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WISE Book Reviews

Diversity: Leaders Not Labels
By Dale Britto

Stedman Graham’s Diversity: Leaders Not Labels (2006) is about “changing the way we think about our possibilities, which is not just an option these days—it is a requirement.”

Diversity is changing the face of our world and is changing our workforce into a global marketplace.  Graham’s book explores different cultures and histories of those living in America and the resulting effects when they meet or collide as the case may be.

The book addresses the challenges diversity brings and the transformation process we all must endure to survive. It defines what diversity truly means and makes us reevaluate our personal definition. It also explains labels, stereotyping and racial profiling, how damaging and counterproductive they are and how others have risen above them.

Through examples of people encountering diversity in the workplace and in their personal lives, the author provides a visual picture of how others have addressed and overcome diversity. Global time lines are provided, and Graham even uses his own childhood as an example of how his thinking was affected by what happened to him and how it took time for him to change and understand. The book emphasizes the need for all of us to eliminate cultural misunderstandings, overcome old barriers and redefine ourselves on our own terms.      

Diversity: Leaders Not Labels is interesting, keeps the reader’s attention and forces you to ask yourself:

  • Are you diverse?
  • Have you been labeled or stereotyped?
  • Do you see diversity in your workplace?
  • How can you transcend it?

Some areas of the book are vague, but overall, Diversity: Leaders Not Labels raises diversity awareness and provides insight into how to move forward.

Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success that Women Need to Learn by Gail Evans
By Marjory E. Anderson, CSP

Having worked in industry for a number of years, I developed certain attitudes toward “the job.” Most notable is a lesson I learned very early on and still ascribe to today. It is not what you might call popular, and in fact, it would dismay many women. Be that as it may, I find it apropos and quite useful as a periodic reminder that we, as women, are playing in a man’s game.

My mantra is if you want to play in a man’s game, you have to play by a man’s rules. Believing this to be a rather unpopular belief, imagine my surprise when I read a book that essentially echoes the same sentiment: Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success that Women Need to Learn by Gail Evans.

Gail Evans has worked on Capitol Hill, has taught business courses and currently works for CNN. She acknowledges that the career world, industry if you will, has been run by men for centuries—having a career and conducting business is nothing new to them. Women, on the other hand, essentially became a noticeable force in business little more than 30 years ago. We are new to the game. As such, women are not yet a strong force in the upper echelons of business, but we are getting there.

Evans gives some advice on knowing, understanding and playing by the rules of the game.
As most women know, in business, 1) men can do things women cannot, 2) men do not define words the same way women define them and 3) these things can present obstacles in climbing the corporate ladder. However, if you understand the differences, if you play by the rules, advancing is no less possible for women than it is for men.

The author expands upon these and other topics in an effort to guide women in the advancement of their careers. Basically, she tells her readers not to be afraid to be aggressive, to stand on your own two feet and to toot your own horn, as these are characteristics of men who get ahead. That is my take on the book.

I also asked a male colleague to read this book and to give me his impression. He agrees that men and women see and hear things differently, view success differently and that either can get ahead. He also agrees that women need to be more aggressive in their careers and to learn not to take comments or defeats personally. “No” only means “no” for now, not forever. My colleague added, however, that he believed the author tooted her own horn too much, while I did not get that impression at all. (Just one example of how men and women interpret things differently.)

All in all, I find this to be a very good book. It is in paperback and is not overly lengthy. I recommend this book for all women as a guide to tempering their speech, emotions and interpretations to meet those typical of business and industry today. If you believe there is a glass
ceiling, it will be much harder to get ahead. Rid yourself of the obstacles in your way, and you will become CEO someday. Take what the author has to say and apply it to your own career, be aggressive, but above all, be what you are—a woman.

Triangle—The Fire that Changed America
By Carol Woodruff
ASSE National Capital Chapter Secretary

Triangle—The Fire that Changed America
By David Von Drehle
Grove Press 2003

“One hundred forty six employees die in a workplace fire—mostly young immigrant women.” Think this is a headline from a sweat shop in a third-world country? This is not the case. This is a headline from New York newspapers in March 1911. Death was the leading workplace safety issue for women in the early 1900s.

Life for professional women in the early part of the 20th century was incredibly difficult. Women did not yet have the right to vote and were still considered second-class citizens. Sexual harassment and abuse were widespread with no opportunity of escape—if your job was to be kept. Few opportunities for women existed in the workforce, with little security or safety of any kind. David Von Drehle’s book, Triangle—The Fire that Changed America (Grove Press 2003), does not make excuses or gloss over the reality of the times.

Sewing factories provided jobs for many women and men during this time in history. Von Drehle’s account of the daily life of workers in 1911 is a jolting reminder of why safety in the workplace is not only the law, but the motivation for most of us who chose safety as a career. Accounts taken from newspapers, magazines, union trade papers and a website from Cornell University give the historical backdrop and eyewitness accounts of this tragic event at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City.

The early 1900s in America was an era of industry, manufacturing, mass immigration and political corruption. Tammany Hall ruled New York, and labor unions were born out of horrible workplace wages and conditions. Triangle unfolds in this backdrop of struggling immigrants, powerful business barons and corrupt government.

Chapter five, “Inferno,” sets the stage for the tragedy of the subtitle “the fire that changed America.” Describing the layout of the factory, what passed for codes for building safety and attempts at emergency evacuation procedures, Von Drehle gives an inside look at a traditional workplace in the early 20th century. A cigarette butt or match in a scrap pile initiates a chain of events in a major high-rise structure fire of the times. The lack of building codes, firefighting technology and emergency procedures are obvious in the account. It is the vivid description of the confusion, the fear, the screaming, the hopelessness for those trapped in an inescapable hell that compels me to share this book with you. “I learned a new sound,” he [Shepherd] wrote afterward, “a more horrible sound than description can picture. It was the thud of a speeding, living body on a stone sidewalk.”

“ Panic. ‘Yes, screaming and crying and shouting,’ said Mary Bucelli, an operator with two years experience at the Triangle. Everything blurred as she ran through the loft looking for a way out.”

“Anyone who failed to choose-and to choose quickly-was doomed.”
“Behind the workers in the windows were screams of terror on the rising growl of more and larger flames. As they stood on the sills, fire licked up beneath their feet. …NO! as in No, don’t jump! Their tiny hands were up, as if a gesture could hold the doomed workers forever in the mouth of a furnace.”

Very few of us need motivation for workplace injustices or incidents to bring out our natural passion to champion safety and those workers in whose faith we are trusted. This is to encourage us as SH&E professionals to take this challenge to realize the progress that has been made and the challenges that yet lie before us. A short 268 pages of text can be read over a weather-dampened weekend or an hour after work each evening for a week or two. You are invited to share this story that reveals a time in our history when our profession was born.