The Global Contrarian Blog 11

March 21, 2018

Final Austin Blog

by Jeremy Solomons

This will be my last blog from the USA on my last official workday in Austin, Texas where I have lived, worked and raised my daughter for the last 19 years. At the end of next week, I will be relocating lock, stock and kitty to Kigali in Rwanda for an undetermined period. Why Rwanda? Why now? Please read on …


One hot Summer’s evening in 2015 I attended an international dinner at my good friend Julie’s house in South Austin. There I met a woman named Lauren Everitt, who told me that she did social media for a women’s university in the East African country of Rwanda.

Like many people outside Africa, I had watched “Hotel Rwanda”, the Hollywood version of the horrific genocide of 1994; I had also watched “Gorillas in the Mist”, the Hollywood biopic of Dian Fossey, who studied gorillas in the volcanic forests on the border of what is now DR Congo; and I had heard that Rwanda now boasted the most women in parliament of any country in the world. This number has just gone up to 54 out of 80 or 67.5%. Nearly triple the number in the USA.

So when Lauren told me about the Akilah Institute for Women –– I was immediately intrigued about their story within the context of a rapidly changing, diversifying society. I also began thinking about going over to Africa for the first time and finding out more about what they were doing to educate and empower young women in Rwanda and beyond.

Natasha Sukiranya and her colleagues at Akilah were very open, gracious and welcoming to me and just over a year later they invited me to visit the main campus in Kigali, learn more about Akilah and gender equity in Rwanda and do some volunteer communication training and leadership coaching for Akilah’s admin staff, faculty and students. 

While I was there, I also got to visit the astonishing museum at the Kigali Genocide Memorial and trek up to see the gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park on the Congolese border.

While I was in Kigali that first time, I also talked with many locals and expats and as I have written before, I was very impressed by what Rwanda has done to recover from the genocide – which killed about 800,000 people in three months – unify the bitterly divided country and recreate a sense of common national identity. Rwanda is far from perfect but President Kagame and his government have done a lot to spread peace, prosperity and stability throughout this landlocked nation, which now contains more than 11 million people.

As such, I could not wait to return but it took another two years before I could get back there in October 2018. This time I did not travel there as just a tourist and a volunteer. I was now exploring Kigali as a possible place to live and work. The second visit was even better than the first and it was definitely a place I would happily move to.


But why would I even think of leaving Austin, Texas and USA after such a long time?

Like most major work/life decisions, it was for both professional and personal reasons.

I love what I do in terms of independent coaching, facilitating and training in Leadership Development, Inclusive Teams, Gender Equity and Difficult Conversations in the academic, business, government and non-profit sectors in Austin and beyond.

But after 27 years in DC, Santa Fe, Prescott (AZ) and here in Austin, I had become a bit stale. I needed a new challenge for what I hope will be the next third of my life. I will be 60 in May and my Dad lived to 95. Even my chain-smoking mother made it to 81.

In addition, my beloved daughter Emma will be graduating next year and embarking on her graphic design career. I am not in a long-term personal relationship. And I really need some distance from the ugly, hand-to-hand political combat between Donald, Nancy and Chuck and others in Washington, DC.


As for the future, I already have some exciting new freelance work with the World Bank and UNDP in Kigali in late April and I hope to be partnering more closely with the Akilah Institute for Women, the Kigali Genocide Memorial and the Rwandan Management Institute, amongst others.

I also plan to expand my professional outreach to my own growing network in Rwanda and across Africa but I will certainly not be out of reach for any of you (groan).

I am still planning to do virtual work – such as research, virtual coaching, and webinars – from Kigali. My first global webinar from there is booked for mid-June.

I will also be available to fly around Africa, the Middle East and maybe Europe and South Asia to do contract work for existing North American and West European clients. My first such gig might be in early May in Nigeria.

And I am intending to return to the USA and Europe for extended stays once or twice a year to service existing clients and see family and friends. Probably during Rwanda’s rainy seasons in March/April and October/November. My first such trip to New York, Austin and Atlanta is planned for early October.

And of course, if you want to come out to East Africa for work or pleasure, I would be happy to help you plan your trip and even host you in Kigali.

So au revoir for now but not farewell!

Cheers, Jeremy




The Global Contrarian Blog 8 – March 2016

Ending Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying and Masculine Imbalance – Part 1

by Jeremy Solomons

Early Spring greetings to those of you in the Northern hemisphere. Or early Autumn greetings to those of you in the Southern hemisphere. And if you are right on the Equator, take your pick.

It has been just over two months since I wrote my last “monthly” blog on “A Very Inconvenient Truth about Global Leadership”, which focused on “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance” (which you can still read on

F-BALANCE-GENDERBut that’s an improvement on the two-year gap between that blog and my previous one in January 2014.

These two months have allowed me to hit the tarmac running in terms of my 2016 work on global leadership and they have allowed others to respond to the January blog.

A colleague in Brazil likened “Masculine Imbalance” to what Barry Oshry calls the “Dance of Blind Reflex” in his book “Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life”.

A colleague in China preferred to call “Masculine Imbalance” either “ego-based” or “lower-self” leadership, as opposed to “wisdom-based” or “higher-self” leadership.

Whatever terms we use, there clearly needs to be action taken on all levels – societal, organizational and individual.


On a societal level, conscious and proactive governments can certainly bring about change in terms of “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance”.

Goal #5 of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly calls on all countries to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

In 2003, Norway broke new ground with a controversial law requiring all of its larger companies to have 40% of their boards made up of women. There was deep initial skepticism about these “quotas” but the law has helped change Norway’s corporate culture for ever. Instead of tokenism, women now have a critical mass in power sharing and decision making and are making a vital contribution to corporate strategy and success. Other countries have taken note.

Elsewhere, true democracy and free speech can be the best cures for “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance”.

The best recent example of that is in Myanmar where Aung San Suu Kyi was finally released from a total of 15 years of house arrest and led her National League for Democracy to victory in last year’s general election.

And here in the USA, it will be very interesting to see what the people will decide in this year’s presidential election, which at the time of writing looks likely to feature a Republican candidate, who was recently denounced in an unprecedented way by his 2012 predecessor for his “personal qualities: the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics.”


On the organizational level, grassroots activism is important but in the end, senior leadership vision, support and action are the key drivers for sustainable change in terms of fairness and balance.

Vision, Mission and Values are usually good places to start.

One well-known energy company was very explicit about what it wanted and did not want in its blunt values statement: “We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves … We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don’t belong here.”

What was this enlightened company? None other than Enron whose leaders committed all of these crimes.

So words are clearly not enough. Action is necessary.

In the late 1990s, Mark Moody-Stuart became chairman of Royal Dutch Shell – which was known for being dominated by tall, white, British and Dutch men – and soon realized that this oil behemoth needed to “re-cultivate its garden” to attract, develop and retain high performing women and other under-represented groups in senior leadership positions.

And so he launched a worldwide campaign to increase Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), which has fundamentally altered Shell’s corporate culture.

In the late 2000s, Jim Turley, who freely describes himself as “a pale, stale male” did likewise at the staid Big 4 accounting firm of EY (formerly Ernst and Young).

Believing that “inclusive leadership is good leadership nowadays”, he sponsored and participated in a series of high level forums to discuss these tough issues and then launched a series of targeted training programs cascading down through all of EY’s senior to middle level management. They are called “Leadership Matters” and they are still ongoing around the world eight years later.

Partly as a result of this initiative, EY is now fourth in Diversity Inc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, compared with 43rd in 2007. It is comfortably ahead of the traditional global D&I powerhouses of Sodexo, Wells Fargo and IBM but Novartis, Kaiser Permanente and PWC still lead the pack.

So how can other organizations take concrete steps on D&I and make their cultures more fair, balanced and inclusive?

A great place to start is with the unique and profoundly usable and useful Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks (GDIB).

It is a comprehensive checklist of organizational standards and outcomes that was first created 10 years ago by Julie O’Mara and Alan Richter, based on earlier research by TVA and in conjunction with a group of global “expert panelists” (which now numbers nearly 100 practitioners and researchers around the world, including this blogger).

The fourth edition of the GDIB has just been completed and it now includes 14 categories in four distinct but related groups:

  1. Foundation, including vision, strategy, leadership and structure
  2. Internal, including recruitment, retention, benefits and training
  3. Bridging, including assessment, communication and sustainability
  4. External, including community relations, products, customer service and supplier diversity

Each of these 14 categories also includes concrete action steps, which can be of great help to board members, management teams and diversity councils alike.

And best of all, the GDIB can be downloaded for absolutely no fee at as long as you tell Julie or Alan what you are doing and share results.

If you want to learn more about the GDIB and other organizational initiatives to end bullying and increase balance and fairness, you may want to join me and about 1,000 other committed D&I change agents at the Forum for Workplace Inclusion in Minneapolis on March 29-31 –

If you can’t make it, I will report back in my next blog in April and I will also explore what individuals can do to end “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance”.

Happy Spring! Happy Autumn! Happy Whatever!