Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Research and Advocacy or Something Different?

The sight of 6,000 signatures of the nation’s top female scientists, engineers, and technologists from academia and the professions is impressive. Also commendable is their united advocacy of an initiative to Congress supporting an investigation into whether or not there exists an equal playing field for women in the allocation of public Title IX funds to science, engineering, and technology financial assistance at the federal level.

Sources for more information:

It must have been frustrating to the signers, as it was to me, to observe that no newspaper of note, no television news broadcast, no radio show, no Sunday morning “talking heads” so much as gave them a nod from their dashboard positions at the head of the U.S. communications industry. Then again, the surprising thing is that we are surprised.

Clearly, more substantive measures are required to gain the attention of the media and the public regarding matters of substance in the search for equality of opportunity in this so-called meritocracy.

Perhaps women in science, engineering, and technology might reconsider the tactic of writing letters and instead start writing a business plan to start up and expand a business effort to provide such women – six thousand strong – with a viable media outlet to publish and broadcast the content, research, and issues that are important to them.

Perhaps, too, women in science, engineering, and technology might reconsider the tactic of asking members of Congress to please, pretty please, pass more legislation that will probably be undone once corporate PAC money is gathered on the other side of the debate.

Instead, perhaps these women – six thousand strong – might consider pooling their collective “mad money” to provide bootstrap working capital to momentum-building women-owned enterprises that could provide those same six thousand voices with broadcast outlets for their very important views:

  • A speakers’ bureau to arrange for women from science, engineering, and technology fields to keynote and to speak out at major public forums – and, yes, where these women are actually compensated at competitive rates, just like men, to speak their peace and their experience.

  • A news distribution bureau to gather and disseminate writing by these same women, researched by these women, analytical contributions by women of intelligence and of import to the vitality of this economy – and, yes, where these women are actually compensated at competitive rates for their creative work.

  • A research bureau to invest in the analysis, quantification, and documentation of the intellectual contributions that women make to this economy, to our society, and to our communities in all of the myriad ways they choose to do so. Alternatively, to quantify, gather, and disseminate the factual evidence of how our failure, as a nation, to address recurrent economic problems (including violence and abuse in the home, abandonment of child support, etc.) wreaks havoc with our society and our economy in the short-term and the long-term.

Six thousand women “investing” a mere $100 each in such a venture capital fund would equal a $600,000 pool that could be leveraged up to millions in loans to women business enterprises. At $500 each, six thousand women could create a pool of $3 MILLION. Double that ($6 MILLION), and we’re beginning to talk about some serious impact on the way women are heard in the public media.

Every single major securities investment firm in the country is focused, today, on how they can market themselves, their products and services to the female Baby Boomer Generation -– the largest wealth-holding segment of the population in history. Fifty-one percent of the 70 million Boomer Generation are women, over 35 M women.

If there were a credible, professional, reliable alternative investment pool designed, developed and supported BY women for the benefit of women, isn’t it likely that a significant share of that total might also consider buying shares in such an undertaking? They would expect, as any rational investor, that that venture demonstrated the ability to produce profitable results at least equal to, if not better than, the alternatives available from those male-dominated securities investment firms.

To those who would prefer the “non-profit, charitable, gift-giving, donor-driven” model, consider the following:

  • Joline Godfrey, founder and president of Independent Means, realized the limits of a non-profit firm trying to teach young girls financial self-sufficiency. She converted her non-profit firm to a for-profit corporation in order to “talk the talk AND walk the walk”, to show young women how to make and preserve wealth in America’s competitive marketplace.

  • Gale Evans, former CNN executive and prominent author/speaker, state that women need to DO more real business with women-owned businesses if we want those enterprises and women to prevail, financially, in the long-term competitive marketplace.

  • Laura D'Andrea Tyson, Dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley and former Economic Advisor to the Clinton Administration, bemoaned the fact that too many women viewed their businesses as just “hobby-work” rather than economic contenders capable of vying against the best in the business.

Let us just say, for argument’s sake, that the 6,000 women “win” their case for Title IX to be applied to education grants and projects in science, engineering, and technology – that there is a new and tougher law passed. Will that new law be any more effective – down to the individual business level – than the laws we have already succeeded in passing that were supposed to give women-owned businesses at least a token 5% of public contracts? Ask the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce how well we’re doing at the federal, state and local level in obtaining our “fair share” of public contracts.

Will another law help women who spent thousands of their own dollars in scientific, engineering, and technology education to recover that investment through higher wages or will they still have to go overseas to find the outsourced low-wage jobs that our corporate leaders are exporting?

Will more hearings on Title IX as applied to science, engineering, and technology projects tell us anything that we have not already heard in previous hearings on the subject of equal opportunity for women:

  • The Glass Ceiling Commission hearings: 1991 – 1996, U.S. Dept. of Labor
  • The Equal Rights Amendment hearings: 1972 – 1982
  • Wyden’s hearings on women in science in the Science, Technology, and Space Committee of the Senate Commerce Committee of the U.S. Congress: 2002
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Act hearings
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act hearings

How many more hearings do we need to sit through before it dawns on us that something’s amiss here in this great American land of the free, home of the brave? When will we realize that the 14th Amendment to the constitution, as my Republican friends tell me, is all the Equal Rights Amendment we need, if we would just read it:

    “Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

There are only two motivators that this U.S. economy understands: incentives and shortages. It’s time that women of conscience learn to manage and control these two motivators with as much skill and focus as their brothers.

If 6,000 talented, competent, concerned, and motivated women can get together to write a letter to their Congressmen, imagine the impact these same women could have if they would work together to build a better business model for our daughters – and, yes, our sons – for the future.

Imagine the power of their economic presence in the marketplace if six thousand women and their colleagues selectively unsubscribed or “shorted” their support of selected market segments where their dollars are most significant.

Imagine the power of their economic presence in the marketplace if they channeled their well-earned funds into a venture to turn the tide of attention toward creating the opportunities women can build their future through science, engineering, and technology.

So, young ladies, what will your choice be? Research and advocacy? Or perhaps something a little different this time?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Because "It Don't Hurt Enough, Yet"

There’s an anecdote that I like to tell women as I’m trying to prepare them for my Masters’ Class for Women -– a class on women’s empowerment, enlightenment, and hopefully some improvement in their business acumen. It’s the story of the Dog Howling on the Porch, and it goes like this:

A stranger is walking by a house and sees an old codger rocking on his front porch. The old guy's dog is sitting at his master's feet, and the dog is howling. The stranger walks up to the old man and asks him,

    "Why is your dog howling like that?"

    "He's sittin' on a nail" the geezer replies.

    "Why doesn't he get off the nail?" asks the stranger.

    "'Cause it just don't HURT ENOUGH, yet."

Like the howling dog on the porch, it's amazing how women will tolerate an unacceptable situation for a very, very long time -- without fighting back and without taking concrete measures to remedy an uncomfortable situation. Too many women just “howl”, rather than get up off the nail -– rather than take action “against a sea of troubles and thus, by opposing, end them.”

That's the situation with the absence of women on boards of directors, the absence of women in executive leadership roles, and the continued tendency to marginalize women in spite of their majority positions in the economic marketplace.

Now, we can add to the list of things about which American women can “howl” are the findings of the Women’s Economic Forums’ Report on Women’s Empowerment:

For a copy of the report, see their web site: Women's Economic Forum -- Gender Gap Report

In the first global Gender Gap Report, the United States of America is ranked 17th among 58 countries, including 30 OECD countries and 28 other emerging markets. SEVENTEENTH – we should blush, at least.

The study measures the extent to which women have achieved full equality with men in five critical areas:

  • economic participation
  • economic opportunity
  • political empowerment
  • educational attainment
  • health and well-being

Ahead of us in these measures are the top ten nations:

    1 - Sweden
    2 - Norway
    3 - Iceland
    4 - Denmark
    5 - Finland
    6 - New Zealand
    7 - Canada
    8 - United Kingdom
    9 - Germany [GERMANY??!]
    10 - Australia

Also ahead of us are: Latvia, Lithuania, France, The Netherlands, Estonia, and Ireland.

But, hey, I guess “it just don’t hurt enough, yet.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

A Letter to Susan Estrich

[Note: Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California School of Law. This was a letter written on the subject of her exchange with Michael Kinsley, L.A. Times editor.]

I was impressed by your article/interview entitled, The Water Cooler, in the CJR (Columbia Journalism Review) Daily Archives, February 25, 2005.

You’re absolutely right that the L.A. Times is an incredible dinosaur amongst us. But, it seems to me that you’re expecting Bubba to change his genetic make-up. It ain’ta gonna happen, my friend. Kinsley is like those good ol’ boys from the ‘hood who suck up power from beatin’ on their Mama.

Let it go! Let him go! In fact, consider an alternative strategy.

Let’s get out of the business of trying to talk sense into sheer idiots and, instead, let us women start doing business, better than they, with the few good –- make that the REALLY GREAT -– guys out there who do "get it".

You asked if there weren’t “someone” who could take over the L.A. Times and “return it to the community?” Why can’t we women work with the great women that you named -- plus a few other women in the media and communications industry -- to develop a business that utilizes their talents as journalists?

Why are we wasting good and valuable time, energy, and resources even talking to the Bubbas when – if we pulled together as an investment team, as a management team, and as an editorial team, don’t you think we could eat these little boys for High Tea?

Think of the potential power of our resources: Koplovitz, Martinez, Simpson, Carleton, Morrison, Dowd, and all the names at the end of your February 25, 2005 posting. Why can’t we tap resources such as Wallis Annenberg and her like to make this idea happen? Or Betsy Knapp? Or a hundred other women we should know?

How is it that there can be 2,000 women on the Committee for the Equality of Women at Harvard, with Gabriella Schlesinger, yet we can’t seem to get 12 women together to invest in a viable diversity-based newspaper? How can we keep having Committees of 200 on each coast, but we can’t seem to get 12 women behind building a business plan for an enterprise in which we all have confidence would afford women a real opportunity for expression?

Why waste good money and intelligence on yet another blog about the L.A. Times bias, when we could divert real and valuable resources to create a decent paper of real investigative and community insight?

And I don’t mean setting up yet another Oprah or Martha “front” for the likes of P&G or K-Mart, either. For a change, let’s stop selling out to the advertising and consumer sales industries. For once in our lives, let’s see if women could actually invest in other women, do business with other women, pay other women their worth.

Let’s see if we could stop this non-profit stuff -– where we only re-create bake sales and begging and pleading for the cold hard cash we need to ensure that our businesses are both real and lasting.

Yes, let’s make it a real business venture -– make a profit, damn it. Then we can tithe to our favorite “cause”, but make the profit FIRST. Don’t give away the store in pontificating blogs. Let us make an investment in something that will last -– something that will actually be around when our daughters come to this very same point in their lives, again, and look around and wonder to themselves, “Why aren’t there more women at the top?” Just as we are doing, again, today.

When our daughters finally realize, as do we now, that even a prostitute knows how to get the “best market rate” better than they do.