Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gender Profiling – 2

What ticks me off is the presumption that all women think alike, that all women expect and desire the same things, and that all women behave in exactly the same way. Or, they’re not real women.

The arguments are always the same and always limited.

For example, if a woman is not a success, then . . .

Assumption A: It’s everyone else’s fault. It’s sexism, discrimination, gender politics, subtle and powerful bias from an evil woman-hating world.

Assumption B: It’s the woman’s fault. She lacks ability; she’s genetically deficient; she’s a failure; she can’t hack it in the Big Man’s World.

Assumption C: Women don’t want success anyway. They would rather be doing ‘meaningful’ things -- unlike men who want to be doing ‘unmeaningful, evil, competitive” things like business. All women want to be doing THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD which is saving the world by taking care of the children and solving poverty, starvation, and ugliness.

If you don’t believe one of the assumptions above, you’re NOT one of US. Because, All Women Unite, Think and Behave The Same.

Not!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gender-Profiling?

“Let's turn to the snapshot afforded us by a special section the Wall Street Journal publishes annually, the most recent titled ‘Fifty Women to Watch 2007.’ Its front page features a thumbnail-size photo of each woman. What some observers might be thinking, but no one actually says, is that a number of these women appear deliberately, studiously unfeminine.

Source: Harriet Rubin, “Sexism,” April 2008 issue of Portfolio.com (a publication of Condé Nast, which publishes Vogue, Style, Glamour, Alure, Self, Vanity Fair and a host of other “women’s beauty magazines”).

Oh, aren’t we soooooo subtle? Think it, but don’t actually say it. Imply that it is the women who intentionally and purposefully make themselves look the way that only Ms. Rubin believes they appear. Foster doubts about the “femininity” of women who aspire to lead. Take 20 or 30 years of a professional career of an accomplished woman, toss it all out the window and substitute a snide, envious comment based on a mere “thumbnail-size photo.”

If this isn't reason enough to cancel your subscriptions, what other arguments do you need?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Surveys of corporate directors conclude that 70% of boards are looking for qualified diversity candidates (“diversity” being the code word for women or minority prospects among possible “independent” and “independently-minded” director candidates).

Yet, we keep reading the ever-increasing litany of “diversity board advocates” who allege that women and minorities are not being tapped for corporate board seats.

What’s wrong with this picture? What is the reality?

As one woman director on the board of a major US Fortune 500 company explained,

“Sometimes, the ones who are willing aren’t the ones you want on the board. And the ones you want on the board are not always willing.”

There is a difference between the women who want to be on a board and the women the boards want or need. Now, before the catty spin sisters get their claws too deeply into that statement, let’s look at it objectively.

Whom would YOU want serving on YOUR board of directors? Seriously, that is the essential question. The answer starts with “Someone I know I can trust, someone who has the relevant experience, someone who knows how to do the job.”

So, those women who have kept themselves hidden from view, from controversy or from business challenges in quiet corners of low to middle management probably are out of the running. Up to this point in your trek up the business ladder, if you were the perpetual, shy and retiring “helper, supporter, go along to get along” type, then you most likely will not have a reputation as anything but a corporate wife. Therefore, such a candidate probably would not qualify as a serious corporate board prospect.

By the same measure, if your career was characterized by the sword, tearing organizations and people asunder in righteous, self-proclaimed virtuosity, your services on a board also would not be welcome. If you had initiated some class action lawsuit to remedy grievances which you could not negotiate successfully inside of the corporate structure, as worthy as your case might be, then you probably would not be considered corporate governance material.

What are the questions you need to ask yourself to determine if you’re corporate board-worthy? There are several.

Are you recognized as owning a skill, expertise or competency deemed of value to business? Are you seen as a trustworthy business professional who can handle growth on the upside as well as consolidations on the downside?

Who speaks well of you? Who has seen you perform and could affirm to a skeptical business world that you show up and perform when called? Are they reputable?

What are you doing to add value to the business world? To the everyday world that touches your life?

How do you learn? How do you constantly refresh your learning?

Do you demonstrate, in your daily life, the ability to manage, successfully, your own time and obligations?

Are you worthy of trust? Would it be easy for other board members to speak their minds and express their concerns, at the same table with you, confident that it would not become grist at some girls’ networking group later on?

If you had your own board of directors, would your business thrive and grow with you as a new board member?

Being a director is not simply another bullet on your resume. It is the return on investments which you have made in your education, career, collaborations and challenges over a lifetime. There certainly are many women in the pipeline who are qualified to serve as a director.

Willing? Ready? Able? Those are the real challenges.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Here We Go Again!

Ah, yes, ‘tis the season. And agent, author, publisher, journalist Harriet Rubin has kicked it off with a vengeance with the latest screed, Sexism in the April 2008 issue of Portfolio Magazine (Portfolio.com).

“The season” is all of the women’s advocacy announcements, starting with Catalyst’s Awards Banquet at the New York Waldorf Astoria tonight (April 9th). Notice the theme for this year (women “driving”) since the 2008 conference is sponsored by Cadillac.

The “latest whine” is all of the articles in magazines, newspapers and journals on the subject of “Why women can’t, don’t, haven’t, and will not for the next 73 years, achieve anything. Because it’s all HIS fault: that locker-room troglodyte male employer, leader, CEO, CFO, GC, executive or executive search professional who is KEEPING WOMEN DOWN!”

Harriet Rubin’s article is a litany of every negative hype that modern journalism has fabricated on the subject of “Women Achieving --- NOT!” Interestingly, though, at least this year, some intelligent women stood up and told Ms. Rubin they refused to be interviewed for this conformist, stereotypical rant article. Congratulations to those who resisted. Finally, we are beginning to see more women with backbone willing to tell the other 7th grade girls to go stuff themselves in the locker.

Harriet Rubin is author of several books, but most notably: The Princessa: Machiavelli for Women. To quote from the Amazon.com review by Janet Clapp, Kingston P.L., Mass.:

“Rubin, founder of Doubleday's imprint Currency, explains the strategies, tactics, and weapons women should use to reach their goals. The main strategy is not to play by the rules but to change the game. . . Weapons include tears, breasts, and jewels.”

The “authoritative statistics” Ms. Rubin cites are small samples, snapshots of selected women in isolated poses, not substantive research covering the variety and breadth of activities in which women are involved today. Ms. Rubin carefully picks and chooses her data and time periods, cherry-picking information that will maximize her message of negative stereotyping because her editors want to focus on How Bad Life as a Woman is in the 21st Century. The articles want to convey one message: “So, just give up, Girls! Go back to bed, the spa, the store, the sauna.” As that oh-so-atypical woman in New Hampshire said, “How CAN you possibly even go OUT the DOOR each morning, Mrs. Clinton?” Go back home, to daytime television. Hide behind another issue of Vogue, Cosmo, Glamour, O, and the OmniMedia OmniHype. Or download the latest female kvetching from SHINE.YAHOO.COM. Feel our PAIN!

Victim! Whine!

Fortunately, the women in leadership today no longer listen to Ms. Rubin or her ilk. They are out there ITRW accomplishing amazing things, not simply writing about how hard it all is or how others should hand them their futures.

I wonder if the male editors at Portfolio.com are afraid of Ms. Rubin, as her book suggests. Or perhaps they just tolerate her rants because she is successful at persuading naïve and scared women to spend money in ways that editors really, really, REALY like (on their advertisers).

If women are the ones responsible for 80 to 90% of our national expenditure of discretionary earnings on fashion, clothing, makeup and other products of dubious long-term value (salons, nips and tucks, daytime television), then women are responsible for our NOT diverting those dollars into investment-grade endeavors. If women are not putting money into anything worth managing, then why would we put women in charge of managing our investment money?

Calculate for me, someone, the total investment potential of our American average of $10,000 per capita outstanding credit card monthly balance multiplied times the number of subscribers to all of the women magazines on a typical Borders/Barnes & Noble display shelf. Take that money away from advertising and put it, instead, into the creation of new entrepreneurial business wealth. Then, maybe we might have investment pools over which more women might exert leadership.

If writers like Harriet Rubin only expect the men in this world to hand over the keys of the investment community to women because they’re crying, flipping their glands, or dazzling them with their bling, then maybe women writers, journalists, and advocates should simply go back home, turn on the TV and finish that box of bon-bons.

The good men among us have done a credible job of inviting talented, competence, experienced and trustworthy women to join them among the leadership ranks of politics, government, academia, investment, corporate life, corporate boards, and entrepreneurial endeavors, not to mention nonprofit organizations everywhere. Take a look at the web blog, NewsOnWomen.com which tracks the press releases announcing women in leadership across our economic spectrum. Why don’t journalists even mention all of these highly successful women?

There are more opportunities for women to lead, today in the first decade of the 21st century than ever before in our history. That speaks volumes. There are more women who are preparing to lead, today, than ever before.

Should more women to be included in our leadership rank? You bet! But, the strategy of The Whine is so 50s. The strategy of Victimhood is so 70s. The strategy of Guilty is so 90s. And Lawrence Summers, Don Imus, and their ilk as Skapegoats is so 2000.

As my mother would say, “If something is worth doing, then it’s worth your doing it.”

Sunday, April 6, 2008

WOW! A New Website Just For Women!

Golly gee-whizzakers! Just what we needed! Yahoo! Inc. is launching a new website for women aged 25 to 54 years, “a key underserved demographic!”

Underserved?? You’ve got to be kidding me. Yahoo!’s SHINE website launched March 31st, 2008 – (no April Fool’s joke!) will provide today’s young women, in one handy-dandy location, all the information they haven’t been able to access on the subjects of:

Parenting
Sex and love
Healthy living
Food (and presumably DIETING)
Career and money
Entertainment
Fashion
Beauty
Homelife …. AND, of course. . . ASTROLOGY!

Amy Iorio, Vice President of Yahoo! Lifestyles (clearly a member of that target age group) was also the one who came up with the 18seconds.org web site idea, where we could all sit and watch the clock tick off energy savings when people purchased energy efficient light bulbs:

ABC7News.com (February 2007): “The compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) movement says it takes just 18 seconds to change a light bulb so today Yahoo! unveiled the Web site 18seconds.org to track the savings of every Energy Star CFL sold in America. Amy Iorio, Yahoo! Web site creator: ‘We're hoping people really get enthusiastic about seeing those numbers climb ... seeing those numbers climb for their state for their city.’"

Wow, almost as much fun as watching paint dry!

Ms. Iorio reported that SHINE! will provide women with The One Thing They All Have Been Searching For: that one special place women can go (JUST FOR YOU!) to find Everything!! Answers to all your questions as girl, woman, mother, wife, daughter and dominatrix.

Because, all of the other Everything Places – Glamm Media, iVillage, Oxygen – that promised you the very same thing somehow didn’t deliver. Just like all your other lousy boy friends who failed your over-hyped personal expectations.

The real reason Yahoo! is SHINE!-ing on women is that the Women’s Media Monopoly is starting to see their print advertising dry up as the publication industry turns to DIY (do-it-yourself) digital marketing campaigns.

Remember all those rags you stopped subscribing to when you started working, girls?
Two major examples are Hearst Communications (publisher of Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Marie Clare and dozens of others) and Rodale Inc. (Prevention and other health magazines for men and women: “Live your whole life!” As opposed to what?) Hearst’s American Publishers Fund is the Hearst arm that subsides all those school magazine fundraising drives where your friends’ kids hit you up for donations so they can get a special t-shirt.

The print magazines industry is begging for more digital advertising dollars from the pharmaceutical (“Ask your doctor!”), retail and packaged-goods manufacturers. The industry hopes that they can simply move over to a blog-style site on Yahoo! to recapture all those lovely pie-eyed ladies shopping for the next “new eye-liner”

Conde Nast Publications (with 33 print and digital mags: Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair, Teen, House & Garden, Lucky, Wired and Style.com just to mention a few) announced the very next day a “new advertising campaign” on Dillards’ retail site. Conde Nast Publications is just part of the vast empire of Advance Publications, Inc., a privately held communications company that also owns Parade Publications, Fairchild Publications, American City Business Journals, the Golf Digest Companies, and newspapers in more than twenty American cities; Advance Publications also has extensive interests in cable television, and Internet sites which are related to its print publications. (“Passion is the core of our philosophy at Condé Nast Publications.”)

Meredith Corporation, another media behemoth, has a portfolio of 14 magazines and more than 200 Special Interest Publications. (“A portfiolio of passions!”)
Too bad Yahoo! didn’t do a little more corporate domain research to find out if the name Shine.com might already have been taken by a career search firm that’s a subsiary of an India media behemoth:

From the India web site, www.shine.com: “Shine is brought to you by Firefly e-Ventures Ltd., a 100% subsidiary of HT Media. Firefly is HT Media's latest initiative that will be focussing [sic] on building brands and businesses in the new media space. HT Media Ltd. is one of India’s largest and most respected names in the media industry, with a wide circulation and dedicated reader base. With brands like Hindustan Times, Hindi Hindustan, it combines an 84 year old tradition of ethical journalism with progressive business practices.”

But, you can go to that spanking NEW shine.yahoo.com web site to find such insightful commentary as a chat with Jodie Foster on how she’s mending her workaholic ways! Ah yes! Question of the day: Would YOU stand by your man if he were caught with a prostitute? (Stories wrenched from today’s headlines!) Lesbian Sexual Health: You NEED to Know This Stuff!

Yup, everything all in one place. Like a landfill.




“Yahoo Is To Launch Site for Women” WSJ, 3-31-08

“Magazines Join Digital Ad Wave” by Emily Steel, WSJ 4-1-08

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen Creates Pixel Qi

Yet another good example of the narrow perspective of the technology and mainstream media is the total avoidance of coverage of Mary Lou Jepsen's new firm, Pixel Qi (pronounced chee, as in Tai Chi) -- to commercialize low-cost laptops:

Pixelqi.com

Dr. Jepsen is the former chief technology officer of the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

See her biography at: JoeInc.TV

Noteworthy about Dr. Jepsen is her commentary on traditional IT designs that "solve problems" -- "You ask different questions and you get different answers."

See also: "A Conversation with Mary Lou Jepsen" by John Ryan, Power Management, Vol. 5, No. 7 - November/December 2007:
ACM Queue.com.