Tag Archives: General

Diversity and Inclusion

Autoethnography—Am I Confirming and Assimilating?

By Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP
Diversity Consultant, ESVB-AAUW

This article is an adaptation of the author’s original article on LinkedIn

In March 2005, I gave a lecture at Howard University as part of a series on Multiculturalism in the Classroom. My particular lecture was on, “A South Asian teaching African American/Indian (comparative) courses at an Historically Black College and University (HBCU),” wherein towards the end of the video you will see that I wore a shawl and bindi and spoke about what might be the effect of my visual appearance if I went to the class like that and spoke about African American Women’s History to a class of predominantly African American students, while dressed like an Indian (I could not change into a saree, however, attempted to replicate an ethnic look). Only the last minute or two of the video are relevant to what I am saying. Please click her for the video: http://www.cetla.howard.edu/new_showcase/lectures/speakers/nahal/index.html

I constantly face my own assumptions on where I stand in the American fabric. Recently, it struck me even more deeply while discussing with a friend about cultural expressions. We both erstwhile South Asians now Americans, talked about how we both don’t wear traditional clothes except on ethnic occasions such as festivals, weddings or funerals. The discussion took me to Dr. Marilynn B. Brewer’s Optimal Distinctiveness Theory and made me question as to where we stood in her various definitions? Were we part of “inclusion” wherein we were treated as insiders while allowed and encouraged to retain our uniqueness? Were we part of “differentiation” wherein we were not considered as insiders but allowed and encouraged to retain our uniqueness. Or were we part of “assimilation” wherein we were treated as insiders only when we confirmed to the cultural norms of the majority. Or finally as per Dr. Brewer’s matrix, were we part of “exclusion or dissatisfaction” wherein we were neither treated as insiders nor our uniqueness valued. (Please see Brewer’s chart below)

Upon pondering, one considers that certain critically labeling words are attached to the above four markers in the matrix such as, “treated” “allowed” “encouraged to retain” and “majority.” Why do immigrant groups have to be treated as such or such, or allowed and not allowed, or encouraged to retain? Why would immigrants not decide for themselves how much they wished to retain and how they wished to portray themselves, or how much they were willing to allow others to make them feel belonged or not? Of course, these are rhetorical questions as a number of research studies have been conducted on the notions of belonging and/or alterity for immigrants. In one study, I found some of the below questions very pertinent to the questioning of my own continuous assumptions about myself:

“… (1) During life, when does belonging to a nation, ethnic group or a culture become important for an individual? (2) How does self-definition impact how one deals with specific experiences, such as being a refugee? (3) What are the impacts of the process of migration on one’s sense of belonging? (4) How do immigrants re-construct their sense of belonging in their host societies? (5) How is the sense of belonging to a collective expressed in different generations in families of immigrants? (6) What is the impact of being a citizen of a country versus being a temporary resident on one’s sense of collective belonging? And (7) How do intergenerational conflicts manifest themselves in terms of identity ownership? (For further on this work, please see, Ethnicity and Belonging: An Overview of a Study of Cuban, Haitian and Guatemalan Immigrants to Florida by Julia Chaitin, J.P. Linstroth & Patrick T. Hiller in, http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1363/2856 )”

The opposing need of individuals according to Dr. Brewer has led them into a tug of war between their desires to feel “belonged” yet retaining their “uniqueness.” And yes, I have felt these tugs sometimes living in the West, in relation to me or others. When I wear traditional clothes, the way folks look at me, some admiringly, some wondering, some ignoring and some disdainfully. Some of the same reactions I too have shown towards others in ethnic clothes, and especially towards those from India. Visual representation feeds deeply into our comfort level and since we don’t know the other person as it is, the ethnic clothes become an additional layer of being unknown and thus to be feared. This in turn can lead to any number of biased ways—implicit and unconscious– we might be perceived or perceive others. “The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance.” (Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Ohio State University. http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2014-implicit-bias.pdf).

Unconscious bias in particular, of which we all are culprit, can in turn lead to challenges in cultural competency, and in diversity and inclusion in professional spaces in all HR practices from recruiting, hiring to promotion to terminations.

Interestingly the tugs of assimilation/conformity I feel pulling at me in reverse when I go to India for a visit as well. I don’t wear skirts and dresses that come up only till my knees… or shorts, or other too skin revealing clothes. Perhaps no one will say anything (as some of my younger friends strongly argue that times have changed), yet I feel, due to my early upbringing in India, that folks in their fifties and beyond are supposed to dress in a particular way in public. Regardless of what my younger friends say, I still feel the “looks” from strangers, friends or relatives if my clothes are too revealing or not age suitable. My “otherness or alterity” is very apparent to me in India as much as it is in the US. Where do I belong, sometimes I question? Do I belong anywhere I choose and am comfortable? Or do I belong a little here and little there, or nowhere? I am reminded of Nigerian poet, Ijeoma Umebinyuo’s poignant poem:

All this is something to think about especially in relation to Dr. Brewer’s four classifications, in relation to unconscious bias, cultural competency and diversity and inclusion. I am still debating whether I am confirming and assimilating to the American fabric, and do the same while on a visit to India. And I have touched upon only visual identification in my auto-ethonographical analysis. There are so many other ways to confirm and assimilate; speech, tone, gestures, body language; marriage, job, education, religion and so forth. In a new study done by neuroscientists (Ryan M. Stolier and Jonathan B, Freeman) at New York University, on the way individuals react to diverse faces, they have shown that, “The stereotypes we hold can influence our brain’s visual system, prompting us to see others’ faces in ways that conform to these stereotypes.” ( http://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2016/05/02/neuroscientists-find-evidence-for-visual-stereotyping.html and http://www.nature.com/articles/nn.4296.epdf )

A variation of this article appeared on LinkedIn first. The author’s other posts on LinkedIn can be found at: https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/0_3f28uu9Qt9H17RnSMhdqZW?trk=prof-sm

Public Policy


There are bound to be Suffragists in your area. Thousands of people across New York State formed grassroots organizations to bring male voters to the realization that women should have the right to vote. You can find them in your communities. Honor these brave people who worked tirelessly to obtain the vote for women.
You will find it exciting, interesting, rewarding and meaningful to discover these courageous people who fought so hard to “Give Women the Vote”.

1. Contact the County Historical Society
2. Contact the Town Historical Society
3. Ask the Town Historian (They love to share)
4. Visit the Local Library-They house historical documents
5. Ask librarians if they know of any suffragists
6. Talk to people you think might know of suffragists
7. Follow up on any leads
8. Find a book on the history of your area and who wrote it. You may find this by using the web and/or interlibrary loan
9. Read the book chapters that maybe useful on the web
10. On the web try different key words and various combinations of words-use your imagination for example: Make up the possible name of a suffragist society or club
11. Try the Library of Congress data base using key words
12. Research the Fulton History Project. It indexes hundreds of old newspapers around NYS
13. Explore old digitalized NYS newspapers at http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org articles contain info about suffragists, events and provide names which can then be followed up
14. Search in NYS Library Suffrage catalog and request files with suffrage connections
15. Access on line university archives.
16. Investigate museum archives especially women’s museums
17. Seek specialized local libraries-a letter will reveal names
18. Search your own home attic-relatives papers-those related to you
19. Ask family members-amazing what you will find.

It is a thrilling adventure finding these people who gave so much of themselves so that we can have the vote. Their stories will capture your interest and your heart.

Happy Successful Researching!
Bonnie and Nancy Mion-AAUW -LI Suffragists Committee Chair

Fairy Tales Wisdom by Joan Monk

Never get tired of doing little things for others. For sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their heart.'” – Ida Azhari

Positive Affirmation

Today I am stronger than yesterday. I see the sunshine peering through the darkness.

An Act of KIindness

Go out of your way to make someone laugh today. Laughter feels so good and is a true gift!
VIDEO: https://youtu.be/0MXiU2yoGeY
Meir Kay spreads positivity and cheer by complimenting complete strangers through free style rap and beatboxing.


Join Us for 50/50 Day on April 26, 2018!www.letitripple.org
Joan S. Monk
Leadership Board Coordinator

Character Day & 50/50 Day

914-245-7704 (h)    914-486-1182 (c)




Join WomensActivism.nyc at the NYC Department of Records and Information Services
BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center
Borough of Manhattan Community College Women’s Resource Center
The Women’s Salon and JoAnne Akalaitis

Monday, November 6, 2017
BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center
199 Chambers Street
6pm – 8pm

Honor the Women Who Won the Right to Vote in NYS in 1917
and People Fighting for Justice Today

100 YEARS! Stay Tuned…
A Centennial Anniversary Celebration of Women’s Suffrage in New York State
drama * poetry * stories * open mic
*suffragists’ recipes * sing-along * birthday cake
site-specific performance
100 YEARS! Stay Tuned… is an open performance.
You can come anytime after 6pm.
Tickets are not required but we would like to know you are coming, so please rsvp!

AAUW NYS District V Conference on Diversity and Inclusion

Heide                                           Anital Nahal                                                                     Heide Parreño                                                 Anita Nahal
Diversity Director, ESVB                             D&I Consultant, ESVB

Each person picked a gem of their choice as they registered for our AAUW NYS District V Conference on “Diversity and Inclusion in Today’s Workplace” held at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City on October 15, 2016.

gemsDiversity and Inclusion is a mosaic of gems reflecting persons from different age, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnic, socio-economic, health and spiritual cultures including the culture of the Deaf, each with unique ideas and abilities. The Empire State Virtual NY Branch is committed to integrate the value of Diversity and Inclusion in the programs and activities of the branch as well as embed in leadership and organizational structure of the Branch.

heide-maria-raniThe Empire State Virtual Branch have four initiatives for 2016 and 2017 as our commitment to D&I. and to continue the attempt to embed in leadership and organizational structure of AAUW the value of diversity and inclusion.

These initiatives are:

  1. More informative and user friendly website for D&I at ESVB website.
  1. Yearly award for Empire State Virtual NY Branch members and friends for work done on Diversity and Inclusion.
  1. Holding D&I programs /events /lectures / representation at District Meeting, State Convention and Leadership Conference in Cazenovia

Share link of D&I survey. Do survey for ESVB, NYS, and National. Disseminate available resources at AAUW National:  https://www.aauw.org/resource/diversity-and-inclusion-tool-kit/

Empire State Virtual NY Branch AAUW Diversity

Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

                                     Heide                                      Anital Nahal
                        Heide Parreño,  Diversity Director, ESVB          Anita Nahal, D&I Consultant, ESVB

This year has seen the Empire State Virtual Branch (ESVB) launch out in a focused and targeted way in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives (D&I). Based upon an anonymous on-line survey to determine what members believed the ESVB did in D&I and what areas needed focus, the Empire State Virtual Branch now has four initiatives for 2016 and 2017 as our commitment to D&I. These are:

  • More  informative and user friendly web presence for D&I initiatives on our ESVB website,
  • Yearly award for ESVB AAUW members for work done on Diversity and Inclusion. Criteria to be developed with in-put from members and the NYS VP on programs,
  • Holding D&I programs /events /lectures / representation at District Meeting, State Convention and Leadership Conference in Cazenovia,

Our ESVB D&I team, Heide Parreño, director, and Dr. Anita Nahal, consultant will develop action items in each of the initiatives. Here’s an action for the first initiative regarding the website from Anita.

  • To provide links to AAUW State and National D&I initiatives
  • To provide general resources related to D&I, eg., conferences on D&I in NYC or a list of some useful publications and/or links to relevant D&I websites in the US and globally
  • Seek input from ESVB members as to what they would like to see on their website related to D&I

Diversity and Inclusion is the heart and conscience of AAUW. The value of diversity and inclusion should be embedded in the infra-structure of AAUW’s awareness, consciousness, intentionality and in all that we do. (Heide Parreño).


More quotes on diversity, inclusion and Unconscious Bias from Anita Nahal at her blog: http://diversitydiscover.blogspot.com/

AAUW Empire State Virtual Branch

Has Title IX helped women compete in the Olympics?

TitleIX-gymnast-FBcover-update-2016-768x284As you know, every two years, the Olympics ignite fervor, national pride, and competitiveness as the world’s greatest athletes come together. For female athletes in particular, the Olympic Games is a rare opportunity to garner international attention for their performances.

At this year’s Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, women outnumber men on the U.S. team for a second straight games — 292 women to 263 men — setting the record for most ever female Olympians competing for a single nation. Thanks in part to Title IX, the 1972 law combating sex discrimination in federally funded education and athletics, U.S. women have secured greater access to play and compete, thereby expanding their opportunities to succeed athletically at both professional and Olympic levels.

Empire State Virtual Branch Goals

Empire State Virtual Branch Goals

Maria EllisAs we plan our new programs for this fiscal year, we will keep in mind the following goals.

GOAL 1 – AAUW’s premier-quality member service, community engagement, and multichannel communications foster a growing, global community of members, supporters, students, and others who advance the AAUW mission.

Community Engagement: The ESVB has a very successful Mentoring Program at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Bronx, NY. Thank you to the following ESVB member, Roli Wendorf, Jane Pendergast, Joan Monk, Lorrin Johnson, Dr. C.S. Rani and Maria Ellis for their participation in the Mentoring Program. If you would like to participate in this Mentor Program, please join us at our Mentor Orientation and Opening Dinner has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 20 at 5 pm. All are welcome.

Our multichannel communications: In addition to our teleconference calls, we engage our community via our Virtual Times quarterly newsletter, facebook page and twitter account.
Twitter: AAUWVirtualNY

GOAL 2 – AAUW’s powerful advocacy voice helps achieve educational and economic equity and civil rights for all women and girls.

Economic Equality: The ESVB continues to teach the Start Smart Workshops both in the Fall and Spring at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx and at the New York Institute of Technology in NYC. A new 3-year license to both C/U Partners, the NYIT and the College of Mount Saint Vincent were awarded by the NYC Metro Fund. Many thanks to Roli Wendorf, Pendergast and Maria Ellis for being Workshop Facilitators which makes possible teaching these salary negotiation workshops. The next Start Smart Workshop at the NYIC has been scheduled on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 from 4-6 pm. All members and friends are welcome to actively participate in these workshops.

Civic Rights: We feature public policy articles in our quarterly newsletter, Empire Virtual Times. Thank you to Nancy Mion and Donna Seymour for their continue contribution to our Public Policy articles and for their encouragement to become more active on public policy priorities including voter education campaigns.  Special thanks for Dr. C.S. Rani and Maria Ellis for being the part of our Editorial and Writing Team.

Civic Rights: Starting this AAUW fiscal year on June 30, 2016, the ESVB has joined the 2020: Project Women. Votes for Women 2020, National Woman Suffrage Centennial to inspire, educate, celebrate and promote the history of women’s right to vote with a focus on the past and looking forward to the future.  Special thanks to Susan Zimet, Founder/President of the 2020: Project Women.

GOAL 3 – AAUW’s expanding collaborative network uses mission-based programs and research to empower women with the tools, training, and support they need to become strong leaders and effective advocates for women and girls.

ESVB enjoys working with other AAUW branches, such as the Westchester Branch in implement programs such as Start Smart and EYO Explore Your Opportunities (EYO) Annual Conference for 7th grade girls held at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Bronx, NY.

The following dates/times have been confirmed for upcoming EYO planning meetings: Sat, Oct. 8, from 9:30 am to 11:30 am; Fri. Nov. 11 from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm; Sat. Dec. 10th from 9:30 am to 11:30 am.  Please let me know if you would like to join us at any of these EYO planning meetings.

GOAL 4 – AAUW’s strategic philanthropic efforts support AAUW programs that provide women and girls with opportunities for a lifetime of success.

The ESVB participates in LAF fundraising events. It is our goal to work on more Fundraising ideas to support AAUW’s strategic philanthropic efforts.  We welcome your ideas.

 GOAL 5 – AAUW’s sustainable fiscal strategies and dedicated stewardship meet current and future needs, address challenges, and capitalize on opportunities.

The ESVB participates in fundraising events. It is our goal to increase our Fundraising to support AAUW’s current and future needs. Your fundraising ideas are greatly appreciated.

GOAL 6Increase membership and renewals.

The ESVB currently has 30 members.  To renew your dual membership, please issue a $5 check to the Empire State Virtual NY Branch, AAUW.

GOAL 7 -Obtain more membership participation in creating more mission based programs and attendance.

The ESVB is seeking for members interested in volunteering for the following ESVB board positions: Membership VP; Program VP; Cultural Director & Young Women’s Task Force (YWTF) Liaison.  All volunteers are welcome.

GOAL 8Implement some of the Diversity and Inclusion Program recommendations made by by Heidi Parreno, ESVB Diversity Director and Anita Nahal, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant.  See below a brief summary of their Diversity and Inclusion Initiative.

  1. We have added a Diversity & Inclusion category to the ESVB website. https://empire-ny.aauw.net/diversity-inclusion/
  2. We plan to issue yearly awards to friends and members of ESVB AAUW- for work done on Inclusion and diversity.
  3. We will hold Diversity & Inclusion programs/events/lectures. During our Leadership Meeting in Cazenovia College in July 2016, we recommended that our District V Conference in the Fall 2016 be about Diversity & Inclusion. The ESVB will participate in the planning of this District V Conference scheduled for Sat. October 15th.
  4. The ESVB’s Diversity and Inclusion team executed a Diversity and Inclusion survey with our membership which resulted in these recommendations.
  5. The ESVB will continue to circulate information about the resources available at AAUW website:  https://www.aauw.org/resource/diversity-and-inclusion-tool-kit/

Maria Ellis, MBA
President, Empire State Virtual NY Branch AAUW
Twitter: AAUWVirtualNY

AAUW NYS Leadership

Congratulations to the AAUW NYS board members
for a great Summer Leadership
July 22-24, 2016, Cazenovia College

Summer Leadership PicIf you missed, this conference, we focused on Programming and Leadership! Some of the topics included Leadership workshops, Recruiting Leaders, Committees Leadership and Developing Branch Leadership.

Some of the program highlights included a Leadership presentation by Deepti Gudipati, Vice President Programming AAUW and the Work Smart + Start Smart Workshop presentation by Deepti Gudipati to empower women with the skills and confidence to successfully negotiate their salary and benefits packages.