Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Consider This...April 2013 Issue Number 153

Is a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers. Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity, change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.

We hope that you find the information here useful and provocative.
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Upcoming Events  

Missouri Valley Division IAFC Annual Conference July 10-12, 2013 in Colorado Springs, CO. Linda Willing will be making a presentation at this conference. Go to for more information.

Leading Tomorrow: 2013 Leadership Conference August 13-14, 2013 Chicago, IL. Leadership event for fire service women, co-located with FRI. Linda Willing will be presenting the workshop Command Presence at this conference. Go to for more information.

Fire-Rescue International Chicago, IL August 13-17, 2013. Linda Willing will be presenting two workshops at this conference on August 14: Leading Diverse Teams and Professionalism in the Fire Service: New Challenges and Solutions. Go to for updates.

Firewomen 2013 Frisco, CO October 3-6, 2013. Sponsored by Colorado Division of Fire Safety. Go to for updates and registration information.

Now available! On the Line: Women Firefighters Tell Their Stories by Linda F. Willing. This book features interviews with over 35 women firefighters from the United States and Canada. The book is available from major online booksellers, and signed copies may be ordered here.

Rethinking Recruitment: Notes from a day-long workshop held in Keystone, CO in November 2012.


In the News

Changing Times

Last month, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in two different cases related to same sex marriage. The first was a challenge to California's Proposition 8, a referendum that made same sex marriage illegal in that state. The second seeks to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which legally defines marriage at the federal level as between one man and one woman.

The legal arguments in each case were complex at times, and predictions for the outcomes are varied. Most legal commentators seem to feel that at the least DOMA will be invalidated, which would result in federal benefits applying to same-sex couples who have legally married in the nine states and the District of Columbia that currently allow them to do so.

What is most remarkable about these conversations is the fact they are happening at all. DOMA, which was blatantly anti-gay legislation by its own definition, was only passed back in 1996. Just ten years ago, a Pew Research Poll found that 56% of those surveyed opposed gay marriage and only 34% supported it. The most current poll done by the same agency indicated that 49% of those surveyed supported gay marriage, with 44% opposed.

Most significantly, those who were born after 1980, the so-called Millennial generation, overwhelmingly support gay marriage-- at least 70% of those polled so stated. This support crosses political and religious differences.

Additionally, a large number of people have changed their minds on the issue. Among those born between 1928 and 1945, support for same-sex marriage has gone from 17% ten years ago to 31% today.

Currently, 28% of gay marriage supporters say they used to be opponents. The reason most often given for this change of heart was that someone in their personal circle of family and friends was known to be gay. Republican Senator Rob Portman, someone with impeccable conservative credentials, recently came out in favor of gay marriage based on support for his son who is gay.

The speed of change in attitude about gay rights in this country is unprecedented, and some employers find themselves catching up. Many private companies have taken a leadership role with expanding benefits and recognition to all workers regardless of sexual orientation. Other organizations and government entities have been less open to change.

But change is already here.

Source: 3/2/2013

News Brief

The first woman to direct the US Secret Service has been appointed by President Obama. Julia Pierson joined the Secret Service in 1983 as a special agent. She takes over the agency in the wake of a scandal last year when 13 male Secret Service agents on duty in Columbia brought women, including prostitutes, to the hotel where there were staying in Cartegena.

Source: Associated Press, March 26, 2013

Sexual Harassment Update

Legal? Yes. Leadership? No.

Last month this column told the story of Lauren Summa, a graduate student who was harassed by members of a college football team that she managed. Ms. Summa experienced sexual comments and gestures, direct propositions, physical blocking, and crude Facebook postings. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the university was not liable for this conduct because each incident of harassment was addressed after it happened. Additionally, the court questioned whether sports team members are officially representatives of the university for the purposes of harassment definition.

Ms. Summa reported a series of events that built her harassment complaint. When she became aware of the crude Facebook postings, she went to the team coach and reported it. He then asked the players to remove the postings, but did not otherwise follow up. On one road trip, players barricaded Ms. Summa in the bus bathroom and loudly ridiculed her as she tried to escape. On another trip, the assistant coach played an R rated video on the bus, which led to players making explicit comments and propositions to Ms. Summa. When she complained, the coach stopped the video.

So technically the coaches did what they were required to do and legally were not liable for harassment. But this type of action is far different from leadership. The coaches knew about the Facebook postings through direct complaint. In the case of the video, it was the coach himself that instigated the players' actions through the choice of the movie. Certainly everyone on the bus would have been aware of a raucous group of players barricading someone in the restroom. A pattern of behavior was clearly developing. Why wasn't action taken proactively instead of just reacting to each new incident?

Some people feel that harassment law goes too far, but as this case and many others show, its definition is in fact quite narrow and technical. It is possible to be legal while still failing completely as a leader in this regard.

Source: Lauren E. Summa v. Hofstra University, David Cohen and Melissa Connolly, 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, 11-1743


© Linda F. Willing, 2013

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