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The Blue Hen News is a quarterly newsletter which includes educational articles written by our members, business partners, past event speakers and other professionals in the legal industry. It includes fun features on our members and business partners, local polls on hot topics, social and community service event pictures as well as information on upcoming events and programs presented by both the First State Chapter and National ALA.

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October 2018  

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Feature Article

It Isn’t Easy Being Me.

It Isn’t As Easy As It May Look.

 

By: Ruth V. Fry, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP

 

Inclusionary Habits

It isn’t easy being me. It isn’t as easy it may look. I say that because it isn’t always easy doing the right thing. Sometimes being inclusive takes effort. As Steven Covey says, “It takes 7 days to make it a habit.” Right? I have to remind myself as a Caucasian woman that I am viewed as privileged. I don’t feel very privileged, but that doesn’t change how I am viewed by anyone who might feel “under-valued.” I do always put forth the effort to make others feel welcomed and included no matter where I go. Effort, that each of us, as leaders, should practice and take the time to put forth. Whether it be at the grocery store, or perhaps at an ALA meeting, I try to sit with someone who appears to be by themselves or shy. At the grocery store, well, if you can imagine it, yes, I talk to strangers. I offer to help the person in the scooter get the item from the top shelf. I let the elderly couple go ahead of me in the grocery line and, by all means, I let the young mother with the infant go first. When I form teams at my office, I don’t select my favorite people to work with. I select those who push back, disagree with me, make me a little uncomfortable sometimes, or point out things I don’t think about -- that’s what diversity brings.

 

Gender Labels

I still have to catch myself on some of my “gender” specific comments though. For example, I still sometimes refer to a group of people as “hey guys” or I ask, “What are you guys doing this weekend?” I can tell you I have made this mistake many times. I do not mean any harm by this, however, these references should be made a thing of the past. It is no longer acceptable to refer to women as girls and men as boys. It is no longer acceptable to refer to a large group as consisting only of “guys.” And, we certainly should not call women “gals.” I am a work in progress myself!

 

The Platinum Rule

We all want to be treated as “we” want to be treated, not necessarily fairly, but as we want to be treated. That is what is referred to as “the platinum rule.” As human beings, we want to be loved, to love whomever we want to love, AND to be included. Acceptance, tolerance and respect is for everyone. Wouldn’t you agree that our country needs this now more than ever?

 

The D Word

I realize the word “diversity” might make some people nervous or question what is meant by the term “diversity.” Most of us have attended a diversity and inclusion session from time to time where we learned that law firms are making valiant efforts to increase their diversity numbers, however, numbers do not equate to inclusion. It takes work from the top down and the bottom up to achieve diversity and inclusion. As leaders in our organizations, we must take the lead and be the “change agent.”   We must find teaching moments to educate and mentor others. The diversity and inclusion speakers say that you can’t have diversity initiatives without inclusion efforts. I tend to agree. It is important to elevate minority personnel within our firms, however, we need to recruit and retain minority personnel in order to do that. How do we get minority personnel to join our organization and more importantly stay with our organization? I do not have all the answers, however, I can tell you that it is a marathon, not a sprint to get there. You might consider having your organization get involved with some of the minority law school associations, join the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, or simply attend a minority focused event. Once you are able to hire minority personnel, you need to continue to work on retaining all of the great talent.

 

Practice Being Inclusionary

We can practice inclusion by listening and learning from others. We need to practice inclusionary initiatives. Some easy ways to do this within our own organization is to invite everyone whenever possible. If scheduling a happy hour for social purposes, be sure to include the staff when inviting the lawyers. Remember the Verna Myers’ quote, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”? If you do schedule that happy hour and staff and attorneys are invited, be sure to invite staff members into the conversations taking place with attorneys about client work. After all, the staff are already aware of the client work since they do it every day.

 

Stop Bashing Other Generations!

In the near future, we will have five generations in the workplace. The Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y a/k/a Millennials and soon we will have the Gen Z. For those who were at National Conference at National Harbor, you may have heard Judy Hissong from Nesso Strategies say, “Can we please stop bashing the millennials already?” I agree wholeheartedly with you, Judy. The millennial generation is getting a bad reputation and it is just not fair to categorize all the individuals in one generation into various stereotypes – whatever they may be. I am sure my parents’ generation had the same level of criticism about my generation. It is more important to recognize and ACCEPT what our differences are and learn from those differences. Difference IS GOOD.   Differences yield intense discussions that bring about new ideas and new solutions.

 

Play Well With Others.

A good friend of mine shared this perspective about working with a GenX colleague. This is her story. “I was working with a Gen X’er on a web development project, and the concept of doing a website as a ‘soft launch’ was a real eye opener to me. I’m from a generation where you didn’t put work out there until it was absolutely as perfect as you could make it, and this younger person was completely at ease with the idea that it didn’t HAVE to be perfect – you could launch it and continue refining it without making a big splash -  until it was at a point where you felt it was okay to do so. Wow! What an idea! So that’s what was done, and the world didn’t fall in as a result. Different generations can help you think about things in new ways.”

 

A Different Perspective

And, don’t you agree that generally, the issue or problem between the generations is, and always has been, that the older generation thinks they know how to do it better? Conversely, the younger generation thinks that the members of the older generation are stuck in their old ways of doing things. This is not a millennial problem, it is just an inability to accept that others just might have a better idea or way of being more efficient.   A fresh perspective perhaps? For me, I have to catch myself thinking “that young person could not possibly be as good as me; they haven’t worked as long as I have yet.” Remember being a teenager and thinking how could our parents possibly know more than us? They are old -- what do they know? We NOW know they really did know more than we.

 

Meeting New People, New Cultures and Community

While at National Conference at National Harbor, I was lucky enough to meet Emily Huang from Taiwan. Emily was the only member attending the Conference from Taiwan. I met Emily while we were working the assembly line in Exhibitors Hall for the community service project. The community service project selected was Clean The World https://cleantheworld.org/. Our job was to build hygiene kits as a way to give back, improve teamwork and create a renewed focus on community. The kits included soap, shampoo, conditioner, tooth brushes, toothpaste, razors, face cloths and much more.   Clean The World’s mantra is “One Kit For One Individual Can Change One Life.” I observed Emily stuffing the soap, shampoo and other toiletry items in not one bag, not two bags, but at least six to ten bags at a time. Emily was working the line like Lucy and Ethel at the chocolate factory. Emily grabbed a box and got even more proficient at filling the bags. I learned from Emily’s efficient actions and immediately grabbed a box and started filling ten to fifteen at a time. Soon others joined in and did the same thing. Because Emily was part of our team working on this project and she had a different or better view of how to be more efficient, we all benefited and learned from her participation. While we worked to fill the bags, I took the opportunity to talk with Emily about her job and her life in Taiwan. I learned a bit about Taiwanese culture and my new friend, Emily. The next day during the Association lunch, I ran into Emily again and invited her to sit with a few other Maryland Chapter members. Emily and I exchanged contact information and we continue to keep in touch.

 

My Australia Pen!

The theme for ALA’s National Conference was Diversity and Inclusion. As a result, our Chapter invited members from the Australia Chapter to join our Chapter dinner. Dion Cusack and Ann Maree David from Australia joined our dinner. I was fortunate to have Ann Maree at my table. It was quite interesting to hear about life in Australia, as well as Ann Maree’s role within her firm. During the dinner, Ann Maree gave me a pen from Australia. The pen is a simple pen with pretty colors and the word “Australia”. You would have thought she gave me a $100. I cherish the pen because it was from a new-found friend. Later, I found out others had been given a pen like it. It didn’t diminish the value of the pen Ann Maree gave me. I still felt special and I will always think of Ann Maree when I use the pen.

 

You Have Permission to Engage

At National Harbor, we heard Vernice Armour, the first female, black fighter pilot speak about “gutsy” leadership. Vernice said “bloom where you are planted” and “you have permission to engage!” What Vernice meant by that was to engage in others. Take time to get to know them. Take chances, make a difference and be the “whole” you. Oh and let us not forget, “Engage – Clear hot!” How do you engage? Vernice spoke about her Grandma, who always looked for the good in people. Her Grandma said, “something good’s gonna happen today!” Her Grandma had a positive outlook on life. Vernice learned that from her Grandma. Vernice also said that we should “acknowledge the obstacles, but do not give them power.”

 

Will You Be the Difference?

As leaders, we can make a difference by becoming more involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives. This can be accomplished by reading articles, asking questions, and stressing the importance of diversity and inclusion initiatives within our organizations. Do not sit on the sidelines and wait for others to get involved. Take the initial steps and be the one to effect change.

 

Resources

If you are looking for articles, resources and general information to get you and your organization started with diversity and inclusion initiatives, I suggest you begin with ALA’s webpage and go to the Diversity and Inclusion link. At this site, you will find a myriad of diversity and inclusion links.

http://www.alanet.org/about/diversity

 

There is a wealth of articles on the internet. Do some research, ask your ALA colleagues, but get involved. If you are in need of a diversity and inclusion speaker, you will find that at ALA’s webpage too.

 

I stole Kermit the Frog’s quote, “It Isn’t Easy Being Me” to title this article. Although Kermit’s quote was about him being green. I truly believe being involved in diversity and inclusion efforts has enriched my life and I have learned so much about other people, their cultures, their interests and beliefs. I continue to work on being the best “ME” I can possibly be.   Still working on me and counting………!

 

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