned above, don’t worry there are solutions to these causes. Below are some of the solutions we think could help you adapt and get a better outlook. Something for supervisors and company management to keep in mind to help reduce workplace stress are:

• Recognition of employees for good work performance

• Opportunities for career development

• An organizational culture that values the individual worker

• Learning to give them free time for personal life, as they might have families that require them too.

Some things you could try to alleviate your own stresses are:

• Prioritize – you are allowed to step back and evaluate your life, to say no to additional work, to say no if you will be missing your anniversary dinner (but you need to understand when to exercise this option)

• Talk to someone – Talk to a friend, family member or a counselor/ psychologist when you need some guidance or just want someone to vent to when you see yourself burning out (common signs include being irritated, frustrated, feeling depressed, withdrawn from friends and family)

• Exercise – this helps clear the mind and gives you the necessary focus to get through your day (healthy body = healthy mind)

• Get a regular sleep schedule – Whether you work the night shift or regular day hours it is crucial to allocate time for your body to rest (as difficult as this sounds, less sleep causes more health problems in the long run)

These are just some of many solutions to help reduce workplace stress. Find what works best for you and apply it. You are only human after all.

* Helpful list by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Erin Murphy.

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Voices of our Nation

The Pros and Cons of Hiring Older Employees vs. Younger Employees

Ever thought you would one day be in a position where you would have the decision on your hands to make or break someone’s career? Well if you are, here is something that you might come across depending on the nature of your job. This article aims to analyze some of the main factors to consider while picking the right person for the job. At the very outset, I must make it clear that I am referring to older as in more experienced professionals and not just being ageist.

What are the things one could consider? We have tried to lay down factors that could influence one’s decision below in a concise format. Hope it helps you come to a conclusion about your Sophie’s choice.

I have tried to first evaluate the pros of hiring older employees as opposed to younger employees before proceeding to the cons.

1) Experience – for certain jobs, job experience is a huge factor. Experienced employees bridge the gap from teaching from scratch to jumping right into the thick of things.

2) Less supervision – they definitely do not need as much supervision as a just out of college hire.

3) Fewer chances of mistakes – they have made their mistakes and hopefully learned from them.

4) Takes lead – having probably worked at other places before, they feel confident enough to take charge and lead the team.

5) Mentorship – older employees are able (and willing) to mentor younger, less-experienced employees.

6) Clients – older employees might just have a list of contacts and networking that will be useful in the growth of the firm.

7) Patience – apart from the odd temper tantrum, they display more patience to teach and to communicate with the team.

8) Loyalty – it comes with the package.

9) Punctuality – this is one of those old tradition school things but punctuality is common and important to their generation.

The pros of hiring younger employees as opposed to older employees can be listed as follows:

1) Adept at technology – younger employees have grown up in the lap of technology and are therefore much more proficient at it than the older generation.

2) More risk-taking – they just might be more open to the idea of risks (this might not necessarily go down well for the company but they at least had the courage to take that chance. Older employees are more cautious and less open to something and who knows, the risks might pay off).

3) Dynamic – I do know of 60-year-old CEO’s who have been nothing but dynamic all their lives and that is why they are at the top. But younger blood with more ideas, fresh out of college and enthusiastic might be just what is needed to revitalize the company.

4) Flexibility – older employees tend to have their own set of ideas and notions and cannot adapt easily to the changing mindset. Younger employees generally have a flexible attitude because they are more adept at changing (it’s a millennial thing maybe) and can pick up on such changes sooner (without grumbling).

5) Expectation of Salary – the older employees come with some experience and want to be compensated for the fact that their previous skill has saved some training of the employers and therefore they must be compensated for the same. Younger employees are more than happy that they are being paid as the job is a place where they start off and learn (they know that their salary is not going to be through the roof).

6) Physical attribute – though it sounds ageist, it is true that older employees do face certain physical drawbacks as compared to younger employees and the strenuous work can take a toll on their health.

Several more pros and cons could be listed. However, the important take away from this article is that at the end of the day, the circumstance, the company and the post being recruited for is what will ultimately decide as to who stays and who does not.

This article was written by volunteer blogger Riya Prem Raaj and edited by volunteer editor Shan Simpson.

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Media releases

J2DW Launches Titles and Pronouns for Transgender and Gender Diverse Individuals

Journey to Diversity Workplaces Launches Titles and Pronouns for Transgender and Gender Diverse Individuals

J2DW joins companies such as Royal Mail, the Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, and numerous others making this change.

For Immediate Release

BARRIE, ONTARIO, 10 OCTOBER 2017 – Journey to Diversity Workplaces (J2DW) is excited to announce the addition of new titles and pronouns to their online applications and databases for transgender and gender diverse individuals.

J2DW’s goal is to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We respect differences ethically, morally, and legally. We want a different kind of workplace where diversity is championed and so is the worker. An organization’s success and competitiveness depends upon its ability to embrace diversity and to realize the benefits of diversity.

It is important that we respect and recognize individuals in our society in a way they wish to be addressed. By doing this, we promote out-of-the-box creativity and respect for those who explore their lives fully in a way that is right for them. We’re proud to take a stand on this.” said Peter V. Tretter, President & CEO of Journey to Diversity Workplaces.

The board of J2DW green-lit the project over the summer and immediately went into beta testing. New titles available include Ind., Mre., Msr., Mx., Myr., Pr., Sai., and Ser. New pronouns available include Ne/Nem, They/Them, Ve/Ver, and Ze/Zir.

Organizations such as Royal Mail, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Oxford City Council have introduced these titles since the start of 2017, and we believe J2DW is one of the first Canadian companies (for-profit or non-profit) to launch these options.

Journey to Diversity Workplaces is a Barrie, Ontario based organization formed under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act in December 2013. Find out more about us at www.j2dw.ca

— 30 —

Contact:

Peter V. Tretter, President & CEO

705-481-7784 ext 2

pe…@j2dw.ca

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Library

The facts about incentive pay

In the following essay, I am going to analyze incentives for workers to perform tasks, and thus come up with a conclusion as to what makes the most sense for employers to incentivize their employees with. I will back up my analysis with the mention of two research papers.

The exchange of money for the completion of tasks, the labour market, is arguably one of the most important transactions for the ongoing of our economy. If it did not exist, we would not be able to progress further into developing our world into a better home for the generations to come. And with this importance, comes a concept just as important, keeping employees just as motivated to continue working.

Human nature is such that motivation within us does not last forever, and thus refilling ourselves on a constant dose of motivational fuel is pivotal in the success of our tasks.

There are in general, two types of incentive pay, which are merit pay and bonus pay. Merit pay can be defined as the permanent increase related to performance against a standard that reflection evidence of permanently increased productivity. The term bonus can also be defined similarly as a single period additional pay related to performance that may not be reproducible in the next period without sufficient additional effort. We will examine the advantages and disadvantages of both these pay structures.

Under the umbrella of merit pay is the piece rate, where workers are paid on the basis of the output they produce. Piece rates hold the benefits of workers are motivated to produce more output because of the fact that their wages are directly proportional to their pay, it is a system that attracts good workers due to the fact that more skilled labour will want to join the company because of such a pay structure, and there exist savings of monitoring workers and keeping track of their productivity.

Seeing how effective such a piece rate method of payment is, I am going to support my argument with supporting research. Edward Lazear wrote a paper titled “Performance Pay and Productivity” where he examined how effective the incentive pay of piece rate was in inducing workers to produce more output. His examination of personnel economics uses data from a company called Safelite Glass Corporation, which is an auto glass company. His use of this data derives from the fact that in 1994 and 1995, management in the company changed the compensation from hourly wages to piece rates. This provided the necessary data to analyze how effective the new piece rate was in inducing more output.

His findings can be summarized into the following points:

1. A switch to piece-rate pay has a significant effect on average levels of output per worker. This is in the range of a 44-percent gain.

2. The gain can be attributed to two components. Approximately half of the gain in productivity resulted from the ability of the company to hire a more able workforce.

3. The change to piece rate resulted in both gains in productivity for the firm and benefits for the employees. Employees on average earned 10% higher due to the change.

4. Switching to a piece rate increases the variance in output. More ambitious workers have less incentive to differentiate themselves when hourly wages are paid than when piece-rate pay is used.

Even though these findings are specific to one firm, they provide useful insights into how piece rates can affect employees and firms.

In a different research paper titled “Pay Enough or Don’t Pay At All” by Gneezy and Rustichini, the researchers find that some employees react negatively to the piece rate offered if the wages are not substantial enough.

The researchers set out to figure out whether the default economic theory that incentives should induce performance is realistic in the complex world we live in. The researchers conducted an experiment in a lab where students were asked to answer a few IQ test questions and were told that they would be paid a piece rate related to the number of answers they got correct. They got a base pay for showing up for the test and then the subjects were divided into three groups that were randomly assigned a piece rate.

What the researchers found is that the test subjects perceived the piece rate as follows. The test subjects just offered the base pay and nothing more did the job more effectively than subjects that were offered a small piece rate plus base pay. This is because offering a small piece rate changes the perception of the contract as explained below.

If a zero piece rate is offered, subjects tend to perceive the ‘contract’ as follows: “The experimenter has offered me 60 cents to do a job. Now I know what that job is –answering questions—and it is my job to do it satisfactorily.” Putting this in a different way—subjects interpret this as a gift exchange contract.

If a positive piece rate is offered, subjects tend to perceive the contract more as follows: “The experimenter has offered me 60 cents to show up. I’ve done that. Now he is offering me 10 cents per question to answer questions.

The question of incentive pay is an important question labour economists have been trying to answer for years and we need to strive as a society in figuring out what the most effective way of motivating our employees is. In the above analysis, I briefly touched upon piece rate with some evidence from research, but there are a variety of incentive pay schemes the labour market can take advantage of.

Piece rates can be effectively put to use to induce productivity if used correctly. In the case of the first research paper, the nature of the work determined the success of the piece rate. In the second research case, a high piece rate was effective in inducing higher productivity. The piece rate, if implemented wisely, can be a very important determinant in a company’s labour output.

References
1. Gneezy, Uri, and Aldo Rustichini. “Pay Enough or Don’t Pay at All*.” Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 115, no. 3, 2000, pp. 791–810., doi:10.1162/003355300554917.
2. Lazear, Edward. “Performance Pay and Productivity.” 1996, doi:10.3386/w5672.

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Library

Are the costs of University worth it?

In this essay, I will present data from a research that Douglas. A. Webber finds to analyze whether college costs are worth the financial costs they implicate on the individual. In today’s competitive labour market, it is pivotal to know whether college costs are worth the effort. There are varying forms of education, and some occupations are better learned from on-the-job training.

Douglas A. Webber, in his paper, addresses through in an analytical approach whether it is a sound financial investment to go to college after high school. His approach takes the form of comparing the monetary costs associated with the 4 years of attending college with the monetary wage benefits that people who have attended college enjoy. He controls for settings such as major, student loan debt and ability in his analysis.

Motivation:

“The most recent graduating college cohort is burdened by an average of roughly $30,000 in student loan debt, while the national total has surpassed $1.2 trillion, a figure that some claim represents an economic bubble which could have substantial negative effects for future generations.”

Weber conducts this research due to the fact that college debt and people graduating college has been on the increase for a while now, with a number of students reporting a sense of non-fulfillment from their educations. This paper discards the opinions and conducts a quantitative analysis.

Data:

Weber makes use of 6 data sets in his analysis: NLSY79, NLSY97, 2014 ACS, CPS, 1993 NSCG and 2003 NSCG. He makes use of such varying data sets to control for different characteristics such as cognitive ability and age. This is important to make sure the analysis is done in a fair and accurate manner.

Methodology:

Weber formulates a methodology that aims to calculate the age at which the costs of a college education are surpassed by the benefits attained from attending college. The costs of a college degree include both implicit and explicit costs, implicit costs related to the forgone earnings from the time taken up when attending college. The model created caters for selection into college and specific majors based on cognitive and non-cognitive factors.
Weber uses regression models to calculate the age at which an individual would find a college education worthwhile.

Results:

Weber presents 6 tables in his results section, including summary statistics, simulated expected lifetime earnings, break even ages, and the discounted value of degrees. He presents a variation of some data at the 25th percentile of ability and for the discounted value of a degree, he presents a version that allows for major switching.

The most important of the tables that lead to the main conclusion is shown here.

The expected earnings include the possibility supported by statistics that college graduates are likely to not graduate in 6 years’ time. The college costs included in the analysis are $30,000 of debt at graduation at a 4.3% interest rate and $7000 per year not financed by debt.
Weber then discusses the time it takes for the expected value of a college degree to exceed that of a high school diploma. Results presented in the table below.

The notable results from the above table are that there is only one case where the expected value of a college degree will not surpass just a high school education when college expenses are high and the individual majors in Arts/Humanities. Most majors for different variations exceed their costs at some point during an individual’s life.

Conclusion and remarks:

Weber finds that attending college is a sound financial decision for most people and supports this claim by analyzing and controlling for rate of dropout, an ability of individuals, majors etc.

Weber admits that there needs to be added transparency to high school graduates about what exactly they are getting themselves into. High school graduates are at a young age when making the decision to go to college and finance this experience with debt; a lot of students might not fully understand the nature and payoffs of their decisions. Society plays a role in this too, in the way that society has created the notion that the best step forward after high school is college.

Another point to discuss for the Weber analysis is the lack of attention towards other implicit costs of college such as stress and mental health. Full credit is given to Weber for his thorough analysis and control of ability, and I assume the reason he did not include other implicit costs was the subjectivity of assigning a monetary value to a concept like stress, but I do believe it could have been incorporated somewhere into his model. An effort to estimate average yearly spending towards counseling by universities and distributing this to each individual is an example of a method that may have been used.

To wrap up, Weber takes the question of “Are college costs worth it?” and gives a thorough analysis in answering the question for the purposes of making it easier for high school students easier to choose or avoid college. My personal thoughts on reading the paper were quite ‘bittersweet’. It was insightful to see why most people choose to go to college, but there is a feeling of unease that I am reading this just as I am about to graduate college.

REFRENCES

Webber, D. A. (2016). Are college costs worth it? How ability, major, and debt affect the returns to schooling. Economics of Education Review, 53, 296-310. doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2016.04.007

This article was written by volunteer & co-op student Mohammadali Saleh.

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Voices of our Nation

Whitewashing Hollywood

We all watch them, use them as forms of entertainment, and follow the news leading up and after them. But did you know that there is an entire strategy behind how movies and Hollywood pick their actors and actresses to skew the racial distribution?

The term used to best describe this practice is “white washing” and can be defined as the entertainment industry’s attempt at making ethnic characters more appealing to the white, money-spending masses by making exotic characters less ethnic and more “white.” An example of a whitewash would be an Asian movie cast with half Asian actors and actresses instead of ethnically Chinese actors, even if the roles required the actors to be full Asian.

Such whitewashing not only plays a role in direct consequences for the viewers of the film, it also plays an important role in propagating its effects into society’s realms. Numerous times, Middle Eastern, or people of colour, have been asked to play roles as criminals or terrorists in films. Statistically, the majority of terrorists around the world are not Middle Eastern and criminals are not always people of colour.

In an article recollecting 7 Middle Eastern actors and their experiences with such discrimination, one actor says “…I had an epiphany. I called my agent: ‘Hey! Don’t send me out on these terrorist parts anymore. I’ll be open for anything else, but not the terrorist stuff.’ “After that, she never called. [She used to call] three or four times a week.” (GQ online magazine).

The statistical evidence by the FBI is that 94% of terrorist attacks in the USA from 1985 to 2005 have been by non-Muslims. Putting that into perspective, an American terrorist suspect is over nine times likely to be not Middle Eastern than Middle Eastern. According to the same report, there have been more Jewish acts of terrorism than Muslim, but when was the last time you saw a Jew being cast as a terrorist in a movie versus a Muslim Middle Eastern?

A recent example of such colour whitewashing has been the casting of Scarlett Johansson, a blonde white actress in a Hollywood remake of classic Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell. The argument used by the movie producers and directors for such Asian white-washing is the argument of green colour, the amount of money the movie would gross if they would not hire a white actress.

The argument of money should not be valid anymore as the world progresses towards eradicating racism. An increasing number people are becoming accepting of people of a different colour and will definitely pay to see a movie even if the lead character is non-white. Many scholars have partially blamed the entertainment industry for the racism that exists in the world today and it only makes sense for the same industry to solve the problem.

Another common argument Hollywood uses for casting non-minorities in their movies is simply that there exists no talent in the minorities. However, this argument does not hold much water. In fact, Hollywood has recently developed a strong reputation for casting relatively modest actors and actresses in blockbuster films. One look at the Marvel Studios model shows at the time of their initial casting actors and actresses such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, and Scarlet Johansson were not guaranteed box office commodities. So apart from it being Marvel Studios, and most of them having the first name “Chris,” why were these actors considered safe risks while Asian actors aren’t given the same luxury? The only other variable is that they are white. Hollywood will risk box-office uncertainty on Caucasian actors, while not risking box-office uncertianty with Asian actors, but not all is lost with whitewashing. An actor, Ed Skrein, exited a movie once he figured out that the role was whitewashed. It seems like the more awareness we generate about this, the more likely the problem will go away.

This article was contributed by volunteer blogger & co-op student Mohammadali Saleh.

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Voices of our Nation

Developing a Positive Workplace Culture

A workplace’s culture is composed of the values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours that the employees share, and use frequently, within the workplace. The workplace culture determines how employees describe where they work, how the employees understand the workplace, and how the employees see themselves as an essential part of a productive workplace. The workplace culture is what makes the workplace unique. This culture is very important, because the workplace culture can either strengthen or weaken the objectives and goals that the workplace is trying to achieve.

Every workplace has a unique style which contributes to developing a workplace culture. The beliefs, principles, and values of individual workplaces form the workplace culture. A positive workplace culture encourages the employees to stay motivated and loyal to their employees and also committed to the goals of the workplace. The culture of the workplace controls how employers and employees behave within the workplace as well as managing behaviours in regards to interactions with people that an organization may do business with outside of the workplace. A positive workplace culture encourages employees to behave in responsible, ethical ways, resulting in higher workplace morale, employee collaboration, and empowerment.

A positive workplace culture allows individual employees to be clear about his or her role and responsibilities in the workplace. A positive workplace culture can increase productivity and improve employee satisfaction. A workplace culture should be established where employees are treated equally. Every employee should be made to feel valued and respected within the workplace. Workplace policies can help to develop a positive workplace culture as these policies assist to guide the employees’ conduct. Policies also give employees a sense of direction at their workplace. A positive workplace environment can lead to significant benefits for employers and employees as the workplace is more likely to be successful when a positive workplace environment is established.

A negative workplace culture can decrease productivity and also reduce employee satisfaction. Employees can become uninterested or disengaged, in their job, which will cause significant workplace issues. Workplace stress has been linked to serious health problems and absenteeism which can be costly for workplaces. Workplaces can improve their culture by addressing negative issues promptly and effectively. Workplaces should make it clear what types of positive behaviours are expected to reduce the impact of a negative workplace culture.

Changing the workplace culture might seem like a quick and easy process. However, changing a negative workplace culture can be challenging when negative workplace habits have been allowed to continue over a significant amount of time. Adjusting the workplace culture will require setting policies with clear boundaries and consequences. The long term goal will be to change the negative workplace culture, but this process usually requires changes in the behaviour of individual employers and employees before there can be a noticeable difference in all aspects of the workplace culture. Improving the workplace culture may require letting go of disengaged or unproductive employers and employees which could present temporary challenges, such as an increased employee turnover before workplaces will benefit from a more positive workplace culture. Developing a positive workplace culture will typically require patience and also a commitment from to employees and employers to improve their workplace habits.

A positive workplace culture can be achieved by encouraging good communication, employee input, cooperation, participation, and trust. Better productivity is accomplished through increasing employee satisfaction along with paying attention to the physical and emotional needs of individual employees. Policies should be implemented that will promote the success of workplace. These policies should be evaluated and adjusted to ensure that workplace policies can remain effective in the future. The development of a positive culture leads to greater workplace effectiveness, which positively affects financial workplace performance, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and also an overall improvement in workplace productivity. When employers and employees are willing to cooperatively to create a positive workplace culture there is a better chance of ensuring that workplaces will be successful.

Sources:
Challenges to Promoting a Positive Workplace Culture
Importance of the Workplace Culture
Statistics Canada
The Impact of a Positive or Negative Workplace Culture

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The Truth About Tech World Inclusivity In 3 Minutes

The Tech World and Inclusivity

Over the last few days, there has been quite a bit of buzz in the news about the Node.js community and it’s recent failed vote to get rid of a member of the project’s technical steering committee (TSC). The member, Rod Vagg had posted some controversial statements on Twitter about inclusivity in tech. I won’t go into all of the details here, but feel free to look it all up if you’re interested.

Reading about this event, and others like it, got me thinking about my own ideas on inclusivity in a tech environment. Let me start off by saying, I’m not perfect, and rarely have all the answers, but I would like to share a couple of personal experiences that hopefully can illustrate some ways we can be more conscious of inclusivity in our own environments. For me, the key is to realize that, no matter how inclusive we think we are, there are areas where we can improve. Accepting that we need to change the way we think and feel about the world, and how inclusive we are in our daily interactions, is a powerful first step.

Changing the way we talk changes the way we think

I think our end goal, when it comes to inclusivity, is to change the way we think. For example, we can read about it in a book, or online, and figure out all the right things to say, without actually believing or internalizing any of it. But actually changing our mindset can be extremely challenging.

While I was working in California several years ago, I had an experience that helped me see the power in changing the way we think about being inclusive, and what we can do to change it. There were three guys who I considered close friends. We would hang out socially outside of work, and often go to lunch together. However, we had a co-worker, a female employee, who we could not tolerate. Now, we were all pretty nice, and were friendly to her in person. But on our lunch breaks, and outside of work, we would constantly complain about all the things we didn’t like about this employee. This private bad-mouthing went on for some time actually.

At some point, the four of us came to the realization that our attitude and behavior towards this employee, even in our private interactions, was unacceptable. So we made a pact with each other. If, at any point, any one of us said anything negative about that employee, or another employee for that matter, the other three of us would have permission to punch the other person in the arm as hard as we could. I know, I know, a typical ‘guy’ way to solve problems, right?

The point though, is that we often think that inclusivity is a conversation only about how we treat other people in public settings. But the truth is, that inclusivity starts at home, in our private thoughts and conversations that are removed from the public sphere. Changing the way we interact, and our thoughts about being inclusive begins with changing our private thoughts and behaviors.

Now, with my experience in California, an amazing thing happened. It probably took a couple of weeks before all four of us had finally learned our lesson, and stopped all of the negativity outside of work. But the unexpected result was that we were happier at work as well. Our morale had lifted, and we actually all really ended up liking this employee. Our conversations inside and outside of the office changed to a more positive tone, and the way we felt while we were at work improved, and by default, our behavior at work became much more inclusive to all of the employees.

Get out of the comfort zone

My second experience comes from a conversation with my wife. I’m white, and my wife is multi-racial, and so naturally our life experiences, and thoughts about both race and inclusion are different. My wife pointed out to me one time that each of us have built in biases and prejudices. Of course my natural reaction was one of defensiveness. “Of course I don’t. I like everybody. I don’t have any biases.” So, she gave me a challenge. Throughout your day, just be conscious of who you talk to, and who you interact with. Are they all different genders and races? Or, are they most often people who look pretty much like you?

So I took the challenge and really thought about it as I interacted with people throughout my day. Sure enough, she was right. Almost 90% of the people I talked to and associated with were people who looked just like me. And, it wasn’t that I was being consciously un-inclusive, but I was just naturally more comfortable around people who looked like me. It was somewhat of a shocking realization.

At that point, my wife gave me another challenge, which was to just go out of your comfort zone and talk to people who are different than you. Now, as someone who considers himself mildly introverted, that can sometimes be difficult. However, since then, I do consciously make an effort to be more inclusive to everyone. Not just the people who look just like me.

It doesn’t have to be any grand gesture. Sometimes, for me, it’s simply saying “hi” to the woman behind me in line at the grocery store. And that’s the point of inclusivity. It doesn’t have to be any huge changes in our life all at once. But if we do try to make baby steps in changing how we think and how we act, eventually it will make us better people.

In conclusion

These are just a few experiences I’ve had, which have shaped my thoughts about inclusivity. Being conscious of it, both in the tech world, and elsewhere is invaluable. There’s definitely no ‘right way’ to be more inclusive, but the main point is to realize we can do better, and to find ways we can improve our own inclusiveness in the workplace and outside the workplace.

This article was submitted to us by author Ethan Jarrell.
The opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Journey to Diversity Workplaces