Designing the Future of Work

Posts tagged ‘global politics’

Global Mobile Workers in Color

faces of colorThe internet promised many things upon is inception. To democratize knowledge by sending information to the farthest cornors of the earth, to shed light on the evils and corruption of governments, and to break down the barriers of gender, race, ethnicity, and religion. You could chat with people all over the world and they wouldn’t know your gender, your age, your race, whether you were fat or thin, tall or short. It was a golden era.

One would like to believe that for freelancers it still exists. Clients on Upwork, Guru, 99Designs  and are making their decisions based on a robust description of skills and past accomplishments. Certainly, their choices are based on rational facts, relevant statistics, valid assessments. Well, maybe not.

As the sharing economy evolved there was a drive to create a sense of instant trust. It led to the decline in online anonymity, which has introduced its own problems.

You’ll buy from an unknown retailer on Amazon because you can see the seller’s rating. On Amazon there are no photos, just facts. But, when you get to sites like Uber and Airbnb trust is created because you know up front the driver’s name and license plate, or you’ll rent someone’s private home because the host has a public identity, a woman in Los Angeles who loves to eat at the Jewish deli two blocks away. She looks perfectly nice in her profile photo.

We digital nomads of color face a different world when we travel the globe. Recent disclosures about bias on Airbnb reminded me that the world is far from fair and impartial. The bias that is attached to a face and a name can impact where a digital nomad can stay, and most importantly, opportunities for freelance work.

Airbnb While Black Podcast
Click here for a Transcript of airbnbwhileblack – How hidden bias shapes the sharing economy

In #AirbnbWhileBlack: How Hidden Bias Shapes The Sharing Economy, the experiment run by researchers Michael Luca and his colleagues Benjamin Edelman and Dan Svirsky at Harvard Business School was explored. They sent out 6,400 requests to real AirBnb hosts in five major American cities—Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington.

All the requests were exactly the same except for the names they gave their make-believe travelers. Some had African American-sounding names like Jamal or Tanisha and others had stereotypically white-sounding names like Meredith or Todd.

Hosts were less likely to accept guests with African American sounding names. Researchers found discrimination across the board: among cheap listings and expensive listings, in diverse neighborhoods and homogenous neighborhoods, and with new hosts as well as experienced hosts. They also found that black hosts were also less likely to accept requests from guests with African American-sounding names than with white-sounding ones.

The findings are in line with the degree of racial discrimination found in other studies about who gets taxi tips or job call-backs or good rates on classified ads. Similar results have turned up on eBay. Black Americans even have trouble getting email responses from government officials.

Names - CopyThe Airbnb experiment was modeled off a well-known study that found racial discrimination in the job market when they sent out resumés with black- and white-sounding names. The Airbnb study even used the same names: Tamika vs. Laurie, Darnell vs. Brad and more.

My partner and I noticed it immediately when we started using Airbnb with my profile. We changed to using her, she is White, and got much better results, internationally.

This unconscious discrimination isn’t harmless for either party. The researchers found that the discrimination was costly for hosts, a lesson that extends beyond Airbnb. Hosts who rejected a Black guest often never found a replacement customer for those same dates. As a result, the researchers calculated that individual instances of discrimination translated to forgoing about $65-$100 in revenue. Washington Post

To See the Full Report

What is Unconscious Bias?

It’s natural. It’s unintended. It can affect decisions. It can be mitigated.

Unconscious bias occurs when people favour others who look like them and/or share their values. For example, a person may be drawn to someone with a similar educational background, from the same area, or who is the same colour or ethnicity as them.

Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) offered a helpful description.

A manager who wasn’t successful at school may listen to, or be supportive of, an employee who left school without qualifications because, subconsciously, they are reminded of their younger self. The same can be true of a manager who is educated to degree level, favouring employees who have also been to university. This is known as affinity bias, because they feel an affinity with the person as they have similar life experiences.

And then there is the halo effect. This is where a positive trait is transferred onto a person without anything really being known about that person. For example, those who dress conservatively are often seen as more capable in an office environment, based purely on their attire. People notice behavior that reinforces the bias and ignore behavior that does not.

The story most commonly shared to explain the impact of unconscious bias is the transformation of symphony orchestras. Some brilliant artist suddenly realized men were being favored over women, and that perhaps the best musicians were not on the stage. The leading symphony orchestras started auditioning musicians behind a screen. A simple curtain doubled the talent pool and transformed what orchestras look like, says Iris Bohnet, a behavioural economist and professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Dear Clients – What about Steve Jobs?

An example of how this works in the work world is highlighted by a study from the job site Indeed, which discovered that bosses who attended a top-ranked college preferred to hire employees who also graduated from a prestigious institution. Specifically, 37 percent of managers who said they went to a top school said they like to hire candidates from highly regarded universities. That compares to just 6 percent of managers who didn’t attend a top school.

On the flip side, 41 percent of managers who didn’t graduate from a top-ranked college said they consider candidates’ experience more important when making hiring decisions. Just 11 percent of managers who did attend a prestigious school said the same.

Despite their desire to bring in employees from highly regarded schools, most managers agree that going to a highly rated school doesn’t translate into being a top performer. Just 35 percent of all of the bosses surveyed said top performers generally come from top schools. Instead, the managers surveyed said the ability to work well with others, strategic thinking, and self-direction are much more indicative of high performance.

Here unconscious bias works against the interest of the client or employer.

What’s a Freelancer to Do?

One step some companies are taking when hiring? Stripping resumes of names and other identifying information and assigning numbers. So perhaps that is something that freelancer websites should explore. Perhaps it should be standard to select an avatar that reflects how we view ourselves and have a name like Upwork Rising Star #106.

How Does Race and Ethnicity Affect Digital Nomads?

Being different in a small pond - CopyAs I sit in the middle of Europe amid the emotionally inflamed dialog about immigration, being other and different in a new country resonates. When travel is part of your life, and sometimes part of your job, how does one cope?

While listening to a podcast about the current state of Venezuela I was confronted with my own unconscious bias. The host introduced her guest “back with Nicholas Casey, The New York Times Andes bureau chief, who’s based in Caracas, Venezuela and covers the region. He previously worked at The Wall Street Journal. He led the paper’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reported on the Arab Spring. He was also based in Mexico City for five years.”

And then the host asked:

I’m wondering if, in covering Latin American countries, as an African-American, if you’ve faced any kind of racism. Race is different in Latin America than it is in the United States. Are there any stereotypes that you have to confront? And how do racial issues compare, in the countries you’ve been in there, to the United States?

Casey was African American!

And, he had quite a bit to share on the topic, which I suggest you hear straight from him. Nicholas Casey Fresh Air Podcast


So Now That You Know What Are You Going To Do About It?

Change begins by just being aware that we have unconscious bias, because we all do. Focus on the positive behavior of people and not negative stereotypes. If you are an Airbnb host read the person’s review, and try to get past the name and the photo and the unconscious images that creates for you.

Another useful exercise is to imagine a positive contact with the group toward whom you may have a bias. Research has shown that simply visualizing a particular situation can create the same behavioral and psychological effects as actually experiencing it. For example, in tests, individuals who imagined a strong woman later showed less gender stereotyping than people who had imagined a vacation.

If you are an Airbnb user try  a browser plugin called Debias Yourself that Airbnb users can install in Chrome to scrape names and photos off of the home-rental site. (“That isn’t quite what Airbnb intended,” the researchers explain of their plugin, “but it’s your computer, and it’s your right to configure it as you see fit.”)

Google has committed to tackle this problem in their own workforce and shares the unconscious bias training they have developed online. It’s free, it’s painless, why not try it.

Rework with Google – Unbiasing

Google Bias Training on YouTube

If you want to test your on implicit bias, go straight to Project Implicit. Again it’s free; maybe not painless. Be Brave!

For realistic picture of what it means to Black in America, only one of the places I’ve experienced being Black, and after three years of international travel, by far the worst, take a look at When Whites Just Don’t Get It.

Fun fact discovered in my research. According to the U.S. census 90 percent of people with the last name Washington are black and 75 percent of those named Jefferson are black. Are founding fathers really got busy on their slave plantations.washington and jefferson

I’ve Given My Life to Google

The other day I remembered a promise to call someone and rushed to enter it into my calendar, my Google Calendar.  In that moment I recognized I had handed my life over to Google.

It has happened a lot lately.  I agreed to take part in a webinar with a respected colleague, Nancy Mace, who works with the fabulous Jennifer Brown Consulting.  If not for the joy of working with the brilliant and free-spirited Nancy I would have said no to the technological challenges.  But, after all, I have committed myself to proving you can work anywhere, anytime.  When we discovered the clients WebEx system used phone call-in instead of VoIP I panicked because I would have to call in from the field.  I have no landline so I hate to the use the phone for any quality conversation.  TMobile Global has generously offered me free WiFi calls to anywhere, but they suck.  Not sure if it’s my phone (an HTC Amaze which often fails to Amaze me) or the WiFi connection.  Google Voice to the rescue.  Free calls to the U.S.

We survived two webinars with Google Voice.  Although it offers flawless voice quality once it disconnected me right before my segment, but Nancy covered flawlessly as I SKYPE messaged them about the disaster.  (For some reason my Gmail continuously reloads and I have yet to find the cause.  All tech tips are welcome.)

Google Voice has also allowed me to have the first clear conversation with my son, living in Humboldt County, California.  Through Google Voice we have been able to talk about his progress toward becoming a baseball coach, race relations in America, since he is a tall Black man, and the challenges his generation has faced since the Great Recession.  Google Voice

Long before Google Voice I had been a devotee of Google Calendar.  Now I am so grateful for my Google Calendar which allows me to enter events, select the applicable U.S. time zone, and then watch Google Calendar place them in the correct time zone for Central Europe.  Without Google Calendar’s wisdom I am forced to count the time difference on my fingers.  Which I often do when I read messages from friends asking “can we talk at noon pacific time?”

Google Calendar is not the only Google app embedded in my life.  Google Hangouts is the lifeline between myself and my daughter, who is in an ashram in India studying yoga.  I will be typing away online and a popup window will signal me with a “Hey Mom.  Are you there?”  We have worked through existential crisis and the review of her stock options agreements from her last startup company all thanks to Google Hangouts.  I am happy to say that her Swami has taken over some of the burden on life changing decisions and for that I am grateful.  Thank Goddess children don’t come with a warranty and demand exchanges for bad parenting.  I would not want to exchange my children for anything and I am glad they are stuck with me.Google Hangout

I can’t mention Google without describing the role of YouTube in my life.  When we bought our first TV here in the Czech Republic the one truly functioning feature was YouTube.  Until we mastered the universe of VPN to snag US TV content we were beholden to YouTube to have even a moment of English content.  Even after abandoning YouTube as our sole source of entertainment we found new and important uses.

All my yoga instructors are on YouTube.  I have put twelve options on my Playlist depending on how confident I feel in the morning.  I even discovered my trusty reliable 8 minute Abs instructor who helped me take off the pounds several years ago.  The pounds are back and the discovery of my trusted video exercise coach was a welcome relief.

I am learning Czech thanks to YouTube.  We watched the Oscars and the Emmy’s thanks to YouTube.  We laugh at America thanks to John Oliver on YouTube and piss on Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart for only having two-minute clips.  While working on my computer I expand my consciousness can meditate to Louise Hay, or Deepak Chopra or Wayne Dyer.  Our new addiction is watching the View thanks to YouTube.

I think it is clear – I have given my life to Google.  I do have concerns given the recent disclosure that 70% of Googlers  are male.  Will they know how to handle a woman like me?  I can only hope they will cherish me and be gentle.


Crossing Borders is Not for Sissies

VisasCrossing Borders – A Series

©some rights reserved by Josh*m

What it Means to go Beyond the Borders of my Country

I now regret my brief moment of laughter at the business man who came rushing into the Brazilian Consulate where I was waiting to pick up my visa.  He had rushed from the airport where he had been advised he could not board the plane to his all-expense paid trip to Rio de Janiero to attend a trade show because he had no Visa.  He was an American he blustered, and he’d never needed a visa when he travelled in Europe.  Well, South and Central America are not Europe and our standing here varies from friendly to we out right hate you.

A Timeline of CIA Atrocities

Given that the U.S. has a history of assassinating favored leaders and supporting right wing governments who crushed the people and disappeared thousands, it’s not surprising.  After all it was the CIA who killed Che Guevara.  So, my experience crossing borders is always a bit heart pounding, sometimes costly, and sometimes I am that guy standing at the airport ranting about not being allowed to board a plane.

Ranting Airline passengers

It happened in Peru, where TAME airlines refused to board us because they claimed that Ecuador required you to have an exit ticket (later proven wrong by the Department of Turismo who sent us to the Tame office to demand our money back for the rebooking fee to go the next day).  It is true that I wouldn’t be in Columbia now if weren’t for that error because Columbia was the only country to which we could buy a bus ticket from Peru (no easy task mind you).

We have now gotten savvier as Panama and Costa Rica make the same demand.  We came prepared with our fake reservations printed out at internet cafes, although not one Border official has asked us for the damn things.  We have come to respect Border officials who in that moment have supreme authority over your next move.  Colombia asked nothing of us but a smile, even though we had to wait in a line for one and half hours with a throng of people at the Ecuadorian border chomping at the bit to enter a country once dangerous and now simply breathtaking and awaiting tourist from around the world.

(Colombia is absolutely amazing and filled with family friendly fun from Bogata to Medellin to Cartagena.  The Policia are everywhere, incredibly helpful, and the military is posted along the highways to assure your safety with a thumbs up to each passing bus driver.)

We have gotten use to Tica Bus representatives confiscating our passports at the border, demanding various amounts of dollars for us to exit and enter countries, and hoping they return they with the necessary exit or entry stamp.  We have gotten used to dragging our luggage off buses and hauling them onto tables for some poor government employee to pretend they care about what’s inside.  We gotten used to the drug sniffing dogs going doing the line of luggage and thankfully not stopping at ours.  We have learned the secret is to be last in line and terrify them with the sheer size of our rolling backpacks in the boxy looking luggage covers.  They just look at us and ask “Ropas.”  “Ropas,” we confirm, not mentioning the mounting souvenirs and growing collection of coffee from the best coffee countries on the planet.  We’ve gotten used to government officials coming on the bus and demanding our passports.  We are surprised that by now we haven’t memorized our passport numbers, like I have my social security number.

We have learned to be patient, say as little as possible and give them what they ask for.  We have now crossed eleven borders and counting.  And at every border crossing (except Honduras) TMobile Global has greeted me with a text message letting me know I can still read email, get text messages and call the next hostal for directions and advice on how much a taxi will cost from the bus station.

I am getting a little nervous about the radio silence I will experience in Belize. (Not yet on the TMobile Global list).

One thing that is constant in every country, across every border.  WIFI.  Couldn’t live without it and thankfully I haven’t had to.

 Wifi in San Pedro

A Tale of Two Women

A Tale of Two Women and a Nation Fueling a Latin American Economic Renaissance

It is a powerful moment to be in Chile.  For a women who has committed her professional life to gender equality I am hours away from watching a nation choose between two women to run their country.


Childhood Friends Face Off

Michelle Bachelet stunned the world when in 2006 she won the presidency as an unmarried woman in a heavily Catholic country.

Chile is ripe with protest, with strikes in many cities that have shut down funiculars and trams that were part of our “must see” list.  I am happy to suffer the inconvenience to witness a people who hold their democracy so dear after foreign nations, namely mine, supported a dictator who tortured and disappeared his people before democracy could return.  A young Wisconsin staying in our hostel returned excitedly from a Bachelet rally, swept up in the excitement of listening to someone who spoke about the people and the widening income equality that faces countries around the world, including my own.

The election will be on a Sunday so that everyone can take part.  While the people of Santiago were preparing to close for the elections, the people of Valparaiso waved away our concerns with a dismissive scowl about the elections; they would be abierto.  Perhaps they are less enthusiastic about another election, having seen promises given and not kept.

When we board the bus for La Serena, Chile on Monday there should be a new President in Chile and it will be a SHE.


Border Patrol Agents Monitor US-Mexico BorderThe Global Mobile Worker Project is about crossing borders, both real and imaginary.  While the world has become more expansive and connected through technology, countries defend their borders ever more fiercely.  While walls are torn down in one part of the world, fences are being built in others.

Part of my journey is learning to cross borders respectfully and legally.  Sometimes that process will take longer than we hope, and that has to be factored in.  My journey from the United States has been delayed by the unfamiliarity for many of a lifestyle that is fluid and mobile, namely the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic, Regional Immigration Police.  They are highly suspicious of someone who wants to just hangout in their country for a year, especially an American, who they view as coming from paradise.  The fact that the beauty of Prague is unrivaled in Europe, and the Charles Bridge, its construction began in 1357, is an engineering marvel is not enough, in their minds, for someone to put up with the fate of a tiny country that has been disrespected throughout history.


So, even though I met all of the initial requirements for documentation, and have already purchased the required year of health coverage (at a fraction of the cost in the US) more Czech citizens must agree to take care of me before they will welcome me in the country.


As this process will take weeks, and involves a visit to the Regional Immigration Police station by someone in the Czech Republic, we are still in a holding pattern.   And then it will be on to the Brazilian Embassy for the Visa I am required to get (my Czech partner requires no visas on our planned journey).

The difference between how I will move through our journey – An American- and how my Czech partner will be treated – a Central European – will be interesting, and layered with invaluable insights.

As this is all an important part of global travel I am taking it all in with good humor and tenacity.  The Countdown will begin when I am officially welcomed in the Czech Republic.  Thirty days after I have my Czech Long-stay Visa we will be on the road to South America (if the Brazilians are cooperative).


Andrew Jenks, a documentary filmmaker whose social television found a home on MTV, chronicled his experiences living for one week at a time with young people from all walks of life.   Through the show, college tours, Facebook and Twitter, Jenks uncovers the raw nerves that are jangling through his generation.

Andrew Jenks

Jenks:  The thousands of stories that I have come across have left a deep impression on me. These are not just notes of desperation. These are remarkable stories of resilience. It’s clear that we are a generation seeking answers. Most importantly, each story demonstrates how urgent it is that we make a difference — that we, as young people, can be part of the solution, not the problem.

The resilience of the people I have met shows an underlying theme that is hard to ignore, as I read in this recent tweet:

@CYTXXX “I vote for compassion. It encompasses everything: love, understanding, tolerance, and respect, at the least.”

Jenks:  My generation is enduring the brutality of two wars, a struggling economy that is hitting us especially hard, and a political leadership that is mortgaging our future for today’s votes.  Recent tweets reminded me of what this potentially means:

@McTXXX “‘What’s known as “The Greatest Generation” arose from deep economic problems and war. 2day we have a new set of challenges./I want to inspire my peers to create a future they believe in rather than live the future they have been told to believe in.”

Via Facebook, TaraMXXX said, “It’s really absurd how expensive it is to go to school and how difficult and stressful it can be to get financial aid. To do anything in this age you have to go to college yet it’s so expensive and unreasonable for people to pay that much. It’s not fair.”

A Generation of Slackers? Not So Much

Collective action has worked in the past; the Russian revolution, the Suffragettes’ movement, Ghandi, civil rights, anti-apartheid. The impossible was achieved.   So what is Generation Now to do?

Jenks agrees with @Michelle2XXX who recently tweeted, “I want to help change the definition of my generation. I want to stand up and speak out… I just wish I knew exactly what to say.”

The Indignados of Spain, out of growing frustration with government insensitivity to the plight of the young unemployed, are finding their voice.  After taking over town squares all over Spain, and a march to Madrid, the movement has found momentum.   The fight against the system is becoming bigger and bigger in Europe. Newly formed groups of Indignados and like-minded people are planning and undertaking their own protest marches, on foot, to Brussels to demonstrate in front of the EU headquarters.

There are known to be several groups of people underway from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Swiss, UK and Holland, there is even rumor that a group from Russia is already marching, all to arrive in Brussels in the next two months.

And exactly because they are becoming many, there has been a date set for one big protest in Brussels, October 15th

With Twitter and Facebook igniting and capturing protests around the world, what will be the tipping point that releases the voices of America’s youth who have the most to lose and everything to gain.

US Census 2010 – And The Children Shall Lead The Way

PART II of a two-part series.

Some 40 states show population losses of white children since 2000 due to declining birth rates. Minorities represented all the increases in the under-18 population in Texas and Florida, and most of the gains in the child population in Nevada and Arizona.

Growth has come from minorities, particularly Hispanics, as more Latino women enter their childbearing years. Blacks, Asians and Hispanics accounted for about 79 percent of the national population growth between 2000 and 2009, according to U.S. census data.

The result has been a changed American landscape, with whites now a minority of the youth population in 10 states, including Arizona, where tensions over immigration have flared, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

“This is a huge demographic transformation,” Mr. Frey said. “A cultural generation gap is emerging.”

Latinos fought to be counted fairly in Census 2010 and youth were at the core of that battle.  Efforts to reach out to them, because they are often the cultural navigators for their parents, paid off in with formerly hesitant parents filling out the census forms with their teenagers.

And what Latino youth in America have in common with youth in Syria and Yemen is social networking.  The power of Facebook and Twitter is not lost on them.  The ethnic gap in cell phone use is less pronounced. Some 72% of Hispanics ages 16 to 17 use a cell phone, compared with 82% of non-Hispanics. The “Be Counted, Represent” campaign offered music downloads and a chance at concert tickets to cell phone users who shared their e-mail addresses and phone numbers with organizers and forwarded information about the census to their friends.

Census campaign targets tech-savvy Hispanic youth

The growing divide between a diverse young population and an aging white population raises some potentially tricky policy questions. Will older whites be willing to allocate federal and state money to educate a younger generation that looks less like their own children than ever before? How will a diverse young generation handle growing needs for aging whites? Yes, I am talking bedpans in nursing homes.  Long-term care is increasingly confronted with a  cultural divide between those in residence and those who are being paid to take care of them.

And the political debates have been noisiest in the states with the largest gaps.

But whats to become of this great nation if we turn our backs on the next generation of Latino youth.  If we continue to negatively stereotype the intellect of our African American and Latino youth, impairing their ability to compete fairly in the future economy, there will be no engine for innovation and productivity.  Our nation will be weakened in our battle to maintain superiority over emerging nations such as India and China.  We are in fact educating Indian and Chinese intellectual capital when these international students return with their PhDs to their homeland.  If we don’t fill the educational gap by committing to educating our youth of color we have signed our own fate.

Just sayin.

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