During an AVNation Special, Tim Albright started listing some of the things I do to promote Diversity. I have been asked repeatedly, “Why [are you doing this]?” Allow me to answer that.

Let me be clear, I am sharing my actions to encourage others to follow suit. It is not “virtue signaling”. It is leading by example and sharing some of the actions people can do. Thank you to Alesia Hendley for clarifying the intent during AVWeek Episode 559. To use a quote attributed to Sally Ride, “If you don’t see it, you can’t be it.”Not everything I do to improve the world is public, nor should it be.

Changing employers in 2018 resulted in me being part of a much more diverse workplace. Many of my coworkers were not middle age white men.  I am surprised at how much of an impact that change has had. While getting to know people I was impressed by people’s backgrounds. People had multiple advanced degrees. People that are across the gender and sexuality spectrums. People of different races. People of different nationalities. Talking with people I became much more aware of the challenges and roadblocks nonwhite straight males have.

Becoming more aware of the challenges people face, I started to notice discrepancies more often. A few events and conversations were very impactful. It is impossible for me to list everyone and everything. I do want to mention two people, Clarisse (Vamos) Falls and Amy Shira Teitel. they shared experiences that illustrated the situations very well. I asked before I shared their names. The illustrations are amalgams of multiple people’s experiences.

Being a space and science aficionado, I read Amy’s book “Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA” and enjoyed it. When her next book “Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight” was released I added it to my queue. I was already aware of some of the problems. Seeing a more complete picture made me realize how much I did not know or did not notice. While reading Amy’s book, I was amazed at the number of barriers women faced. I learned how widespread and institutionalized the exclusion of women was. When Wally Funk went to space as part of Blue Origin’s first crewed flight news organizations were getting history wrong. They were saying she was part of a NASA program. The study that Wally Funk took part in was not a NASA initiative at all, it was not First Lady Astronaut Training (FLAT). It was a private study heavily subsidized by Jackie Cochrane, a main person in Amy’s book. Women were not part of the astronaut program until January 1978

Within the “diverse” workplaces there is still a lack of action. I understand that the terms guys and dude are widely considered non-gendered. When someone has said repeatedly that they do not appreciate the term and a manager continues to use it, it shows the attitude toward making a change. This hesitancy can also be seen in upper management typically. At many places the ratio of women to men is not even close to even. When women bring it up, they are dismissed as being aggressive or a “bitch”. That is an outright insult. Women are 50%, okay 49.6%, of the population but are not represented at that same level in many fields.

I worked with a man who was an admitted misogynist. He told people, but more importantly his actions in the workplace reflected it. When issues became widespread and noticed human resources had to get involved. The person was suspended for one week. As one of the people who reported incidents, I am still amazed but not surprised that nothing more substantive happened. I feel that if I had not reported the issues, the problems would have been dismissed by HR as “women being too sensitive and needing to get used to it.” Why should women need to accommodate people being mean to them? Why should anyone?

I have watched women told that they would be taken more seriously if their hair looked different. There are times during meetings, people have leaned over and made downright lewd comments about coworkers. I have seen women who have more experience and more knowledge been mansplained to. I almost choked when a man started explaining to a woman about her area of expertise.

At tradeshows I have seen too many women addressed as “Cupcake, Sweetheart, Honey … etc.” At too many shows I have seen women used as eye candy. I have seen women dismissed as not being knowledgeable about a product that they manage. I watched as a man told a woman, a polyglot, she was pronouncing a French word wrong; she is fluent in French.

I could continue with examples for much longer. Think what would happens if someone said to a man, I would take you more seriously if your hair wasn’t brown. Imagine having someone, unrequested, explain your area of expertise to you. I am highlighting problems I often did not notice. I will admit I have done some of these things.

Some would say I am “woke”. I prefer to say I am more aware and observant. I have always known things like this are wrong. I just did not always notice the problems as they are so common it has become normal. 

I previously posted on social media, “The week of Jan 6 has been tumultuous. There are opinions & feelings at hot levels; mine included. There are companies/people that I will no longer do business with as a result of their actions or comments. I understand it will happen to me as well. I am okay with that. #BeKind” I want to clarify a few things and expand on the post, both here on the company website as well as on social media sites.

It is important to live one’s values as they see fit. What works for me may not work for others. That is fine and understandable. However, there are certain lines that need to be respected and adhered to. Many of us know these as societal norms. Some refer to the essay by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things Some use The Bible, The Koran, The Torah, The Talmud, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, The US Constitution… etc. They all have some basic guideposts on how to live.

Those who know me have heard me talk about my beliefs and rules of living as well. I have shared them and had them on my personal website for well over a decade. The week of January 6, 2021 was the first time I felt that they were incomplete. I could not apply them cleanly to the situation. As a business owner I firmly believe that I have the right to refuse service to people, if they are not being discriminated against as a protected class. I put those beliefs on the website and even printed it on the back of our first piece of marketing material, a calendar.

The key item I keep coming back to as I wonder how to implement these beliefs at Advisist is the idea of, “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone.” In that section I call out various scenarios that would result in Advisist refusing to work with someone. I kept coming back to, “We believe in free speech, but that does not mean that there won’t be repercussions. We do not work with hate or extremist groups.” That is the line I set forth when I formed the company; that is the litmus test we will continue to use.

President Donald Trump, through his words and actions since losing the 2020 presidential election, entered into the realm of being an extremist. Mr. Trump’s action and words on January 6 and since then have become hateful and extreme.

What does that mean? If you are Republican, Libertarian, Democrat, Independent, or anywhere else on the political spectrum, that is fine; I am happy to work with you. If you still support Mr. Trump after January 6, 2021 I request that you look elsewhere for the services we provide. If you do not believe that the election was a proper election and the outcome accurate, I ask that you look elsewhere for services.

I understand that I may lose business and friends as a result of this approach, however I need to do what I believe is right. I believe in Free Speech and your right to your opinions; I will defend your right to have them. It does not mean that there are not repercussions.

When I wrote this piece in November of 2017 for AVNation.tv I was hoping it would not become evergreen. I have updated it to September 2020.
Bradford September 20, 2020

Note: I am not an attorney and this does not qualify as legal advice. I share these examples based on what I have learned from training I have taken.

I try to keep my blogs fairly light and as positive as possible. This post is not going to be that. I didn’t think it would need to be repeated. This post is about harassment, specifically sexual harassment. It has gotten more news coverage in the States in October of 2017 as a result of the New York Times’ investigation of Harvey Weinstein. Harassment needs to stop in all industries and locations. This problem is a global problem. It is not limited to just one industry. I have seen it first hand in the AV Industry. I am disappointed to say I saw it in 2020. Yes, racism and prejudice is a bigger issue. There are people much more eloquent than me authoring ideas and suggestions. I will wait until I find my word.

My belief is that we all have a responsibility of addressing this issue. My opinion is, “If you see harassment happening in the workplace and don’t take action, you are complicit.”

I have multiple times. If needed I will do it again It takes courage. It is scary. That is secondary to the importance of taking action and making sure people know it is not okay. It may even help the victim feel better as they will know they are not alone and have support. It is not your responsibility to solve the issue. Everyone being safe is the key item.

Whether intentional or not, no one has the right to make others feel attacked or harassed in the workplace. A person can cause harm unintentionally but it is still harm. During this pandemic, commenting that someone gained weight while staying home can be considered harassment. It can also be classified as harassment if someone else gets uncomfortable it even if not directed at them. Asking someone’s religion or sexual orientation can also be harassment if it makes the person uncomfortable. Yes, it is about knowing the situation. It is not draconian, but I understand if it feels like it. A few years back a coworker’s daughter had a baby. I saw him in the hallway and said, “Hi Grandpa” which he took as congratulations. I knew him, I knew the husband of his daughter. It was an appropriate term of congratulations in that situation. If I had used Grandpa as an insult about his age, that would have been an issue. It is situational awareness.

In the workplace you don’t have to intervene directly. You can reach out to Human Resources or see if your employer has a “hotline” for issues. If they are not helpful, the next place would be the Labor Board or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the United States. Do not worry about damaging someone’s job performance, status, or reputation. They are the one acting that way, not you or the victim. You can provide support with small acts, for example not leaving the victim alone with the harasser.

“If you see harassment happening in the workplace and don’t take action, you are complicit.”

Bradford Benn

Think about how being harassed might damage the victim’s job status or chance of advancement. I wonder how many people have left a job, or an industry, as a result of being uncomfortable. Management harassing people can have an impact on the company’s reputation. Taking action typically will not. Cards Against Humanity failed to act when a rape accusation against Max Temkin in August of 2014 and the brand did suffer. It was not addressed by the company and continued to fester until June of 2020 Mr. Temkin was ousted for sexual harassment. It has continued to impact their reputation and revenue. Compare that to Charlie Rose being fired the day credible accusations were lodged. It quickly went away as the public was seeing the company acting quickly and sternly.

Reporting details and facts does not mean harassment has taken place. Reporting an incident simply means you are concerned about another human, not a bad thing. A key action is to make contemporaneous notes. A fancy way of saying write things down as soon as possible or even as it happens. Document as many details as you can and think are appropriate. Be factual and as objective as possible. I have gone so far as to draw a table and indicate where people were seated. Documenting the incident when it happens will make sure details are not forgotten

I am not belittling what people of color or women go through. I am amazed and disgusted at the amount of issues that happen to minorities and women. It is important to be aware harassment happens in all sorts of situations, whether it be gender, sexual preferences, religion, politics, skin color, eye color, weight, vocabulary … etc.

These ideas do not just apply to the work place but to the world in general. It is much scarier when out and about. The first thing to consider is safety before getting involved. The idea of documenting things still applies, just in case things escalate. @itsmaeril has put together a guide about “What to do if you are witnessing Islamaphobic Harrasment. – A bystander’s guide to help the person who’s being targeted.” This guide applies in all situations not just Islamaphobia. Swing by her site to take a look. I have included a lower resolution version below.

During the start of working from home in March of 2020, issues were still happening. One salesman placed a photo of a buxom women in an audio sales presentation with a double entendre about racks as slang and as audio equipment. He show the presentation on a webcast while being recorded. He not only made himself look bad, he made the company look bad. (I know people at the company, the presentation was not reviewed or approved by the company.) The fact that the salesman thought it would be good to put that slide in shows that he did not think about others. He downplayed the importance of women in the AV industry. Yes, it might have been unintentional, but it still impacted his company and his reputation.

Why do I care so much about this issue?

  1. It sucks to be harassed.
  2. I don’t like that I worry about possible issues with asking a coworker for their phone number or e-mail address so we can stay in touch after we stop working together
  3. It sucks to be harassed.

Why should you care?

  1. It sucks to be harassed.
  2. Harassment hurts people
  3. Harassment leads to less collaboration, everywhere.
  4. It sucks to be harassed.

None of this is easy. I will not say that there won’t be reactions to your actions. I have seen changes in my “social circles”. I look at it as I don’t want to be friends with people who harass others. I don’t regret my actions at all.

I am still saddened that this conversation still needs to occur.

Remember, one is protected against retaliation from their employer by law (in the United States) as long as the complaint is submitted in good faith.
Please be nice to all, make the world a little better. If you need an ally, just ask; there are many of us around.
Thank you,

A poster to show how to be an ally.

This post was published on AVNation.tv on January 25, 2018. Bradford is a Director of AVNation Media LLC.

During and after CES the topic of diversity in the electronics industry has been discussed. I think that this is an important topic to talk about. It is something that all of us can facilitate and participate in . It does not have to be big grandiose actions, although they are encouraged. It is just as important to do small day to day things. These topics do not go away after the trade show does. We, all of us, need to be aware of them everyday. We need to make small incremental steps constantly. There are all sorts of platitudes I can put here. I want to put two simple ones here:

During and after CES the topic of diversity in the electronics industry has been discussed. I think that this is an important topic to talk about. It is something that all of us can facilitate and participate in . It does not have to be big grandiose actions, although they are encouraged. It is just as important to do small day to day things. These topics do not go away after the trade show does. We, all of us, need to be aware of them everyday. We need to make small incremental steps constantly. There are all sorts of platitudes I can put here. I want to put two simple ones here:

  1. Always try to make the world a better place.
  2. Change never comes if you are happy with the status quo.

With that in mind, I have a request for all presenters in the AV industry. This applies to Integrated Systems Europe, InfoComm Worldwide shows, Avixa classes, manufacturer training, mini trade shows… etc. Any place there is a presenter and a question and answer session. Answer one question from a woman, then one question from a man, then one from a woman… repeat as necessary. It could just as easily be, one caucasian, one person of color. Basically make efforts to help the underrepresented get represented.

I cannot take credit for this idea, Cory Doctorow stated it during an interview with Edward Snowden at the New York Public Library. You can view or listen to the event on the New York Public Library’s website.

The reason I like this idea is that it is simple. It is something an individual can do independently. It would be great if organizations made it a formal process. Don’t wait for that. Do it now, start now. Do it in meetings at your office. Do it when having webinars.

Here is my simple request, for those presenting at ISE2018, just implement it. Don’t wait for anyone to do something formal, start making the world a better place on your own.

The opinions expressed here are Bradford’s and AVNation’s. He does not speak for his employer.