Reflections

   From learning social media to living in pardise, inspiring children and inspirational teachers, Mei-Mei loves gaining insights that we can all take to heart. These columns were originally published by The News-Press, based in Fort Myers, FL, where Mei-Mei was the President and Publisher from 2010-2015.

With appreciation to The News-Press.

"We should not be ashamed to acknowledge we all have stereotypes."

"Diversity drives innovation."

"We must look past our incomplete, limited views, seek out and embrace the rich beauty of our differences."

Seeing the full picture

Published in The News-Press on 9/25/11

 

I finally got a full-length mirror in the house, and it’s taking me a lot longer to dress.

 

When I used my half-length mirrors, all my outfits looked perfectly fine. But now, when I see the whole picture, they clearly aren’t.

 

Tops and pants look mismatched, colors clash, lengths aren’t aligned, and the shoes….why haven’t any of you said anything?!

 

Unfortunately, most of us fall into the habit of seeing the world with a partial, limited, incomplete view.

 

We make assumptions formed by our backgrounds and our own realities. We tend to see more with our mind’s eye than with our true eyes because it’s easier to see what we expect to see.

 

As my career has taken me cross the country, I have almost always stood out. I like to think it’s because I’m that good in what I do—as a journalist, an editor, advertising executive, a publisher. But often it was because, well, I looked different, whether it was being the young upstart, the only woman, or an Asian American woman.

 

During my first weeks here in Southwest Florida, I was in a furniture store, and happened to be standing by an Asian-influenced cabinet. A fellow shopper looked at me, looked at the piece, then said, “You must like this.”

 

She was trying to be friendly, but she was seeing through her limited, stereotypical mind’s eye. Turn it around. Imagine if I said helpfully: “The white protestant designed furniture is back in the corner.”

 

We should not be ashamed to acknowledge we all have stereotypes. We should be ashamed if we let those filters continue to limit us, rather than expanding our views.

 

This is the message I was privileged to share recently with the newly formalized Hispanic American Citizen Council, led by The Rev. Israel Suarez.

 

The power of diversity was further reinforced this week when I experienced “The Medici Effect.” The book’s author, Frans Johansson, presented to a group of print, broadcast and digital media leaders in New York City, brought together by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) to focus on “Leadership in Diversity”.

 

The media industry for many years has recognized the need for diverse staff, coverage and relationships to connect to our rapidly changing communities. And with technology redefining the way we interact, we must learn to serve new audiences in new ways.

 

Johansson’s premise is that bringing together different disciplines and cultures and identifying how they intersect will ignite an explosion of extraordinary ideas, modeling the success of the Medicis in 15th century Florence.

 

We were all intrigued by his insights: building an office in Zimbabwe by using cooling principles from termite mounds rather than air conditioning, for example.

 

Diversity drives innovation, Johansson stated, reinforcing my long-held philosophy that surrounding yourself with different voices enriches the conversation and produces better outcomes, provides a fuller, more complete view.

 

At the News-Press Media Group, diversity is fundamental in our mission to connect, reflect, challenge and lead—and to innovate. Internally we built cross-departmental teams to develop such strategies as our Hurricane Hub app and our digital Dining portal. Externally we continuously reach out to identify ways to better serve our communities.

 

After a year and a half here, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the diversity of voices in Southwest Florida, from the Cape to Sanibel, Fort Myers to Bonita, Lehigh to Estero, Naples to Marco Island.

 

While we are very conservative, we actually have more registered Democrats and “others” combined than Republicans.

 

While there are many retirees, one in five are 18 or younger.

 

While we have much wealth, we also have many in need.

 

While some areas are very homogenous, others are of rainbow hues.

 

Minorities make up the majority in our schools, led by Hispanics, who comprise 31% of students in Lee County and 44% of students in Collier.

 

According to the 2010 Census, the African American population grew 76 percent in Lee and 85 percent in Collier in the last decade. Hispanics nearly doubled in Lee, three times the growth of the U.S., Florida or Collier. Hispanics now comprise 18.3% of Lee, 26% of Collier and 22.5% of Florida. Asians increased by 150 percent (that can’t be just my family) in Lee and 124 percent in Collier.

 

There are an estimated 1,000 Hindu families in Lee, Collier and Charlotte. Earlier this year, the Hindu Temple of Southwest Florida was consecrated in south Fort Myers. We have one of the few official Holocaust Museums, right on 41 in Collier, celebrating 10 years this year.

 

Whether it’s ethnicities, religions, cultures or political position, our world is filled with diversity—and complexity. To engage productively, we must look past our incomplete, limited views, seek out and embrace the rich beauty of our differences.

 

Together, we form a complete view. Together, we can achieve extraordinary results.

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© 2015 by Mei-Mei Chan Kirk