Friday, August 3, 2012

Women Want a Revolution

The results are in and, unsurprisingly, there are a lot of unhappy clients in the financial services arena. If I were a wealth adviser, I wouldn't want any of these responses to serve as my report card. (A note about the respondents: this is not a representative sample. This group of over 110 women responders are highly-educated, wealthy and activist-minded, since the respondents are those who were e-mailed or twitter responders to myself, Jayne Hillman, Melanie Hamburger and Sarah Granger.)

Interestingly, given that financial services are a "service" business, the level of a woman's wealth did not increase the respondent's happiness with their providers. The wealthiest respondents were no less displeased as their less affluent counterparts, in rating their services. Many women mention that they don't like the attitudes of their advisers. Some who want to do impact investing mentioned things like "being told that wanting socially responsible investing, or investing in women-run enterprises, is "cute and nice, but not the way to make MONEY".

As larger studies have documented, women feel misunderstood by investment marketers: "For an industry with an astounding amount of data on its customers, institutions still behave as though they have no idea who I am", wrote one respondent.

Here are some improvements that these women would like to see:

82% wanted greater transparency on fees, 87% wanted clear simple language and 76% wanted to collaborate to leverage their economic power. The strongest response from all questions on the survey was that 92% of women want to "invest my assets to align with my values". We also included a text box so that the respondents could say more about which values they most wanted to advance. Women wrote that they were interested in advancing women's leadership in the corporate world, specifically greater women's representation on boards of directors and in senior management. Women also wrote "accounting for environmental and social costs in financials/ reporting", "caring about others and not just profits", "more transparency, less lobbying of congress for special treatment", "sustainable business practices" and "companies that have a triple bottom line". Another benefit of values-based investing is that, according to this study by Merrill Lynch, investors with values-based investments have lower anxiety levels and churn their portfolios less, which can result in better returns in the long run.

This group has a large appetite for risk-taking. Over 73% are interested in the private markets, ie, in investing in private equity, venture capital and angel funds. There is a strong interest in better education in finance. 90% of women want "more confidence and/or confidence in my investing" and 85% want "more creativity and enthusiasm around money". All in all, the respondents are interested in a more holistic approach to investing their assets: one that accounts for their strongly held values around women's leadership, sustainable business practices, and sound environmental practices. Many wanted to "blow-up" the current system and start fresh. They'd like to feel a much higher level of trust and experience a customer-centric approach.

We conducted this survey because we'd like to help build a movement that satisfies women and men's desires to align their assets with their values. Those with wealth who donate 5% of their assets to non-profits each year while keeping their investments in the status quo are missing the ability to "liberate the 95%".  This shift will require some serious bucking of the existing financial services industry which has been built to have cookie cutter portfolios (to keep costs down) and to sell the financial products that they create (to keep profits up) . If an adviser strays from the pack, she will not be offered full liability protection if a client sues her for poor financial advice.

We'd also like to see more women feel enthusiastic about directing their investment dollars.  We look forward to the day when we overhear women walking along the beach at Chrissy Field talking excitedly about their portfolio and their recent allocation to a top-performing portfolio manager named Helena.

We look forward to any comments, ideas and questions that you may have.  Thank you to the respondents for taking the time to answer our survey! Marya and Jayne

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Women Angels and (Mostly) Women Founders

We held our first pitch night for The Angel Fund and had an amazing collection of women angels.  The table of angels consisted of eight mostly former Googlers and three entrepreneurs who have built businesses serving women. (Note that all individuals represent themselves and not their employers).  We laughed when we realized that we had self-sorted around the table by type: the Google-ladies and the lady-ladies.   Even more exciting were the companies that pitched us.  Three companies had all women founders and one had all men.  BizeeBee provides saas biz services to franchise lifestyle businesses (such as yoga studios, pilates instructors, etc.) and is raising its 2nd round.  AppSmitten is an app discovery company with both newsletter and an app for personalization of app recommendations, with a big and growing list of subscribers.  Virtruus is a trust verification company, with companies using their service in beta for employee screening.  Consumer facing service around the corner.  And, Roominate Toys sells toys for 6-10 year old girls that combine building furniture, rooms and electronic fixtures using circuits, such as lights, fans and buzzers.  They had a big hit on kickstarter (3x their goal) and are raising a first angel round.  Each company found interested angels who will continue with them.  An exciting start.  Many thanks to the Hattery for hosting us in their space.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Affluent Alpha Ladies Unite!

We held our second meeting last night for a group of women who are engaging in a conversation about investing their assets to align with their values. We are also focused on how the finance world could better engage women. Maybe, it's just the Bay Area, but all of these women are interested in the private markets, including angel investing and putting money into venture, private equity and hedge funds. The group discussed banding together to buy into funds with seven digit minimums. First things first: women want to feel more secure with the logistical aspects of their financial picture, like estate planning and life insurance. Then, they'd be ready to move on to "high-class" problems, such as identifying the right private equity fund to invest in. Reminders for financial advisers: women grow weary of feeling that their adviser uses too much jargon, that they have to push to get clarity on fees or more cooperation on values based investing. From our survey (currently, we have 64 respondents. I'll write more about the survey after we get 100 responses), affluent women want to see a vastly improved financial services landscape. Over 50% responded that financial institutions "give me a headache" or worse. Some of the features they'd like to see: clear, simple language (81%), greater transparency on fees (80%), to invest my assets to align with my values (91%), more competence and/or confidence with money and investing (90.0%) and many more eye-popping findings. Note that this is a biased sample. Over 1/3 of respondents have more than $1 million in liquid assets.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What Do Women Want?

Studies show that women are not satisfied with current offerings for managing their wealth. 70% of women with wealth managers believe that their advisor should take a more female-centric approach (BCG Survey, 2010)and more generally, 84% of women feel misunderstood by investment marketers ( Considering that 75% of the nation's wealth is controlled by women over age 50 (MassMutual Financial Group, 2007), this seems...dumb.

I've put together a small group of affluent women to find out what would make them happy, satisfied customers. Our first meeting last week was super-charged with energy and excitement. We talked about looking at money from the perspective of meaning and values which everyone felt was inspiring. Once women have financial security, they want a whole lot more than charts and risk tolerance from their money.

Women are interested in
•Sharing ideas and their relationship to money with a trusted group of peers, within the context of protecting their privacy
•Security – want to protect resources first, then be more adventuresome.
•Trusted long-term relationships with financial providers, eg, a longstanding family accountant who knows all the family members and the family's financial history.
•Communication within family – not finding financial skeletons in the closet from the generation above, working with spouse to achieve goals and leaving a legacy that gives freedom and flexibility to children while not reducing their children’s desire for success.
•Building knowledge around how to invest assets that align with their deeply held values “doing good while doing well”. I call this "premium with a purpose".
•Showing leadership in investing in more meaning-driven ways.

I'm looking forward to our next gathering in a few weeks.

I will be sending out a survey to a wide audience of women investors this week to find out more about their desires around aligning their values and wealth. Check back for a discussion of the results in early May!

If interested in participating in a discussion group or learning more, drop me a line at

Emerge Women Poised to Take Back the Maine House

Thrilled that 25 Emerge women are running for office in Maine and that several Emerge women are running for the State House. This article suggests that the Emerge women could be the key to flipping the Maine State House from Republicans to Democrats. We decided to start an Emerge program in Maine in 2006 because races in Maine are affordable. Looks like we're seeing the payoff already!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Big Opportunity for Financial Services and Products for Women

The world of finance is cold and uninspiring to women. Beyond the heart-warming photos of aging couples swanning into retirement along the beach, financial services and products have not been designed well to suit women. This article speaks to some new approaches to court women in ways that suit them, i.e., creating learning and networking environments that are not "the pink and shrink" style of past efforts.

I've also been looking for financial products that speak more specifically to women's values around holding up "half the sky". In the area of mutual funds, I've found just one mutual fund that is focused on women's leadership (many CSR funds include diversity and positive corporate policies that affect women) called the PAX women's fund. From the poor financial returns, it appears that the managers were more pioneer than performance-driven. I think there's also a huge opportunity here. After all, if there are affinity funds for Lutherans to invest together, there's likely a market for women to do the same, at market returns.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Launching a Fund for Bay Area Women Angels

I am launching a small seed stage fund with Julie Chin for SF Bay Area women angels. We will invest in Bay Area technology companies and will not have a gender lens on the equity of the founding team. This is a small group of well-connected visionary women with backgrounds in engineering, design, corporate development, business development, marketing, and PR, from the leading technology companies (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Zynga) and accomplished start-up entrepreneurs and venture capital investors. We are giving preference to women who are excited to add value to companies through strategic advice and introductions. We believe these key members of the start-up ecosystem will deliver superior returns through their grasp of the future direction of technology. We also believe that women's different approaches to investing, ie, systems thinking, impact orientation and investors as consumer (ie, don't need to go home and ask the spouse to "get" it) will result in top returns. Let me know of any women angels that we should be engaging.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why I Invested in the Icebreak

I recently invested in the, an Internet service that allows couples to improve their relationship through a series of weekly ratings and thought-provoking questions.

1. I think the overall concept and market opportunity are huge. And, so far there are no clear leaders in the market. Women are the target market and women have an infinite amount of interest, perhaps even an existential level of interest, in their primary relationship. So, the service will have a strong level of engagement. Men are the tag-along audience and as Dave McClure said, "the Icebreak will help husbands get out of the doghouse and get laid". The relationship self-help market is enormous and the Icebreak can take relationships into the world of "the Quantified Self". I also think the next phase of the web will move up Maslow's hierarchy from stuff to self-actualization and this service fits nicely into that trend.

2. The co-founders Christina Brodbeck and Dwipal Desai are a great duo and they are creating a great team. They were both on the founding team of Youtube and bring lots of UI and engineering experience.

3. They have a clear and credible revenue model. Additionally, as they gain traction and engagement, they are a great acquisition target.

Lastly, for me, as a woman investor, I love to see women co-founders target women as consumers, and even better, targeting women at their very core.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Homophily Matters in Investing

According to Wikipedia, homophily (i.e., "love of the same") is the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others. The presence of homophily has been discovered in a vast array of network studies. Within their extensive review paper, sociologists McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook (2001) cite over one hundred studies that have observed homophily in some form or another. These include age, gender, class, organizational role, and so forth.

Homophily matters for investing in start-ups, too. Women entrepreneurs get 15% of angel investments and also represent 15% of angels. Likewise, women entrepeneurs receive 6-10% of venture investments and represent 7% of venture capital investors.

When I see business plans for products or services that I can't see using, it's harder for me to really believe in its potential for traction.

I went to the Game Developer's Conference a couple weeks ago and met several game developers, who all proudly showed me their latest game on their iphones. The men showed me casual games themed with toy canonns and monsters and the women showed me carbon-eating sprites and earnest children's games. While I loved the energy of each of the game developers that showed me their games, I was more interested in the potential for the games that my niece likes to play. And, in the end, it's women who are the buyers in casual gaming.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Focus on Women Consumers = the New Social Venture Capital

The central reasons to focus on women as your primary consumer are only growing. First, they are the dominant consumer in the US in almost all categories (averaging over 80% across categories). In addition, they are more profitable consumers because women have greater loyalty and a greater tendency to be the source of referrals. This viral benefit is now being amplified by women's larger presence in social networking, as discussed in this article by Aileen Lee.

Another interesting advantage is women's social values. According to Marti Barletta's fabulous book "Marketing to Women" (which I've discussed in earlier posts), women buy into cause marketing at higher rates than men, 77% to 64%. Women care more about a corporate halo, ie, companies that care about the environment, community charities, etc and spend accordingly. And, 85% of women list "Make the world a better place" as their primary aspiration. When companies really listen to the extent of women's altruism, they will, by definition, provide products and services that "make the world a better place."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why Women Rule the Internet

Here's an article in Techcrunch by Aileen Lee at Kleiner Perkins that fabulously summarizes the data on women's dominance in online consumption and social behaviors. Interestingly, the initial comments on this article bemoan Lee's observations as some sort of tiresome and perhaps icky feminism.

This misses the point. Lee is making the business case that women's behavior is the key to customer acquisition and revenue. She suggests that companies spend more time making sure their female customers are happy with product/service offerings. This all seems obvious, but given the comment thread of resistance, it may be still be a winning and differentiating strategy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Design and the “Extreme User”

I’m curious about how the world would be different if women held half of the positions in leadership, design, product management, politics, etc. Let’s imagine that this had been the case for the past 50 years or take any number of years over 25, ie, a generation. It’s a thought experiment and I think it’s one that would lead to incredible revelations on how the world is designed, at times, by default, mostly because women weren’t there. If one were to unpeel these layers, I think one would find a bonanza of unexpected and potentially huge business opportunities.

On some level, the conversation I want to have is not even about gender. It’s about conceiving and designing systems, products and services for the more extreme user and thereby pleasing everyone. A great example is the OXO brand of kitchenware which was designed for consumers with arthritic hands. It turns out that everybody likes easy to use can-openers and the brand expanded far beyond its original intended niche user. This was such an epiphany that I wondered what if everything were made for the extreme user, whoever that might be in each case?

Decision-making theory suggests that women are often the extreme user, because they have more criteria for a product or service than men. In a classic example used by Marti Barletta in her book “Marketing to Women”, men considered 2 or 3 factors when selecting a cell phone. Women may share the same 2-3 top criteria, but during their “helical” decision-making process, they might add 4 more criteria and additionally want to have the object in the color blue.

Any other examples come to mind?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Now is a Great Time for Women in Tecnology and Business

The evidence that women improve business performance and decision-making continues to pile up. A Kennedy school conference in October presented the business case for closing the gender gap. A recent MIT study shows that small groups demonstrate distinctive ‘collective intelligence’ when facing difficult tasks and that the tendency to cooperate effectively, unsurprisingly, is linked to the number of women in a group.

But "more women = better decisions and performance" is an abstraction and won't deliver daily mojo for women to take on new and challenging roles.

Recently, I've been excited by some business ideas that I've heard from women that flow directly from their unique insights as women. One is a web service that allows individuals to poll their friends on questions, and perhaps quite personal matters, such as, "Should I get reconstructive surgery?". Another friend is providing a solution for family-oriented bank accounts, as an expansion of convenience from individual or spousal accounts.

These ideas made me think about the wide world of products and services that have not yet been dreamed up because women aren't around to have their unique "a-ha" moments. Women average 10% of executive teams across sectors and 6% of venture-capital backed companies. And yet women are spendy. They control 85% of purchases in the US. In this gap is money and opportunity.

Times are a-changing. As venture capitalist Fred Wilson notes on his blog, AVC, the future of innovation in technology will be driven by creativity, and less by the small percentage of folks with Engineering and Computer Science degrees, areas which have been dominated by men.

Marketing to Women is coming of age though it is a surprisingly recent phenomena. The best book on this topic is the easy to remember title: "Marketing to Women" by Marti Barletta. Interestingly, I haven't been able to find any books or writing that speaks to creating/designing products or services for women. If the "naughts" were about marketing to women, creating products and services for women will be the key to market share in the next decade.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hello America: It Matters Which Women We Elect to Office

Below, I've copied an article I wrote with Dorka Keehn on Alternet.

As we push to get more women elected, we need to make sure they care about the right issues.

June 24, 2010

When the results came in from the recent primary elections, the media went haywire calling it "ladies night" and a "new year of the women," primarily because several wealthy, high-profile conservative women were nominated, in some cases to run against female incumbents.

Well, in terms of proclaiming a new "year of the woman," we say, wait just one moment.

Yes, we need more women in office -- females make up 51 percent of the population and Congress only has 17 percent women -- so there is plenty of room for improvement, at the state and local level as well. And yes, as founders of Emerge America, an organization that trains Democratic women to run for office, we are thrilled that there are a significant number of female candidates running for office this year. However, we aren't prepared to call it the "year of the woman," unless those women who are elected care about the issues that will actually move a progressive agenda on issues like the environment, health care and the economy.

There is a long history of women taking advantage of the rights won by women who came before them, but who are hostile to progressive goals. Women actually fought against women's right to vote, women's sexual freedom, equal educational opportunity, and of course, the Equal Rights Amendment.

If we want to make our world a better place, we want candidates who care about our air and water, have empathy for our immigrant sisters from other countries, believe in equal pay for equal work and want to make government more transparent and responsive.

We must increase the number of women Democrats in elected office. When Democratic women are elected, they play a significant role in shaping progressive policies that will benefit women across the board, including poor women. These women candidates are more likely than men and their conservative counterparts to bring citizens into the political process, to opt for open government, and to be responsive to groups previously denied access to the benefits of society.

Women introduce more legislation and co-sponsor more bills than male members, but what kind of bills is also important. We want female leaders who will lead the charge on "women friendly" issues like child-care, and be at the forefront of policies on the economy, health care, the environment and human rights.

With President Obama's landmark health care reform, all Democratic female senators and members of the House except for one congresswoman ensured its victory. And the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act passed with a tight vote supported by 66 Democratic congresswomen's votes, while 40 Democratic congressmen opposed it.

We are not making the case that women are somehow inherently better than men. Research has steadily showed that diverse groups of people make better decisions than like-minded groups due to different perspectives and thought processes. To make the best policy decisions, we need women at every table and we need them in big numbers.

We also aren’t making the case that women are somehow more moral than men in preferring progressive policies. Research at Stanford show that men prefer “hierarchy enhancing” policies and women are more supportive than men of “hierarchy attenuating policies," such as government-sponsored health care, guaranteed jobs for all or greater aid to poor children. They are more likely to agree with statements such as "if people were treated more equally, we would have fewer problems in this country." Women’s preferences are aligned with a progressive agenda and relate to why Republican women sometimes cross party lines to support Democratic legislation.

While the United States holds itself out as a model democracy, it ranks 82nd in the world for women in elected office behind Mexico, China and Pakistan. We push other countries such as Iraq to insert a 25 percent quota for female representation into its constitution, but the United States opposes such requirements for its own government.

What's missing? Women who care need to be recruited and elected to public office. Emerge America is the only organization that gives Democratic women the tools to win: an in-depth training program and a powerful political network. Unlike Republican recruitment, we actively reach out to diverse female leaders and 40 percent of our graduates are women of color. Founded in 2002, Emerge is currently in nine states with plans to expand its program across the country. In such a short time close to 50 percent of our alumnae have already run for office and 60 percent of them have won.

Recently Arianna Huffington celebrated with hundreds of Emerge graduates and their supporters in San Francisco. Her essential message was that it is up to us to seize the moment: "We must all look for the leadership within ourselves and not wait for the knight on a white charger to come and save us."

That is what we are doing at Emerge: Providing the environment and the tools so that committed women with strong human values will look inside themselves and say, Yes, I want to make change. Getting trained and elected to office is one very important way to make that happen.

Marya Stark is the board chair and a founder of Emerge America. She is a principal at Allegory, Inc., a leadership and communications training company. Dorka Keehn is the board co-Chair and a founder of Emerge America. She is currently writing a book, 'Eco-Amazons,' on American women environmental leaders to be published in spring 2011.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Red or Blue: Which Party Truly Needs its Women?

I'm reposting my article from the Huffington Post which I wrote with my Emerge America co-chair Dorka Keehn.

We are intrigued by the sudden surge of Republican women candidates at the national level. As founders of EMERGE AMERICA, an organization that trains Democratic women to run for office, we are keenly aware of the ebb and flow of support for increasing the percentage of women in elected office. But if creating a more transparent government and moving a progressive agenda are the goals, increasing the number of women Democrats in elected office should be a central strategy.

Traditionally, women are viewed as more liberal than men. This gives the advantage to Democrat female candidates and hurts their Republican counterparts. When women are elected, they play a significant role in shaping progressive policy. They are more likely than men to bring citizens into the political process, to opt for open government, and to be responsive to groups previously denied access.

Women also introduce more legislation and co-sponsor more bills than male members. While female electeds lead the charge on "women friendly" issues like child-care, they also are at the forefront of policies regarding the economy, health care, the environment and human rights. Looking at the recent Senate land mine ban, 68 members supported it, which included 100% of the women but only 51% of the men. With President Obama's landmark health care reform, all Democratic female senators and members of the House except for one congresswoman insured its victory. And the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act passed with a tight vote supported by 66 Democratic congresswomen's votes, while 40 Democratic congressmen opposed it.

While the United States holds itself out as a model democracy, it ranks 82nd in the world for women in elected office behind Mexico, China and Pakistan. We push other countries such as Iraq to insert a 25% quota for female representation into its constitution, but the United States opposes such requirements for its own government and at 17% falls far short of its mandates for other countries.

What's missing? Women, like men, need to be recruited to run for public office. Emerge America is the only organization that gives Democratic women the tools to win: an in-depth training program and a powerful political network. Unlike Republican recruitment, we actively outreach to diverse female leaders and 40% of our graduates are women of color. Founded in 2002, Emerge is currently in 9 states with plans to expand its program across the country. In such a short time close to 50% of our alumnae have already run for office and 60% of them have won.

While supporting women candidates may seem a secondary concern for many, electing more Democratic women is the most effective long-term strategy for shaping and passing a progressive agenda and for creating a more transparent democracy.

Dorka Keehn is the Board co-Chair and a co-Founder of Emerge America. She is currently writing a book, ECO AMAZONS, on American women environmental leaders to be published in Spring 2011.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The New Irrational But Measured Self

Remember the good old days when economists thought that people maximized their utility in rational ways? Those knowing days were so pleasingly logical and elegant. Now, it seems that every day, there's new research showing how humans are ruled by irrationality. Books like "Predictably Irrational", "How We Decide" and "Sway: The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior" have all hit the bestseller list in recent years.

Corporations, which supposedly have shareholders or the bottom line to keep us rational are also (predictably) irrational. According to a Level Playing Field Institute Report, "unfairness in the work place costs employers $64 billion on an annual basis, nearly equivalent to the 2006 combined revenues of Google, Goldman Sachs, and Starbucks." That seems pretty irrational.

This weekend's NYTimes magazine article on the Data-Driven Life describes individuals who have figured out a way to improve thier decision-making by recording the smallest details of thier daily life. For example, a man who wanted to decide whether to quit drinking coffee recorded precisely how much coffee he drank and how much he accomplished. The results were clear: coffee increased his productivity substantially. There's even a website for those that record the minutiae of their life called the "Quantified Self".

Since we can't turn back the clocks and believe that we are rational, we can at least seek to more clearly observe our irrationality and measure away the craziest parts.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Keeping Women in Top Jobs: Are We Closer Than We Think

An acquaintance told me that she'd left her top 10 law firm as a mid-level associate after she was told she shouldn't "plan on going to any wedding that isn't your own". I was struck by this remark being made at this point, a decade into all the efforts that tony law firms make to keep their female associates. The translation is clear: "To make it here, you have to be willing to sacrifice everything".

For a woman, not being able to show up at a close friend's wedding is practically an existential crisis. "If I can't value my friendships, who am I?" Women's relationships are important to them, not just on an "emotional" level, but on a molecular and neurological level. Brain science increasingly tells us that women's health suffers if their relationships are at risk - unlike men. While men also place high value on their friendships, their physical well-being is not at stake.

With the untethering that blackberries provide, there's limited utility in rigid rules that are more based on a hazing attitude than work requirements. When I mention this to my CEO friends, mostly, they say "as long as my attorney/investment banker is available or if they have a backup, I don't care where they are."

If we substitute an ethos of "super hard work" for "sacrifice your first born (somewhat literally)," top firms will be better able to attract and retain top women talent. And firms beware, with the Millenial generation, this applies to both men and women.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Emerge: Game Changer in Oregon

The Emerge model works. In just ten months, the Emerge Oregon Executive Director Kathryn Firestone and the Board of Directors, led by Board Chair Elisa Dozono have put together a movement. A "Who's Who" in Oregon politics including Secretary of State Kate Brown, Speaker of the House Dave Hunt and Majority Leader Mary Nolan called Emerge Oregon "a game-changer for Oregon" at the kick-off cocktail party on Saturday.

A 2009 graduate of the program, Joelle Davis, who is running for the Oregon state legislator brought down the house with her commanding passion. I was the closer for the event and in my appeal for donations, I asked for money to prevent another Martha Coakley. The audience got it (along with this video that was played). We had a fat four inch stack of checks at the end of the evening.

Earlier in the day, I did the public speaking training for the new Emerge Oregon program members and my first reaction was "Good thing I didn't to apply to the program amongst these women, because I'm not sure I'd have been admitted." And that thought fills me with glee!

Hats off to the Emerge Board for using their birthdays as fundraising goals, eg, Elisa Dozono is raising $40,000 before her 40th birthday and Jane Hill is raising $5,000 before her daughter's 5th birthday.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Robert Reich Appraises Obama's First Year At Emerge Fundraiser

Here's a photo of me introducing Carla Marinucci and Robert Reich. Ms. Marinucci interviewed Professor Reich at a fundraiser for Emerge America last night at Joanna Rees and John Hamm's home (thank you!). Professor Reich suggested that one of Obama's flaws was that he has an "indignity" deficit. He noted that past politicians including Teddy Kennedy and FDR used indignation effectively to wield power. Without indignation, Obama (along with Geithner and Summers) had a tin ear with regards to the bank bailout. He also cautioned against growing cries for populism, and Obama's call for a budget freeze. He noted that Keynes needs to be exhumed! He also emphasized Williams Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech brand of populism: building democracy and the economy with the masses.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Accidental Entrepeneurs

Businessweek's cover story "The Disposable Worker" describes a longstanding shift of the fixed costs of labor from companies to individuals. Employers increasingly value flexibility and the ability to tie their labor costs to market conditions. This means a significant shift from expensive permanent employees with benefits to part-time contractors with no benefits, retirement, vacation or job security.

This shift may partially explain the increased malaise in the America workforce. The Jan 5 Conference Board survey stood at the lowest level of job satisfaction in 22 years - only 45% of workers were satisfied with their work. Ouch! Do you know what percent of your employees are fully engaged?

Individuals will need a more entrepeneurial view of their career. And, I'm not just talking about "professional" workers. They should be prepared to market themselves on an ongoing basis and invest in their leadership skills so that they are more effective when they have work assignments. Companies will also need to invest in keeping the morale of their remaining "permanent" employees high.