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Articles by the Diversity Council


Did You Know?

10-2010 | DAS Diversity Council (by Martina Falk, DAS Facilities Division)


Links to outside sources were valid at the time of publication, but they may change or become unavailable.



Technology Changes and Communication

  • Verbal Communication – Earliest Story Telling 
  • The Written Word – Earliest Cave Drawings and Symbols        
  • Telegraph – Earliest 1809 – Usable 1937 (Samuel Morse)
  • Telephone (corded) – Earliest 1861 – Usable 1876 (A. G. Bell)
  • Cordless telephone – Earliest 1980 – Usable 1986
  • Cell Phone – Earliest 1947 – Useable 1979 (Tokyo) 1981 (U.S.)
  • Blackberry – Earliest 1999 – Widespread 2004
  • Multi-function cell phone – Accepted use 2007
Communication skills in the workplace today are very important. With four or more generations working together, it’s vital that we all communicate well. However, the preferred manner of communication may be different for each person.
The tools that we use to communicate have changed over the years. People used storytelling and verbal face-to-face communication before written language was developed. Letter writing was then added as a primary tool and is still used today in hardcopy documents as well as in electronic form.
Between the beginning of the 19th century and the end of the 20th century, communication tools have changed rapidly. The telegraph was developed in 1837, followed by the telephone in 1876. These advancements were followed by the cordless phone and cell phone in the 1980s, and the multi-function cell phone around 2000. Each of these advancements has changed how we communicate with each other. http://www.privateline.com/mt_telephonehistory/
The tone of our communication has also changed from formal letters to casual e-mail, texting, and tweeting. In any conversation, each individual needs to verify that what they’ve heard is what the other person intended to say.
Suggestions for doing this include the following:
  • Avoid assuming what certain age groups prefer.
  • Ask how each individual wishes to communicate.
  • Acknowledge age differences.
  • Talk about what each of us can learn from the other.
Overall, focus on the things you have in common with others in your workplace and communication will follow.

Baby Boomers
The current economic situation highlights a changing path at the workplace as Boomers* who expected to retire find that they continue to need a paycheck. Employers are looking for ways to keep the Boomers for their knowledge and at the same time entice the Mellennials to join their workforce. “A recent AARP survey of 2,001 people born in this era revealed that 63 percent plan to work at least part-time in retirement, while 5 percent said that they never plan to retire, some because they like working, others because they need the money to replace lost retirement savings.” (Jenkins, J., (2007). Leading the Four Generations at Work. Moving Ahead Newsletter, 2(2) http://www.amanet.org/movingahead/editorial.cfm?Ed=452).
Options include the Boomers moving to part-time and mentoring, the Mellennials working flexible schedules and as part of teams that include Boomers and Generation X members, and embracing diversity among generations.
*Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964)
Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980)
Millennials or Generation Y (born after 1980)

Generational Differences
When we talk about generational differences, we sometimes think of this as a new concern. Did you know that in the ancient mid-eastern civilization of Sumeria many of the same concerns arose?
Writings from the Sumerian temple show that new, younger students for the priesthood were viewed as not revering their elders (to the extent the elders wished), and not attending to their studies to the exclusion of leisure activities. One communication found during an excavation appeared to be a letter from a father to his son. The father recommended that the son study hard and refrain from too much drinking or gambling!
This is very similar to the way some older individuals today may
view people just out of school. The civilization of Sumeria
ended through warfare in approximately 2,000 B.C. Today, as
in the past, no direct correlation exists between an employee’s
age and their work habits or ethics.

Generational Differences within the Workforce
Each new generation that enters the workforce approaches it with ideals of a cultural revolution. 
Boomers wanted freedom of choice, to break away from traditional work and lifestyle choices.
Generation X wanted it all, great careers and a great home life.
Generation Y wants flexibility on where and when they work — to balance work and life — and to develop their careers.
Each generation brings to the workplace things that are the same and things that are different. Gen Y (Millennial) may need direction as they enter the workforce, but they bring fresh perspective to established ideas.
When people remain flexible, amazing productivity can occur and people’s various needs can be met at the same time.
For more information on generations, check out the links below.
Gen Y / Millennial (born 1981- 2000)
Gen X (Born 1964 -1981)                         
Boomers (Born 1946 – 1963)

Links to outside sources were valid at the time of publication, but they may change or become unavailable.

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Christmas facts
When you think of Christmas, some of the first things that come to mind are Christmas trees, Santa Claus and candy canes. Have you ever wondered about the origin of these and other Christmas symbols?
Originally celebrated in the spring, in the fourth century the Catholic Church moved Christmas to December 25 to rival the celebration of the pagan Roman sun god, Mithras. 
The Druids used Mistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter and decorate their homes two hundred years before the birth of Christ. The church banned the used of mistletoe because of its pagan connections and suggested that people instead use holly.
Poinsettias are native to Mexico and named for America’s first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. During the eighteenth century, Mexicans thought the yellow star flowers of the poinsettia symbolized the Star of Bethlehem.
Germans first decorated fir trees both inside and outside the home, beginning in the sixteenth century. Common decorations included roses, apples and colored paper.
Christmas tree ornaments, originally produced only in Germany, were made of lead and blown glass. Modern Christmas tree ornaments, which first became popular around 1880, are made of glass, yarn, bone china, porcelain, paper mache, wood and many other materials. Glittery and sparkling, many families pass down the most elaborate ornaments to the next generation.
The use of Xmas for Christmas originated from the Greek word Xristos, for Christ. The Greeks shortened Xristos to “X” and added “mas,” to become Xmas or Xristos’s mass.
Candy canes were originally straight white sticks. They didn’t receive their characteristic cane shape and red stripes until approximately 1900.

Christmas foods in the U.S.
The media’s vision of Christmas dinner in the United States is roasted turkey, dressing, cranberries and pumpkin pie. When we think of Christmas feasts, we tend to think of the foods we grew up with and assume it is the same everywhere in the U.S. People across the nation serve special foods that make up a part of local tradition. 
  • New England has Lumberjack Pie – with a mashed potato crust and a filling of meats, onion and cinnamon.
  • Pennsylvania Dutch serve Sand Tarts – thin, crisp sugar cookies.
  • North Carolina features Moravian Love-Feast Buns – faintly sweet bread made from flour and mashed potatoes.
  • Baltimore serves Sauerkraut with their turkey – a recipe that includes apples, onions and carrots.
  • Virginia gives us Oyster and Ham Pie.
  • Southern states serve Hominy Grits Soufflé and Whiskey Cake (with one cup of 100-proof whiskey).
  • Louisiana's treat is Creole Gumbo. It can include ham, veal, chicken, shrimp, oysters or crabmeat.
  • New Mexico has the Empanaditas – little beef pies with applesauce, pine nuts and raisins.
  • Hawaii blesses us with Turkey Teriyaki marinated and cooked over an outdoor pit. 
Many people have a dish that means “Christmas dinner” to them — candied yams, green bean casserole, or perhaps one of the dishes listed above. The diversity of our foods echoes the diversity of our population; yet whatever we serve, it is a celebratory dinner, enjoyed by everyone at the table.
Resource: http://www.californiamall.com/holidaytraditions/traditions-america.htm
-Nancy Holbert, EISPD, Enterprise Security Office

Christmas in the United States
Christmas in the United States is a multi-cultural affair. Not only is the population a mix of many countries of origin, traditions have come together across generations. Looking back at the traditions of the last two centuries, people have added many traditions while some traditions have been dropped. People in each new generation bring traditions from their families of origin and create new traditions.
In the mid 1800s the Christmas tree became popular in England and the United States and caroling was a popular activity in cities and towns. In the late 1600s presents began to appear on Christmas eve in the Dutch colonies of the new world. More recently as the United States population moved away from downtown to the suburbs, many people replaced caroling with singing at home or at events and parties and many people replaced making gifts with shopping. People express the spiritual aspects of Christmas in many ways including church celebrations and nativity scenes that depict the birth of Christ.
Whatever traditions you enjoy, they are part of a continuum that incorporates the old and new. Below are links to more information about various Christmas traditions in the United States and other countries.

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, begins Dec. 21 this year. The Hebrew calendar sets the start of this eight-day celebration at sundown on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. On the Gregorian calendar used for secular dates, it may occur from late November through late December. It began Dec. 5 last year and starts Dec. 12 next year.
Hanukkah commemorates re-dedication of a temple by the Maccabeus after they won a major conflict in the second century BC. They had only enough special oil to fuel the temple flame for one night. But the oil burned for eight nights, giving them just enough time to prepare more.
The menorah used to celebrate this event holds nine candles – one for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah and one to light them.

Kwanzaa is an African holiday celebrated by African communities around the world. Short for matunda ya kwanza, which is Swahili for “first fruits,” Kwanzaa celebrates family, community, and culture. Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday, beginning on Dec. 26 and ending Jan. 1. Its roots are in the ancient African first-fruit harvest celebrations from which it takes its name. Historically only celebrated in Africa, activist Maulana Karenga developed the modern version of Kwanzaa in 1966.
In celebrating Kwanzaa, there are five fundamental activities common to other African first-fruit celebrations: 1) family, friends, and community, 2) reverence for the creator and creation, 3) commemoration of the past, 4) commitment to the highest cultural ideals of the African community, and 5) celebration of the goodness of life.
One of the main practices of the Kwanzaa celebration is the lighting of the mishumaa of Kwanzaa. One candle is lit each day to represent their Seven Principles. The candles stand for unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
-Courtesy of www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org

When I was a little girl growing up in Germany, my mom always made an “Advent Kranz” (which is German for wreath) exactly four Sundays before Christmas Eve. That signaled to us kids to make sure we behaved, cleaned our rooms, closets and under our beds, and helped mom with cooking, cleaning and baking. For me, it was a magical time. It still is.  
As a child, I looked forward to Nikolaus as he is “Santa’s Helper.” The celebration of Nikolaus meant a great time with family, the warmth of a fire and the smell of delicious food. On the eve of December 5, all of us gathered our shoes and polished them while sharing lots of laughter. It was a time to reflect and laugh about the silly or bad things we had done throughout the year. Sometimes we figured out how to behave better, or how to give to our neighbors or help children less fortunate. Even though we did not have a lot, mom made sure that we tried to make at least one child happy during the season. We generally did this by giving up one of our new presents.
When we finished sharing and cleaning our shoes, we placed a pair of boots next to the front door. As we slept that night, Nikolaus would look in on us to discover — how, I did not know — if we had been good that year.

Good children could expect Nikolaus to leave an orange, an apple, nuts, and sometimes, a little present and an Advent Kalender. These calendars contain 24 little doors and each door holds a piece of chocolate. Every day, we opened one door and counted down the days until Christmas … and to sharing, laughing, seeing cousins, aunts and uncles, and best of all, Grandma!
Eventually, I moved from Germany to the U.S. and had children of my own. I taught them about Nikolaus and my own children experienced the same magic I experienced as a child. This is the time of year to come together as a family, remember people who are less fortunate and help put smiles on their faces. Frohe Weihnachten!
-Martina Falk, Facilities Division, Parking & Commuting Services

Winter Solstice
The winter solstice occurs each year in the Northern Hemisphere sometime around Dec. 21 and 22. This is when the north pole of the earth’s canted axis leans furthest from the sun.
For about a week around this time, days are noticeably short and nights are long as the earth’s angle gradually begins to shift. The word “solstice” comes from the Latin “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to stand still).
While it’s officially the start of the winter, it’s also called Midwinter.
Cultures around the world mark this point in the global cycle in diverse ways but with many shared elements – fire and light, food and gifts, noise and music, costumes and color, parties and prayer, looking inward and reaching out. 
Learn more about the solstice at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice and Midwinter at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midwinter in Wikipedia.
Have a happy New Year.
-Ingrid Norberg, Public Employees’ Benefit Board 
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