Wendy Waters suggested that I write about how to deal with disabilities in the workplace. So here’s a story about my friend Ann, who has a really deep voice. It isn’t a sexy deep voice; it sounds more like Oscar the Grouch with a sore throat or Darth Vader on Prozac.

Her voice, which is a result of a birth complication, is a disability that she must deal with daily and for the most part, has overcome. While I know this now, and it’s the basis for this story, I didn't always see things that way.

I knew Ann in grade school where I confess to having had evil thoughts:

1. Why is she first chair in saxophone and I am last chair in oboe? She has the right mouth for wind instruments, and I don't. It's not fair.
2. Why is she class president and I am not even getting invited to boy-girl parties? How can someone with such an awful voice be so much more popular than I am?

But Ann and I ended up on the high-school track team together, and we became close friends. I spent so much time with her that I stopped noticing that her voice was different than other people’s. It seemed normal to me.

But there were constant reminders: restaurant customers stared when they heard us talking. Often sales people did not hear what she wanted because they were so stunned by the sound of her voice. Ann never lost patience, never seemed uncomfortable. I never knew how she did it.

In the track world you meet tons of kids from schools all over the state, and when Ann walked by, I heard lots of them say: “What's wrong with her voice?”

When I asked Ann if she felt weird about how she sounded, she'd say no. “A deep voice sounds authoritative,” she’d tell me.

Ann flourished in college. She learned to be extra nice to people because they usually would be extra nice back. She became very loyal to friends who stuck by her because so many others shied away after hearing her speak. Naturally, she knew she was different, but good grades could help her overcome prejudices and she excelled in school.

After college she went to a top advertising firm. I assume that her voice was not a problem during job interviews, or at least that interviewers believed Ann could overcome her voice impediment enough to impress potential clients.

But then she was assigned to a manager who hated her. He berated her intelligence, made sexually offensive comments around her, and generally let her know he did not want her around. In truth, his actions amounted to harassment. But her harasser had leverage, so Ann had to leave the company.

Once you leave a high-profile company without recommendations, you can pretty much forget going to another company in the same industry. So Ann returned to where she flourished — school. She took programming classes, and a classmate liked her so much that he got her a job. His software firm needed someone who knew advertising and someone who knew programming, and the company liked the idea of Ann wearing two hats.

The company went under in the tech meltdown of 2002, but Ann found that by switching gears, she had developed a new specialty, which is in a very narrow niche that she now dominates (and doesn’t want me to identify because she wasn’t thrilled that I was writing about any of this). But the bottom line is that things are good for Ann now. She weathered many storms and is successful despite her disability. Here are her tips for others who are struggling with some kind of impediment. But the tips are applicable to all of us:

1. Don't blame other people for your failures. Take responsibility for your life and move past people who don't help you.
2. Have patience with yourself if you don't choose the right career on the first try. Trust that you will find a place that’s right for you, and keep looking.
3. Convince yourself you are great. Then convincing other people is much easier.

Donald Trump fired Carolyn Kepcher, which is obviously big news if you watch The Apprentice, and still big news, though in a less obvious way, if you don’t.

Kepcher started her career as a waitress and she worked her way up in his organization. Recently she has become a counterpart to Trump (and generally more respected than he is) as the sidekick on his TV show the Apprentice. More importantly, she is a widely listened to speaker and author about how women can maneuver in the workplace.

But Carolyn will be fine. She’s talented and smart and she’s probably fielding great offers as I type.

The important thing here is nepotism. Donald fired Carolyn because he realized that he gave her a spotlight to run with (which she did, good for her), but he would rather be giving it to his kids – Ivanka and Don Jr. No big surprise. Most people with power want to give it to their kids. And most powerful people are white males, so white males are busy distributing power in an unequal way. Sure, Ivanka Trump benefits too, but only because she’s the daughter of a rich white man.

What about the people who are not children of rich white men? They do not receive as many opportunities to become powerful. Just look at the admissions process for top universities. If you are an alumni (and a majority of Ivy League alumni with college-age kids right now are rich, white men) you have a much higher chance of being accepted to a top university.

Everyone who complains that affirmative action is unfair should take a look at how Trump is running his organization. Because it’s not unique. And he is using a tried-and-true version of affirmative action for his family.

Affirmative action for minorities in the workplace is not a way to give minorities an advantage. It’s a way to counterbalance the combination of a concentration of wealth among white men and a strong history of nepotism in American institutions.

I’m happy that Donald fired Carolyn. It’ll give everyone a great example to point to when we talk about unfair advantages in the workplace.

In response to my post about how to choose where to live, Ayann wrote a comment saying that race is a factor as well. She’s right. And the truth is that my husband and I talked about race constantly during our decision making process because he is Latino and, therefore, so are my kids.

My husband has spent his life living in Los Angeles and New York City. I had to push very hard for him to move to Madison, Wisc., where the Latino population is less than 5%. My husband’s hesitancy to move to an all-white neighborhood is understandable. His family is almost all first-generation immigrants, and the discrimination I have seen them face is incredible. I would have never believed how ubiquitous it was until I had seen it myself.

I have written about how research shows that my children will face discrimination in the workplace because of their Latino last name. But I want to believe that they’ll be fine in Madison — that somehow goodness will prevail and people will not discriminate.

City ranker Richard Florida has a race index, sort of. He counts the gay population as a guideline for tolerance for new ideas and diversity of ideas. Madison did not score incredibly well on this index. Madison is no San Francisco, to be sure. But it’s not Confederate flag-flying either. Madison, like most of us, is somewhere in between.

One of the quirks of my marriage is that my husband routinely points out to me how I say racist things. I don’t even notice it until he shows me. But I am pretty sure that most people are saying racist things, even if they don’t mean to. I must be uncomfortable talking about this because I wrote a whole piece on my decision making process and didn’t mention race once.

One of the best things we can do to squash racism is to believe in ourselves and in our neighbors that we can beat it. I’m doing that as I move to Madison. Another thing that helps fight racism is talking about it. That’s something we can do right here.

Here’s a new word for the workplace: Rankism. File it in your brain next to racism and sexism. And brace yourself for a big change at the office, because rankism is another kind of discrimination we should not tolerate.

What’s rankism, or rankist behavior? It is hiring an intern and ignoring her all summer. Or pointlessly yelling at the receptionist about a manager who is late. Or a professor taking credit for a graduate student’s research. All these are examples of people who think they can treat someone disrespectfully because of their lower rank. The Devil Wears Prada has tons of juicy examples “? as well as snappy fashion and a happy ending to make the story acceptable.

But rankist behavior is never acceptable. And Robert Fuller, the man who came up with the word rankism, is on a mission to end it. His big idea is that people have a right to be treated with dignity no matter where they are in the pecking order. He’s part of what’s become known as the “dignitarian movement.” (He’s written two books on this topic: Somebodies and Nobodies and All Rise.)

Wondering if you’re at a job where you’re treated with dignity? You need to receive recognition, humane treatment and a living wage.

If your job doesn’t qualify, you need to speak up, which is hard to do, but having a word to identify the problem is half the battle. “Vocabulary changes thing,” says Fuller. “The Feminine Mystique referred to the ‘problem without a name.’ Sexism was not a word until five years after that book came out. Once the word sexism was available women had a weapon to make demands.”

Fuller wants you to take cues from the success of that movement. Say, “Hey, that’s rankest,” the same way you’d say, “That’s sexist.” But don’t yell: “Having the words rankist and rankism will give workers in every line of action a battle cry. They won’t scream at the top of their lungs. They will mention it calmly and cause the person on top to look at their actions.”

Here are five more steps you can take to combat rankism in your own work life:

1. Get a good read on potential managers.
Management sets the tone of respect or disrespect at work. So sniff out offenders before taking the job. Vanessa Carney works at Let’s Dish, a food preparation company. “The management team here is genuine,” says Carney, “The people who run this company have a good attitude and it trickles down.”

Carney was especially impressed when the owner of the business sat down with her after a few months to find out what, exactly, she wanted to do in her career.

2. Let people know that rankism matters.
Probably those behaving this way are not even conscious that they’re doing it. In one study about harassment, most people who were disrespectful were not aware of it–they thought they were making jokes at the time.

“They are misguided comedians,” says study author Catherine Hill, director of research at American Association of University Women. She also found that people respond to what they perceive as cultural norms. So speak up when you see it, even if you are not on either side of the exchange.

3. Don’t accept rationales for rankism.
Common refrains are “This is the only way the business can work,” (to justify long and unpredictable hours), or “I got through this so you can too,” (to justify hazing-like practices).

Joanna Vaillant is a management consultant — a position known for difficult work conditions. But she did research to find a consulting company that respects its employees: Boston Consulting Group. She recommends talking to people who work in the company about the company. “In business school I talked to classmates who worked at different companies,” says Vaillant. And she chose well. She recently got married and received assignments that would allow her time and headspace to prepare for that big day.

4. Take a bad job.
Working at a low-level job is not just a headache, it’s an integral part of your personal development. A big barrier to fighting racism and sexism is that if you are white you don’t know what it’s like to be black, and if you are male you don’t know what it’s like to be female.

But everyone can work in a low-level job — especially in the service industry where the exposure to rankest behavior from customers is huge.

5. Consider leaving.
One of the scariest things about demanding change at the workplace is the prospect of getting fired. But young people today — those invariably filling up the entry-level positions — switch jobs often. So the risk of offending your current boss for speaking out against rankism does not seem that big a deal.

The workplace is ripe for eradicating rankism. The youngest workers are optimists about their ability to change the world and passionate about valuing diversity. Also, in poll after poll, young people report less interest in money and more interest in the quality of work and the quality of life work affords. So it makes sense that now is the time for the dignitarian movement, and we should all jump on board.

I interview two or three people a week for the various columns that I write. One thing I have learned from this is that people can tell you the major ideas they have in about twenty minutes. After twenty minutes you end up getting into the details of the ideas — probably more than you need to know.

So it was not surprising to me that the TED conference limits speakers to about that amount of time. What was surprising to me was how much I enjoyed watching the videos of lectures from the conference.

Before I go on, though, let me just say that TED is totally elitist, and the selection of speakers is absurdly imbalanced among men and women. But when it comes to your career, you should take advantage of all opportunities to converse with very smart, interesting people. I have noticed that I learn an incredible amount from interviewing interesting people — more than when I just read an article about them. Getting a chance to see the lectures at TED, (for free!) is not a conversation, but it’s better than reading about it.

So, each night or so I am watching one video. I don’t have the attention span to just watch, so maybe it’s good that I didn’t go to the conference. I answered email during Tony Robbins, but still, you can’t say he’s not inspiring. I was riveted during the Majora Carter video. She’s a great speaker (I shed a tear) and she talks about the politics of green space in urban areas. I didn’t know anything about this topic and I can honestly say she showed me a different way to look at things.

I found out about the TED videos from Guy Kawasaki’s blog. I check his blog out a lot because he writes about big ideas. There is so much to read online, but it’s easy to surf and surf and never get to a big idea. Force yourself to find them — that’s how you’ll grow.

The Wall Street Journal gives terrible advice this week on “going from maternity leave to permanent resignation.”

Columnist Sue Shellenbarger writes, “Once a mother is absolutely sure she isn’t going to return to work after maternity leave, I believe she’s obligated to reveal her intentions to her employer.”

WHY? There is no description in the column about the genesis of this obligation. Is it a moral obligation to protect corporate America from having to support families?

Listen to me: Take that leave, and don’t feel guilty. The United States is the only country in the developed world that does not provide national, paid maternity leave. So the few women in the US who can actually take maternity leave have EARNED it. The law gives these women the RIGHT to take that maternity leave regardless of what happens afterwards.

Shellenbarger also warns that you will “burn your bridges” by taking maternity leave and then quitting. She writes this as if it’s a national trend to rehire women after they take extended leave for children. In fact, it’s just the opposite: Most companies do not take you back after leave. And companies that do are notable exceptions. (Anyway, I would not even want to go back to a boss if he were the bitter-about-maternity-leave type, so why bother appeasing him?)

Here’s the advice the Wall Street Journal should have given: Don’t tell anyone at work that you’re not coming back after the baby. Collect all your maternity leave money and do not feel guilty. Call at the end of leave and say you’re not coming back. Tell your boss you’re sorry to put him in a difficult position, but everything feels different once the baby is there. That is true. It is not lying.

Please, do not feel guilty. That women take maternity leave and then quit is a result of the system being totally flawed. It is absurd to presume that women know if they want to continue working before they know what it’s like to be home all day with a baby. And it is unreasonable that the workplace cannot provide a decent number of baby-friendly jobs so that women who want to continue working can without compromising their own health (exhaustion) or their baby’s (too much separation).

In fact, quitting right after maternity leave is not so uncommon, says Laura Shelton, who has done extensive research about Gen X women at the office. She suggests that advice like the Wall Street Journal’s is a result of a generation gap — boomers like Shellenbarger just don’t get it: Boomers fought to get women into he workplace but boomers ignored maternity benefits.

Maybe your boss will take some advice from Shellenbarger’s source, Don Sutaria, who gives companies some good advice: Hire a temporary worker who could stay on as permanent if the maternity leave turns into full leave.

And while you’re pregnant, train the temp well. This will make you feel better if you decide not to return to work, and it’ll even make you feel better if you do return because someone will have kept your work in order.

The business pundits can write forever about how important diversity is. But we are not achieving it, and the people losing out the most are black men. Associated Press writer Erin Texeira did the world a favor by writing an article that describes the black man’s experience of confronting constant racism, especially at the office.

The piece is shocking and heartbreaking. Each of us should aspire to use our own position in the workplace to change the current situation for black men. But nothing will change for black men at the office until there is broad awareness of what the problems are. So the first thing you can do is read the article.

Overheard at synagogue: “I would like to grow up and become a rabbi like you, but my dad doesn’t think women should be rabbis.” From the head rabbi’s seven-year-old daughter to the assistant rabbi who is a woman.

Religious groups seem to be one of the last standouts — along with coal mining and construction — where people feel free to openly declare that women should not hold top jobs. Don’t get me wrong, people in other fields are thinking it. But they know to talk in low voices.

Yesterday, the AP reports, “Jefferts Schori, bishop of Nevada, was elected Sunday as the first female presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the US arm of the Anglican Communion.” She has an advantage over other women rising in religious organizations in that she has worked as a pilot and an oceanographer, other fields that are male dominated. Sharing ideas across industry lines is critical toward diversifying leadership in any given industry. In this sense, Schori is a one-woman meeting-of-the-minds.

But Schori is unique in that more than other fields of business I know, women in the pulpit have separated themselves from women who are breaking down gender barriers in other professions. While women in engineering, for example, align themselves with women in marketing and mentor each other, women in the pulpit are less likely to see themselves in the same boat as these other women.

But they are in the same boat: Religious organizations have office politics and salary issues; there are issues over who gets their own secretary and there are issues with sixty-year-old men who think they’re still working in an era where it was legal to specify gender in a help wanted ad.

The good news is that there are “more liberal attitudes toward women in leadership positions among those in younger generations,” and the gender divide is decreasing quickly among younger workers. Example: A female rabbi I know was interviewing for a job in a large synagogue. A male congregant stood up and asked, “How can you do such a demanding job as this one and take care of your kids?” A younger male congregant stood up and said, “That’s an illegal question. Don’t answer it.”

No matter what your business situation is, you should keep an ear to the ground about how people in other industries are changing the rules of management and success. There is a large and inclusive base of people who want a flexible and tolerant workplace. Align yourself with those people. You don’t have to do this alone, even as a priest or a rabbi.

Just about every major business publication has run something about how diversity improves business performance. If you are on a diverse team, you’ll probably have more success than if you’re on a homogenous team. And, to some extent, we can each control the teams we’re on.

For one thing, you should pick companies to work for that have a diverse group of employees. You can also do what you can to build your own diverse teams.

One way to think of diversity is race. A professor at the University of Chicago conducted a study about workplace racism in which he sent 5000 resumes to want ads in Boston and Chicago. He sent duplicate resumes, but changed the names. The names that sounded white (Emily Walsh) were fifty percent more likely to get a call back than a name that sounded African-American (Lakisha Washington).

You are probably saying to yourself that you would never be racist at work. But that is probably not true. Because almost no one will admit to being racist, but a lot of it is unintentional, and it’s definitely not limited to the scope of that resume study.

While you’re busy denying that you’re racist, consider that diversity is not all about race – or gender, for that matter.

I had an eye-opening experience when I wrote an article for the LA Weekly about medical issues for “non-whites”. I could not write “minorities” in the LA Weekly, because in LA, Hispanics outnumber whites. (Interesting side note, from the article: Many top doctors who study this topic are advocating separate but equal treatments for blacks and whites.)

So, try thinking about diversity in terms of experience. Look for diversity in economic experience, in schooling, politics. The June issue of Harper’s magazine ran a little piece about how “living libraries” that have taken place in Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Portugal. The idea is that there are real people that you can borrow for an hour in order to explore your own prejudices and stereotypes. Here are some examples of the kinds of people you can borrow:

Animal-rights activist, black person, bureaucrat, environmentalist, ex-football hooligan, ex-illiterate person, e-neo-Nazi, feminist, Jew, Muslim, priest, unemployed person, asylum seeker, blonde woman, disabled person, ex-drug abuser, ex-homeless person, ex-prisoner, gay person, lesbian, police officer, skateboarder, vegetarian.

The charm of the list, of course, is that we each ask ourselves who we have the most prejudice against. For me, it’s the football player. I’m not sure, frankly, that I’ve ever talked to one for more than a couple of minutes.

So maybe diversity you need to create in your work teams is as wide or as narrow as the kind of experience you are missing in your own life.

Here’s a piece in the Boston Globe about learning how to react constructively when someone makes offensive comments at work. In fact, the majority of people, it appears, will say nothing, even though a comment offends their sensibilities.

Decades of research into bystander apathy shows that people freeze when they are in a group. “In one 1969 laboratory experiment, people were put into a room where they heard someone behind a curtain moaning about a hurt leg. Seventy percent of those who were alone offered help, compared with just 40 percent of those who were with a stranger.”

This does not surprise me. I am Jewish but for some reason, bigots do not realize that I’m Jewish. So I hear a lot of slurs against Jews and they always catch me off guard. Once my boss made a comment about getting “Jewed” out of something, and I said, “I’m Jewish.” Certainly, there are better responses — one that would educate, perhaps. But I couldn’t think of one on the spot.

I remember as a kid being told by the “Just say no” campaign how important it is to rehearse beforehand. I think this is true for diversity training as well. It’s very hard to come up with the right thing to say in the moment, but it’s important. To be a leader at work, you need to be a leader at bringing tolerance to the workplace. People who matter will admire and appreciate you for this.