Dr. Ockene used stories and examples to illustrate and discuss the negative power of subtle discrimination and negative micro-messages that take the form of gestures, looks and other non-verbal cues. She introduced participants to techniques they can use to start making a difference, including the use of positive micro-messages or micro-affirmations as effective ways to build confidence, morale and performance.
The term ‘micro-inequities’ was coined in 1973 by Mary Rowe, PhD, adjunct professor of negotiation and conflict management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. Defined as “apparently small events which are often ephemeral and hard to prove (or identify), often unintentional and frequently unrecognized by the perpetrator, micro-inequities occur wherever people are perceived to be different.” Conversely, micro-affirmations are “apparently small acts, also often ephemeral and hard to see but very effective, which occur whenever people help others succeed.”
(SOURCE: Young, S., Micro Messaging: Why Great Leadership is Beyond Words, McGraw-Hill, 2007)
Committed to advancement and equity for faculty, Ockene, who previously served UMMS as interim vice chancellor for faculty affairs, is principal investigator on the UMMS application to the National Science Foundation for a grant dedicated to the advancement of women in STEM careers. With its goal to develop objective measures of micro-inequities and strategies demonstrated to reduce their occurrence, the application is called Institutional Networks and Continuous Learning to UnDo Effects of Micro-Inequities on Women (INCLUDE-Women).
“The first step for reducing the occurrence of micro-inequities is to be aware of them as perpetrated by ourselves and others—we each do this hundreds of times a day,” said Ockene. “We need to create a culture of inclusion and valuing each other and remember that there are no little things, they all add up.”