2021
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May 04, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

‘Filled with her spirit’: How art helps heal Breonna Taylor’s city

April Austin
Weekly Deputy Editor, Books Editor

When the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, approached Breonna Taylor’s mother about an exhibition in her daughter’s honor, she was surprised. Tamika Palmer did not expect her daughter, who was shot in her apartment by police in 2020, to be remembered in this way, nor did she dream of being asked to help, she told NPR. The exhibition, “Promise, Witness, Remembrance,” which opened last month, not only celebrates Ms. Taylor’s life, but also reflects the unusual collaboration that made the show possible.  

Along with involving Ms. Taylor’s family, the museum sought advice from Black artists and Louisville activists. The result: a show of about 30 works of art, including portraiture, installations, and video – all created by Black artists. The exhibition also features photographs of the protests against racial injustice and police violence that erupted in the city last year. The Speed museum has given the exhibition pride of place, clearing several galleries of its permanent collection to make room. 

Could this exhibit help heal a fractured community? Already some signs suggest the answer is yes. Local activists, who wondered what to expect from an institution not known for its outreach to people of color, came away moved by the experience. Many, like activist Jason Downey, were glad to see work exclusively from Black artists, instead of “a bunch of white folks doing their interpretation [of what] they thought it should be.” 

Ms. Taylor’s mother, who contributed a timeline of her daughter’s life, said it felt peaceful “to be able to come to this place and just be filled with her spirit.” 

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A deeper look

A tale of two pandemics: Europe and US take different exits

As they begin to emerge from the pandemic, Europe and the U.S. find themselves in different places with different priorities that reflect their values and histories.

April
Nick Squires
Gigi Ansuini stands beside his produce in the Pizzicheria Romana deli in Rome. His business is down 80% because of the pandemic and the shop's future is unclear.

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On Cape Cod in Massachusetts, they’re expecting a record-breaking summer season as tourists freed from pandemic restrictions look to have some fun.

But across the Atlantic, in Rome, Gini Ansuini, who owns a 480-year-old deli, cannot tell how long it will take to get over the 80% falloff in business that he has suffered.

As America’s economy sets growth records, Europe has slipped into its second pandemic recession. But there are lessons for governments on both sides of the ocean.

For the United States, which registered the highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, the lesson might be that Europe’s national bureaucracies, built on a tradition of social welfare, are better suited to mitigate health and economic disasters.

For Europe, it would seem that solving such crises requires the speed and size of federal action that Washington got right and that the European Union just cannot match. Whether it be the scale of vaccination rollouts, or the efficiency with which EU recovery funds are being distributed, the judgment of France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is scathing: “We have lost too much time.”

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A tale of two pandemics: Europe and US take different exits

On Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, things are looking up for the Red Jacket Beach Resort and its sparkling Atlantic views.

After a troubled year, the resort’s restaurants, swimming pools, deck chairs, and beach were crammed during last week’s public school spring break, and reservations for the summer season are pouring in.

“Memorial Day weekend will be gangbusters,” predicts company spokesman Matt Pitta. “People are itching to travel. We are looking at a record summer.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, though, Gigi Ansuini, whose family owns the Pizzicheria Romana delicatessen in Rome, is facing a much grimmer future. This Aladdin’s cave of hanging prosciutto hams, huge wheels of Parmigiano cheese, and bottles of extra-virgin olive oil is facing one of the toughest periods in its 480-year history.

“Business is down by 80%,” says Mr. Ansuini. “With the lockdown and ban on travel, we have been really hit hard. We live off tourism, so we’re in great difficulty.”

This contrast is playing itself out in thousands of places across Europe and the United States. While the eurozone has slipped into its second recession of the pandemic, the U.S. economy is growing at its fastest pace since 1984. By April, its gross domestic product was within a hair’s breadth of a full recovery, and the boom should continue, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This turnaround is as unexpected as it is dramatic.

A year ago, it seemed that Europe was better placed to recover from the pandemic. That the tables have now turned speaks volumes about the strengths and weaknesses of the continents’ respective government structures and the cultural values that underpin them. The lessons learned could help the U.S. and Europe cope better the next time a crisis looms.

For the U.S., the lesson may be that Europe’s national bureaucracies, built on a tradition of social welfare, are better suited to mitigate health and economic disasters than America’s more fractured, free enterprise-based system. Stronger safety nets in Europe meant fewer people with COVID-19 symptoms felt they had to go to work anyway, potentially threatening others.

“One of the reasons that the EU ... death toll is so much lower is that the European support system for people was much more solid,” says Richard Baldwin, an economist at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. That, and a great trust in government “led to better compliance with the restrictions.”

For Europe, the lesson may be that solving such crises requires a speed and size of federal action that the U.S. got right and that the European Union just can’t match.

“The fact that the U.S. has the ability to borrow ... as much as we need to, and we have one national economy, has made it easier for the U.S. to go big” in terms of stimulus, said Jacob Lew, former treasury secretary during the Obama administration, speaking at an Atlantic Council conference last month.

And crucially, Mr. Lew added, an ambitious U.S. vaccination program means that “we’ve finally got our hands around the health crisis,” boosting consumer confidence. “Europe is far behind in vaccinations,” he pointed out.

Laurent Belsie/The Christian Science Monitor
Matt Pitta, spokesman for the Red Jacket Beach Resort on Cape Cod, is expecting a record-breaking summer tourist season. "People are itching to travel," he says.

 

That frontier mentality

When the pandemic first hit early last year, both the U.S. and most European governments instituted lockdowns to keep citizens safe at home. As the weeks wore on, those restrictions began to chafe and worries about the economic effects of the lockdown grew. 

In Rome, many restaurants and hotels around the Pizzicheria Romana shut down when Italy imposed its first lockdown – and they never reopened. 

In the U.S., fears of a similar fate were rampant. “It was a dark time,” recalls David Gluck, regional director of the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association, which serves Cape Cod as well as all states from Maryland to Maine. “The experts said ... ‘Prepare for the worst recession you have ever seen.’”

Industries and some politicians on both sides of the Atlantic began to warn that the lockdowns were killing the economy. The voices were loudest and most effective in the U.S. 

Conservative governors in Southern and Western states began opening up their states to commerce, partly in response to those economic concerns and partly because of distrust of big government – an American tradition dating back to frontier days. 

“We certainly see your average American looking very different than your average European – looking much more individualistic in a variety of domains,” says Samuel Bazzi, an economist at the University of California, San Diego. “This frontier culture is very opposed to the government interfering in one’s pursuit of economic well-being.”

Mr. Bazzi began noticing a pattern: The response to the mitigation measures didn’t just vary by state; it varied by county. In a study, he and two colleagues found that the more time a county spent as part of the frontier during America’s historical westward expansion, the weaker its local effort to fight the pandemic with social distancing and other collective measures.

That frontier mentality fed a broader attitude. When Marcella Alsan, a Harvard economist and physician, and her colleagues surveyed nearly half a million people across 15 nations, they found that 23% of Americans were unwilling to sacrifice any rights, even during times of major crisis. That was higher than any European nation; France came in at 19%, Italy at 12%. 

“In Europe, people listened to their national governments,” says Professor Baldwin.

Europe fumbles the ball

By early last summer, Europe could pat itself on the back. Government mitigation efforts seemed to have brought the virus under control.  In Italy, new cases fell to near zero. While Europe had not yet authorized the kind of big stimulus package that the U.S. had provided, some 40 nations had introduced job retention programs, protecting 68 million jobs at the peak, according to the IMF.

European corporate bankruptcies also declined in 2020 despite the downturn, thanks to substantive and speedy credit to firms and debt moratoriums.

“We did not see a cascading of bankruptcies of corporates; we did not see widespread unemployment,” said Alfred Kammer, director of the IMF’s European department, in an online conference with reporters. “The lifelines kept these economies intact.”

Nick Squires
The historic Pizzicheria Romana deli and a deserted piazza, seen through the columns of the Pantheon in Rome.

In the U.S., which already held the record for the most COVID-19 cases and fatalities, the virus began to surge again in the fall – this time hitting hard the Dakotas and other rural frontier areas that were spared the first time. A big stimulus package, pushed through by the Trump administration, kept the recession from spiraling out of control. Unprecedented $1,200 checks to a large majority of taxpaying Americans pumped billions of dollars into the economy.

Still, unemployment briefly hit levels not seen since the Great Depression. Federal supplemental aid to unemployed people meant some Americans earned more on unemployment benefits than they had on the job. And a new program to funnel money to employers who didn’t fire or furlough workers was criticized for helping the biggest and best-connected firms rather than the small businesses struggling the most.

The Trump administration, in full reelection mode, tried to downplay the importance of the virus and sometimes outright contradicted the public advice that health professionals were giving.

In contrast to this messy, stumbling performance, the Europeans’ response looked smart, targeted, and efficient. Then, they fumbled the ball.

While the United Kingdom worked quickly to secure a deal for vaccines from pharma giant AstraZeneca, the EU dragged out negotiations for another three months in order to get better prices and guarantees on product liability. When the vaccine became available, EU members had to wait, and their national vaccination campaigns have since been “unacceptably slow,” the World Health Organization says. Only 10% of the European population has been vaccinated.

The U.S., meanwhile, has implemented a relatively smooth and effective vaccination program. The same frontier mentality that resisted collective government action began to coalesce around a government-aided, private industry initiative: the vaccine.

Federal authorities allowed Big Pharma to streamline drug trials and quickly issued experimental approval for two vaccines. And the Trump administration’s $14 billion program of rapid vaccine production and distribution, known as Operation Warp Speed, was expanded by President Joe Biden.

The result is that the U.S. has sprinted ahead as the only major economy to fully vaccinate more than 30% of its population. In turn, that has led to strong consumer confidence in the rebound. And with up to $3,200 in federal money from three separate stimulus programs – two under Donald Trump and one under Mr. Biden – the average American has money to spend. 

Where’s the money?

These are signs of American resilience and practical flexibility.

In one sense, the U.S. had to act because its coronavirus crisis was so bad. Republican legislators compromised their fiscal conservatism to pass two stimulus bills. And those die-hards who said they would never give up their individual rights? It turns out that the more people experience a threat firsthand, the more likely they are to surrender their right to refuse to mask or social distance – in return for security, according to Professor Alsan, the Harvard economist. And that includes Americans.

And when Americans can agree on a solution – in this case, a fiscal stimulus and government aid to speed vaccine development and deployment – the federal government can move with remarkable speed and scale. That’s something the 27-member EU hasn’t delivered.

“Once the federal government gets behind an idea and rolls out all the capacities available, they can get a lot done within a couple of months,” says Arjen Boin, a crisis management expert at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Laurent Belsie/The Christian Science Monitor
Main Street in Hyannis, on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The town is preparing for a flood of tourists this summer.

The European Commission, the EU’s Brussels-based executive arm, does not have that kind of power. “Europe is never going to be like the military operation you see in the U.S.,” Professor Boin adds. “It’s always the member states who have to find each other and work together.”

Europe is now putting its faith in the EU’s €750 billion ($904 billion) stimulus package to boost post-pandemic recovery, financed by mutualized debt issued for the first time by the European Commission.

The package will be divided roughly equally between grants and loans to member states, with Italy and Spain, the two hardest-hit European economies, as the largest beneficiaries. The money will be aimed largely at projects to build a greener Europe with a strong digital foundation.

“I believe the recovery fund, based on how it will be funded – common debt mutualization – will open up future opportunities for common European approaches to crises in the future,” says Mark Rhinard, professor of international relations at Stockholm University.

But the money will not be disbursed until all the bloc’s members have ratified the necessary legislation and the commission has approved all the member governments’ spending plans. That means no money until July 2021, nearly a year since EU governments agreed on the plan.

Some worry that is not soon enough, pointing out that the $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus that the U.S. Congress passed last month was being implemented within days.

“Let’s be clear: We were very efficient last year in the adoption of the European recovery plan and on the decision on common debt issuance,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on April 27. “Since then, we have lost too much time. China has resumed its growth. The U.S. is booming. The EU must remain in the race.”

It’s rough in Rome

Italy is still recording thousands of new COVID-19 cases a day and has registered the second worst death toll in Europe after Britain.  With the economy shrinking last year by nearly 9%, it is estimated that around 1 million jobs have been lost, many of them in the tourism sector.

At the Pizzicheria Romana, not even locals are coming to the salumeria – the Italian word for delicatessen. Many office workers in Rome are working from home as a result of COVID-19, while even those who come into the center often bring their own lunch. 

“They don’t want to be out and about because they are worried about catching the virus,” explains Mr. Ansuini. At least the deli is still open and doing business, but the regular staff of 10 has been reduced to three; the rest are temporarily laid off and living on government unemployment benefits. 

On Cape Cod, the anticipation is palpable. “This summer is off the charts,” says Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. Usually, summer visitors wait till the last minute to make reservations, hoping for a discount, she says. This year, they’re making reservations now to ensure they get a room.

And many of the locals who have found themselves working from home for the past year have decided that those homes could do with some improvement. The upshot? Lumber prices have tripled to reach record highs, and some building materials are being rationed. 

“I’ve never seen shortages like this,” says Hamilton “Tony” Shepley, head of Shepley Wood Products, the cape’s biggest building materials company. But “tough times make tough people. Maybe we’re seeing a glimmer of the Greatest Generation” in today’s resilient business people.

Nick Squires in Rome contributed reporting to this article.
Editor's note: The article's description of the initial $1,200 pandemic stimulus has been corrected to accurately reflect the share of U.S. taxpayers who received it.

A debate over ending debate

With the Senate – and the nation – closely divided, frustration over the filibuster has grown. Those in the majority tend to see it as an obstacle to progress. For those in the minority, it’s about protecting their rights.

April
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
The U.S. Capitol Dome is seen through an arch on the Senate side of the complex in Washington, D.C.

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On Capitol Hill, there is an intensifying debate about whether the filibuster – a procedure that allows a minority group of senators to delay or block legislation – is a tool of principle or partisan obstructionism.

Supporters say the filibuster acts as a guardrail on American democracy by preserving a voice for the minority party and ensuring that major legislation has support from both sides of the aisle. But critics say the filibuster is being exploited to obstruct urgently needed government action, blocking the will of voters.

Issues killed by filibusters or threatened with filibusters over the years have ranged from the admission of new states to Panama Canal tolls to civil rights legislation – including anti-lynching bills, an anti-poll tax bill, and fair employment bills.

With the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris and the support of every Democratic senator, Democrats could repeal or reform the filibuster – though so far, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said they are not in favor of scrapping it.

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A debate over ending debate

Perhaps no Senate rule is as famous as the filibuster, which starred in its own Hollywood film. In the Oscar-winning “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Jimmy Stewart’s character holds forth on the Senate floor for almost 24 hours to delay a vote on a bill marred by political corruption. Although he collapses from exhaustion, his impassioned stand for principle ultimately wins the day. 

Today, there is an intensifying debate about whether the filibuster is indeed a tool of principle, or rather one of partisan obstructionism. Supporters say the filibuster acts as a guardrail on American democracy by preserving a voice for the minority party and ensuring that major legislation has support from both sides of the aisle. But critics say the filibuster is being exploited to obstruct urgently needed government action, blocking the will of voters. They also cite its prominent role in the past in blocking civil rights legislation.

Here’s a look at the 215-year Senate tradition and its impact on lawmaking today. 

What is the filibuster?

The filibuster is a procedure that allows a minority group of senators to delay or block legislation from being passed. Traditionally this has been done by a “talking filibuster,” as Stewart’s character did. Today it can be done quietly, blocking progress on one bill while the Senate continues business on other matters. Either way, ending a filibuster requires 60 of the Senate’s 100 members, and is known as invoking cloture.

That means that bills, with only one major exception (see below), need at least 60 senators’ consent even to be put to a vote. In the current Senate, that requires Democrats – who, along with two independent members, hold 50 seats – to get the support of at least 10 Republicans. 

Is it in the Constitution?

No. The filibuster became possible by default when a Senate rule change in 1806 left senators with no mechanism for ending debate. 

But is it in accord with the framers’ vision for the Senate? It is clear that they did envision the Senate as having a different character than the popularly elected House. Senators were required to be older, elected by state legislatures, and longer-serving, with only a third of seats up for reelection every election year. Supporters of the filibuster argue that while it was not instituted by the framers, it reflects their vision of the Senate as a more deliberative body. But critics say increased partisanship and the changing nature of the institution – including the fact that since 1914 senators have been elected by popular vote – have allowed the filibuster to be exploited for partisan ends, bringing the legislative process to a halt. 

The framers emphasized the importance of minority rights, warning against a tyranny of the majority. But they also cautioned that requiring a supermajority for legislation could gridlock the government, as it did under the Articles of Confederation. In The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton wrote that when supermajorities are required, “we are apt to rest satisfied that all is safe, because nothing improper will be likely TO BE DONE, but we forget how much good may be prevented, and how much ill may be produced, by the power of hindering the doing what may be necessary.”

The filibuster was first used in the 1830s, then fairly sparingly for the remainder of the century. Not until Woodrow Wilson complained that “a little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great government of the United States helpless and contemptible” was a cloture rule finally passed in 1917. This allowed the Senate to cut off debate if they could muster two-thirds support. That was lowered to the current three-fifths, or 60 senators, in 1975.

How often has the filibuster been used to thwart civil rights legislation?

Last summer, former President Barack Obama called the filibuster a relic of the Jim Crow era, which has become a common Democratic refrain.

Issues killed by filibusters or threatened with filibusters have ranged from the admission of new states to Panama Canal tolls to civil rights legislation – including anti-lynching bills, an anti-poll tax bill, and fair employment bills. Though there were only a handful of years in which the filibuster was used more for civil rights legislation than other issues, critics argue that it had an outsize effect on civil rights.

Most famous, perhaps, was South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond’s record 24-hour, 18-minute filibuster of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, legislation designed to protect African American voting rights. The measure eventually passed, but was watered down. Senator Thurmond’s record still stands, and is cited by critics who see the filibuster as a tool of white supremacy.

Republicans note, however, that just a few years ago 30 Democrats – including Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who are Black – were among 61 senators who signed a 2017 letter urging then-GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not to scrap the filibuster. 

How else can the Senate get around the 60-vote threshold?

With the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Harris and the support of every Democratic senator, Democrats could repeal or reform the filibuster. Options could include reducing the number of votes required to invoke cloture, requiring that all filibusters be “talking filibusters,” and limiting which motions can be filibustered. So far, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have said they will uphold the filibuster, preventing their party from scrapping it. 

Barring that, Democrats have one main avenue for passing filibuster-proof legislation: budget reconciliation. Each year’s budget can be passed with a simple majority, which only requires one more yea than nay. Democrats used the fiscal year 2021 budget to get the recent COVID-19 relief bill through the Senate despite no Republicans supporting it, and in an unusual move, the Senate parliamentarian has given them a green light to use the process again to “revise” the budget, which could include incorporating new spending. In addition, Senate Democrats can use the same process for the fiscal 2022 budget, giving them as many as four filibuster-free legislative opportunities this calendar year. However, the Senate parliamentarian can rule certain provisions as not eligible for passage in a budget reconciliation bill, as she did with the $15 minimum wage provision in the COVID-19 bill. 

Key legislation that Democrats would like to pass but that is unlikely to get enough Republican support includes expanding federal mandates for voting and election protocols, enhancing background checks for gun purchases, bolstering anti-discrimination provisions for the LGBTQ community as outlined in the Equality Act, and reforming policing in America. 

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For the newly food insecure, help that preserves dignity

The face of hunger is changing in the U.S. It affects a broadening demographic and defies old stereotypes. But nimble organizations are adapting to match relief to need. 

April

Odessa Davis is used to helping families as a public school teacher and summer camp director in Maryland’s Montgomery County. But when the pandemic forced camps to close, the single mother realized her own family was in need. So she swallowed her pride and sought help to feed her 11-year-old son.

Ms. Davis is one of many Americans who struggled to put food on the table for the first time during the past year. As job losses skyrocketed, the number of Americans facing food insecurity reached 265 million in 2020, according to a Northwestern University estimate.

To meet the rising demand, relief organizations had to get creative. In Washington, D.C., Capital Area Food Bank teamed up with Goodwill to distribute pre-packed boxes of food to families like Ms. Davis’.

Hilary Salmon, communications director of Capital Area Food Bank, says helping people work past the stigma of asking for help is an important step in combating hunger. “There’s nothing more important than making sure you and your family are getting your basic needs met,” says Ms. Salmon. “Our partners are deeply committed to making sure everybody who walks through their doors are treated with respect, dignity, and support.” – Ibrahim Onafeko Staff writer

This audio story was designed to be heard. We strongly encourage you to experience it with your ears, but we understand that is not an option for everybody. You can find the audio player above. For those who are unable to listen, we have provided a transcript here.

For the newly food insecure, help that preserves dignity

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#TeamUp

Workplace diversity: Managers must build a culture of belonging

Equal opportunity is about more than opening the door a little to new hires, our columnist writes. Management that fosters an inclusive culture of trust can help everyone to thrive.

April

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My co-author and I recently surveyed four races and four generations of American female “desk workers,” as well as 150 white male managers. When we asked about mentoring, we found female managers were more likely than the men to help others, regardless of race or gender. A majority of white male managers said they give feedback to and receive feedback from other white men.

That doesn’t bode well for creating more inclusive workplaces. Yet the census predicts that by 2027, the majority of 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. workforce will be people of color. Change is inevitable and imminent. How do we prepare?

My co-author and I recommend more training – and retraining – of managers to increase the number of “transformational” leaders.

What does one look like? One leader who earned a perfect score from his team has “open office hours” once a week. Anyone who signs up gets 15 minutes to pitch a new idea, ask for assistance with a project, or just bond.

Even more important, transformational leaders display cultural intelligence, an awareness and appreciation of racial, gender, generational, and all kinds of differences. In short, they create a genuine sense of belonging.

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Workplace diversity: Managers must build a culture of belonging

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Window Snyder from Fastly (center) speaks on a panel moderated by Aanchal Gupta (left), director of security at Facebook, at Our Security Advocates (OURSA), an alternate cybersecurity conference featuring female speakers, on April 17, 2018, in San Francisco. OURSA was formed in response to an almost all-male lineup of speakers at that year's RSA Conference.

In my first #TeamUp column, I wrote about often being the only person of my race or gender in professional situations. That experience isn’t unique to me.

My co-author, Bonita Stewart, and I found in our 2019 survey of four races and four generations of American female “desk workers” that 47% of Black women said they were frequently or always “onlys.” By contrast, 73% of white women said they were rarely “onlys.”

We wondered whether we would see significant progress a year later, after George Floyd’s horrific, on-camera murder, the subsequent racial and social justice protests, and the scores of corporate declarations of support for increased diversity and inclusion activities. Demographics alone demanded improvement, we thought. After all, the census predicts that by 2027 the majority of 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. workforce will be people of color. Change is inevitable and imminent. 

However, the “only” number barely moved in our second survey, our 2020 Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey©. In the final month of a turbulent year, 46% of Black women said they remained always or frequently the “only.” And 72% of white women said they were rarely “onlys,” a shift of just one point for both groups. For Latina women, there was a slight improvement – from 41% to 36%. For Asian women, the “only” number ticked up slightly – from 39% to 40%.

Yes, the results were disappointing, but in this survey we compared responses from female “desk workers” with those of 150 white male managers. Aha, we thought. They will tell us how and why the numbers changed so little. And they did.

Stretch assignments and mentors

Our top findings about the career-defining assignments people are given and the feedback they receive were revealing:

  • 62% of white male managers said they have received a stretch assignment, a challenging work assignment that pushes one out of one’s comfort zone, within the last 12 months. Only 44% of Black, 36% of Latina, 37% of Asian, and 35% of white female managers reported receiving similar stretch assignments.
  • 75% of white male managers said they were receiving helpful feedback, while the female managers reported lower percentages. Latina female managers topped this category with 51%, followed by Black women at 48%. Obviously, there’s still room for feedback parity.

When we asked about mentoring, we found all female managers were more likely than the white men in our survey to help others, regardless of race or gender. Women ranged from 56%-65% versus the men at just 34%. 

White male managers said they were more comfortable with other white men:

  • The majority, 51%, reported that they help white men, and 61% said they seek career advice from other white men. Asked why, they chose, “Because I feel that I can better identify with them.”

The result, of course, is that, with white male managers outnumbering managers of color and primarily giving feedback to and receiving feedback from white men, women of color are missing out on mentoring.

SOURCE: 2020 Women of Color in Business: Cross-Generational Survey ©
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Moving toward a more inclusive workplace

Great managers matter. My co-author and I have benefited from positive working relationships with white male allies and mentors. In fact, an entire chapter of our book is for and about them. One of our most urgent suggestions is for corporate leaders to work overtime to find and reward talent among people who do not look like them. We urge them to hire well-educated, ambitious, tech-forward women of color in multiples! The era of tokenism is over.

Fortunately, majorities of both Black and white managers in our recent survey recognize the harm that a lack of diversity has caused in the workplace:

  • 70% of Black female managers agreed that systemic racism has hurt the U.S. economy a great deal, and a majority of white male managers, 53%, concurred. 

But that recognition won’t automatically bring change. Our 2020 findings illuminate the fear and discomfort that some white male managers may be feeling and the need to create psychologically safe places for them to embrace inclusivity and radical empathy.

As Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson explains, a psychologically safe workplace does not mean that standards are relaxed or expectations are low. “It is not about becoming ‘comfortable’ at work,” she has written. “Psychological safety is the belief that the environment is safe for interpersonal risk taking. People feel able to speak up ... without being shut down in a gratuitous way. Psychological safety is present when colleagues trust and respect each other and feel able, even obligated, to be candid.”

So how do we get there? My co-author and I recommend more training – and retraining – of managers to increase the number of “transformational” leaders.

What does one look like? One leader who earned a perfect score from his team has “open office hours” once a week. Anyone who signs up gets 15 minutes to pitch a new idea, ask for assistance with a project, or just bond. Another leader was challenged by his “introverts,” who told him not everyone is comfortable speaking up in a meeting. The leader responded by suggesting some extracurricular reading; then, together, the staff came up with ways to make sure everyone was comfortable sharing ideas.

Transformational leaders are easy to spot because they are attracting innovative, high-performing, satisfied, and profitable teams. They look for potential not perfection, and they’re courageous. They also display several well-known skill sets: IQ (basic intelligence), EQ (emotional intelligence), and most importantly CQ (cultural intelligence), an awareness and appreciation of racial, gender, generational, and all kinds of differences. In short, transformational leaders create a genuine sense of belonging.

Companies need to recognize and reward their most transformational leaders, who create a culture where all workers – including a growing number of women of color – can thrive.

Jacqueline Adams is co-author of “A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Empower and Thrive.”

Bug-eyed about invading cicadas? They might teach you some life lessons.

“All I really need to know I learned from insects.” OK, our reporter didn’t quite say that. But with billions of cicadas bearing down, he’s got the buzz on a way to approach the experience with humility and even wonder.

April
Courtesy of Nancy Hinkle
Nancy Hinkle, professor of entomology at the University of Georgia, pictured here with a periodical cicada in 2004. She says she plans to drive 60 or 70 miles to northern Georgia to witness the emergence of Brood X, which she has not seen in 17 years.

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Boisterous cicadas are about to burst forth in the eastern United States, and Nancy Hinkle is getting ready to hop in her car. Not to get away from them. To study and observe them in awe.

The rest of us may not fully share her enthusiasm, but entomologists like her say these insects deserve some appreciation – and may even have lessons for humans in our current times.

They won’t eat your flowers or veggie garden. Their locations vary for groups or “broods” that emerge on different cycles, east of the Mississippi River. Each brood is identified by a Roman numeral. Brood X, which has been recorded in descriptions dating back to the Colonial era, is expected to appear this month in the District of Columbia and 15 states – and has already been spotted emerging in Georgia this week.

These bugs are models of getting important work done below the surface, coming outside when it’s warm, and acting collectively when they need to.

“One of the things that cicadas can teach us,” says ecology researcher DeAnna Beasley in Tennessee, “is that we’re all connected.”

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Bug-eyed about invading cicadas? They might teach you some life lessons.

Billions of boisterous cicadas are about to burst forth in the eastern United States, and Nancy Hinkle is getting ready to hop in her car. 

Not to get away from them. To study and observe them in awe.

There are so many unknowns about these buzzing, 17-year periodical bugs, says Dr. Hinkle, a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia. Among them: “How do [the bugs] synchronize their emergence?” and “How do they know that it’s been 17 years and they should all emerge at the same time?”

For many people, the impending swarms may be a source of annoyance or even fear. For her, these open questions enhance her sense of wonder. 

“Only by experiencing this for yourself can one appreciate just how amazing the Brood X emergence is,” Professor Hinkle says. “I’m going to have to travel 60 or 70 miles just to be able to see them.”

The rest of us may not fully share her enthusiasm, but entomologists like her say these insects deserve some appreciation – and may even have lessons for humans in our current times.

They won’t eat your flowers or veggie garden. Their locations vary for groups or “broods” that emerge on different cycles, generally east of the Mississippi River. Each brood is identified by a Roman numeral. Brood X, which has been recorded in descriptions dating back to the Colonial era, is expected to appear this month in the District of Columbia and 15 states – and has already been spotted emerging in Georgia this week.

Courtesy of Judy Carpenter
A cicada sits on a flower in Union County, Georgia, during the Brood X emergence in May 2021.

“One of the things that cicadas can teach us is that we’re all connected,” says DeAnna Beasley, an assistant professor and integrative ecologist at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, who is eagerly waiting to see if the cicadas will emerge in her part of Tennessee. 

And to Michael Raupp, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, there is an “interesting parallel” between human society’s pandemic cycle from reclusiveness toward reopening and the bugs’ emergence after “living a COVID-like existence for 17 years underground.”

What can we learn from a bug’s life? Here are a few of the lessons we might draw from these small but active insects.

  1. Work beneath the surface. The 17-year cicadas spend the majority of their lives below ground, fulfilling an important ecological function of aerating the soil. In an age of social media, we, people, would do well to remember that much of life’s work takes place beneath the surface, when there is no buzz, when no one is watching. 
  2. Get out when it is warm. The cicadas emerge once the soil temperatures reach around 64 degrees Fahrenheit several inches down. For the cicadas, buried below ground for years, the surfacing comes in the spring. For those of us who have been hidden inside, perhaps buried in our computer screens, the cicadas remind us to, as Professor Raupp says, “get up and out,” especially when it is warm outside.
  3. Rise together. The billions of bugs who push up at around the same time do so for a practical reason, survival. When they rise together, predators become overwhelmed. For a world grown accustomed to division and facing significant challenges ahead, the Brood X cicadas’ emergence can remind us to rise together in order to survive. 
  4. Leave your old self behind, come out of your shell. Once out in the open, often after climbing high up in a tree, the cicadas molt, leaving the shell that once provided protection behind. “It’s just their outer shell that they’ve outgrown,” Professor Beasley says. For people who may be struggling to move forward, and attached to their past protective shell, the cicadas offer inspiration. It is only when the shells are gone that they can fly.
  5. When necessary make some noise. A primary reason the cicadas attract our attention is because of their louder-than-a-lawnmower mating call, which the males make to the females. The bugs don’t spend the majority of their 17-year lives hollering, however. Professor Hinkle calls them “harmless” and “nature’s pruning service,” due to the way their egg-laying habits can affect pencil-thin tree limbs. They’re usually quiet and below the surface. The great noise they make is only for the survival of the species. 

So if the bugs bother you this spring, remember, they’ll be gone in a matter of weeks. That boisterous bumble has a purpose – to replenish the earth, so that one of the world’s wonders can come again, to be eyed, examined, and maybe even enjoyed again 17 years hence.

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Feeling creative? Join the pandemic-weary.

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After a year of staying at home during the pandemic, more than half of Americans have picked up a new creative pastime, according to one survey. More than half say they are working more collaboratively from home than in the workplace. Another survey shows a boom in patents for new technologies to assist at-home work.

All this was not expected a year ago. The great disruption of COVID-19 has led to a great burst of creativity or, at the least, a search for ways to foster and manage creativity.

“We have learned skills that we didn’t have,” said Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank. “We have experienced remote working relationships, we have not lost much in terms of productivity, quite, sometimes, to the contrary.”

One change is most noticeable: Companies no longer define productivity as how much a worker produces in a period of time. Rather, workers are judged for creativity and innovation. By that standard, many of the limits once set for work and for workers are coming off. As poet Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

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Feeling creative? Join the pandemic-weary.

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Germans protest "for the revival of the cultural and club scene, through the creative use of public space" in Berlin, May 1.

After a year of staying at home during the pandemic, more than half of Americans have picked up a new creative pastime, according to one survey. More than half say they are working more collaboratively from home than in the workplace. Another survey shows a boom in patents for new technologies to assist at-home work. And unlike previous recessions, the United States has seen more than 4.4 million new businesses created over the past year.

In Europe, meanwhile, a survey of managers and employees found 82% say their productivity rate held steady or increased after learning to work remotely. A majority said remote work is a powerful way to retain top talent. In both Europe and the U.S., productivity is expected to increase 1.5% a year until 2024 – or double the pre-pandemic rate, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

All this was not expected a year ago. The great disruption of COVID-19 has led to a great burst of creativity or, at the least, a search for ways to foster and manage creativity.

According to the World Economic Forum, the pace of change in industries will require more than half of employees to acquire new skills by 2025. And what skills are most needed? They are creativity, active learning, innovative thinking, and originality. The shifts caused by the pandemic “have accelerated the need for reskilling, upskilling, learning and redeployment at scale,” according to the WEF.

“We have learned skills that we didn’t have,” said Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, at a recent Aspen Security Forum. “We have experienced remote working relationships, we have not lost much in terms of productivity, quite, sometimes, to the contrary.”

One change is most noticeable, according to Jon Friedman, Microsoft’s vice president for design and research: Companies no longer define productivity as how much a worker produces in a period of time. Rather, workers are judged for creativity and innovation.

By that standard, many of the limits once set for work and for workers are coming off.

As poet Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” For all the finite restrictions imposed by the pandemic, people have chosen to tap into an infinitely renewable resource.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Healing is possible – everywhere and always

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Even when circumstances seem dire, the powerful love of God is here and everywhere – from India, to Brazil, to Canada, and beyond – to uplift, help, and heal.

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Healing is possible – everywhere and always

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

As people and governments around the world persevere in efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic, one important way we can all help is to affirm that there is no place where God’s healing love isn’t present, or where our spiritual understanding of God’s presence cannot be of help to others. As “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, describes: “The ‘still, small voice’ of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe’s remotest bound. The inaudible voice of Truth is, to the human mind, ‘as when a lion roareth.’ It is heard in the desert and in dark places of fear” (p. 559).

The many verified accounts of Christian Science healings from all over the globe illustrate just how true this is. Here’s a taste of that: a selection of pieces from the JSH-Online archives that speak profoundly to God’s power to heal – including in contagious or life-threatening situations. These particular testifiers hail from India, Canada, Brazil, and the United States. May the ideas and spiritual truths found in their heartfelt accounts inspire your own prayers for your families, communities, and the world, too.

In “Damaged lungs restored,” a man testifies that praying to understand his true nature as not material, but spiritual, brought permanent healing after a doctor predicted that he had little time left to live.

The author of “Child healed of asthma” explains that her son was healed of diagnosed asthma as she realized that health, not sickness, is our inheritance as sons and daughters of God.

“Understanding the supremacy of God and our divine right to overcome illness” brings about healing, explains the author of “How you can help end the pandemic,” who also relates an experience he had, while traveling in Spain, that showed this to be true.

In “No more lung and heart trouble,” a teenager relates how ideas he’d learned in Christian Science brought about a healing that rendered a planned heart operation unnecessary.

In “Freedom from pneumonia symptoms,” a woman recounts how praying with ideas from the Bible and Science and Health resulted in “complete freedom from the sickness, a deeper understanding of my spiritual nature, and an outpouring of gratitude.”

The author of “Healing of viral flu” shares inspiration that brought about healing when a contagious outbreak occurred at his university.

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Riding the wind

Felix Kästle/dpa/AP
Kitesurfers glide across Lake Constance in sometimes stormy winds in Friedrichshafen, Germany, on May 4, 2021. In the background are the Swiss Alps with Säntis, the tallest mountain in the area, rising more than 8,000 feet above sea level.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

April Austin
Weekly Deputy Editor, Books Editor

Thanks for joining us today. Come back tomorrow when we’ll be kicking off a series of articles on respect – what it means and how different definitions lead to different results.

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