Diversity

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:

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.

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: 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.

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.

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.

Women call the cows home

For centuries, women in Sweden have been calling their cows home with a sound called kulning. Not quite singing, not quite yelling, kulning is a skill that has almost disappeared. 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 can wander a long ways, 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.

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.