Sunday, April 29, 2007

Study Break

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Last night, I went for a walk in Hoboken with a charming two-year-old child. "I have two mommies," she turned back to tell me as Pat and I followed our friends, her parents, and her down the stairs of the restaurant on our way to walking down Washington Street and then along the river.

"She's been telling everyone that lately," said one of the mommies.

We hadn't been to Hoboken since the girl's christening nearly three years ago. They were such a gorgeous couple, standing before their congregation with the baby and the priest at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.

Pat and I refer to couples like them (and like us) as "dark and light;" one has dark hair and the other light, and/or one's complexion is more fair than the other's. Their daughter is the two-year-old version of lithe, and perfectly-proportioned with silky, light-brown hair and a beautiful face, blessed with delicate features and sparkly-brown eyes.

The fair friend is now pregnant with twin girls, and due in five weeks. This friend and I both grew up in families of three sisters, and now, her partner and she are producing a family of three sisters.

"A boy would have been nice, I was thinking, but with twins, I probably would have been shell-shocked," she said.

"You should see our twin nephews," said Pat, "They're eight and they're adorable, but wild."

"I was wild, too," said our fair friend.

"Yeah, but there's tom-boy wild, and then there's boy-wild."

She smiled, probably remembering her own childhood-wildness.

When I first saw our pregnant friend, I was delighted. She looked as I expected. We hadn't seen one another in probably three or four months and with five weeks to go, she was dramatic...gorgeous as ever, and now, with a big bubble for a stomach.

In the parking garage, she volunteered, "I weigh 164 pounds now."

Incredulous, I blurted, "That's bigger than me!" [I'm nearly 5'10" and she's probably 5'6"]. I said it without thinking. Usually, I weigh anywhere from 145-150 pounds. I felt tactless and wished I could have made some flattering reference to her typical fitness without embarrassing myself through revealing that over the years, I had certainly noticed her beautiful, athletic body, and that it really looked as good as ever, simply with a bubble attached, but instead, just followed the exclamation with, "Well, there are three of you now."

"Yes, but still..." she said and then pulled up her sweater to show us how her belly-button was gone now. "I used to never be able to see the inside of my belly-button and now, it's just, well..." and she pointed at the taut asterisk at the center of her stomach.

My stomach and waist are among the most intimate parts of my body, and I was moved to see her belly, which she displayed for the first time, simply as evidence of her advanced pregnancy.

After dinner, our pregnant friend and I were walking toward the river with her daughter between us; her daughter held our hands and swung a bit, but not enough to strain her mother. Pat and her other mother followed behind us and we saw the Empire State Building in the near-distance.

"I wonder why it's blue and pink tonight," Pat said.

Pat usually knows why, checking "Time Out New York," and so I was surprised.

"Did you know that "Time Out New York" lists the significance?" our blond friend asked. By now, we were some distance ahead of Pat and the other friend.

"Yeah, Pat keeps track typically. In fact, back when I was trying to get pregnant [unsuccessfully, via anonymous donors and with nine IUIs, from age 36-38, and I'm 41 now, and our friend is just two weeks younger than I], Pat saw that one week, "Time Out" recommended that for parents who wanted to honor the Empire State Building, they ought to name their child either Empira or Scrapey. From that time on, Pat always referred to the non-embryo as 'Scrapey.'"

Our friend looked at me, but I didn't make eye contact. I'd never told anyone about that piece of the non-pregnancy saga. I hadn't even talked about the period of our trying in a long time.

"You know what this reminds me of?" I asked looking down at the brick walkway and changing the subject, "Of that time we went rollerblading in Liberty State Park. We had taken their daughter in one of those baby strollers that parents use when they want to go running. We went a bit faster than her other mother probably would have liked had she been there, and the daughter looked so cute in her baby-sunglasses and little hat...until, if I remember correctly, the hat blew off some distance prior, by the time we noticed. I don't recall if we found it or not.

"I miss that so much!"

It had been two springs ago and now, her daughter was stroller-less and talking as sophisticatedly as a three- or four-year-old kid, at not-yet three. She opted to hold my hand with her tiny one after getting up to walk on the low wall that bordered the park's lawn.

The other three adults were strolling ahead of us. Walking hand-in-hand, she was almost my height and we chatted about the bunny that had been darting around the park under the lights, and about a few topics I couldn't quite understand, but affirmed in any case. I recalled her parents mentioning that she had a friend Sarah, and so I said, "Tell me about your friend, Sarah."

"Sarah hit someone in the head with a hammer and had to have a time-out."

I looked at her with wider eyes.

"She lives in a house."


"Far away."

After that, we strolled quietly for a bit. Some distance ahead of us, I saw her parents and Pat, and two couples of teens walking behind them.

One of the mothers put her arm around the other as they walked. I felt tenderness and arousal at seeing two appealing women being romantically affectionate; I feared the teens behind them initally, but apparently, the teens were non-plused; felt shame at my fear; and longed for Pat, to whom I was sending psychic affection; and finally, felt pride at my so-far successful role as their daughter's playmate during the walk.

I can afford zero time for fun right now, as my final paper of the semester is due on Tuesday, the same day that I'm presenting an update to our leadership team at work, and that was my attitude as I walked away from my draft yesterday evening to meet our friends.

Today, though, I can't stop feeling a giant sweetness, recalling their daughter's tiny hand squeezing mine, and our chat and our stroll. Now, I am reminded of two kinds of pressure, one of which is pleasant, and which is better than the only sort I felt yesterday.

How have you spent meaningful time with a child lately?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Finding a Bravery Role Model...and Recalling Some Cowardice

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

This morning, I received e-mail from a colleague in a faraway country, who recently had acted as an IBM ambassador to the colleague's nation, including its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The e-mail related good news, that the local IBM Country General Manager (CGM) sent the colleague an instant message, thanking the colleague for the colleague's leadership and inviting the colleague to lunch -- a big deal, given the position of the CGM, who is typically IBM's ambassador to client's among the nation's government and other top clients.

I wrote back as follows:

I must tell you a story...which you are free to share with [the CGM] or not, depending on how you want to maximize your time with him:
[The CGM] was a participant in the CGM Academy that I co-facilitated in October.

He would never remember this because it was just a quick comment in passing, but during a break, he noticed the ring I was wearing on my wedding finger, and said that it looked interesting. It is interesting, as it's inscribed on the outside in Hebrew, "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."

In response, at most, if I remember correctly, I said, "Thank you. My parents had the same one. It's a Hebrew inscription."

I felt anxious at that moment about being more so myself with him, which was too bad, as I felt I had built a small bit of rapport with him up to that point, and even a bit afterwards, though there was a layer of shame on the rapport for me after I failed to tell him the whole story of the ring, i.e., that it was the same as my parents' and that my partner Pat[ricia] and I were so pleased to find a pair of them for ourselves.

He seemed like an open, good person, and yet I froze with internalized homophobia. I should have followed my hunch. Look how warm the [instant message] exchange you had with him was, and promising, too, all because you demonstrated visible leadership.

I can imagine some people saying, "Sarah, what more did you need to tell the CGM? Why are you so down on yourself?"

Pat is so important to me, primary, really, and yet I felt myself holding back my reference to her. I'm reminded of Kenji Yoshino's marvelous book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Human Rights. Yoshino advocates being our whole selves without trying to cover up dimensions that are perhaps less socially palatable.

How do you summon bravery?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Others' Futures....What's in Store for Me?

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

I had a poignant day. After 37 years of service, my former manager Bob will retire from IBM at the end of the week.

Today's Learning Center Fireplace Lounge kickoff of the Leader Readiness program would be the last one while he was still an IBMer.

"Would you mind coming to it, so that you can be acknowledged?" I asked.


Leader Readiness is the program I'm responsible for worldwide, and I created a certificate for him that I framed:

Bob, 143,000 managers and
415 clients have your team
and you to thank for their
leadership development success.

Thank you for 16 years of
premier leadership of
IBM Management Development!

We ate lunch prior to the kickoff at 1 pm and I asked Bob about proud moments from his 37-year career. As I'm writing this now, I'm reminded that when Bob joined IBM, I was in the middle of my nursery-school career, just four years old.

He spoke of having done a project with the University of Michigan among others, and I asked him when he had been on campus.

"In the early-eighties."

"That was my alma mater and you and I might have walked by each other....Imagine...."

Bob smiled.

"Over the weekend, we had dinner with some dear friends, one of whom retired from IBM several years ago already, and as she and I were talking, and as you were discussing your proud moments, I thought: I wonder which moments will stand out for me by, God willing, at the end of a long career....My service counts for nearly 17 years due to the joint-venture time, but it's really only been nearly 11 years....If we're generous, and count the 17 years, then if I work for a total of 37 like you, I wonder what I'll do in the next 20 years."

Bob smiled some more.

During the dinner party, my friend Carol offered me a number of facilitator guides for leadership development training that she had used as a facilitator at IBM in the '90s; I'm eager to compare them with what we deliver today. The topics, I'm sure, are classic, though I'm positive that we weren't talking about the value of a globally intergrated enterprise then to the degree we do now.

We met at our friends' Deb's and Mia's house, along with our partners and a fourth couple, Kathy and Sheila. Carol offered to show me the binders before it got dark and so we excused ourselves from the gang on the deck in the backyard and went to her car-trunk. Generously, Carol let me have all of the notebooks. As I poured through the various program guides, I actually lost track of time a bit.

I was delighted by the gift, which we transferred to my trunk. We came back to Mia, Deb, Carmen, Pat, Sheila and Kathy and Sheila looked at me and said, "Is your shirt buttoned properly?" I looked down, horrified that I had buttoned it incorrectly. How could Pat have missed that?

Sheila laughed and said, "No, I was just joking with you, since the two of you were gone for so long!"


The future is so unknowable. I received my Social Security statement last week; during my junior year of high school, I began working just a tiny bit, in 1981, at the recreation room of the Stamford Jewish Community Center. I looked at my 1981 earnings, and at my 2006 earnings, and then showed Pat, my partner, who said, "You're earning a thousand times as much as you made back then."

"Do you think in another 25 years, I can earn a thousand times what I'm making now?"

Pat smiled, and said, "Why not?"

The windows are open in my home office and it's beyond time to return to final refinements of tomorrow night's book presentation, but I want to pause for just another moment to feel the breeze from the open windows in my right ear, on my neck and arms.

I'm reminded of the title of the blog a new friend referred me to, "Ticklingclouds." What a great name. I wish I could keep letting them tickle me while I kept blogging the night away....Alternately, I find this blog the most wonderful treat and a bedeviling tool for procrastination.

Some more thoughts on the future:

At dinner, of outdoor-grilled-by-Pat chicken, broccoli, hummus and salad, Pat said, "My brother told me he read that even if we figured out a way to replace all of our parts, most of us would not last beyond 500 or 600 years, as an accident would kill us ultimately....You think of illnesses, but not accidents."

She was thinking particularly of David Halberstam, who she admired and saw speak, who she said died earlier today in a car accident in San Francisco.

What do you hope your future holds?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Joy and Pain and Joy Again

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

My rabbi was named #19 among the top 50 rabbis in America by "Newsweek." Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum was recognized as "...the senior rabbi of the world’s largest synagogue for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews."

I discovered this wonderful news while looking for more information on terrible news. My rabbis sent this to us this afternoon by e-mail.

E-mail from Our Rabbis

Dear CBST members:

As some of you might have heard by now, there has been an anti-gay bombing this morning in Bet Shemesh (2 miles outside of Jerusalem) in which one person was injured. The primary purpose of this bomb is clear - to intimidate and silence the GLBT community in Israel. The anti-gay religious rhetoric has led to this and other outrageous acts of violence against our community. CBST stands proudly in support of JOH (Jerusalem Open House - the GLBT Center in Jerusalem). Jerusalem belongs to all of us.

Join us tonight at the Yom Ha'atsma'ut Shabbat services (Chelsea Location) to hear from Noa Sattath, JOH executive director about the current situation. We are grateful that a group from Jerusalem is here in NY this week with us. In these days between Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) and Israel Independence Day it is a tragedy that Jews would resort to violence to try and silence others. For details about tonight's service, visit

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Rabbi Ayelet Cohen

To follow the news:

Blacksburg and Metro-Jerusalem

As Shabbat approaches on this first beautiful day of spring so far, I've been thinking about the student who killed so many, so tragically at Virginia Tech earlier this week and how silent I've been about it. And then I'm thinking about this bomb, probably created by the most extremely fanatical of my own people, and I am struck by how much less remote it feels, even though it happened on the grounds of a monastery near Jerusalem, so much farther away from my home than Virginia.

The bomb was anti-gay in origin, it is believed so far, and my negative imagination is much more so captured, thinking of the hatred behind the act, and by whom it was likely carried out than it is by the adolescent soul in Virginia, who needed help, perhaps, for mental illness.

On Shabbat, we're supposed to be joyful. I'll focus on Rabbi Kleinbaum's recognition.

How do you restore joy when joy is called for?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Walk in the Woods

After the Storm

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Our train-the-trainers (T3) session ended around 3 pm and Juan Carlos and I took a walk in the woods outside of the IBM Learning Center. It was still gray out, and cold, but in a good, bracing way.

"I'm going to surprise you," I said. "At first, you'll think we're just retracing our steps, but then --"

"Good. Surprise me."

"I grew up 25 minutes from here [in Stamford, Connecticut] and the terrain is identical, and so I feel like I'm getting to show you around the woods near my house, where I grew up."

I do love the huge rocks that jut out of the earth, and the stone walls that were built probably 100-200 years ago. I'm most at home when I'm surrounded by oak and maple trees and rocks and sun-slivers through the trees -- though there were no such slivers today.

"It's beautiful, and you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere."

"We are." Our walk reminded me of nothing I experienced in Madrid, when Juan Carlos and I were last together. No couples were making out in front of us; no chic women were walking past me as though I were invisible; no gutter-puddles lured my raspberry cashmere sweater out of my arms and into them; no unforgettable, little restaurants were available to be slipped into; no cafe chairs were beckoning us to use them to bake in the sun with icy bottles of Spanish spring-water chilling our hands and throats; no LGBT bookstore was available for me to find later, with two new gay and lesbian IBM friends, Miguel and Kristiina....

Rather, there we were, just the two of us, and then 10 minutes later, the surprise:

"What's this?" Juan Carlos asked, as we stood in front of the elegant, but understated building of glass and steel, and a bit of marble, which was tucked into the woods, trying to blend in as best it could, without disrupting the trees and rocks too much.

I looked at the clear-glass, eight-bar logo on the blue-pearl marble front of the building and looked back at Juan Carlos: "This is IBM Corporate Headquarters."

"I thought it would be a building with many stories."

"No, it was built this way on purpose, to blend in with its surroundings." He was impressed and maybe a bit disoriented by its strong, but unassuming appearance. "Do you want to go inside, into the lobby?"

"No, it's OK. Seeing it from outside is fine." Maybe both of us were enjoying the woods too much. Taking the walk felt so good; our pace was naturally fast, upbeat, and it was like being a child again, with a boy I never would have played with then, as he was five years younger than I and living in Spain....We would never have met if we hadn't worked for IBM as adults.

Food for Thought

I considered yesterday's posting further, and how lucky I am that all of the colleagues I mentioned are fluent in English and don't mind speaking it. At lunch, the German colleague I mentioned yesterday ate with me.

I asked her to explain cognitive complexity to me in relation to her Masters thesis on decision making. She compared a sample of German decision makers and American decision makers and found that the Americans made decisions faster, whereas the Germans did more planning prior to making decisions.

She promised she wasn't being diplomatic when she said that it turned out not to be a bad thing, the rapid decision making. I had a stake in whether or not it was a good way of being, I told her, as I'm very quick to make decisions and sometimes need to be told to slow down.

She spoke of having designed an instrument for the decision makers to use and I wanted to try it right then and there -- I suppose I'm action-oriented altogether -- because I wanted to learn whether it's mostly good that I'm so quick in my decision-making, or what could come if I allowed ideas to ripen further sometimes.

I told her that I was reminded of an instrument that Harvard designed, to meaure hidden biases, and that we include in the Traps section of our Diversity & Inclusive Leadership QuickView on the LEADing@IBM internal leadership development web site.

For example, I told her that you are served an image of a famous black female and an image of a famous white female and there are words associated with each image alternately, like, 'evil,' 'good,' and depending how often your fingers press a negative word associated with one or the other photo, your hidden bias around race is calculated and revealed. [There are all sorts of tests on implicit associations.]

We talked some more about EQ v. IQ and then it was nearly time to return from lunch. I said, "I don't find it difficult to pronounce your last name, but mine sounds German, too, even though it's a Jewish last name. Is it a Jewish name in Germany, too?" We got up from the table and began walking into the classroom.

"Not necessarily, and there are a lot of Siegels at IBM -- [a total of 27, I just counted, but none of whom are relatives to my knowledge, and seven of whom are based in Germany.] Do you have any family from Germany?"

"No, everyone on both sides is from Russia."

"I don't know how you feel about Germans," she continued, and I looked away, trying to figure out a diplomatic response, "but I was sitting next to a woman on the plane and she saw the book I was reading and said, 'Is that German?' I told her yes and she said, looking at her husband, who was sitting across the aisle from us, 'My husband is a concentration camp survivor.'"

"Wow, what did you say next?"

"She didn't seem to want to talk about it further and --"

How to answer her on what I think of Germans: I began, "My mother is 81 and she grew up during the Holocaust -- not in Germany, but here, and --"

It was time to start class and we never got back to it after the class ended. It was a tender question.

It goes back to the theory I've always used as fuel to bolster my own dedication to being openly lesbian: It is nearly impossible to blindly hate one of them (whoever "one of them" is) once you meet one of them.

My mother raised us to be wary of anyone who might want to hurt us for being Jewish while inculcating a fierce pride in our identity in parallel; often, I figure that her way of raising me is what enabled me to be so open about my lesbian identity.

Here's an example, though, of the fear part:

When I was 10 at the oldest, my mother and I were still eating breakfast on the back porch of our home during a warm, summer morning, looking out at the sort of woods scene I described above, only with plenty of sun-slivers. My mom said suddenly, "Sarah, do you see that stone wall back there? If there's ever another Holocaust and they come for us, you run into the woods and hide behind that stone wall and don't worry about your sisters or Daddy or me."

When I talk about working in a miraculous environment, the miracle is also how much more open I am to meeting people from other cultures than I might have been, considering the worried upbringing I had. We did go to AFS dinners annually prior to when my middle sister Kathy went on AFS to Helsinki for her senior year of high school, and afterwards, and my parents were friendly with a German couple who were especially active in AFS, and so I think that conceptually, my mother sometimes was worried, but in practice, historically, she has been open to individuals of other cultures.

My mother is the first one to take a vocal stand against racism at the senior lunches she sometimes attends at the local community center, whenever anyone makes a racist remark, and she loves meeting colleagues of mine from faraway countries; so far, I've been fortunate to introduce her to my colleagues/friends from India and Japan. I know, it sounds like I'm trying to say that some of our best friends are non-Jewish, but really, I'm just describing the complexity of our human psyches -- more cognitive complexity, or is the problem that our cognition is not sufficiently complex and needs further sophistication/adventuresomeness?

I'm still thinking about the annual AFS dinners, which were potlucks, where everyone brought a dish from their country of origin, or from the country to which their child had travelled on AFS and it was such an inviting way to learn about other cultures. I do believe that if we could taste other cultures' most delicious foods prior to warring with them, most often, we would not start wars....It could also be simply that I am super food-oriented.

Which prejudice were you raised with, and how are you overcoming it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Beyond Schmoozing

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

"What does schmoozing mean?" asked a Taiwanese colleague earlier today. My German colleague was confirming that Yiddish and German shared a number of colorful terms in common, and then we were asked about schmoozing.

My German colleague looked to me, as it's a Yiddish word; I said, "It's like networking, only do you know what 'cheesy' means?"


"Do you know what 'sleazy' means?"


"How about 'slick?'"

She just looked at me.

"Well, it's sort of like 'smooth,' but not in a good way."

"Oh, shallow?"


It turns out that, according to Wikipedia's List of English words of Yiddish Origin, my Taiwanese colleague's definition was better than mine, as it just means small talk, and not necessarily slimy small talk, but more likely superficial small talk.

Something Weightier

This posting will disinterest even me if it remains simply schmoozing about schmoozing. Still, the question by my colleague from Taipei reminds me of globalization, and of cross-cultural exchanges that I am lucky to experience routinely.

In the past three weeks, I began planning to co-host a synchronous virtual classroom event with a colleague who's based in Tokyo; agreed to review project plans with a colleague who's based in Sao Paulo; received coaching from a colleague based in Stuttgart; brainstormed on employee empowerment with colleagues from Bangalore and Toronto; and tomorrow, will meet with a colleague based in Madrid.

Today's global train-the-trainer session included a leadership development module on Motivation. I know that I'm motivated more so by the wide reach I have with my work than I am by the money I'm paid to do it....Certainly, I would not be able to work for free, but I love meeting people from all over the world and getting to do creative thinking and acting with them.

Tonight, I checked e-mail to find a note from a lesbian colleague in a faraway country, letting me know that on Thursday, she will represent IBM on her country's National TV, on IBM's inclusive policies for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees in her country.

What a miraculous environment I work in.

What motivates you most to do whatever you do all day?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Being L, G, B or T in the Workplace Panel

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

I loved it. I loved learning from the other panelists, from our moderator and from the attendees. I was pleased that 26 people came on a Friday afternoon. There appeared to be:

  • 13 women (two Asian, three Black, and eight who were White)
  • 13 men (two-three Asian -- including one or two who might have been Indian, one Black, nine who were White)

    It was held in the Grace Dodge Room. I've passed the room a number of times and the door has never been open. There's a brass sign outside and I've always wondered what sort of events are held there. I love that my first time in the room was as a featured panelist in a Teachers College-sponsored event.

    Beforehand, I followed a best practice I learned from Edward Tufte at one of his visual design seminars, which I was lucky to attend when I was a web producer for the Software section of; Tufte introduced himself to nearly all of the participants prior to the seminar, shaking each one's hands. He said he did it to warm himself up and make himself feel more comfortable as well as them.

    Before the panel experience began, I was fortunate to meet an Arts Education doctoral student whose research focuses on LGBT youth, expressing themselves through art, along with a Columbia women's softball team player; I wish I had asked what she was studying, as she was an undergrad at Columbia College, and not a Teachers College (TC) grad. student. Among others, I also met an English professor, who had gone to Columbia undergrad. and TC, and who had been too afraid to walk through the door of a meeting of gay and lesbian TC students in the '70s.

    Wow, I thought, I wonder what those students are doing now...and we're still meeting...and there's still plenty of our humanity to share with the rest of the TC community.

    Afterwards, two women spoke to me. One was from Shanghai and now is an American citizen in the field of bi-cultural education and the other is working on her Ed.D. and writing her dissertation on un-learning homophobia.

    The China-born American woman told me that she was interested in the panel because she has an affinity for people who are considered extraordinary, and who might feel a bit lonely as a result. She said her father was forced to go to a labor camp in China for being an intellectual when she was ages four-10, which made her lonely as a child.

    She also trained thousands of Hilton employees in Shanghai, when Hilton opened up there as the first American company allowed in since 1949. She was wearing a gorgeous blazer, trimmed with Chinese fabric, a jade bracelet and what looked like a string of Chinese pearls, and I thought, How remarkable that her father's and her life brought her to the Grace Dodge Room.

    "I was fortunate to train Chinese managers in Beijing and Shanghai, and a gay friend from IBM also took me to a lesbian bar in Beijing," I told her.

    "When I was there, it was not very open."

    "It's still pretty underground -- that was my impression in any case."

    I didn't say that I didn't see much affection of any kind while in China. Young, heterosexual couples walking down the street didn't even tend to hold hands in Beijing....In Shanghai, they did hold hands sometimes, but there was no affection more public than that.

    The other woman I was lucky to speak with looked like we could have been in Girl Scouts or high school together. She reminded me, in fact, of the adult version of such girls. She's a Literacy teacher at a Connecticut middle school.

    "What inspired you to do 'Un-learning Homophobia' as your dissertation topic?"

    "We learn to be prejudiced, and I think we can learn not to be, too, and you were talking yourself during the panel about always working to 'transform indignities into art,' and it's part of that, too."

    The panel, itself, included the experience of a former public school teacher, who was harassed for being gay (and also said he suffered from reverse-racism, as the only 'caucasian-identified' member of the staff), and who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Health Education at Columbia; an entrepreneur; a career services expert; and a discrimination law attorney.

    Here's what I said, as well as the tip-sheet I gave out, along with a booklet, "Why IBM Works," which focuses on our legacy of valuing diversity and inclusion; we were limited to a five-seven-minute intro. prior to Q&A:

    I told Alysa that I was going to be the super-positive one. She asked that I tell you of some success I’ve had by being out at work along with offering some resources that have been helpful in my career.

    First of all, the resources started pre-IBM, and were larger community resources. I’m mentioning them because they turned out to be an unwittingly fantastic way for me to gain huge self-esteem around all of who I am, and I’m going to translate my experience into a tip for you shortly.

    By the time I joined IBM in my twenties, I had done a number of things to counter my eight years of Modern Orthodox Jewish schooling, which had had nothing encouraging to say about homosexuality, though my family turned out to be supportive ultimately.

    I joined an LGBT synagogue, became an LGBTQ Youth Group advisor, co-anchored “The 10% Show” -- it was the '80s -- of the Chicago Bureau of Gay Cable Network and was #5 in the scrum of the Windy City Women’s Rugby Football Club, which was mostly a lesbian team.

    My first tip, then, is to get involved in organizations like QueerTC and in whatever moves you about the LGBT community. It’s amazing how mutually-inspiring I have always found it to meet kindred spirits around affecting social change….I’m not sure how much social change we were affecting through rugby, but it did enable me to associate LGBT culture with pure fun like never before, which was essential, too.

    When I was part of a joint venture of IBM and Sears, in Schaumburg, Illinois, I asked my manager to fund my participation at a local gay and lesbian – back then – workplace conference. This was in 1994.

    She said yes. The second and third tips, then, are: Get sponsored to take advantage of special LGBT community-building opportunities if possible and then become inspired to pay back your sponsors. You can repay them with a proposal on how they can increase student learning and achievement, for example, simply by becoming further engaged in welcoming LGBT faculty and students, administrators and board members.

    In my case, it was all about helping my sponsor see how further welcoming LGBT clients would drive additional revenue to IBM. I came back from the conference so enthused by a gay marketing workshop given by Stephanie Blackwood, who’s right here in New York City, I wrote a white paper, proposing that we proactively enter the gay and lesbian market.

    The idea was just a question of when, not if, and after a number of successful pilot initiatives, we asked for and gained sponsorship for a dedicated sales team in 2001. The team is sponsored by Doug Elix, our Senior VP of Sales, who reports directly to our CEO.

    Had I not helped start up this particular sales team, when would I have ever had the chance to meet with the SVP even once, let alone quarterly for the three years I helped lead the mission? There are more than 330,000 IBMers worldwide, and many thousands of them are in Sales. Doug wrote a recommendation letter for my TC Masters application.

    The LGBT Sales team is now twice its size and includes a European rep, and after three years, it was simply time to do something new in my career, and Management Development turned out to be a terrific fit for me, so terrific that I have gotten to help develop our leaders around the world...all because I have been out at work.

    Job Hunting Tips for LGBT and LGBT-friendly Students

    1. Maintain tremendous energy even if you're not yet sure what you want to do after grad. school:
    a. Study hard
    b. Love earnestly
    c. Play sports and/or do your art
    d. Be spiritually active, if religion is meaningful to you
    2. Dream of continuing your work to advance LGBT people; the private sector, increasingly, employs people to do so:
    a. Give of your time as a volunteer
    b. Discover what moves you
    c. Present your most inspired self at interviews
    i. Differentiate yourself from other candidates, including talking about your experiences, volunteering or leading or interning with or creating LGBT organizations
    ii. Demonstrate what your potential employer gains more than focusing on what you hope to gain
    3. Apply to join IBM:
    a. Visit
    b. Find positions that appeal to you
    c. Apply for them online
    d. Send e-mail to Sarah Siegel at..., including:
    i. “IBM Candidate from TC Career Services Panel” in the subject line
    ii. Your electronic resume
    e. The job numbers associated with the positions for which you’ve applied.

    Note: Historically, IBM has hired TC alumni/ae with Ph.D.s to work in its Global Executive Organizational Capability organization.

    The three questions I was able to answer during Q&A were:

  • What made it a "no-brainer" for you to come out at IBM?
  • What was it about IBM's culture that made you feel you could ask to go to the gay and lesbian workplace conference?
  • What is being done for transgender job applicants and employees?

    How would you answer those questions about IBM, or about the company or organization where you work, if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender? How about, also, What made it a "no-brainer" for you to come out as LGBT-friendly, if you're heterosexual?
  • Virtue is a Virtue

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.


    A storm is coming -- a nor'easter. My governor's car accident on Thursday and my own almost a month ago remind me that I need to be precautionary. I will not drive during it. I will go to the IBM Learning Center and check in this evening, even though class doesn't begin till Monday morning, since Sunday and Monday are the storm-days.

    The governor's accident reminds me of my previous posting about liking order. I do follow most rules, like wearing a seat-belt. Had I not worn a seat-belt, I do not know what might have happened to me physically in my accident, which was so serious, I totaled my tank of a car.

    Even with a seat-belt, when the car slid over to a boulder on the hilly edge of the road, and then onto, up and over it, going airborne for a moment, I hit my head on the roof, hard enough to cause a small bump.

    This might also go back to my previous posting, about being adaptable, but not so flexible. The new order was snow and ice, and so be it, I thought at the time, getting into my car. My plan was to see my friend Chitra and take her to the airport for her flight back to India and then to drive home from there.

    Had I been flexible and not just adaptable, I would have changed my plan, rather than being resolute. This time, fear is leading to further flexibility.

    My plan for the coming week was to drive to Armonk on Monday for the upcoming train-the-trainers session, using the weekend to study and write for school. Because I never wish to drive in dangerous weather again, I am changing my plan.

    Auto Carnival

    Yesterday, Pat and I went to the Auto Show to shop for a new car. What an unspiritual, yet highly entertaining, environment! I could do something better for the environment and for my wallet this time, if we buy the hybrid, but Gunhild, the woman who told us about the 60th anniversary edition of the Saab 9.5 Aero, was stunning.

    And Bob Dishy had sat in it just before we did. He got out of it and a would-be Saab buyer, also standing by the car, and a self-described fan, told us who he was.

    When will I learn my lesson? It struck me this week that I ought to feel like someone whose house burned down, God forbid, but who's still alive and who has to realize that ultimately, the car -- as beautiful and powerful as it was -- was just a thing. I have my health and so why be continually attracted to beautiful, powerful things when I could focus further on trying to be beautiful and powerful myself, in the most appealing senses of both words?

    If we buy the hybrid, am I suddenly a citizen, doing my part to end global warming? Not sufficiently. We live in a house that arguably is too big for two people, and so we use more than our fair share of natural gas to keep ourselves warm, and more A/C than is fair, too.

    After school is done for the semester, after May 9th, we'll do test-drives of the two cars. Pat is leaning toward the virtuous car, and so am I, but above all, it must be comfortable for an hour-long commute each way...and more than she, I'm trying to get over the need for gorgeous, cheerful, rare-blue, exterior paint and two-toned leather seats, and disappointing Gunhild....

    What are you doing to reduce global warming? What are you doing to be more beautiful and powerful?

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Model Behavior After a Fashion

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

    I planned to post tonight, simply to make two points, and then needed to say a bit more:

    • No, it's not worth posting vapidly
    • I had an insight this morning: Just as some people are good clothing models, I'm a good behavior model, that is, give me a behavior I need to model and I can do it if it aligns with my values, and do it really well typically.

    I'm enjoying imagining a behavior fashion show that has top behavior models strutting the latest leadership development trends down a Shanghai or Bangalore catwalk.

    This relates to an insight I had recently, where I realized I'm highly adaptable, but not necessarily highly flexible, for example, when conditions change at work, I'm highly adaptable, however, I'm not natively flexible, that is, I'm not natively yielding or pliable.

    My colleague Linda Gerber always is thinking up terrific ideas for our programs and my knee-jerk reaction always is No. I do recognize this and so I say no in my head now mostly and listen, and almost always, her ideas make sense and I agree ultimately to adopt them.

    How can someone who prizes whatever of my own creativity be less than welcoming of others'?

    Because I like order. I revel in it.

    A new idea feels disorderly. A new condition emerges at large and I adapt to it instantly, far more readily than I'd expect I would, but I suppose it's just that I accept it immediately as the new order.

    What's your definition of order? If you don't need order by your definition, what takes its place?

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Bog Bloc Blot Blob Blow

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

    These are the alternates to "blog" that Microsoft (MS) Word offers during Spellcheck. I had to add "blog" to my MS dictionary.

    Got recharged by working offline on my remarks for the panel on Friday. What a re-energizing way to spend the bulk of the night pre-sleep!

    Better to Post Vapidly Than Not at All?

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

    At least, I'm feeling vapid right now because I'm tired. I'm in a train-the-trainers course this week and I forget how exhausting it is to be an active participant in a training program.

    Certainly, I'm always alert to how exhausting, in a good way, it is to be an actively engaged learning facilitator (instructor), which is my typical role, but it's weird and refreshing at once to be a learner this week. And I'll get to learn a different program next week.

    When I'm tired, it's hard to be inspired in any direction, including even writing. And yet I missed being out here, and felt the need to visit my own blog, even if briefly.

    What exhausts you too much to do the thing you love?

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    What Happens to Envy in the Future?

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

    Tonight in class, I was inspired by my classmate Zdravko's presentation on "Shift Happens: A Brief History of the Future." He was influenced by The Power of Identity by Manuel Castells and the scholars Jane Mansbridge and Michel Bauwens and Yochai Benkler and James Surowiecki among others.

    Zdravko told us, "If I give you this bottle, I no longer have it. If I give you information, we both have it." Information is not a finite product to be given away or sold, or shouldn't be, was what he meant, I think.

    McKenzie Wark, author of The Hacker Manifesto, Zdravko said, writes of the class struggle now between hackers, e.g., creators of software, knowledge and music, and the "vectoralists," who create a sense of artificial scarcity, and who try to control the vectors in which the product is realized, and who try to charge for the products of the creative hackers.

    In the terrific Peer-to-Peer (P2P) future, Zdravko explained, all of us will participate. We'll have a panarchy, or government by all, along with sousveillance, where all of us will be recording what is said and done in the midst of our own participation.

    We will be more open. We will be more generous. We will have a decentralized, even distributed, network and we will succeed together. OK. Zdravko didn't say the messages in this particular paragraph explicitly, but that's what I walked away hoping, until I had to acknowledge: I was jealous of Zdravko's presentation tonight.

    In Zdravko's and all of those scholars' future, what happens when someone is clearly head and shoulders above the rest? How can I evolve to where I'm purely admiring and no longer feeling envy?

    Envy produces in me a scarcity mentality, when what I need, always, is an abundance mentality. Zdravko's brilliance can inspire me in the creation of my presentation, which I need to deliver in two weeks.

    God, if only I were as passionate about war's and trade's influence on the shaping of American politics as Zdravko is about P2P's potential! No excuses. I need to help the rest of the class care about the new direction of the field of American Political Development (APD), since that was the topic I was assigned based on my having told Professor Youngblood after the first class that I have faith in great corporations (like IBM) that they can affect positive social change faster than governments sometimes.

    "I have just the book for you!" she responded.

    Tonight, I went to Professor Youngblood's office hours before class and we had a spirited discussion about my impressions of the book, and then I saw Zdravko on fire and felt anxious, competitive and jealous. Stop. Be inspired by his messages, not paralyzed.

    In fact, stop blogging and come back to 3-D life, where your suitcase is still waiting to be filled. I hope I'm able to blog while in my Coaching class on Wednesday and Thursday.

    Will humans evolve to envylessness in the future? Will we stop being competitive? Will I? Can I? Will you? Can you?

    Monday, April 9, 2007

    थे केय इस तो पोस्ट फ्रेकुएँत्ल्य

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

    Wow. At some point, while setting up this blog, I received the unsolicited option of agreeing that my postings could be translated into Hindi, but this was beyond my expectations, that is, I don't know how my title "The Key is to Post Frequently" became "थे केय इस तो पोस्ट फ्रेकुएँत्ल्य." I guess globalization really is happening even more pervasively than I realized!

    Powerful Pioneers

    The TV show "Cold Case" was so touching tonight (we had Tivo'ed it). I never think of myself first as a woman, looking for more rights for women, but rather as a lesbian, seeking more human rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people.

    Typically, I identify as lesbian and then as female, as I've not ultimately related to the issues women have championed in my lifetime, e.g., reproductive rights et al, but tonight's episode was about a suffragette who was murdered in 1919 and it touched me.

    I never think about not having the right to vote, though, sometimes, Pat and I talk about how lucky we are not to have lived during the Middle Ages, when women really, really had no options.

    The nicest touch was the flash of news on the squadroom TV, at the end of the show, where we got to see a brief glimpse of Nancy Pelosi. Seeing the shot of Nancy Pelosi, Pat said, "We've still got some distance to go, but we have definitely made strides."

    I'm reminded of an article I saw in the current issue of "The Advocate" earlier today, while waiting to go to my colonoscopy appointment -- that's another posting, or maybe I'll spare all of us...and happily, the results were fine; it featured eight retired, decorated gay and lesbian servicepeople and I thought, How grim their lives must have been at times.

    One of them, a West Point grad and 28-year veteran, if I remember correctly, talked about how having to lie reduces trust, which compromises unit cohesion, and I thought, How difficult for him -- for whom honor's arguably the biggest thing -- to have had to lie throughout his career about his sexual orientation. God, pioneers are powerful.

    I'm reminded that one of my colleagues at work told me that he saw this blog, and to remember that beyond being a Jewish lesbian IBMer, I'm also an expert in Leadership and Human Resources (HR) and Learning, and that I could also blog about those topics. I was flattered at his assessment, and perhaps I'll comment on those topics along the way, too, but there are many Leadership and HR and Learning experts at IBM, but not many Jewish lesbian experts in Leadership, HR and Learning.

    I felt the same way when IBMers were excited about e-business in the late-90s and early-2000s, and most were trying to figure out the next huge way to make it take off. I thought, Everyone I know is thinking about innovation in relation to e-business.

    Not so many were thinking about how to more invitingly welcome the business of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) business-to-business clients worldwide per se; and so I put my energy into how IBM could do that, and ultimately, we started up the GLBT Sales team, which I mentioned a posting ago, and which still thrives today, even as I've gone on to Management Development, training our emerging and new managers to be good leaders.

    My identity is the engine of all of my creativity and innovation and so it is going to be prominent in this blog, as it is the energizer for my life offline, too.

    My identity is my differentiator. For example, I'm honored to be a panelist at this event on Friday, at Teachers College (TC), Columbia University:

    Title: Being LGBT in the Workplace


    Join your hosts Queer TC for a panel discussion on "Being LGBT in the Workplace."

    How do you find "gay friendly" organizations?

    How do you best approach the interview?

    How do you come out (or not) on the job?

    Panelists include:

    Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director, Lambda Legal
    Nicholas Grosskopf, Doctoral candidate, Health Education, Teachers College
    Edward Hernstadt, Partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz (and Columbia alum)
    Dan Koifman, President, Koifman Consulting
    Sarah Siegel, Global Program Manager, IBM and current MA student
    Jennifer Williams, Director of Career Services & Leadership Development, Columbia University School of Social Work

    DATE: Friday, April 13th from 12 - 1 (with time post panel for networking)

    WHO: Open to entire gay (and gay friendly) Columbia community

    Will include a Q&A portion and there will be snacks!!

    Earlier, I was reading the Pew Research Center's "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007" because my professor sent it to us and it struck me that perhaps only the poll questions and responses on immigrants are more painful than the poll question and responses on same-sex marriage. That means that my work is not yet done.

    That means that since I'm willing to be so visible, I wish to keep being so, since public opinion can change only insofar as people like me are visibly among the public.

    This morning, I had an update from my friend Dana, who lost her partner Cathy suddenly and tragically last week. Both of them had been active in the Trans Community and I know that Dana still will be when she comes up from her grief, and probably prior. And my friend Sara Rook let me know that there's a great trans photo exhibit (she's the lovely one in red and black), running at Stages Theater in Houston for the play, "I'm My Own Wife."

    All of these women, Dana, Cathy and Sara, choose/chose to be out as trans, rather than opting to pass -- as so many transpeople wish to do, understandably, once they transition into the people they were born to be -- as they feel and felt that they could do good by putting a friendly face on it for people, most of whom are ignorant, rather than malevolent.

    Perhaps, I'll comment explicitly on Leadership, HR and Learning over time, but more likely, my postings will tend to focus on the topics of leadership I admire or try to exhibit; valuing every human, and a core mission of HR, i.e., examples I see or try of maximizing one's talent; and my own learning with a small "l," which complements the vast Learning in which IBM invests for our own employees at all levels.

    For anyone who has gotten this far in the posting, how does your identity inform your life and how you lead it? I'd love to hear from a variety of perspectives....

    Sunday, April 8, 2007

    Participatory Citizenship Al Dente

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

    Delicious Company, Delicious Dinner

    Last night, I experienced a new self-consciousness. I was going to tell our friends about having seen a former youth group advisee at Sabbath services the night before and I thought, I don't want to be repetitive. What if David already read about it in my blog? And I sat at the table, feeling thwarted by my own communicativeness.

    And I lost track of the conversation around me as I sat, thinking about the implications of being an active blogger whose friends would be supportive and look at it. Where will I be living primarily? In real time, or in the blog? Will the blog make live experiences ultimately self-conscious? Will my friends be on alert whenever they're with me, since they know our exchanges could end up in my blog?

    Don't they know it already? Haven't I been re-living inspirational times with friends and family in the IBM-intranet blog I've been active in since 1997? Yeah, but that was just behind our firewall. Ugh, stop. Come back and be present to what's going on here, now, at this delicious restaurant on West Street & W. 10th.

    Women in Black vs. David and Me

    And I did. And I heard Vinny's confidence that same-sex marriage will be legalized in New Jersey this year. And David's mother Judy's satisfaction at being able to be among the Women in Black in Woodstock, where she lives, rather than a Raging Granny.

    "What do Raging Grannies do?" I asked.

    "They're just outrageous," and as she described them, I knew they were not her at all. "I like simply standing silently with my sign, 'War Won't Fix It.' And then people walk by and say, 'You're right!' or I've had a mother ask to have her young daughter stand next to me, so she could take a picture."

    As Judy spoke, her face took on an ennoblement aspect. She was proud of the power of silent, non-partisan protest.

    "I've heard of the Women in Black," I said, "in Israel --"

    "Right, they were the first [in 1988, protesting human rights violations during the occupation], and now, they're in Italy and here and...." It's all about being anti-war.

    "And you wear black, right?"

    "Yes, and I must say, I'm getting tired of wearing black." They stand out there in the middle of Woodstock for two hours every Sunday.

    "God, I just couldn't do that."

    "Not everyone needs to protest."

    "But it's amazing that you do it."

    I was thinking, What is it about Judy's generation and my mother's that both of them are so active politically?

    "I don't do anything!" I said with my voice full of shame.

    David looked right at me and said, "What are you talking about?"

    And I smiled because he and I have consciously dedicated ourselves to helping make IBM an even more inclusive environment, including for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender clients and IBMers. He's right. I do very local things, which I dare to hope could have a global impact.

    Politics Are Not Sexy

    Vinny said, "The word, 'politics,' comes from people [citizens, actually; I just looked it up], and so when you're trying to do good things for people, that's being political."

    Still, I looked at Vinny and how animated he was as he described asking a New Jersey politician about his stance on same-sex marriage and I thought, I can't relate. And he's a guy. And six out of eight of the people in my Political Science elective course this semester are men. What is it about Politics that just doesn't attract me, as a woman?

    Vinny spoke of how politicians often give off a very sexual energy and I recalled reading a memoir by a former Knesset (Israeli Parliament) member -- I read it only because she was lesbian -- and how she spoke of feeling very sexually powerful in every direction when she was active in Politics.

    What's wrong with me? I just don't see politics as sexy. At all.

    And my lens is so corporate. Most of the powerful people I'm exposed to are IBM corporate leaders. And I do see their power and charisma and political savvy and realize that I ought not to opt out of, and shut down, during larger-world political discussions, as they inform my local political arena as well.

    The course I'm taking this semester, because it was at the right time of the evening, is definitely a stretch for me, Learning Democratic Practices, but I keep telling myself that becoming smarter about the way politics works, particularly about how democracies work, will serve me well in my own leadership roles at IBM, now and in the future. (Part time, I'm pursuing an M.A. in Organization & Leadership with a specialization in Adult Learning and Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University.)

    It's just so hard because the lingo and jargon is not intuitive to me, and not natively appealing. It is true, as the caption to the photo of me in Tiananmen Square attests, The farther I go, the more I learn, and it doesn't only refer to geographic distance. I am well-beyond where I ever meant to travel in the world of Political Science by having taken this course, and I'm probably learning much more than I would in a course that felt more natural for me.

    My Lifelong and Lifewide Participatory Citizenship Learning

    My professor, Dr. Janet Youngblood, did give us an assignment that appealed to me ultimately, of describing our participatory citizenship learning from early childhood to now. Initially, I said, "It's going to be a very short paper in my case," and then generously, she told us that it could include any sort of activism, in addition to whatever we might have done in relation to formal political parties.

    This is what I wrote:

    Early Learning:
    McGovern-->Watergate-->the Israel Option

    My first memory of being a participatory citizen was my mother taking me to the local McGovern campaign headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, where I added stamps to a McGovern mailing. My mother said I was four years old. This qualified as formal lifewide citizen participation learning, probably, since it was associated with a U.S. political party.

    During Watergate, my middle sister Kathy, who was five and a half years older than I, created a game for the school science fair called “Schmutz: The Game of Dirty Politics.” Both of my sisters always cared more about politics than I. I was not even remotely intrigued by real-world politics as a child or teen. Informally, I gained a bit of a consciousness, at least, through the actions and interests of my sisters.

    Growing up, I did not have a firm sense of my role as an American citizen, other than that we lived in a country of many precious freedoms, and that my father, may his memory be blessed, was proud of his World War II naval service as a radar technician, and that typically, we had a president for whom my parents had not voted, other than Jimmy Carter.

    Indeed, I felt most like a Jewish-American citizen, hyphenated. In the formal environment of the Modern Orthodox Jewish day school I attended from 1st-8th grade, we were taught American history and also Jewish and Israeli history, and were encouraged to consider making aliyah with our families, that is, immigrating to Israel and becoming automatic citizens through the Law of Return, Israel’s law that grants instant citizenship to all Jews who choose to live in Israel permanently.

    The encouragement to consider Israeli citizenship made an impression on me, along with our Jewish history learning, where we read how often Jews had lived in particular countries throughout history before invariably being persecuted, killed or expelled; I was dually-invested in the welfare of two countries from an early age – the country of my birth and the one for which we collected charity, so that we would have it as a second homeland if need be, as life insurance, as my mother put it.

    I was born into a family of Democrats, all of whom were at least half a decade older than I, and my parents were 40 years older than I; never did I question the rightness of the Democratic Party. No one ever sat with me to explain its virtues, but rather, I just knew of my mother’s local leadership as a Democrat within organizations like Head Start and the League of Women Voters. Growing up, any of my citizenship learning felt more accidental than formal.

    Adolescent Learning:
    Freshman Class Office-->American Forum for World Affairs Radio-->Mondale & Ferraro-->the Israel Option-->Youth Group-->Cable Access TV Co-anchorship

    As a fourteen-year-old, I ran for election as Freshman Class Treasurer and won. This was a formal citizen participation learning experience, since there was election protocol. I ran only because I was entering a public high school from a private school and I wanted people to know me as soon as possible, and so having posters up with my name all over school seemed like a good strategy.

    We did not make campaign speeches, but I created clever posters with hopeful promises and hand-drawn pictures of plump money bags. It was simply put to a vote, and my advantage was that no one knew me, whereas they knew my opponent from junior high, and disliked him.

    At the end of the year, when I was supposed to organize an event to raise money for the class – for a future reunion that never took place, and so perhaps, I contributed to an advisor’s or fellow student’s corruption unwittingly at the time, since I never learned nor sought to learn what happened with the funds – I decided we would be bused to a roller-rink and have a roller-skating party.

    None of the students in my Honors classes thought it was a fun idea, or that it would make any money, but it was a huge hit with the majority of the school – the students in the less advanced classes apparently appreciated it greatly. We made hundreds of dollars. From that experience, I learned that the privileged elite, that is, the minority of the school’s top students, did not necessarily represent the wishes of the majority, the many average students. So far, I have never again run nor been an elected official in any arena.

    My mother reminded me that I used to be among a teen panel on a local radio show sponsored by the American Forum for World Affairs; we interviewed political leaders when they came to town, who discussed current world events from their perspective. I hardly remember anything about it. Again, I participated only because I thought it sealed my social standing among the smart kids in my high school.

    I participated in activities to enhance my resume for college, and yet my single most fun activity in high school was that roller-skating party, where I was surrounded by average students.

    Once I got to college, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for my junior year, I day-dreamt about someone to love; wondered what to pursue as a career post-graduation; studied; labored at work-study jobs; and while in Israel, waffled back and forth in my head on whether or not I had the fortitude to emigrate from the United States and become an Israeli citizen, as most of my father’s family had done in the ‘40s.

    Could I simply stay at Hebrew University and finish my degree there, and become absorbed into the society that much more quickly? During a school-break, the Israeli Army offered an opportunity to non-citizens to experience Basic Training and as a prospective citizen, I took advantage of the opportunity with a number of male and female American-student counterparts. We were stationed at an army base in the north, at the border of Israel and Lebanon. We wore Israeli Army uniforms, learned to load, shoot and clean M-16s and played war games (without guns). I relished the experience, until during one of the war games, I leapt from too high onto a pile of loose stones, breaking my left ankle. That was the end of my formal citizen participation learning in Israel.

    I left the base and spent the rest of the school-break with my Aunt Tovah, may her memory be blessed, in Beth Herut, the moshav (collective village) of which my grandparents, may their memories be blessed, and she were among the founders.

    Ironically, my grandparents and aunt, who were ardent Socialists prospered far more so financially, working with the other villagers in a collective industry, than my father ever did, working as a Capitalist industrial designer of toys and games. Like me, he tried living in Israel in his twenties, and opted after a few years to return to the States; it was a time of austerity in Israel and simply, he was bored by life there.

    He met my mother at a party in New York City that was hosted by one of her sorority sisters, they married and moved to Greenwich Village, and within less than a decade, they moved with their kids to suburban Stamford, where I was born.

    Ultimately, I chickened out of remaining in Israel, and felt guilty and relieved to come back and finish my B.A. in the States. I told myself that I could always choose to return post-college, but I think I knew I would never be able to give up the home I knew for one that was ultimately more foreign to me.

    The bulk of my undergraduate experience took place in Ann Arbor and during sophomore year, I recall watching a Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro appearance and rally in the Diag, from an open window on the second floor of the Graduate Library, and so I was not actually at the rally, and so my participation was not direct, nor formal.

    The content of Mondale’s speech did not compel me as much as considering the power of his presence. I thought that he was not nearly as charismatic as Ronald Reagan. Ferraro, too, attracted and repelled me at once, triggering some internalized homophobia. At the time, I was fighting my own lesbianism and seeing a strong female of any sort was appealing and distasteful in parallel.

    Naturally, being an unquestioning Democrat, I voted for them in any case; it was my first presidential election and my second formal activity related to a U.S. political party – the first, being the McGovern campaign stamp-licking afternoon 12 years prior. In 1988, I voted for Dukakis. I gave no money, nor did any campaigning for Mondale or Dukakis.

    By the time Dukakis lost the election, I was 22 and already living in Chicago for a year. With singular focus, I turned the city into a lab for building my self-esteem through community participation. This was the period where I solidified my hyphenated identity further, as a Jewish-American lesbian citizen. The following experiences either were non-formal or informal lifewide citizen participation learning, considering my gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) community participation and activism as a form of participatory citizenship:

    In the history of Horizons, Chicago’s GLBT community center and social service agency, I became its youngest-ever youth group advisor volunteer; that was informal citizen participation learning, since I learned on the job how to help GLBT and questioning youth expand their self-esteem through helping them (and myself) build their (and my own) self-acceptance of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

    Next, I co-anchored a cable access TV show, “The 10% Show,” which was a monthly, hour-long GLBT news and entertainment program of the Chicago bureau of Gay Cable Network. It was started by Chicagoan Jack Ryan, who was moved during the 1987 Gay & Lesbian March on Washington to do his part locally, particularly around HIV and AIDS activism.

    The couple dozen episodes we produced as volunteers could be classified as non-formal citizen participation learning, as really, we were not at all formally organized, and most of us, other than the camera people, were not formally educated in Broadcast TV; everyone had a day-job and participated as time allowed. Certainly, I had never before co-anchored a TV show. I had simply written occasional Arts features for my high school and college newspapers.

    Grass-roots though the program was, we were internationally-syndicated (aired in Vancouver, too)! I was so fortunate to interview many GLBT personalities – local, national and international – and perhaps my radio show time in high school was a bit of preparation, though I found myself wholly invested in helping these interviewees be more visible than I did with the more universally well-known political leaders I interviewed during high school.

    Co-anchoring “The 10% Show,” I saw a wonderful up-side to GLBT culture, and televising so many leaders and role models of the GLBT community inspired me to commit to living my life openly as well.

    Within a couple of years, unfortunately, we were hired into all-consuming day-jobs and our major funder, Jack’s partner, died of AIDS, and so we stopped producing the show. The tapes are now among the Gerber/Hart GLBT Library archives in Chicago.

    Adult Learning: IBM’s GLBT Community-->Clinton; Clinton; Gore; Kerry-->Synagogue’s and the Course’s Influence on My Political Activity

    Shortly after joining IBM, I was invited to become part of IBM’s GLBT Task Force and was honored to do so. In addition, IBM has employee networking groups for eight constituencies, including GLBT people. The leader of the local chapter of the GLBT employee group asked me to take her place soon after I became an IBMer; I told her, “I love belonging to the group, but I don’t want to lead it.”

    “But it has to be led,” she said, and so I took it on. We were not elected then, but rather anointed by the outgoing leader. My learning was formal insofar as the group had bylaws and a mission and informal in that I learned so much about my own leadership style simply while actively participating in both the Task Force and employee networking group.

    In 2000, I joined the IBM delegation at the Millennium March on Washington for GLBT Rights. Doug Elix, executive sponsor and direct report to our CEO, flew down to host a reception for us and said that IBM’s involvement in GLBT rights was not only a matter of attending to *all* of our customers and employees, but a matter of “social justice.”

    Hearing one of our senior leaders use the phrase, “social justice” even further inspired my investment in helping advance GLBT clients and employees; I worked with Task Force colleagues on proposing and helping start up IBM’s GLBT Sales Team, with Doug Elix’s enthusiastic sponsorship. Though I have moved on in my career, now delivering leadership development training to our new and future managers, the GLBT Sales Team continues to thrive.

    In my experience with GLBT human rights, IBM has helped advance social change faster than a number of governments around the world. My contribution to that advancement has felt politically substantial in that some of it has even had, “…the intent or effect of influencing government action…” (Verba et al., p. 38, 2002), for example, my being part of the Task Force, which recommended that IBM advocate for the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA), which it did, and by helping recommend that IBM join the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which it did, too, as a founding sponsor.

    In ’92 and ‘96, I participated formally as an American citizen by voting for Clinton; in 2000, for Gore; and for Kerry in ’04, though I don’t know how much I learned, as I did not follow the races closely at all. During the dozen years, I did contribute money to national GLBT organizations that lobbied the presidential candidates for GLBT human rights, and in 2004, because my brother-in-law was volunteering with, I gave a contribution directly to; this was a formal case of a recruitment network. If Gary had not engaged me in’s mission through his involvement, I would not have written a check.

    Some months ago, my rabbi asked every congregant to consider joining the synagogue’s Green Team, which was made up of members who switched to more environmentally-friendly service from the local utility company in order to decelerate global warming, even though it was more costly. Since beginning to learn how my citizen participation makes a difference during this course, we have joined the Green Team.
    Will I become a more participatory citizen as a result of taking this course, Learning Democratic Practices?

    In fact, I believe that I will never be the same; already, I find myself reading stories about political engagement in newspapers and magazines when previously, I would have flipped past them; always, it seemed a sacred opportunity and responsibility to vote in any election for which I was invited to vote, yet historically, I deferred to my partner’s judgment in telling me the candidate for whom I ought to vote. Now, I have more curiosity and am grateful for my new maturity.


    Verba, S., & Lehman Schlozman, & K., Brady, H.E. (2002). Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    How do you participate most fully? And why? And where? Are you most active in the blogosphere, or in 3-D?

    Friday, April 6, 2007


    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

    Has Jane created a monster? I am inspired to post again, already.

    Tonight at shul (synagogue), I saw a woman who looked familiar and it wasn't till I heard her voice at the kiddush (reception) afterwards that I remembered that I knew her from Chicago. I thought we knew each other from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) synagogue in Chicago, Or Chadash, and I said, "Of course, you remember Pat, " and she smiled, but said no, "It was Horizons [the GLBT community center]."

    "I was your GLBT youth group advisor!" I exclaimed.

    She smiled. It had been 18 years. Of course. It flooded back. "Do you remember the Saturday when we studied Flirting in Literature?" She had missed that one. It was my favorite time I ever spent with the group.

    I had looked through own my library at home and had photocopied favorite sections of GLBT fiction, where characters were flirting, and then had cut and pasted them into a booklet that I photocopied for each of the youth.

    It was so safe, to *study* flirting, and it was so remote from what the rest of the world invited them to *do*, i.e. to flirt with one another, as GLBT and questioning youth. They ate it up.I wish I had saved a copy of it. Probably, it's somewhere.How gratifying, to remember being a facilitator/instructor back then, just naturally.

    Looking at the woman's face, and actually, she was only two years younger than I -- I was the youngest youth group advisor in the history of Horizons to that point -- I remembered myself at that barely adult time of my own life and how I was gaining self-esteem right along with the youth who came to the program.

    Talking about the unit we did on Flirting in Literature, two single women, who were listening, and one of whom I knew already, said, "Could you do that for the [LGBT] Center [in Manhattan]?" They thought it sounded great at any age.

    How fun, to have people be so receptive to an educational program I designed. How fun, to have the continuity of getting to see one of the "youth" nearly two decades later.

    I feel good because I'm reminded that even as my much-less-than-fully-formed self back then, still, I was able to be of creative service to people who needed, like I did, to feel more self-assured.

    This Passover season is designed, I feel, to remind Jews of our freedom [originally, from Egyptian slavery] and our redeemability, and thinking about tonight's accidental reunion, I feel so much freer than when the now-grown woman knew me as her youth group advisor, and also, that I am, human or humane service by human/humane service, steadily earning a thrilling sort of redemption.

    What are you doing/what have you done that earns/has earned you your version of a thrilling sort of redemption?

    Freed from My Shyness

    The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

    God bless Jane Harper!

    Jane is a mentor of mine at IBM. "Do you blog?" she asked during our monthly phone discussion earlier this afternoon. She's the second person to ask me in a week. I told her how I came out here and posted something, and then felt totally self-conscious and frustrated by sudden shyness.

    "Jane, I've been blogging since before there was this term for it, on our internal online community at IBM, but something about going external just froze me."

    "I get that and it's true that you'll probably need a thick skin, since you didn't get many rude respondents within IBM, I'm guessing, due to our culture, but if you can have a thick Irving [Wladawsky-Berger] in his recent Golden Rule posting had to before it turned around and a number of people said positive things, then I think it would be so great for you to do it."

    Ultimately, I'm being brave and trying it more so in earnest now due to Jane's encouragement and Irving's great example with his blog; and because I did all the internal writing for nearly a decade so far because I was excited at the prospect that what I was feeling someone else in the world might relate to and feel kindred as a result.

    Here's a a cut-and-pasted posting from the internal community posting I did earlier this week:

    Impressions of two marvelous seders:

    Monday night at my sister Kathy's:

    What I found inspirational:

    All six of the older people, in their late-70s and early-80s, made it up the two flights of stairs

    Our eight-year-old nephew Sam's mohawk haircut as an ultimate expression of individuality; he's an identical twin

    The speed with which our 14-year-old nephew Zach can play the sitar -- and that he was expressing himself with it as background music while the rest of us talked; typically, all of us stop what we're doing to listen, but this time, he played while we talked and help set the table

    My mother's loveliness to one of the guests; my mom simply rubbed her back gently for a bit without trying to speak with her, as she is now in a bad stage of Alzheimer's; it's like her soul's missing and almost just the casing remains...shocking and unbelievable to witness

    Her son's relatively gentle coaching of his mother on how to stand up and walk; she needed to be reminded of the mechanics

    One of our nephew's accidental(?) spilling of his cup of ceremonial wine and the quiet efficiency with which our 14-year-old niece Zoe wiped it up and replaced his plate, with no shaming or superiority or apparent resentment

    Kathy's and Elliot's inclusion of a friend from their synagogue, who was at our seder table in the absence of having family of her own to be with

    The twins' Max's and Sam's premier reading aloud from the Haggadah (story of Passover) for the first time

    Zoe's voice added onto my sisters' and mine during the songs, and how great all of us sounded; I'm the one without the beautiful voice, but I always sound good when singing with my sisters, and now Zoe, too

    Zoe's enthusiasm over Scary Kids Scaring Kids, her favorite band; she had been to a concert the week before -- her first -- and I told her that her mother and her aunt, Kathy, took me to my first-ever concert when I was around her age, to the Pointer Sisters, in Central Park. "Who are they," she wondered. Oy! "He's So Shy," I offered and then her father, "I'm So Excited...." Neither song registered with her

    Zach's delicious Indian lamb dishes; he didn't want to be part of the seder, as he feels more Hindu than Jewish, but his mother reminded him of the food element of it, and how he could do some of the cooking, and so there was matzohball soup and other traditional dishes made by Kathy and lamb ghosh and saag(spinach) prepared by Zach; I don't eat red meat -- haven't for years, as I don't like it -- but I made an exception and it was truly terrific, and Zach smiled at me and my praise almost as hard as when I taught him to ride a bike

    Kathy, reciting the final "Who Knows One" section of the Haggadah in Hebrew, and in a single breath; last Passover, we did not know if she would survive her breast cancer and this year, she was hosting 16 of us and showing off her lung capacity, just like she's always done, since we were kids.

    Tuesday night, the second seder, at our friends' Kathy's and Julie's:

    What I found inspirational:

    The little, round glass vase of dark purple tulips and some other purple spray of flowers we found on the way to their home, at our local florist

    That they were still willing to host us, even as their flight from Chicago, where they spent the first seder with Kathy's father and siblings and their families, was delayed, which meant getting home with just enough time to cook a sponge cake and throw the rest of dinner in the oven

    The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument that I could see from their Hudson River-facing windows; this semester's course talks about how American politics were shaped by war and trade, and I enjoyed being at an event, celebrating freedom from slavery (Passover) and then seeing a monument about a war that helped lead to the end of slavery in the United States (I imagine that the Civil War is still a tender topic for a number of people and I mean no disrespect; I'm just speaking from my perspective)

    Their two little dogs' spirited and homey behavior -- very lively and protective as always at first, and then sleeping under the dining room table and in their little dog beds as we sang, read aloud, talked about the reading and ate

    The seder plate we brought, which was my nana's and which was copper, and made in Israel in the '50s

    The feminist version of the Haggadah -- Julie said it took her seven months to get them -- in its inclusiveness of all people, including lesbian people; it mentioned an idea by scholar Susannah Heschel, that an orange be added to the ceremonial seder plate, to signify the contributions of Jewish GLBT people to Jewish life, which I loved -- another example of a heterosexual supporter, looking to help with our inclusion

    Julie's gorgeous voice during the song, Oseh Shalom -- she's in our synagogue's chorus and is a songwriter herself, too

    Dinner, including rosemary on the organic chicken; roasted beets; chunky chopped liver; and the necessary appetizer of fresh maror (horseradish) mixed with charoset (fruit and nut mixtures meant to signify the mortar of the pyramids that the slaves built in Egypt); fresh strawberries and freshly whipped cream with no sugar, plus a sponge cake necessarily made from potato starch, which I didn't taste, but which looked beautiful -- in honor of Kathy's upcoming birthday, the next day, and in memory of Kathy's mother's traditional Passover sponge cake, which her mom had shown Julie how to cook in years past; Kathy's mom died last year, prior to Passover

    Dinner conversation, including:

    One of Pat's first impressions of me, at a community seder 17 years ago, where I was proud to be the youngest in the room and so eagerly volunteered to sing the "Four Questions"

    Julie's kindness in response, where she remembered my rushing over to Kathy at a High Holiday service nearly 10 years ago to introduce myself, saying that I recognized her from IBM's diversity booklet that had been published at the time; "It was that same irrepressibility..." that was responsible for our becoming friends, she said

    My recent disappointment at some writer's block I felt when trying to create this blog out on the external web; I had thought to do it only because of my friend Scott writing recently and asking, "By the way, do you blog?" And I thought, Do I blog? Yes! (I was thinking about my habit of actively posting on our internal site.) And so I went and read the blogging guidelines on our intranet because I imagined myself wanting to write about my life out there, including mentions of IBM, and started one, and got stuck quickly and stopped; Julie was respectful of the block and also said, "You're a writer because you can't not write...You're a good writer," and then she said something along the lines of: who understands the weight of your words and it's understandable that you'd suddenly be overwhelmed at the public-ness of it, and it will happen when it's meant to. I was so thrilled that she called me a "good writer" that I couldn't really fully hear the rest

    Telling amusing -- though not at the time -- stories of mostly unwittingly homophobic relatives; there's power in the solidarity of holding up family's homophobic comments to the mirror of our strength as a group of friends; ultimately, the homophobes reflect poorly only on themselves

    Discussing the beauty/poignancy of the concept of the additional item on the seder plate in honor of the GLBT among our Jewish community

    Hearing Kathy recite "Who knows one" in English by heart effortlessly and with poise; it's a series of 13 miracles that God gave us and very hard to remember....I guess that's why she went to Yale Law School and I didn't

    Listening to Kathy sing the chorus of "Chad Gadya"/"An Only Kid [aka Goat]" with gusto and on tune, though she wears a cochlear implant.

    What has helped you to feel free lately?