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Employers: Take note of the CROWN Act as it gains traction

(BUSINESS NEWS) Have you heard of the CROWN Act? Not only is it a potential regulation that businesses should be aware of, it’s about simple common courtesy in the workplace.

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CROWN Act

Long standing disparities between what falls within “professional attire and appearance” have often been on the forefront of women’s workplace rights, but the savvy business person knows that is only a fraction of the picture. Have you heard about the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair or CROWN Act?

It has been gaining traction across the country with little limelight.

In the US, standard perceptions of professionalism are overwhelmingly defined by caucasian-centric expectations of appearance. It is widely accepted that this harms the opportunities of, well, literally everyone else.

In short, the Act hopes to root out discrimination and glass ceilings artificially imposed by misconceptions around ethnic hairstyles of the African-American and other minority communities in the workforce and educational institutions. It first was introduced in California and has since been passed in some form in 12 other states and many municipalities across the country.

Minority or marginalized groups are expected to adhere to standards that simply aren’t designed to include them. Many ethnic groups have hair that simply won’t do the things that Caucasian hair does without significant chemical treatment and damaging maintenance. This is sometimes referred to as a “hidden cost of being other” and has come under well deserved scrutiny.

A study conducted by Dove in 2019 concluded that Black women were 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair.

There is also no shortage of evidence that these harsh treatments can cause a myriad of detrimental health effects ranging from chemical burns and hair loss to fetal abnormalities and miscarriage. Talk about yikes!!

If you want to buck the tradition of discriminatory fashion rules in the workplace, here are a few functional tips and misconceptions to keep in mind:

  1. Ethnic hair styles are not a reflection of poor personal hygiene. This is a misconception born of a fundamental lack of understanding of diverse hair texture and what different kinds do naturally. In practice, the opposite is typically true. Styles like scalp braids and locs are protective of coarse hair types and can be interpreted as a sign that an individual invests effort in their personal grooming.
  2. Where applicable, trust people to make their own grooming and attire choices. Frame useful guidelines that meet your business and safety needs rather than detailing out gendered attire and appearance standards.
  3. Where practical, make reading material available to employees on unconscious or implicit biases.

When considering inclusive policies, enabling people to be who they are naturally rather than promoting a culture of conformity is the way to go.

Photo by Candace McDaniel.

Rev. Delilah Redfield (she/her) is a queer, neurodivergent nerd with disabilities who spends her time writing, reading, voice acting, and making art when she isn't at her day job saving the environment. She is a career scientist, ordained minister, and cat mom.

Business News

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but sometimes things can go south – here’s how to escape when they do.

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

How to keep Pride month going year-round (without rainbow washing)

(BUSINESS NEWS) Pride month is over and companies have deleted their rainbow website adornments. Without much effort, your company can easily keep the commitment to kindness going – here’s how.

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pride month

Pride month in the US is behind us now and already the rainbows have faded from mega-corporate logos and branding. Making a constant commitment to inclusivity and anti-discrimination isn’t always easy and marketing has minefields aplenty.

So how does a small business navigate this? We’re starting from a deficit of trust and there are a few reasons why.

The large scale, mega-corporate marketing and PR targeted at the LGBTQIA+ community that goes on in June for Pride month, collectively referred to as “rainbow washing” (or sometimes even less flattering pandering accusations), has come under fire for being largely lip service and sometimes downright harmful by community advocates.

For example, one independent journalist just penned an editorial, putting AT&T on blast for publicly supporting LGBTQIA+ causes while funding political initiatives that negatively impact the community. I’d consider this a prime example of what not to do.

Businesses who want to be genuine in their commitment to pride have plenty of options that don’t require vast marketing or PR budgets.

Pride is ultimately about celebrating progress and obstacles surmounted by the community and highlighting the work needed to promote equality for everyone, regardless of identity or orientation.

The first thing any business can do is reflect internally. Address any dirty laundry that might be kicked behind the couch in the corner.

Try asking these questions:

  • Are our policies gender neutral?
  • Do any job titles involve gendered terms?
  • Is the language in morality clauses modern?
  • How do your benefits packages handle LGBTQIA+ health issues?

The other thing businesses can do, even if you are a business of just one person, is be an active member of your community.

Below are a few accessible, actionable suggestions on how to promote a welcoming and inclusive world:

  • Listen – Be informed about what goes on in your locale. Sometimes just being aware is more than half the battle.
  • Speak – if there is something going on in your community that you have a strong opinion on, speak up. Twitter is popular these days. Few things are more impactful than a call to city hall or the commerce department from a local business owner. You have more power than you probably realize. And yes, it IS good for business because it builds trust and loyalty within your customer base. Good things happen to those who make an effort to do the right thing.
  • Ask Questions – Nothing beats good old honesty and accountability. Colleagues, customers, and the community at large will respect you more if you are willing to open a dialog. This can be individual conversations, or a short survey in a newsletter or social media post. This builds trust and gives you an opportunity to serve as a role model for others.
  • Back Local Events – Get your name and logo out there. I know this one feels inaccessible to smaller businesses, but hear me out. Obviously, organisations running events like financial or in-kind contributions. If you can do that, great! A lot of organisations struggle with finding safe meeting spaces- can you unlock the office for 2 hours one evening after work one night a month? Something as simple as volunteering your parking lot for some extra space or putting a banner on your webpage for a week makes a big difference too. Push their events on your socials. Can I borrow your printer?

At the end of the day, every day, everyone just wants to be treated equally, with kindness and compassion.

Last I checked, those are two things we haven’t put a commercial price tag on yet. So, above all else, be kind. It’s amazing how far that can get you.

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Business News

How a study on a 35-hour workweek will impact post-pandemic life

(NEWS) With a successful study regarding a shortened workweek, conscious and proactive companies should be looking at making adjustments.

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shorter workweek

As we approach an “after” phase of pandemic life, many companies are asking for science on how to envision a new normal for the workforce. As experts warn of a silent mental health pandemic in the aftermath of COVID, employee wellbeing is top of mind for proactive companies, especially for those already losing employees to “The Great Resignation.”

One multi-year study conducted from 2015-2019 (notably pre-pandemic) coming out of Iceland, sheds some light on one method to improve wellbeing with no impact to productivity – give your employees 5 hours of their week back without docking their pay.

The study involved more than 2,500 workers, representing about 1% of Iceland’s workforce. Trials included maintaining the take home pay of the participating workers while requiring 4 or 5 less hours a week for traditional office and shift workers across a number of industries.

The results were positive for employees and employers across the board. The report analyzed employee retention, stress levels, burnout, health, and other quantitative and qualitative data.

People overall reported feeling more respected and rewarded with having extra time and flexibility. For some that was time for hobbies, travel, exercise, or simply the freedom to pick up their kids from school in the afternoons leading to more engaged, meaningful family time.

The results in Iceland have widely been codified into practice by unions. The Icelandic Committee on Labour Market Statistics reports approximately 170,200 union workers are now participating in a shortened workweek. The following is from the official report jointly published in June 2021 by Iceland’s non-profit Association for Democracy and Sustainability (Alda) and Autonomy (think tank based out of the UK), summarizing the information as such:

“This means that 86% of Iceland’s entire working population has now either moved to working shorter hours or have had new mechanisms made available to them through which they can negotiate shorter hours in their workplace.”

The BBC reports that after the overwhelming success in Iceland, similar studies are currently underway in New Zealand and Spain.

Kickstarter has announced their own testing of reduced schedules slated to begin in 2022. A report out of Platform London suggested that the carbon footprint of the entire UK could possibly be lowered by shortening work weeks as well.

Takeaways:

  • Employee well-being and burnout prevention are big items to address in pandemic aftermath.
  • A shorter workweek has been shown to maintain or increase productivity while providing benefits for employees and employers both, on the condition net pay is unchanged.
  • Now more than ever before there is opportunity, evidence, and momentum to transition away from the old definition of traditional work schedules and pioneer a new normal.

What would you do if you could have 5 hours of your week back? Carpe Diem.

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