Friday, January 30, 2009

1/2 Full or 1/2 Empty?

I’ve been cautiously optimistic about the new Obama administration. While he wasn’t my first pick in the Democratic primary, I’m relieved to both have Dubya out of the White House and to have a Democratic president.

So this pains me to write: Obama dropped the ball in the stimulus package. For all of his promises of “bringing people together” and removing pork (no earmarks!), the bill has effectively turned into a Kitchen Sink bill. Every Democratic pet cause has been thrown into this puppy.

And the only thing that has been thrown out? Family planning funding.

While I tend to agree that money towards family planning is not going to provide short term stimulus to the economy, I don’t think funding to the National Endowment for the Arts or the Teacher Incentive Fund do either. Also, let me point out that a chunk of the funds are for so-called “shovel ready” projects, which will primarily benefit blue collar men.

I can be a political pragmatist. I understand the need for compromise to bridge divides and bring consensus. However, what did President Obama receive for yielding to the conservative pressure to remove family planning from the bill? Not one single Republican vote. Why do women have to be sacrificed for the illusion of post-partisanship?

(See also, Ellen Goodman's piece in the Boston Globe today: The endless game of family planning ping-pong).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An exclusive “knitting club”

Check out today’s Politico piece about the daily phone calls of Rahm Emanuel, James Carville, George Stephanopoulos and Paul Begala (“Power, politics, gossip on daily call”). This is clearly a powerful force of friends in DC these days. Al Hunt, the Washington bureau chief for Bloomberg says in the article: “There is no parallel, he said, to a group of friends who has remained so central to the daily shaping of Washington conversation as these Clinton-era comrades.”

Perhaps it’s just me, but I was disappointed to see yet another “boy’s club” that women are conspicuously absent from. It’s just another reminder that no matter how many barriers fall and women are allowed on the golf courses, in exclusive power lunch spots, and powerful Ivy League clubs, the key decision makers still so strongly remain all male.

Some other interesting paragraphs from the article:
Mary Matalin, who as Carville’s wife has overheard probably thousands of the group’s calls, describes the conversation as more profane, more sports-centric versions of a knitting club.

“They talk like they are girls,” she said. “The conversations start in the middle and they end in the middle, and if they talk at night, they’ll start in the morning with no break in the flow.”

“To me, the first purpose is friendship,” said Matalin, “and the second purpose is information-sharing.”

I guess my point is: Wouldn’t it be great if powerful friendships and information sharing was more co-ed?

Monday, January 26, 2009

There is no place like Nebraska

I read with home state pride this article in today’s New York Times on my morning commute: A World Away From Wall Street, a Bank and a Robber. This human interest piece in the weekly NYTime’s “This Land” column focused on a bank robbing in a rural Nebraska town with a population of 136.

There are so many things that I loved about this article:

1) The bank is a family operated business with six employees, and the owners each have part-time jobs to supplement their income.

2) I loved the description of the bank give-aways in the lobby:
A rack of candy canes and complimentary yardsticks jutting from a bucket by the door.
My mother likes to send me various local business give-aways (bottle opener key chains, fly swatters, calendars that stick on your car dashboard, etc.) as holiday stocking stuffers.

3) The community response to the robbery is so frickin’ charming:
The bank locked down, and someone called 911. Within nine minutes the sheriff’s deputies arrived. Soon came the first of many calls of concern and support, a few of which, a smiling Mr. Van Cleef remembers, went like this: “Hear you’ve been robbed. Can I bring you over a pie?”

As much as I love being a city girl, I love reading these types of articles to remind of the simple life of rural America. Going on my fifth year in the big city of Boston, I still have moments of adjustment. My instinct when hearing of any friend in crisis is still to pick up some disposable aluminum trays and bake a casserole. Sigh. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Vision and frenemies

Two articles I’ve read this week about two very different obstacles that women face when advancing their careers:

1) First, last a Preoccupations column in the NYTimes describes the “pink elephant” of sisterhood infighting. While her article was noticeably lacking in stats and surveys, I did find myself relating to this piece more than I’d like to admit. There’s a very fine line between “colleague” and “frenemy”.
2) To add to this discussion, Harvard Business Review has an excellent piece in this month’s issue: Women and the Vision Thing. This data rich article (I wouldn’t expect anything less from HBR!) was an excellent analysis of a key character trait missing from many women leaders: Vision. While women executives rank as high or higher in most other categories of leadership against their male counterparts – such as energizing, team building, tenacity, and emotional intelligence – they lacked the key trait of “envisioning”. Again, this piece resonated. I find myself often trying to balance simply reciting information and being prepared to answer questions with trying to “think out of the box” and help formulate strategy. As I’m still young in my career, the strategy piece isn’t expected of me, but this piece helped me realize that in order to continue to advance, it will be one day. It’s never too early to practice.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stimulate this

It’s looking likely that the new Economic Stimulus plan will be passed and signed by President Obama very soon.

I did laugh when I watched the “war of the words” unfold over the past month. Is this an “Economic Stimulus” plan or the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan”.
Congressman Barney Frank had a great comment on this re-framing effort at a breakfast last week:

…Congressman Frank mentioned that it was supposed to be called a "recovery" package, rather than "stimulus." "I don't know why," he said, "I'd rather be stimulated than recovered."

Whatever you call it, let's just get it done!

[UPDATE] Just read this great quote from House Minority Leader John Boehner during his meeting with President Obama today that fits in nicely with this theme:

“How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives?” Boehner
asked. “How does that stimulate the economy?”

Hmmm....I'm sure someone can explain this to him. It sure stimulates something.

Senator Gillibrand

Was it another nannygate? Her uncle Ted? Other unknown "personal reasons"? Or simply saving face from not getting picked by Gov. Patterson that made Caroline stop her bid for Hillary’s seat?

We may never know. Here’s a round up of some of the coverage so far today:

Does a Glass Ceiling Persist in Politics? Kennedy's Withdrawal Illustrates a Double Standard, Some Say

Coming Up Short as a Role Model for the Mommy Track

Finally, a real peek at our Valley Girl, Caroline Kennedy

And props to Gov. Patterson who remained committed to his preference of choosing a qualified woman to fill the seat. Representative Kirsten Gillibrand sounds like a dynamic choice, if this excerpt from today's Playbook is any indication:
'She ran against a popular/formidable incumbent in a heavy GOP district very few gave her a chance to win (much of the district was wary of her at the outset b/c she had lived in NYC for a while).... raised a ton of $, was tough as nails, and persevered. Then, managed to win a landslide reelection in the district against the former state party chairman who was independently wealthy. She is very savvy. There is concern among some N.Y. Dems that she is too conservative (already talk of a 2010 primary). But there is no way she would have held onto her district if she voted down-the-line Dem on everything.'
Looking forward to watching her rise to this appointment!

Friday, January 16, 2009

2009 resolution – get to know these chicks

Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails - Boston

Check out this (albeit a bit condescending) feature in the Boston Herald:

The ladies of LUPEC are like many of the cocktails they enjoy: strong and sassy.

...LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) is an organization that endeavors to change the way women think about drinking and the way society thinks about women who drink.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little girl power with your coffee

Sisterhood of the Tumbling Tutus (Awwwww……)

A fun new Boston blog:

Afghan Schoolgirls Undeterred by Attack

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Experience vs. Entitlement

A lot has been written about the merits of Caroline Kennedy jockeying for the New York Senate seat left vacant from Hillary (that’s Madam Secretary Hillary!) Clinton. I’m most uncomfortable with Caroline saying she wouldn’t be willing to campaign for the seat if someone other than her was appointed by Gov. Patterson. I want to see more passion and desire for serving as a U.S. Senator than an unenthusiastic and carefully scripted "I'll do it if I'm asked."

Maureen Dowd really pushed my buttons in her defense of Caroline. This is the same woman who cannot give Hillary the benefit of the doubt if her next book deal depended on it, yet she goes out of her way to find a positive way to spin Caroline's interest in being a Senator.

This piece by Lisa Belkin (I miss her Life’s Work column in the NYTimes!) helped to reel in my knee-jerk anti-Caroline inclination. I appreciated her nuanced look at how “experience” needs to be more inclusive and broadly defined in the modern job market in order to benefit women's careers:
None of this is to say that Caroline Kennedy deserves to be senator, or that she wouldn’t be better off being elected to the post rather than appointed to it...But let’s stop with this talk of inexperience when we mean a range of experiences, many shaped by motherhood. The only way work will become more flexible for everyone, for all of us, is if the untraditional begins to count. Kennedys may not need that. But the rest of us certainly do.

Gentlemen and Gentlewomen!

My favorite madlawprofessor Patricia Williams has a fun piece on how the first female Solicitor General Elena Kagan will challenge gender identity. But probably not in the way you’d expect.

This piece did make me remember going to my spouse’s Massachusetts Bar swearing in 2005. It was awe inspiring to be in the midst of the amazing tradition – signing her name in the same book as the founders of this country, being in historic Faneuil Hall, etc. etc. But one thing that just seemed so odd was the Ring Master costume that the Clerk of the Court was wearing for the ceremony. It wasn’t until afterwards that someone explained she was wearing the traditional “morning jacket” associated with her office. Why stop at the jacket? The court might as well still require attorneys to wear wigs, no?

RIP Stephanie Tubbs Jones

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What a great tribute piece by Matt Bai in the annual NYTimes magazine “Lives They Lived” issue. Well worth the read. And I dare you to keep a dry eye. Truly a 2008 hero for me.

Tubbs Jones wasn’t the only black leader to appear on television or at events for Clinton. Rather, it was her evident passion for the cause — her complete lack of inner conflict, even in private — that made her stand out.

Cruisin' into the New Year

The holidays combined with the cold New England winter and a (relatively) new job, have caused me to lax in my blogging. I’m going to try to catch up with some of the more interesting topics and articles from the past few weeks. -LL

To begin with, check out these bad ass sisters in Congress. I love this piece (even though it was featured in the Sunday Styles section of the NYTimes – shame on you, Times!). These sisters break the mold on what is expected in the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol:
The Sanchezes are the first and only sisters in Congress, a pair of Democrats from Southern California who are famous for their bold personalities, their affinity for spike heels and their ability to stand out amid a sea of gray in the House of Representatives.
For me, the most shocking part of the article wasn’t that Rep. Linda S├ínchez is the first known unmarried, pregnant member of Congress. Rather, it was the revelation that she is only the eighth member of the House to become pregnant while in office. Seriously? Only eight Congresswomen in our country’s history have actually been pregnant while in office? This sheds some light on why women in corporate life struggle with off-ramping their career and work/life balance. We have so few national models to learn from.