Category: Inclusion

New Year’s Resolution: I can’t do everything and that is okay!

Welcome 2021!  As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, I feel his quote is particularly fitting for this blog: ” Even though we face difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

This week I am going to deviate slightly from van life travel.  After one year of retirement, touring the country– living in a van and experiencing life during a pandemic, I decided my New Year’s resolution would be that of being fully honest on my capabilities and accept I can’t do everything. 

Being a Type A overachiever, who believed and spent the last 40+ years if you put enough effort and determination you can do anything you want to try, it’s hard for me to now admit I am prohibited in doing everything.  Living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), now makes it no matter how hard I try there are things I just can’t do anymore well.  TBI is a hidden or invisible disability I have been living with the last seven years.  Many people don’t realize what is an invisible disability, a physical, mental or neurological condition that is not visible to others because they can occur in life but the person does not outwardly appear to have a problem since there is no need for a wheel chair, walker or crutches.  After spending years multi-tasking, sitting on multiple global projects, advisory boards, commissions, tasks forces and doing it all successfully, empathetically, and professionally it’s hard for  people who have interacted with me, that I just can’t do those things well anymore.  When you have TBI your Amygdala and occipital lobe can be damaged.  Your Amygdala is responsible for many important brain functions like, memory, learning, executive function and emotions while the occipital lobe controls your visual processing, distance and depth perception, object and facial recognition and memory formation.  Due to my damaged Amygdala and occipital lobe:

  • I now forget a lot of things and need lists
  • If I am told something in confidence I may forget and discuss it
  • I no longer have a filter and say things I should know not to say that may hurt someone’s feelings (lack of executive function)
  • My emotions are constantly on over load,
    • I get overly upset if I hurt someone and can’t stop worrying about it
    • I anger easily over silly things
    • I am quick to cry
    • I am quick to yelling and raising my voice
    • I feel like I need to apologize to my husband multiple times a day for my behavior
  • It’s difficult when I drive, I must concentrate really hard due to my challenge with depth perception and reaction time has decreased significantly
  • I get migraines often, feel woozy and need to nap daily

Because of this, I sold my business at the end of 2019 and retired.  I finally learned I couldn’t work anymore when I needed to nap daily, I’d get frustrated and set-off so easily, and if I had a hard day, I would be dizzy, nauseous and have a migraine.  So, Greg made the executive decision for us to hit the road and enjoy the vanlife and start RGBAdventures to document our adventures.  When you visit our blog, our YouTube, Facebook and Instagram it looks like all fun but you don’t see the tough days dealing with TBI.  In a social media world, we see all the positives and don’t share the challenges. It’s hard to be vulnerable when we live in a society that must show competence and achievement. 

I write this post for four reasons:

  1. To remind us that many people have disabilities and challenges that are hidden and we don’t realize and that we need to be more patient and understanding, especially in a time of COVID-19
  2. Don’t let social media get you depressed and feel like I wish I had that life, as that person probably feeling same challenges and difficulties as you but can’t really show it and wants to create positive influence in your day.
  3. If I personally hurt you by my actions, I am so sorry it wasn’t my intent and I can’t make TBI an excuse but hope it gives you some understanding to forgive me eventually.  And if you know someone who may have TBI please understand they may look normal but if they do something that upsets you try to understand that they may not have full ‘control’ of their brain anymore. 
  4. To remind myself and others that we can’t do everything and that it is okay to lean on friends, family and loved ones and admit when we need help.  I hope this also allows you to ask for help.

During this pandemic, we need to give ourselves and our community a break and be more understanding.  It’s okay for us to have a little more self-care and do a little less.  It is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and what mother nature can bring us to relieve anxiety and stress.  When I can’t control my brain, the one thing I appreciate the most living in a van right now and being able to control is being able to run, hike, bike, ski, paddleboard, swim and focus on my physical health.   It’s okay to be vulnerable, not be perfect at everything and let people help you.  If you want to learn more about TBI here is a great article.  Hoping for a positive and wonderful 2021 for everyone! 

Surfrider Platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurant Opens in Newport, Taking Steps to Saving Our Ocean

This week, I am continuing to take a break from my traumatic brain injury series to focus on the environment and what everyday citizens can do to make a difference.  Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an entertaining event put on by the Surfrider Foundation of Newport.  If you aren’t aware of Surfrider Foundation their mission is protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. If you are passionate about our oceans, please join or donate today!

The event was a poetry reading from our new Newport Surfrider Foundation Chair, Scott Rosin, “Tell ‘Em We’re Surfing.”  Before the poetry reading began our local Oregon Field Manager, Bri Goodman talked about the location of our event, Bosque Café. (Bosque is Spanish for forest and Bosque Café is nestled in a forest near Oregon Coast Community College).   I was not aware Newport, Oregon had a restaurant that met the Platinum requirements of the Surfrider Foundation Ocean Friendly Restaurant program and a restaurant that is almost certified as zero-waste!  To be a Platinum Ocean Friendly Restaurant you have to meet the requirements below and Bosque Café goes above and beyond these requirements!

  • No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).
  • Proper recycling practices are followed.
  • Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining, and disposable utensils for takeout food are provided only upon request.
  • No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders.
  • Straws are provided only upon request.
  • No beverages sold in plastic bottles.
  • Discount is offered for customers with reusable cup, mug, bag, etc.
  • Vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis
  • All seafood must be a ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable.
  • Water conservation efforts, such as low-flow faucets and toilets, are implemented.
  • Energy efficiency efforts such as LED lighting and Energy Star appliances, are in place.

After hearing this, I had to meet the owners and understand why take this huge risk in starting a brand-new business and in such a small community, (there are only 10,000 residents in Newport.)  When I met Ed and Hidi Cortes, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Hidi is Vietnamese and grew up in California in Orange County (just like me) and Ed is Mexican with an IT background (also like me).  I felt I had met my long-lost sister and brother.  They have lived in Newport for thirteen years and explained to me it has always been important to them to live a sustainable life, trying to buy local or grow local vegetables, fruits, meats and fish. Reducing their footprint on this earth and ensuring they had as little waste as possible.

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Cortes Family at the new Bosque Café

Let’s spend a little time understanding why zero waste is so important and how cool it is that Ed and Hidi are trying to execute this concept here in Newport.  According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, households and businesses threw away 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. A 2014 study by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance found that 84.3% of unused food in American restaurants ends up being disposed of; 14.3% is recycled, and only 1.4% is donated.  Landfilled food provides ready fuel for methane gas production — the most environmentally destructive greenhouse gas linked to global warming.  In addition to food wastes, there is plastic and inedible items that don’t biodegrade and wash into our ocean and beach shores.  There has been so much discussion on what do we do about the 1.2 trillion tons of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean and most scientist say the best thing is how do we reduce our dependence on plastic and stop throwing plastics away.

This is what Ed and Hidi are trying to do!  At Bosque there will be the right size of consumable portions, so you don’t have left overs you throw away.  There will not be take away drink or food containers that will be thrown away at home.  They ask you consider bringing your own if you are in a hurry and can’t enjoy their relaxing atmosphere.  In the future they will have reusable non-plastic containers for purchase.

Hidi grew up in a family that owned multiple restaurants, eating eclectic foods and combining different ethnic foods to create a new culinary fare.  For example, blending foods and spices from Mexico and Vietnam like creating an Asian version of the tortilla.   It really resonated with me, as I do this all the time and my husband looks at me with a particular look when he sees Soy Sauce going into the Bolognese Sunday Gravy Sauce.

Hidi loves to cook, has always wanted to open her own restaurant and there are zero Vietnamese Restaurants in Newport.  The Cortes family thought this was the perfect time.  In wanting to be sustainable and fresh, Vietnamese was a perfect choice since it is known for its healthy cuisine and it works well to make vegetarian and vegan options out of traditional Vietnamese favorites.  What is really exciting is Hidi wants to push her culinary creativity so each month you will see specials in other global traditions that may have a little Vietnamese influence.  I’m dying to try her take on curry that she has transformed from all the different countries that create curries, she described to me during our interview.

menu

The yummy menu.

I asked Ed why he chose his location adjacent to Oregon Coast Community College.  A restaurant like this would get a lot more traffic and be more successful in Nye Beach or on the Bay Front.  Ed is an ultra-runner and runs in the woods near Oregon Coast Community College and when he saw the opportunity to launch a restaurant and café in his favorite running area they decided to take the plunge! Also, he wants to help support the students (OCCC students get 10% discount) and bring more options to the growing community in South Beach.  Everyone will be pleasantly surprised on the nice size portions for the price!  They are in process of getting their liquor license so currently you will need to go upstairs to the Wolf Tree Brewery Taproom for those options.

They are excited to open their café and restaurant to organizations for events, like the one we just had with Surfrider.  The space is clean, bright and inviting.  Ed has lots of ideas and plans you will see in the future to bring some exciting local art and technology to the forefront, be sure to keep coming by often!  As I discussed earlier growing their own local vegetables is important to the Cortes Family; therefore, you will see a full hydroponics system in the restaurant in the near future.   They also make their own fresh soy and almond milk.   For those of you in town October 14th at 2pm, is the official Grand Opening, make sure you come by and support an amazing family, restaurant and try the scrumptious Vietnamese food!

The Joy of Art, Music, Crafting and Gifting to Heal the Type A Brain

After my seventh concussion and being diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury, as stated in my last two blogs, I began to take my injury more seriously and knew I needed to make a change in my life.  My emotions were on a roller coaster ride.  One minute I would be happy, then next my husband would say something and I was ready to pummel him in rage and then the next I would be crying hysterically like a toddler having a temper tantrum. Not only were my emotions wreaking havoc in my life but my memory, word searching, attention span, reasoning and problem-solving skills were like a child.

Since I had been told by my neurologist to not read, go online or watch TV, I needed to do something to occupy my time and get healthy.  To go from having 15 hours scheduled by the minute to no schedule was utter maddening.  You can only spend so much of your day meditating, doing yoga, going for hikes/walks and cooking. I was still struggling to occupy my days and I wasn’t ready to see very many people other than my closest of friends.  My godfather and mother came over for a visit and she taught me to knit. I became a knitting fool.  Making scarves, hats, shawls for everyone I knew.

My sister-in-law gave me a nail art kit for my birthday and soon I was making everyone wood nail art deer, owls, ravens and landscape pieces.  I also thought it was time to do something with the bags and bags of wine corks I had collected and made these wooden and cork hot pot holders for dining room tables and cork boards. That Christmas everyone got a Rane original creation!  I was becoming a crafting aficionado and enjoying the smiles on people’s faces as they got something made by me.  I was getting a little over zealous with my knitting and I think I made everyone I knew something, that my husband suggested isn’t there other art therapies or maybe even music therapies I could try?

shawl

One of the many shawls I created for friends.

I then remembered with the work I was doing before I went on medical leave from Microsoft regarding helping military veterans reskill and get jobs in technology. There was research on art and music therapy helping military veterans with traumatic brain injury.  I thought if it could work for them, it may possibly work for me.  I couldn’t read the research reports to understand the details and unfortunately scholarly reviewed publications are not on digital audio yet, (perhaps, someone should really look into that.)  So, I went to my psychologist and asked what types of art and music therapy I should try. This would occupy more of my day, give my monkey mind a part-time job and hopefully start helping my cognitive impairments. He suggested I start first with the adult coloring books and listening to classical music.

Once, I was able to read again I began to learn what art and music therapy can really do for you.  In the last ten years, there has been significant progress in the study of TBI and art/music therapies.” Biomedical researchers have found that music is a highly structured auditory language involving complex perception, cognition, and motor control in the brain, and thus it can effectively be used to retrain and reeducate the injured brain.”

I also learned that listening to “polyphonic music has shown to engage neural circuits underlying multiple forms of working memory, attention, semantic processing, target detection, and motor imagery, in turn indicating that music listening engages brain areas that are involved in general functions rather than music-specific areas.”  A good example of polyphonic music is this old Sting classic, I love this YouTube rendition.

In addition to listening to music, I took it a step further and have been teaching myself to play the acoustic guitar. Through other books, I learned the importance of dancing and singing every day to my favorite song and how that help grow the strength in my vagus nerve (As my earlier blog stated, I learned my vagus nerve was having issues and was the reason for my blacking out and causing all my concussions and traumatic brain injury).

My poor husband would have to listen to me belt out at the top of my lungs ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA or ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’ by U2 or ‘Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison and the list goes on and on.  I started rubbing off on my friends and they would text me their dance out song of the day.  You should try it; your whole body get a rush of endorphins and total jubilation once your done with a grin a mile long and your spouse laughing hysterically at you.

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My first set of paintings on display at Chow Restaurant in Bend, Oregon.

I was starting to get bored with my adult coloring books from Costco.  When I was at the Newport Visual Arts Center, looking at the latest show there was a bunch of people painting with watercolors on the second floor.  As I walked in, I found out they had received a grant that allowed them to give free art classes every day for the community and I was invited in to try.  So for the rest of the Summer, every week I attended the water color class, pottery class, pastel class, coloring pencil class, and acrylic painting class. Soon, I was able to read again, I learned through Psychology Today that art therapists, “McGuinness and Schnur worked with TBI patients and they explain the salient roles of art therapy in addressing various parts of the brain with clients in a user-friendly way.”

They also state that, “art therapy can help with organization, problem solving, and memory when the frontal lobes have been affected by TBI.”  I then started concentrating on acrylic painting as my favorite form of painting.  And thanks to my friends Lisa and Amy, who one day said, “Hey Rane, you are actually getting good- you should sell your art!”  To my utter amazement, a local restaurant wanted me to show my art and by January 2018 I had sold 12 pieces.

Filling my days with painting, listening and playing music my energy, emotions and memory were improving. The hardest part of my TBI has been moving from a super positive always happy demeanor that rarely ever got mad to this uncontrollable rage that pops up from just a little comment could set me off.  If anything can calm this new emotion, I am happy to do it.  I am lucky my husband is understanding and can deal with these moments that happen several times a month.  My days are now packed with art, music, yoga, mediation and the outdoors. I highly encourage everyone, even those who may not have traumatic brain injury the power of adding more art, music or crafting in your life.  A lot of the research highlights how it can help slow and possibly stop Alzheimer.  Here are a few of my favorite beginner Youtube videos to get you started with music, art and knitting, I hope you try-  I promise you will have fun!

 

Out in Tech kicks off in Bend

It is an exciting time to be part of the Technology Community in Central Oregon, especially if you are LGBTQ. Many don’t realize that in the State of Oregon, 5% of the population is LGBTQ which would mean about 4,500 Bendites are LGBTQ! In the state of Oregon, we are also one of 16 states that score high in “policy tally” counts the number of positive laws and policies within the state that help drive equality for LGBT people. The major categories of laws covered by the policy tally include: Marriage and Relationship Recognition, Adoption and Parenting, Non-Discrimination, Safe Schools, Health and Safety, and Ability for Transgender People to Correct the Name and Gender Marker on Identity Documents.
When Executive Director of BendTech, Tim Riefke contacted me on helping with the launch of Out in Tech for Central Oregon. I was excited to be part of the event and the future of the community. As many of you know, I am super passionate about inclusivity in Bend (if you haven’t read our story on the Inclusive Innovation Initiative check it out). We know that more diverse teams bring new perspectives and drive greater innovations! As technology companies across the world focus on diversifying and becoming more inclusive, what a great time to join the industry. When speaking to Tim, he identifies as being Queer and why Out in Tech is so important for Bend. “At BendTech, we want to create an inclusive workplace that all people can feel welcome and find opportunities to connect and collaborate in the burgeoning tech/start-up community,” exclaimed Tim Riefke.
When I look at opportunities for our growing youth population in Bend and people who are under-employed looking for a career switch, I always talk about technology opportunities. I have been lucky to have a 20-year career in the industry that has taken me all over the world, solving amazing challenges to help communities, countries, companies and organizations. What is so exciting for LGBTQ Bendites is our technology industry is young. It is working extremely hard to do it right in the beginning, that is why Technology Association of Oregon in partnership with all the technology companies kicked off the Diversity Leadership Series and COCC SBDC’s free diversity advising the last Thursday of every month to help our companies understand the importance of inclusivity and why every voice matters in our companies.
Looking at our next generation of technology employees and leaders, I was excited to work with Constance and Michael who are interns at BendTech around this event. When asking them why tech and why now, here is what they said, “It’s great that Bend is informal, friendly and people are willing to go out of their way to help you and help you navigate the Bend Tech Scene. It’s a great time to be part of Tech,” replied Michael Tornatta and Constance Smith.
At the event tonight, we kicked off with of course, pizza and beer Bend style with friendly informal networking. We then jumped into a discussion with an amazing panel to discuss LGBTQ opportunities in Bend Tech scene: Julie Harrelson (Cascade Angels Fund Manager), James Nesbitt, PhD (Genetech/Alector Intellectual Property), Eric Norths (First Interstate Bank), Tim Riefke (BendTech), and Beth Hannon (Beth Hannon Marketing). It was exciting to hear all the positive stories and the community coming together to be more inclusive and want to better support the LGBTQ community in Oregon.
One of my favorite quotes of the evening came from Julie Harrelson, when a student asked does it get old to always be tokenized as an LGBTQ leader in the community to the panel and will this ever change? Julie highlighted, “I don’t look at being tokenized or asked to represent as always being a bad thing. It can be the community wanting to better understand your perspective and gives an opportunity to take a leadership role in education and change.”
I love that answer! So many times, I have spoken with fellow leaders in under-represented groups feeling tired, burnt-out and frustrated stating, “does it always have to be my job to teach everyone the perspective of my group.” But instead of getting frustrated, we should feel honored and look at it as a learning opportunity! At least people want your perspective from the community you represent and believe you are the best representative they know to provide it. Things could be worse and people could not care or ask for that perspective at all. It is all of our job for people coming from under-represented groups to be open to share our perspectives and be excited that people want to listen. 
The event closed with some fun activities to get people connected, with Oz Smith meeting the most people and taking home our prized new Out in Tech painting. The unanimous decision for the group is to have our next meeting in September to support LGBTQ mentorship and sponsorship. So keep your eyes out and join us for our next event after your Summer vacations.

A leaders greatest gift is vulnerability

Many times, leaders believe we have to be seen as fearless, strong, and all knowing.  We often think showing any sign of vulnerability indicates weakness.  However, author David Williams points out in his Forbes article that, “In reality, vulnerability is a strength.  Every leader has vulnerability. The greatest leaders have the self-awareness to recognize this fact. They also recognize that showing their vulnerability is a sign of courage and strength.”  In his book, courage is the sixth ‘Non-Negotiable’ that he covers in his book The 7 Non-Negotiables of Winning. 

I find this notion to be true and have included it as one of the themes in my keynote.  I presented this speech at the Bend Chamber 2018 Women of the Year Awards.   Sometimes we need to share stories that we don’t want to admit to help current and future leaders.  So after struggling with traumatic brain injury (TBI) the last five years, I briefly shared my story with the audience of nominees, award winners and Bendites.

 

I have spent my career as a Type A, workaholic, altruistic, high achieving leader trying to solve difficult problems for my industry, company, employees, mentees and colleagues.  I truly believed I could run my body like a machine and travel 3 weeks a month, work 10-18-hour days, survive on 2-4 hours of sleep while doing my day job and volunteering to lead committees for the White House, UN Women, and actively participate on 12 non-profit boards, volunteer for local community activities, be a good friend, and wife.  This all came crashing down in February 2013 when my body forced me to take an unplanned medical leave of absence.  I will go into that story in more detail in my next set of blogs. I want to focus here on the message that leaders need to share that we are not invincible.  We can’t keep driving at a crazy fast speed, with focused accuracy for a long stretch and not result in a disaster.     

In my keynote, I focused on two major areas, my childhood and upbringing that brought me to this intense drive, ambition and desire to make an impact no matter the cost.  Secondly, the need for leaders to say it’s okay to give us some ‘white space’ in our lives and ask for help.  I’ve now launched a new company focused on helping start-ups, small and medium size businesses, organizations and government agencies to harness inclusive innovation for their competitive advantage.  Many times, these groups are lean and may not have the resources to understand how to ensure they are diverse enough to meet the needs of their customers. Also, they must ask themselves if they are running the as efficiently as possible and utilizing all of their employees’ capabilities.   

Most diversity and inclusion consulting is priced out of reach for these organizations even though 80% of our working population in Bend works for these groups.  So creating an affordable, consumable framework has created a ton of interest for Ranemaker Institute in helping Bend aspire to be one of the most inclusive cities in America.  At the same time, I have had to learn to be honest about my current vulnerabilities so I don’t fall ill again.      

I can’t take on every company, organization or governmental agency I want to help.  My TBI has restricted how much time I can spend on a computer, working with large groups of people and the amount of stress I can handle.  I can’t work a normal work week and I still take a 2-3 hour nap daily.   I focus now on asking for help, only having a client a month and my workshop series.  I balance my ego’s need for making an impact and helping businesses in Central Oregon with time outdoors, relaxing, painting, reading and napping.  I think it is important for us to show we can still be successful, make significant impact in our community and have a healthy life balance.  We just need to realize that impact may not be instantaneous but takes a lot more time.  I have learned not to start the race with a sprint but keep a steady may be even slow pace for its entirety as our life is a marathon that we want to enjoy for a long time.  I don’t want to drop out before I’ve lived to a ripe old age.   So next time you feel you are exhausted and just need to finish one more thing, may be you need to take a mental health day instead, a few minutes of meditation and enjoy an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm for a good laugh.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rane Stempson: Helping Central Oregon Startups and More Create Diverse, Inclusive Workplaces

Thank you Kelly Kearsley, reposted from Startupbend Community visit their site.

 

So Teri approached me and asked if I would help develop a equity, diversity and leadership workshop series targeted at startups and small businesses that would offer practical knowledge on these topics at an affordable price? As the former principal research director for Microsoft, I focused on diversity and specifically bring more underrepresented groups into computing, so this was in my wheelhouse. I opened the Ranemaker Institute and began developing the TAO workshop series, researching, and working with the City of Bend and the Bend Chamber on how we could better support our City’s equity needs.

 

As a result, TAO launched the Diversity Leadership Series a few months ago. These workshops, which I lead, are for all industry sectors not just technology and provide hands on learning for our businesses, non-profits and government agencies at an affordable price. The workshops will help employees, managers and senior leaders determine how to deal with unconscious biases, harassment, recruitment, retention and advancement of a diverse workforce, managing across generations and a number of other topics to help businesses better serve their customers and increase employee satisfaction.

 

There’s been other progress as well. The City of Bend passed a unanimous resolution on March 7th to aspire to be the most inclusive city in Oregon and in America. Bend also wants to be proactive in supporting our growing community. Most of our population in Central Oregon works for businesses with less than 100 people. These businesses create goods and services that must meet the needs of a diverse population that either visits the region or is distributed globally. I launched the Inclusive Innovation Initiative to provide a committee to tackle difficult equity and inclusion issues facing our city, the workshop series and free advising.

 

I’ve also been offering advising hours to start-ups and small businesses via the SBDC at COCC. I’ll be advising businesses on issues such as diversity, inclusion and equity. I’ll also provide support for under-represented groups considering starting a new business. You can schedule a meeting today. 

When we suggest we need to expand organizational diversity it doesn’t mean ‘affirmative action’ per se. Instead it often means looking at the broader definition. Asking ourselves, do we have members on our team that are adding value because of their different race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, abilities, age, skill set, knowledge, culture, education, and training? Do these members push us to think, approach problems, and create solutions in different ways.

 

Bend is growing at an exceptionally fast rate, and our region’s diversity is growing. Inclusion helps us recognize that everyone’s voice and opinion matter and there are different strategies we should take to ensure each voice has the same level of importance. In speaking with organizations, I explain that, “Most people have good intentions and with a little education, such as utilizing strategies to better connect, we can work more effectively with each other and remove a lot of misunderstandings.

Especially in the technology community, we have a lot of equity and inclusion issues. And while we are driving so hard to innovate before the next person, we forget the time we need to invest in our innovative teams to ensure they are performing at their best.” We understand the importance of technical training but often forget the soft skills is what is necessary to really drive innovative teams and successful companies utilizing the full potential of all their employees.

Check out the next course in the diversity series workshop. You can also catch me at the next City Club forum on June 21. I’ll be moderating a panel on Gender Partnerships in the Workplace: Where We Have Been, Where We Can Be. You can schedule a meeting today. for free small business advising in diversity.

Time to Require Corporations to be Socially Responsible

Reposted from LinkedIn Article

It is time we make our corporations be more accountable to ethical and social responsibilities. Expectations for reduced expenses, increased profits and higher bonuses to executives and greater returns for stockholders can’t be derived at the detriment of employees and increased burden to taxpayers. I just finished reading Elizabeth Warren’s book, “This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class ,” and it left me feeling an urgent need to do something!

I grew up as a second generation Asian American with a father on social security at an early retirement from civil engineering and military service. This required my stay at home mother to go to work and be a minimum wage housekeeper since she could not read and write English. To my surprise today, with this meager income of less than twenty-five thousand dollars a year, my family was able to support two children, a home mortgage and pay all our bills in a small bedroom community of Portland, Oregon called Vancouver, WA. We were by no means rich but we weren’t super poor either. I enjoyed playing sports, being on student government, singing in choir, having lots of friends in different classes, genders and ethnicities, having great healthcare at Kaiser Permanente and no stigma of being a poor person of color. We were a lower middle-class family. Today, we would be in poverty. We would not own a home but rent, visiting the food bank, struggle with healthcare, be challenged keeping up with bills and probably could only pay for clothing at Goodwill. It is a travesty that someone working a full-time minimum wage job with a spouse that served our country can’t afford to live and make ends meet. We must fix this as Americans!

See the source image

I want to quote a few paragraphs’ from Mrs. Warren’s book, …

“Gina says she feels lucky to have a job, but she is pretty blunt about what it is like to work at Walmart: she hates it. She’s worked at her local Walmart for nine years, spending long hours on her feet waiting on customers and wrestling with heavy merchandise around the store. But that is not the part that galls her.

Last year, management told the employees they would get a significant raise. While driving to work or sorting laundry, Gina thought about how she could spend that extra money. Do repairs around the house. Or set aside a few dollars in case an emergency. Or help her sons, because “that’s what a mom does.”… 

Then the day arrives when she received the letter informing her of the raise: 21 cents an hour. For a grand total of $1.68 a day, $8.40 a week.

Gina described holding the letter and looking at it and feeling like it was “a spit in your face.” As she talked about the minuscule raise, her voice filled with anger. Anger, tinged with fear. Walmart could dump all over her, but she would have to take it. She still needed this job. They could treat her like dirt, and she would still have to show up. And that is exactly what they did.

In 2015, Walmart made $14.69 billion in profits and Walmart’s investors pocketed $10.4 billion from dividends and shareholder repurchases—and Gina got 21 cents an hour more. This isn’t a story of shared sacrifice. It’s not a story about a company that is struggling to keep the doors open in tough times. This isn’t a small business that can’t afford generous raises. Just the opposite: this is a fabulously wealthy company making big bucks off the Ginas of the world. 

There are seven members of the Walton family, Walmart’s major shareholders, on the Forbes list of the country’s four hundred richest people, and together these seven Walton’s have as much wealth as about 130 million Americans… Walmart routinely squeezes its workers, not because it has to, but because it can…

Walmart is the largest employer in the country. More than a million and a half Americans are working to make this corporation among the most profitable in the world. Meanwhile, Gina points out that at her store, “almost all the young people are on food stamps.” And its not just her store. Across the country, Walmart pays such low wages that many of its employees rely on food stamps, rent assistance, Medicaid, and a mix of other government benefits, just to stay out of poverty. 

The next time you drive into a Walmart parking lot, pause a second to note Walmart—like the more than five thousand other Walmarts in the country—costs taxpayers about $1 million in direct subsidies to the employees who don’t earn enough money to pay for an apartment, buy food, or get even the most basic health care for their children. In total, Walmart benefits from more than $7 billion in subsidies each year from taxpayers like you. Those “low, low prices” are made possible by low, low wages—and the taxes you pay to keep those workers alive on their low, low pay…

Walmart isn’t alone. Every year, employers like retailers and fast food outlets pay wages that are so low that the rest of America ponies up a collective $153 billion to subsidize their workers. Anyone want to guess what we could do with that mountain of money? We could pay public college tuition- free and pay for preschool for every child- and still have billions left over. We could almost double the amount we spend on veteran’s services, such as disability, long-term care, and end homelessness. We could double all federal research and development—everything: medical, scientific, engineering, climate science, behavioral heath, chemistry, brain mapping, dug addiction, even defense research. Or we could double federal spending on transportation and water infrastructure…

Gina describes life at Walmart is a constant fight to get enough hours to support her family. Walmart deliberately over hires, which then puts workers in competition for shifts. Even though she has worked at her Walmart for nearly a decade, she doesn’t get her work schedule far enough in advance to plan a trip to the dentist. And she doesn’t know how many hours she will get each week and if she will have enough money to cover the basics…She talks about a friend who is trying to support herself and little boy on a Walmart paycheck. She needs more hours. She was trying to do better, so she was taking classes at the community college at night. Nicole was available every day and five evenings every week, but she needed Tuesday and Thursday nights off, so she could go to class. They wouldn’t give it to her. They use the schedule as punishment… Gina and her friend feels like their positions at the company are always unsteady…”

I hope you are outraged and furious! I understand that there are many people in our great Nation who cannot afford to stop shopping at Walmart, but we can make them hurt. We can show them that they cannot have these practices and still have a loyal customer base. We must force them to act ethically, morally and socially responsible as an American company. The only way they will do this is if their bottom line is affected. MY CALL TO ACTION IS: Tell all your friends, family and acquaintances that the last Friday of the month we all boycott Walmart. That every last Friday of the month, Walmart will be open and not have one customer or sale in the estimated over 5000 stores. This will incur millions of dollars of lost revenues for Walmart and require them to proactively do something! If we hold all minimum wage corporations accountable in the same way, we can begin to see a difference for a large portion of our American middle-class population. No American who is working hard, doing all the right things should live in poverty in this day and age. PLEASE STAND WITH ME IN OUTRAGE, share this story with your friends and please BOYCOTT Walmart the last FRIDAY of every month! Thank you, Elizabeth Warren for getting this information out!

Scholarships to Increase Gender Diversity in Computer Science

Women are woefully under-represented in computing fields. I know; you’ve heard me say this before, but the statistics bear repeating: In 2014, women made up less than 20 percent of those graduating with computer and information science degrees, despite the fact that women overall accounted for more than half of all baccalaureate graduates.

This dearth of women pursuing computing degrees is doubly unfortunate. First, it deprives the economy of much-needed talent: the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that, at present rates, only 39 percent of the estimated 1.2 million computing-related jobs in 2022 will be filled by computing graduates. Second, women bring a unique perspective to male-dominated computing fields, providing the team diversity that executives value.

Microsoft Research is committed to increasing women’s presence in computing, which is why we established the Graduate Women’s Scholarship. These scholarships offer vital support to female computing students during their second year of graduate studies: a US$15,000 stipend plus a US$2,000 travel and conference allowance—resources to help the recipients gain visibility in their departments, acquire mentorship, and cover the ever-growing cost of graduate programs.

Here are the winners of the 2015 Microsoft Research Graduate Women’s Scholarship:

  • Alexandra Schofield, Cornell University
  • Hannah Gommerstadt, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Jane E, Stanford University
  • Jiaqi Mu, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Kaitlyn Becker, Harvard University
  • Kellie Ottoboni, University of California, Berkeley
  • Lisa Gai, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Olga Zamaraeva, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Sulekha Kulkarni, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Wenjie Xiong, Yale University

In addition to the Graduate Women’s Scholarships, Microsoft Research is proud to support the NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund, which provides U.S. academic institutions with funds (up to US$15,000 per project) to develop and implement initiatives for recruiting and retaining women in computer science and information technology fields of study. Learn more about the Seed Fund and the recently announced 2015 award recipients.

Congratulations to all the winning programs and students. We look forward to great things from 2015’s women in computing.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Microsoft Research

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Supporting UK’s Rising Stars in Computing

The United Kingdom has faced some tough economic times in the past 10 years, but the technology industry has remained strong throughout. The tech sector has played a key role in helping the economy bounce back from the recessions of 2008–2009 and 2011–2012. Nationwide, IT industry employment grew 5.5 percent between 2009 and 2012 and rose 20 percent in London (more than three times faster than the sector average) since the recession. Today, more than 1.3 million people work in the UK technology sector, and the industry is expected to grow more quickly in London than in the Silicon Valley in the next decade.

Participants of the workshop, Tips and Tools for Scientific Research Success, at the Microsoft Research Cambridge lab
Participants of the workshop, Tips and Tools for Scientific Research Success, at the Microsoft Research Cambridge lab

The tech industry has traditionally been a male-dominated field. The huge growth in the field would seem to be a natural incentive for young women to join their peers in the computer science classroom—especially since female students now account for 55 percent of the enrollments in higher education in the UK (HESA 2013). Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Fewer than 3 percent of the UK’s 403,000 higher education graduates in 2013 received computer science degrees. Women accounted for a meager 17 percent of that number (HESA 2013).

In an effort to encourage more women to stay in computer-related PhD programs and understand the opportunities in this field, Microsoft Research offered a workshop on Tips and Tools for Scientific Research Success at its Cambridge lab, June 16–18, 2014.

Following the example of successful programs created by CRA-W Graduate Cohort and Future Science Leaders at Oxford University and the British Royal Society, the course aimed to educate attendees about Microsoft research tools, equip them with advice from experienced researchers about the opportunities of being an early-career researcher, and inspire them with examples from Microsoft Research that show the potential of computer science to change the world.

The event started with a day devoted to cloud computing and its potential for research. Participants could get hands-on experience with Microsoft Azure and create WordPress blogs and data-driven websites in no time. They experienced the power of Microsoft Azure for big data processing, sharing research data, deploying cloud services, and using Excel with Power BI to slice, dice, and visualize data. They learned how the Microsoft Azure for Research program could help researchers with their work, even if they decide to start their own business.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Kenji Takeda, and Clare Morgan of Microsoft Research greeted participants at the Microsoft Azure for Research training that kicked off the workshop.
Rane Johnson-Stempson, Kenji Takeda, and Clare Morgan of Microsoft Research greeted participants at the Microsoft Azure for Research training that kicked off the workshop.

Attendees gained a better understanding of the tools Microsoft Research provides to help researchers (including Sand Dance, GeoS, CodaLab, ChronoZoom, and WorldWide Telescope) and of the opportunities available in working in an industry research lab. For example, Principal Researcher Don Syme (Microsoft Research Cambridge) told the story of how F#, the cutting-edge functional programming language, jumped from being a project in the lab to part of Microsoft’s mainstream language portfolio.

To help assure their ongoing success, workshop participants have been paired up with Microsoft Researchers in Cambridge, who will serve as informal coaches to provide guidance and advice in their first and second years of PhD study.

“A hands-on workshop to experience firsthand the mighty power of Microsoft Azure; an exciting lineup of talks discussing cutting-edge research; an inspiring induction to being skilful researchers; most importantly, an ever so valuable one-to-one interaction session with a mentor from Microsoft Research Cambridge. A truly interesting and thoroughly engaging event—a genuine inspiration to becoming champion researchers in Industry Research Labs.”
—Kavin Narasimhan, PhD student at Queen Mary, University at London

We look forward to helping these talented researchers grow throughout their careers. We’ll be running another workshop in the fall, so please let us know if you’re interested by emailing us at MSRWIC@microsoft.com.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research
Kenji Takeda, Solutions Architect and Technical Manager, Microsoft Research

Simon Mercer, Director of Health and Wellbeing, Microsoft Research

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A Hackathon Designed By Women, For Women, To Solve The Gender Gap

KoreaHackathon

This week, I was pleased to have Fast Company do a feature story on our Microsoft Research International Women’s Hackathon. The article was written by Jessica Leber. To read the article visit FastCompany.  You will need to scroll down to get to the article.

Women Around the World Hack for Good

HackathonCollage

I was honored to provide an article to one of the leading Education Technology magazines, EdTech.  To share with them the results of our International Women’s Hackathon.  To read the article visit EdTech.

Inviting Girls Around the World to Dream Big!

On March 8, we celebrated International Women’s Day. Every year on this date, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. Women’s equality has made positive gains, but plenty of inequality still exists. International Women’s Day commemorates the social, political, and economic achievements of women, while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. “Inspiring Change” was the theme of the 2014 celebration, and the goal was to encourage advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. Promoting women’s equality requires courageously challenging the status quo and vigilantly inspiring positive change. In conjunction with International Women’s Day, Microsoft profiled the work of five female employees—whose efforts are representative of the work of countless other Microsoft women—in empowering girls’ and women’s involvement in science, research, computing, and engineering.

Big Dream: encouraging girls to pursue a future in science and technology

Just two days after International Women’s Day, the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) kicked off at United Nations Headquarters in New York. CSW is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policymaking body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. This year’s CSW theme was access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science, and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. At CSW, I had the privilege of presenting Microsoft’s Big Dream Movement—an exciting new effort to involve more girls in science and technology—on Friday, March 14, during the UN Women Session, “ICT for women’s economic empowerment and poverty alleviation.

The Big Dream Movement connects organizations, academia, and resources to girls around the world to help them pursue a future in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. The movement is anchored by Big Dream, a documentary film that follows the stories of seven young women who are breaking barriers and overcoming personal challenges to follow their passions in STEM fields. From small town Iowa to the bustling streets of the Middle East, Big Dream immerses viewers in a world designed by and for the next generation of girls. Our hope is that this inspirational film will excite young women, their families, and friends to the possibilities inherent in science and technology.

Watch the Big Dream trailer

Microsoft is pleased to be underwriting this film and to be partnering with the following organizations to make the Big Dream Movement a reality around the world: UN Women, ITU (the International Telecommunications Union), UNESCO, the European Commission, Zen Digital- DLI, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Girls Collaborative Project, the Girl Scouts, the National Center for Women in Technology, the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), ACM-W, IEEE-Women in Engineering, and Black Girls Code. We are pleased to have the following on our leadership team: Jennifer Breslin UN Women; Gary Fowler, ITU; Saniye Gülser Corat, UNESCO; Cheryl Miller, Zen Digital- DL and the EU Commission; Lucy Sanders, NCWIT; Telle Whitney, ABI; Kimberly Brant, Black Girls Code; Janice Cuny, the National Science Foundation; Karen Peterson, National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP); Kristen Grennan, Global Girls Scouts; and Valeria Barr, ACM-W.

During the UN Women Session at CSW, on behalf of Microsoft I took part in a wide-ranging discussion of what must be done to attract more women to STEM fields. Session participants agreed that it is time to change the message and help women become producers instead of consumers of technology, and to empower women to help create the solutions for the future. We encouraged the 45 member states elected by ECOSOC to participate in the Big Dream Movement. Throughout the coming year, the movement will publicize the many “best-kept secrets”—those amazing organizations, academic institutions, researchers, professors, and companies that have programs and tools to help expose women to STEM. We will also educate young women about the career possibilities and the impact they can make by pursuing careers in STEM fields.

This summer (northern hemisphere), our website, BigDreamMovement.com, will go live, providing a portal for you to learn about programs and tools that promote computing and STEM. Then, starting in the fall, we plan to show Big Dream at events all over the world. Panel discussions will follow immediately after the screening, during which local students will talk about their experiences in STEM. Local organizations will also be on hand to talk with students and parents about STEM opportunities in the community. And the aforementioned website will include a worldwide registry of organizations that provide STEM opportunities to girls, so that anyone can find local resources and programs. At the end of 2015, we will hand over all of the assets to UN Women, which will connect women around the world and keep the movement thriving through the Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment.

In the meantime, we encourage you to SKYPE BigDreamMovement and leave a personal video message. If you’re a professional woman or man, describe your Big Dream and offer advice to young women wanting to pursue a future in STEM. If you’re a young woman, tell us what is your Big Dream is and how a future in STEM can help you get there.

Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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Growing More Women in Computing in the UK

So I was honored last week to write a guest blog for the UK Software Sustainability Institute.  They are a national organization in the UK that focuses on cultivating world class research with superior software solutions.  They bring the best computer science has to offer to all of the various disciplines in the research world that needs software to empower and accelerate their research.  When speaking to their Deputy Director, Simon Hettrick, he highlighted the importance of having more women in the field and what could their organization do to highlight the challenges and enable a better environment in which women could thrive.  I was so excited to share our thoughts, the data, the research and our work with his organization.  Here is a link to the blog post- check it out.

RaneLadiesGadgeteer

Grants and Scholarships to Assist Growing More Women in Computing

As many of you know—especially if you’ve been reading my blog posts—the participation of women in computer science continues to decline. Last year, women accounted for only 14 percent of computer science college graduates in the United States, according to the Computing Research Association. That’s down from 37 percent in 1985, despite US Department of Labor statistics that show computing to be among the fastest-growing career fields, with a shortage of qualified candidates to fill available openings. In addition, studies reveal that executives value the variety of perspectives that comes with team diversity, yet another reason for needing greater female participation in computing fields.

Innovate to impact the world.

As a technology company and innovation leader, Microsoft is passionate about increasing the participation of women in computing. To do so, we must attract more female students to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. To maintain their interest in STEM programs, we can increase young women’s exposure to the myriad opportunities in computer science and provide them with support during their undergraduate and graduate STEM studies. This is why Microsoft Research is proud to support the NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund and to fund the Microsoft Research Graduate Women’s Scholarship.
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit community of more than 500 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working to increase women’s participation in computing and technology. NCWIT helps organizations more effectively recruit, retain, and advance girls and women in K-12 through college education, and from academic to corporate and startup careers. The NCWIT Academic Alliance brings together nearly 750 distinguished representatives from academic computing programs at more than 275 colleges and universities across the country—spanning research universities, community colleges, women’s colleges, and minority-serving institutions. In 2007, Microsoft Research initiated the Seed Fund in partnership with NCWIT Academic Alliance. The NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund provides US academic institutions with grants (up to US$10,000 per project) to develop and implement initiatives for recruiting and retaining women in computer science and information technology fields of study. Through 2013, the Seed Fund had awarded US$465,450.
In partnership with NCWIT Academic Alliance, we are pleased to announce the 2014 winners:

  • College of St. Scholastica (Jennifer Rosato) Promoting Female and Diverse Student Retention through Faculty Use of a Growth Mindset Approach This project will provide professional development for faculty at The College of St. Scholastica, helping them to instil a growth mindset among women and minority students who are majoring in computer science and associated concentrations, as well as fostering the continued interest of students taking pre-engineering courses.
  • Georgia Gwinnett College (Sonal Dekhane, Kristine Nagel, and Nannette Napier) Georgia Gwinnett College Women in IT Boot Camp A weeklong workshop, the boot camp will give 24 promising female IT sophomores an opportunity to get a head start in programming.
  • South Carolina Technical College System (Stephanie Frazier and Salandra Bowman) SCTCS Triple A Academy The academy will immerse 10 to 14 female students—each of whom is enrolled in a certificate, diploma, or degree IT program—in a one-week program that promotes ability, acuity, and audacity (the triple As) in IT-related fields.
  • Tufts University (Benjamin Shapiro) Engaging Women in Computing through Musical Instrument and Performance This unique project will design a curriculum and an accompanying set of hardware and software tools that teach computational thinking and engineering through the design and construction of tangible, programmable electronic musical instruments that youth can use for live performances.
  • University of Arizona (Gondy Leroy and Paulo Goes) Tomorrow’s Leaders Equipped for Diversity The university’s department of management information systems (MIS) will team with industry to make computer science and MIS students aware of diversity issues, with a special focus on gender, preparing the students to be leaders and managers who are equipped to both counter the problems and leverage the benefits of diversity.

In addition, we know that a woman’s first two years of computer science graduate study are the most critical. During this time, she must determine her area of focus, increase her confidence in the field, enhance her capabilities in publishing and research, and build her network. This is why Microsoft Research created the Graduate Women’s Scholarship, which provides a US$15,000 stipend, plus a US$2,000 travel and conference allowance, to women in their second year of graduate study at a US or Canadian university. The scholarship helps recipients gain visibility in their departments, acquire mentorship, and cover the burgeoning cost of graduate programs.
We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Microsoft Research Graduate Women’s Scholarship:

  • Anne Holladay, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Claire Chow, University of Notre Dame
  • Yunmeng Ban, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Sruthi Polali, Rice University
  • Nan-Chen Chen, University of Washington
  • Ghazal Fazelnia, Columbia University
  • Tesca Fitzgerald, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Angelica Ruszkowski, University of British Columbia
  • Brooke Fugate, University of Pennsylvania
  • Elizabeth Mamantov, University of Michigan

Congratulations to all the winning programs and students. We look forward to great things from 2014’s women in computing.
Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections   Learn more

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