Tag Archives: Money

Why I’m Not Rich

Why I’m Not Rich

Sometimes I wonder why I’m not rich. I have worked so hard, studied so much… When I was in graduate business school, I thought I would be rich by now. Here’s what I have learned about being a woman in business.

1. Men are not the problem.

2. Women are the problem more often than you would think. I have been back-stabbed and undermined by women far more than by men. When it comes to women getting ahead in business, the gender that is the greater stumbling block is other women. “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down,” seems to be a pervasive and self-destructive attitude in women’s culture. The only woman I personally know who got rich did it in the heavy construction business.

3. Sheryl Sandberg is right. Effective and Nice are mutually exclusive for women. The word bitch should be reserved for female dogs, who are the most powerful individuals in the dog-breeding world.

4. There might be a Glass Ceiling and it might be biology-based.

Y and X chromosomes

Y and X chromosomes

The Y chromosome is on the left in this image. Men have one of these, and one X chromosome, the big one on the right. Women have two X chromosomes. What is on all that extra DNA that women have that men don’t?

Why are there so few women CEOs? Is there something on that extra DNA that interferes with women becoming Chief Executive Officers?

Mary Barra is a rare example of a female CEO. She has worked for GM since 1980. She got a bachelor’s in electrical engineering on her own, but GM sent her to Stanford Graduate School of Business because she had so much talent. When GM went bankrupt, the government sent in a “rescue executive” to get it back on track and to find the best talent to lead the company back to solvency. He picked Mary Barra for CEO because she was “a car guy.”

GMceoWithin weeks, she discovered that faulty ignition switches were implicated in several deaths, and she publicly announced a recall, to the dismay of many. This move took a lot of courage because it would cost the company a tremendous amount of money and be a serious public relations blow.

But if she failed to recall the dangerous products there would be more deaths, unnecessary deaths. She eventually discovered that the cover-up extended to more models, so she issued more recalls. Interestingly, company revenue increased, and eventually, GM’s approval rating surged as her ethical way of dealing with the problem emerged in government hearings. Is biology an element here?

For a long time, women were excluded from combat. Why? “Because they take all the fun out of it,” my friend Todd Armstrong once told me. Women are not likely to participate in wartime rape or mayhem (the crime of maliciously injuring or maiming someone, originally so as to render the victim defenseless).

The Glass Ceiling may be real because there are things that most women won’t do. It is possible that most women would not let customers continue to die to protect the company’s reputation. She had the courage to reveal a years-long cover-up, and to take a huge financial hit, in order to stop the needless deaths.

The male CEOs at the time of the cover-up did not choose this path. They stonewalled the inquiries and litigated them away.

So, I am not rich because hard work and being smart, while necessary for success, are not sufficient. An effective team is always more productive and innovative than a single person, and I am still working on that. Success also requires building a strong support system and good connections. It might demand being more ruthless than I am willing. And maybe a few more things I don’t know about.

So, I didn’t get rich, but I have enough.

On Being a Digital Immigrant

On Being a Digital Immigrant

I went to a lecture yesterday at SRJC by Ofer Zur, Ph.D. on “How the Internet Changes Brains.” He is about 65 now, and he spoke about “digital natives” which are people who grew up with computers, and “digital immigrants” who acquired these skills in adulthood.

Social-Media6logosTen years ago, when I started my business, I knew more than anyone else in Santa Rosa about how to increase revenue for a brick-and-mortar business by using Google advertising. To help these businesses, I used my extensive background in marketing and advertising, and my expertise in media buying, along with my web development skill. The oldest “digital natives” were about 15 and still in high school.

Now, they are 25 years old and they completely understand Twitter, SnapChat, YikYak, Pinterest, Instagram and all the social media channels that have left me behind. There is so much more to know about online marketing and finding the right audience, and I realize I am no longer the best in town. It is time to hire a partner.

Dr. Zur spoke about facing age-related limitations on his recent motorcycle trip to the Himalayas. Being a digital immigrant, alas, is another age-related limitation.

Search Engine Strategies 2013

Search Engine Strategies 2013

Search Engine Strategies
Got on Highway 101 at 6:30 a.m. and drove to Larkspur (took 90 minutes from Santa Rosa) missed the ferry I wanted, got off at the wrong bus stop in SF, missed most of the Keynote.  The audience was sparse, there were no free Google classes, the schwag was limited.  Worst of all was the total of three hours I spent in traffic on 101 because I was in rush hour traffic in both directions.  Not a good use of my time.  I won’t be going to SES again.

But going to San Francisco is always nice and, although it was foggy on the way over, the sky was clear on the way back and I saw the top of the 13-story sail of the America’s Cup contender from New Zealand. Shopping was fun but next time I will take the slow boat on Saturday.

Sheryl Sandberg Lean In

Sheryl Sandberg Lean In

Sheryl Sandberg Lean InHow could she find time to write a book with all she does? She’s a mother! And a wife, not to mention that other thing (Facebook) which she said was “very hard for the first six months. And I know I’m supposed to say ‘challenging’ but it was hard.”

I have always struggled with the concept of “niceness” and I was thrilled that she addressed it head on. I felt that if I was nice, executive men wouldn’t take me seriously. But there was another element. I started working in the 1960’s, the sexually predatory days of “Mad Men” when it was assumed that ambitious women would grant sexual favors in exchange for opportunity. Meaning that in order to get a level playing field, it was hoped that you would put out. Failing to be “nice” eradicated that illusion for executive men. It also eradicated mentoring. But in those days, mentoring by a man often meant… well, putting out.

Sheryl is of a different generation where this sexually predatory element has been mostly exterminated (whew!) but there is still the burden of being called unlikeable if a woman is perceived as decisive or ambitious. She talks at length about how the same behavior in men is admired. She is very uncomfortable with the double-standard, often enforced by other women, and she does more than complain about it. She offers a recipe for dealing with it.

She quotes Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, who recommends combining niceness with insistence. “Be relentlessly pleasant,” by smiling frequently, expressing appreciation and concern, invoking common interests, emphasizing larger goals, and approaching each negotiation as solving a problem as opposed to taking a critical stance.

Sheryl Sandberg also quotes Professor Hannah Riley Bowles who studies gender and negotiations at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and adds to her observations. Professor Bowles has learned that there are two crucial things that women need to do in order to succeed in negotiations. First, women must come across as being nice, concerned about others and “appropriately” female. Taking an instrumental approach, as men do, doesn’t work (This is what I want and deserve).

Second, a woman must provide a legitimate explanation for the negotiation. Men don’t have to legitimize their negotiations, they are expected to look out for themselves. Women, however, have to justify their requests. One way of doing this is to suggest that someone more senior encouraged the negotiation (“My manager suggested… “) or to cite industry standards (“My understanding is that jobs that involve this level of responsibility are compensated in this range”).

Sheryl Sandberg offers a third crucial strategy to negotiating success. “Think personally, act communally,” she advises. Even if you you feel stridently feminist when negotiating your salary in order to get paid the same as the men for the same work, keep in mind that you are negotiating for all women. “And as silly as it sounds, pronouns matter. Whenever possible, women should substitute “we for “I.” A woman’s request will be better received if she asserts, “We had a great year,” as opposed to ‘I had a great year.’ ”

She's not bossy
I felt the book had the right balance of self-revelation and personal experience, and guidance from others. I liked the quote from Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology & Strategy Officer of Cisco Systems, and the former CTO of Motorola because it echoes Jeffrey Immelt’s thoughts on the subject. “The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”

How to deal with people successfully was my favorite part of the book. Sheryl quotes Alice Walker who said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any.”

If We’re So Smart, How Come the Boomerang Came Back To Whack the Stock Market?

If We’re So Smart, How Come the Boomerang Came Back To Whack the Stock Market?
If We’re So Smart, How Come the Boomerang Came Back To Whack the Stock Market?

Interesting watching the stock market gyrate as I read Boomerang by Michael Lewis, the guy who wrote Moneyball and The Blind Side. The EU did not know, when they accepted Greece in 1981, that Goldman Sachs would later teach the Greeks even more sophisticated ways of acquiring and hiding national debt, eventually bringing the Euro to the brink, says Jim Hoaglandin his editorial in The Washington Post.  He agrees with Michael Lewis that historicaly, the Greeks refined milking their government into an art, and they were certainly not going to treat the distant, generous European treasury in Brussels differently.  Hoagland quotes a Friench friend who was in the government that championed Greece’s entry to the EU.  “Bringing Greece in and expecting the budget figures to add up was a romantic policy.”

Michael Lewis is a “disaster tourist,” visiting countries that are on the brink of economic collapse due to spending more than they earned. It is fascinating to see how each country behaves differently when “in a dark room with a pile of money.” I laughed out loud when I finished the chapter on Ireland. The Irish are not like other people!

This frequently-updated graphic from the NYTimes that tracks the European debt crisis clarifies the shifting sands of exposure to crisis that the Euro faces. I had to look up the statistics for the US (missing from the chart). We have about 100% debt-to-GDP and about 10% unemployment as I read the statistics. So much seems to hinge on the credit rating, which we know from reading Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short” is sometimesfanciful, almost magical, and not in a good way. Like magical thinking.

Do you think the Euro will stabilize promptly or deteriorate further?

Margin Call Absorbing

Margin Call Absorbing

First-Time director J.C. Chandoor, who also wrote “Margin Call”, somehow gets us to see the human side of the bankers that brought the world economy to its knees. If you understand that things are only worth what you can sell them for, and that the investment banks held certain “tranches” on the synthetics they were selling, you will quickly grasp how the math model projections stumbled upon by the junior risk manager portend the end of the financial markets as we know them.

How could we ever care about the fates of these greedy men, much less sympathize with them. They wiped out our retirements funds, and yet, at the end, we see what drove them. Some were venal, some were greedy, some were desperate and some were just resigned to their fate. What is stunning is that the caliber of acting draws us in and makes us care about these men.

Demi Moore, whose real name is Demetria, looks more Russian than ever. Deep fear flickers in her eyes behind the hostility of a wolverine defending her economic projections. When she faces off against Jeremy Irons, it is like watching smooth poison being spread before her.

The movie belongs to Kevin Spacey, however. Chandor’s savvy direction gives him a chance to show the conflicting emotions playing out as he tries to prevent the implosion of the company where he has spent his career. He wants to protect the young brokers working for him, he wants to protect the clients of the firm, but most of all, he wants to protect himself. Do we care? Yes, because of a brilliant performance by Spacey, which barely stands out in a stellar cast including smooth, charming, brilliant and ruthless Jeremy Irons as the guy who has to make the decision on when to pull the trigger and where to aim the gun.

It is playing in Santa Rosa at the Summerfield Theater and I hear it is available on streaming TV. Worth a watch.Simon Baker in Margin Call

Margin Call Movie

Margin Call is Absorbing