A Korean Disney princess

Julian Riew is a Korean-American singer and songwriter, and she studies theater at Harvard. Like many children, she was influenced by Disney princesses while growing up.

In recent years, Disney has made conscious efforts to become more inclusive. Racial and ethnic representation have gained presence in their movies lately. However, Julia felt no Disney princess looked like her so she set herself up for a challenge: to create a Disney-inspired Korean princess.

Watch her interview about her musical featuring Korean-American heritage and have a discussion with your teacher: https://www.youtube.com/embed/QpaSVUKQlXg

Women called cows home

For centuries, women in Sweden called their cows home with a sound called kulning. Now, kulning has been embraced by many, including universities as a form of art. But from medieval times until the mid-20th century, the sound could be heard every summer, ringing across the mountains. Reaching up to 125 decibels, kulning can be heard over 5 km (1 mi) away. Since cattle tend to wander off, they needed to be able to hear the herdswomen calling them.

It was traditionally women who went up the mountains with the herd in the summer. They each lived in a small settlement, tending the animals. They milked the cows, made cheese and spent hours doing all the rest, like cooking, knitting, mending, making brooms, etc. It was hard work, but the women also had a lot of freedom without men around. They could do whatever they wanted up there.

Men artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) was part of the Neo-Expressionist movement of the 1980s, led by Andy Warhol. Basquiat's primitive style grew out of his time as a graffiti artist in New York City. People first knew him as part of the anonymous duo SAMO© (pronounced "same-o"), with Al Diaz. They were among the first to use words to communicate thoughts, rather than just tags with names and numbers.

For 3 years, from the age of 17–20, Basquiat sold his art on t-shirts and postcards on the street for a couple of bucks each. Finally, he made it into a group show at an art gallery. People and critics loved his work, and in no time people were paying $50,000 or more for one of his pieces.

The child of a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat brought the Black and Latino experience into the fine art world. His art was angry and harsh, yet also poetic. He was able to express a reality that had long been excluded from elite society.

Women artists: Georgia O'Keeffe

Historically, women have struggled to be accepted in the world of the arts. In the art of painting, they were subjects for men's art, or wives and sisters of male artists. Women weren't accepted as artists themselves. But that began to change in the 20th century. Georgia O'Keeffe played an important role in that change.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1996) was part of the American Modernist movement. American Modernism grew out of the Industrial Revolution and focused on everyday subjects like cities and factories. It used abstract forms and bright colors. Georgia O'Keeffe pushed the boundaries to develop her own style. Her paintings were still abstract and brightly colored, but she added a little realism.

How to reduce bias in hiring

In the U.S. and the European Union, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant because of race, color, religion, age or sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy). Employers can't require photos or ask questions about personal information on an application.

But bias is still possible. Studies in the U.S. have shown that "ethnic-sounding" names can reduce by half the likelihood of being called for an interview, compared to applicants with "white" names.

Women artists: Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama (1929– ) is considered by some to be the greatest Japanese artist of our times. Although her initial training was in the traditional nihonga art style, she became frustrated with it and wanted a change. She wrote to Georgia O'Keeffe, who encouraged her to move to New York. The Avant-Garde scene was thriving at the time, and Kusama fell right in with it. Her art became provocative, pushing the edges of what was considered "acceptable". She staged public sex, painting nude people with her signature polka-dots. Her art was, and is, psychedelic.

Kusama's images of dots and lines stem from hallucinations caused by mental illness. Her illness eventually compelled her to return to Japan. She has been very open about her mental health struggles. She says art is what keeps her alive.

A woman in the whisky business

Bessie Williamson (1910-1982) was a woman in a man's industry. She ran a whisky distillery in Scotland at a time when women weren't managers in any business, let alone the whisky business. But Williamson worked her way up from a typist to the owner and CEO of the Laphroaig [lah-FROYG] distillery, becoming a well-respected boss and highly successful manager. She brought Laphroaig distillery through difficult times during WWII and began a far-reaching modernization process before retiring.

Williamson was known in the business as the "Islay Labour Exchange" because she found a job for almost everyone who needed one. And if workers didn't have a pension plan, she kept them on well past the usual age of retirement. Her employees were always first in her mind, even in the hard times.

The many faces of Indonesia

Indonesia has over 17,000 islands. If you ever go there, you will see how different some of the major islands are. For example, Bali is the only island where most of the people are Hindu. It attracts a very large number of tourists. It is known around the world as a great place for a holiday.

However, Sulawesi, an island to the north of Bali, has very few tourists. Here, most people are Christian. There is very little made for tourists on the island. Makassar, the main city, has only one hotel. You will also have to take public transportation to get around.

Most Indonesians live on Java and are Muslim. It’s the only island with a train network. That's a good thing because you have to cross large distances to visit World Heritage sites such as the Borobudur temple and Mount Bromo.

Venture capital discrimination

Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator—the tech accelerator that supports early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship and financing—has funded a number of successful start-ups including Dropbox, Airbnb and Reddit. Despite this, in 2013 he made a controversial comment about how he evaluates potential companies. He managed to both offend many foreign-born Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and reveal a prejudice common among venture capitalists.

“One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent,” Graham told Inc. magazine. “I’m not sure why. It could be that there are a bunch of subtle things entrepreneurs have to communicate and [you] can’t [do that] if you have a strong accent. Or, it could be that anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent.”

Diversity and inclusion at work

How diverse is your workplace? And how inclusive is it? While many organizations may feel prepared to answer the first question, the second often causes a bit of confusion. Isn’t it just the same question rephrased?

Rita Mitjans, ADP’s chief diversity and social responsibility officer, explains.

Diversity is the “what”; inclusion is the “how”. Diversity focuses on the makeup of your workforce—demographics such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, etc.—and inclusion is a measure of culture that enables diversity to thrive. People sometimes use these terms interchangeably, but they are quite distinctly different.

So, why is it important to focus on both diversity and inclusion? Again, Rita Mitjans:

Diversity of research sources

According to PhysOrg, a scientific publication, scientific knowledge used in international studies is predominantly sourced from English-language documents, as it is assumed that all scientific knowledge is available in English. However, according to research scrutinizing over 400,000 peer-reviewed papers in 326 journals, published in 16 languages, scientific papers written in languages other than English may hold untapped information crucial to the conservation of global biodiversity.

These findings have important implications for global efforts tackling the biodiversity crisis, where lack of evidence is an issue commonly faced when trying to implement evidence-based conservation. The authors demonstrate that incorporating non-English-language studies can expand the availability of scientific evidence on species and ecosystems into 12%–25% more areas and 5%–32% more species.

Women artists: Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Limpicka (1898–1980) was a key artist in the Art Deco period of the 1920s and '30s. Born in Poland, she also spent a lot of time in France and the U.S. Her real fame came when high-fashion magazines began to use her art for their covers. Soon she was painting portraits of the aristocracy, and even royalty. Although her name is not well-known today outside of Art Deco fans, de Lempicka was one of the most important and popular artists of the Art Deco movement.

Art Deco grew out of Cubism and the Arts and Crafts movement, adding elements of "exotic" Asian, Egyptian and Mayan art. It used simple forms and planes of color to create new designs representing luxury and wealth. The pieces also represented faith in social and technological progress.

Women artists: Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) is thought of today as one of Mexico's greatest artists. Her most famous paintings are self-portraits. Of her 143 paintings, 55 were self-portraits. She once said, "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”

Kahlo grew up during the Mexican Revolution and was part of the Mexicanidad movement, which celebrated indigenous Mexican culture. She painted in a Magical Realist folk art style, with the colors and imagery of Mexican indigenous culture. Magical Realism combines realistic detail with surrealistic imagery. In the painting shown above, Roots, Kahlo depicts herself lying on rocky ground with vines growing out of her chest. The details are very realistic, but the image itself is surreal.

Cities are designed for tall men

According to The Guardian, the renowned Swiss architect Le Corbusier developed a system that has shaped much of the world. It dictates everything from the height of a door handle to the scale of a staircase. But the system, Le Modulor, developed in the 1940s, was created with a handsome six-foot-tall British policeman in mind. So all sizes are governed by the need to make everything as convenient as possible for Le Corbusier’s ideal man.

The system's influence even extended to the size of city blocks, since these responded to the size and needs of the car the ideal man drove to work.

By the 1980s, some women had had enough. After decades of struggling with prams and shopping trolleys, navigating dark underpasses, blind alleyways and subways in the cities mostly made by men, it was time for a different approach.

Can language change culture?

Languages generally develop organically, following changes in culture. But sometimes we have to purposefully change our language to create the culture we need.

Take, for example, sexism. In English, seeing the masculine form of a word—e.g., adding "-man" to a job title, and using he/him/his pronouns—as neutral had been accepted as the norm since the 19th century and still often is. In the 1970s, however, women began to demand equal representation in all things, and that meant in the language, too. 

Studies have shown that people are influenced by the words they see. In one study, people were asked to read a story with the following sentences in it:

  • “The foreman reassured himself he had made the right decision.”

  • "The foreman reassured herself she had made the right decision.”

Gender equality on traffic lights

The iconic "Sophie" pedestrian crossing signal (pictured above) first appeared outside City Hall in Amersfoot, the Netherlands, in December 2000. Since then, she has inspired female figures on crossing signals around the world. As Dutch Ambassador Wim Geerts said in 2013, "Sophie is much more than a traffic light, as she encourages us to think about women's rights." She also seems to improve pedestrian safety—more people stop for Sophie than for lights with common male figures.

Some people criticize "Sophie" and other female figures as promoting stereotypes of women. They always wear a skirt, and Sophie has ponytails which are commonly associated with little girls. Rather than add stereotypical images of women, these critics recommend creating a non-gendered stick figure.

Nestle renames insensitive products

Classic Australian lollies Redskins and Chicos are set to be renamed so they don't marginalise consumers, confectionery company Allens has announced.

The decision was made by the brand's parent company, Nestlé, because a redskin is a slang term for Native Americans in the U.S., where it is considered offensive. Chico, which is Spanish for "boy", is also used in a derogatory way. 

"This decision acknowledges the need to ensure that nothing we do marginalises our friends, neighbours and colleagues," the company said in a statement. "These names have overtones which are out of step with Nestlé's values, which are rooted in respect."

The company has yet to announce new names for the popular treats.

Goldman Sachs addresses diversity

Goldman Sachs has instituted a new diversity program based not on quotas but on hard data trends that uncovered why even progressive recruitment out of college hasn’t solved the problem. Women and minorities, it turned out, even when hired at the same rates as their white male counterparts, kept falling out of the pipeline. Attrition was enormous.

According to the data, both populations were more likely to quit than their white male peers and were simultaneously more likely to be replaced by white men moving laterally from another company. Additionally, they were less likely to be promoted and less likely to even be considered for promotion.

Programmed bias

Human-built machines immortalize human problems, as we are discovering more and more. Voice recognition software isn’t good at identifying higher-pitched (i.e., predominantly women’s) voices. Facial recognition software is far superior at identifying white men’s faces than literally anyone else’s. Motion sensors often seem to be unable to detect dark skin, a problem that seems to also infect some wearable health monitors.

Perhaps the most famous example of this is when Amazon wrote AI software to sort through resumes to identify top applicants. Because of how Amazon had recruited and hired over the previous ten years—the base dataset that the AI used to train itself—the software penalized any mention of “women’s” and disregarded candidates from women’s colleges. It was basing its definition of an optimal candidate on human hiring decisions, and since tech is so dominated by men, that definition assumed the optimal candidate would be as well.

High heels at work

Men jam their feet into high-heeled shoes and walk back and forth, some falteringly, others with unlikely confidence. Some women watch, gauging the men’s reactions while sympathizing with each other’s stories about wearing the torturous items masquerading as fashion.

They were all participants in a recent event in Tokyo held to highlight the plight of women forced to wear heels in the workplace, in an extension of the #KuToo online movement. Organizers of the event gave the men stilettos with 5-centimeter-high heels and asked them to quite literally walk in a woman’s shoes. The experience allowed the men to understand the discomfort and inconvenience that come from walking with one’s heels raised.