#SWAAYthenarrative

Why I Believe Art is the Key to Inclusion in the Workplace

4min read
Culture

The technological transformation is underway at the dawn of the new decade. I think we are all both fascinated and scared about what is going to happen in the 2020s. We know for sure that it will entail the shift of jobs requiring more creative and high-cognitive skills. Talent will be measured by sophisticated intelligence, forensic efficiency, and pressure resiliency. Companies with innovative and tech advanced products will thrive economically, but I believe it will not be enough to advance our society. Business leaders will have to involve their ingenuity and energy to sustain this change for people. And not only for technically savvy people or creative minds. The culture of innovation will have to be for everybody regardless of their background, education, gender, race, or current occupation.


Skills for future jobs will demand speed information processing, multiple simultaneous attention, constant learning, and new idea generation. The workforce is already known to be stressed, and the possibility of job disruption adds to the anxiety level. Those abilities are not innate for most people and will need to be learned to remain competitive in the job market. This is where thought leaders need to play a crucial role and provide an inspiring and safe environment. They need to foster the necessary learning so that everybody has the chance to prosper. There are many ways to advance the mentioned skills, which include mindfulness meditation, breathing work, reading, and brain exercise. However, one way to do so, which we do not automatically think about is through the arts.

Viewing, experiencing, and analyzing visual art can stimulate the brain and thus help to improve the mental function.

Here are the main reasons why:

  • Art has a profound psychological impact on individuals.
  • Looking at art involves seeing things in relative terms and requires one to get out of their comfort zone.
  • Art contains messages to be always alert to the changing society.
  • Through its inventive process, it brings vitality to the thought methodology.
  • Art can conjure strong emotions and deep thoughts, benefiting the brain to create new neuro connections. In exchange, it can sharpen critical faculties of individuals and free their creative drives, dropping the invisible personal barriers. Then imagination and creativity can be boosted, which will be essential capabilities in the workplace of tomorrow.
  • Understanding art requires a certain level of humility, which helps the brain to unlearn first before learning new skills.
  • Art is also an amazing way for people to reconnect with each other and to create social occasions to meet. Feeling lonely could trigger psychological and cognitive decline, while art promotes community interactions.

The bottom line is that art maps out the road to fundamental learning. Therefore companies could only benefit from having art and artists in the office. This is how this could be achieved:

  • Art could be hanging on the walls or be installed in the forms of sculptures.
  • Artists could be working in residencies at corporations or provide lectures about their vision of the present and the future.
  • Collectible design furniture could be present in the rest areas.
  • Artists could be on the Advisory Board of organizations. I strongly believe that artists provide an alternative view about what it means to be successful for a business through lenses of humanity.

Not only does art cultivate intellectual curiosity - a critical faculty in the fast paced environment - but it's also beneficial to foster inclusive growth. It is known that the first jobs which will be impacted are those held by women. Women historically occupy lower qualified positions, which will be the first affected by new technologies such as AI, robotics, and other automated tools. The same applies to racial and ethnic minorities.

Meaningful art in the workplace is available to everybody. And I don't mean only having art in the board rooms or the lobby space - it's not enough. Leaders need to think including art in the meditation and silent rooms, inviting artists to talk to employees and explain their process, include artworks with an extensive palette of colors and shapes, unusual combinations of content, and material. It needs to be installed where people actually work. If business leaders really want to make a difference, they need to put the type of artwork that will be talked about at the dinners at home by their employees and reproduced on social media profiles.

Leaders have a great responsibility to embark everybody on the transformational journey towards an inclusive workplace of the 21st century. They can forestall it by the means of arts. Rob Riemen said "You can't keep the society with economics alone, it takes culture to do this." And I couldn't agree more with these words.

5 Min Read
People

Judge Tanya Acker On Overcoming Racial Barriers And Her Rise To The Top


You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.

The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.

“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.

Shaping Her Career

Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.

"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."

After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.

As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.

How Did Acker Become A Judge?

In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."

Judge Acker in white pantsuit with her dog. Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.

Acker's Time Away From Home

Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.

Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."

She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.

“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."

“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."

Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."

Overcoming Racial Barriers

As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.

At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.

Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker

The Power Of Self-awareness

“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."

Know Your Support System

“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."

Learn From Your Experiences

“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.

“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.

Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.

This article was originally published May 15, 2019.