It's a few days to this year's International Women's Day. And I wanted to add my voice to the message about equity. I particularly like the story by Tamara Makoni about a babysitter that acknowledges that the two babies she was waiting on were different. One was allergic to apples, and one wasn't. And she had two apples. Then, just when she was about to give both of them apples, she realized that giving apple to the one that was allergic to it would be a disaster for the baby's health. What did she do? She looked for a banana and offered it to the baby. This simple story just illustrates how, sometimes, being equitable means a bit of intentionality.
I believe that a good number of people want to be fair. However, I think there are a few unintentional biases. You may not even know until you start to be intentional a little and really think about what you're doing. For example, in the story of this babysitter, she could have conveniently forgotten about the allergy of the baby, but she stopped and then she went out of her way to offer the banana. This may have meant that she had to do some extra bit of work like ordering the banana if she didn't have it in the house or contacting somebody to get the banana for her. It could have meant a little bit of more work. But she had to do it. Because she had sympathy for the baby. As one of the cards here puts it, “sympathy is when your heart is in my heart”. When your heart is in my heart, I treat you how I’d like to be treated.
I have a friend that shared her personal story with me. We will call her Earth. She has a teenage son. We will call him Kettle. One day, Earth had gone out for a better part of the day, for work. Before proceeding to work, she had been reading. By the time she arrived home, it was dinner time and she met Kettle watching TV. When she left, Kettle was also watching TV. Earth was mad. Earth told Kettle that it cannot be right to sit in front of the TV and watch it from morning to night. Kettle replied Earth “Mom, everybody cannot be like you.” Earth decided not to respond immediately. She decided to ponder on the comment. Then, she decided to engage Kettle in conversation after some time. What Kettle said not only gave Earth more insight into the mind of a teenager, but it also gave her an opportunity to enlighten him from her perspective. Kettle had recognized that Earth loves books and that not everybody would love books. Kettle also alluded that Earth doesn’t like sitting in front of the TV all day but that some people do. Earth acknowledged all that Kettle said. Then, she went on to tell him that she knows from experience that if we always do what we like, most likely, we won’t always do what is right. Earth illustrated her point with the story of a worker that likes sitting in front of the TV all day. He decided to do what he likes. By the end of the month, his subscription to the TV content had run out and he didn’t have any money to re-subscribe because he didn’t go to work. Because he did what he liked - sat in front of the TV all the time and didn’t go to work.
Let’s look at two scenarios. We’ll call them scenarios A and B. In scenario A, the parent allows the children to watch TV all night. The children love it. By the next morning, they were all exhausted and couldn’t do anything meaningful for the whole day. The work of their teachers in school was made more difficult as they were not attentive. In Scenario B, the parent set boundaries around TV time. The children had set routines. They went to bed on time. The next morning, they were free from exhaustion. Those who put no limits on their freedom, who do as they wish when they wish, are embracing childishness. They are not framing their mind as they should. Put simply, both a parent and a child, within a family setting, have a role to play in equity. Each must do their work when they must do it.
Another story that comes to my mind as I write this is Debby’s. Debby works with clients that must report at certain times. This means Debby always works on tight deadlines. Often, she would stay back at work to ensure the deadlines are met. She didn’t like doing this and she avoided it as much as possible. But sometimes, due to circumstances beyond her control, she could not. Consistently, Debby showed up and turned out excellent output to her boss. Her boss noticed Debby’s dedication and gave her glowing appraisal comments. One comment stood out – “Debby has an excellent work ethic.” Debby invested time and commitment in her work and ended up loving it.
Now, what is work ethic? I think of work ethic as a morally acceptable way of behaving at work. And I would like to think about it in terms of when no one is looking. I believe that is equity. That is doing unto others what you would like done to yourself. If you are working in an organization, you can practice equity by doing your work in the way that you would like it to be done if you owned that organization. I think it's that simple. And if you are the owner of the organization, you can practice equity by treating the staff the way you would like to be treated.
Now, reflecting on the story of Earth and Kettle. Kettle could practice equity by doing those things he would like done to him if he were the one providing for the family. He could invest in tending the house – cleaning, arranging things, and generally making the house feel welcomed for Earth’s arrival. Similarly, Earth could practice equity by putting herself in Kettle’s shoes and treating him the way she would like to be treated if she were his age. She could commit to acknowledging that Kettle doesn’t have the same level of experience she has on the values of work and being patient as she teaches Kettle these values.
I believe if we try to reflect on equity this way, some of the unintentional biases would most likely reduce.
I do wish you a beautiful week. And Happy International Women's Day.
Worry can weigh a person down, but an encouraging word cheers a person up. 'Cornish’s Cheer' hopes to be an encouragement to people who are under pressure, feel lonely, discouraged, or rejected. I hope these writings impart cheer, and hope and help you flourish with patience, love, and sincerity. Be encouraged and cheered. Also, practice 'chanting' positive affirmations, which can be a powerful tool to help boost confidence.
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