Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lessons from Viking women

This past weekend former flight attendant and union organizer Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (right) was elected prime minister of Iceland, the first woman Prime Minister of Iceland (pop. ~300,000) and the world’s first openly gay leader. She took over on an interim basis in February, after widespread protests toppled the government in the wake of the country’s (and the world's) financial collapse.

Her cabinet is also noteworthy due to the fact that it contains an equal number of female and male ministers, the third such in the world, and Jóhanna’s put women in charge of the country’s two ailing national banks. Not to push this point too hard, but this is better than Obama is doing right now on gender in the administration (currently 7 out of 22 “Cabinet level” appointments are women).

But it’s not just Jóhanna that’s shaking things up in the after math of the country’s financial collapse. And believe me, she is.

Other women executives are rising to fill the vacuum left from the banking collapse.

Last month, WaPo and Vanity Fair ran profiles about Icelandic banker Kristín Pétursdóttir, who quit her job in 2006 as an executive for a large European bank to start her own investment management firm (h/t ESL).

From Vanity Fair:
Today her firm is, among other things, one of the very few profitable financial businesses left in Iceland. After the stock exchange collapsed, the money flooded in. A few days before we met, for instance, she heard banging on the front door early one morning and opened it to discover a little old man. “I’m so fed up with this whole system,” he said. “I just want some women to take care of my money.”
Perhaps the most famous Icelander Björk is assisting in helping to get Iceland back on track by investing in Pétursdóttir’s investment fund, co-founded by Halla Tómasdóttir, the former managing director of the Iceland Chamber of Commerce.

Halla explains how they aim to bring "feminine sensibility" to banking:
"We have five core feminine values. First, risk awareness: we will not invest in things we don't understand. Second, profit with principles - we like a wider definition so it is not just economic profit, but a positive social and environmental impact. Third, emotional capital. When we invest, we do an emotional due diligence - or check on the company - we look at the people, at whether the corporate culture is an asset or a liability. Fourth, straight talking. We believe the language of finance should be accessible, and not part of the alienating nature of banking culture. Fifth, independence. We would like to see women increasingly financially independent, because with that comes the greatest freedom to be who you want to be, but also unbiased advice."
This may not be an international trend, but I like the direction that Iceland is taking. And I hope that other countries and other women will take some cues from our Viking sisters.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You’re just a step on the boss man’s ladder

Happy Equal Pay Day!

Today, April 28, Equal Pay Day, marks the day in 2009 when the average woman’s wages will finally catch up with those paid to the average man in 2008. The day serves as an important reminder of the persistent wage gap and the urgent need to take action to ensure that women can receive equal pay for equal work.

For full-time, year-round workers, women are paid on average only 78 percent of what men are paid; for women of color, the gap is significantly wider. These wage gaps stubbornly remain despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, and a variety of legislation prohibiting employment discrimination.

Our very own Massachusetts heroine Evelyn F. Murphy started an effort to help address the wage gap, through legislative action, changes by workplace management and personal “wage clubs”. Click here for useful tips on how to address gender disparities in wages today.

So today, “pour yourself a cup of ambition” and let Dolly help take it away (h/t to ESL and The Duplex):

Monday, April 27, 2009

Clever women are dangerous women*

Lots of great articles recently about some kick ass women:

Before Carrie there was Helen Gurley Brown.
An author in the 60s of “Sex and the Single Girl” and “Bad Girls Go Everywhere” and the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine for 32 years, Ms. Brown pushed the envelope for acceptable behavior for single women. My favorite quotes about Ms. Brown: "She eventually came to realize that success and power produced their own beauty" and “Being smart about money is sexy.”

“Cleopatra has gone down in history as a wanton seductress. She is the original bad girl, the Monica Lewinsky of the ancient world. And all because she turns up at one of the most dangerous intersections in history, that of women and power.”

Plain Talkin’ from The Plain Dealer
I’m just now starting to read through some of the (free) archives available for The Plain Dealer columnist Regina Brett who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a Midwestern gal in the mix for this nomination. While the Prize went to Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post for “his eloquent columns on the 2008 presidential campaign that focus on the election of the first African-American president” (tough to compete with that!), she was a finalist with Paul Krugman of The New York Times for his coverage of the recession.

The Pulitzer committee said she was a finalist “for her range of compelling columns that move the heart, challenge authority and often trigger action while giving readers deeper insight into life’s challenges.” I have a feeling she’s generally more conservative, politically, than I am, but I’m still excited to check her out.

Pitch Perfect
It’s not often enough that young women are recognized for their sports prowess, so I had a nice smile when I read about Mackenzie Brown. Last Tuesday, twelve-year-old Mackenzie pitched a no-hitter against 18 batters (all of them boys) while pitching for her local Bayonne, New Jersey, Little League team. Her reward (besides the pleasure of a game well played)? Throwing the opening pitch for the Mets last Saturday. Well played, Mackenzie.


In a voice of her own

I was so proud to see Hillary testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week. She was smart, articulate and never wavered in her testimony before a not-always-friendly audience, as some of the Republican Committee members took this as an opportunity to beat their pro-life drum about foreign aid for women’s health.

This video exchange with New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith makes me remember why I’m so proud to have voted for Hillary, and why I’m thrilled with having her voice as the leading voice on foreign affairs.

I would be remiss for not mentioning that a Nebraska Congressman was also schooled by the SOS. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry asked: "Is forcing U.S. taxpayers to fund abortion in keeping with the highest values of the United States of America?"

To which Hillary responded that she had a "fundamental disagreement" with the Nebraska Republican. She said it's the administration's view that family planning is an important part of women's health. And she said reproductive health includes access to abortion, which she said "should be safe, legal and rare."

Well done.