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Do we see a pattern here?

Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump

(L-R) Lamar McKay, President BP, Steven Newman, CEO Transocean, Tim Probert, Halliburton

Bernie Ebbers and Ken Lay

Donald Trump and Jesse Ventura

(4 minute read)

What’s going on with older white guys in America?

Is a long, well-worn cultural thread unraveling in the social-economic fabric of America?

Polls for the US presidential election do vary but there is a general consensus that Donald Trump has a 2-to-1 margin over Hillary Clinton with white males, particularly older ones with no college education. The guys pictured above do have college degrees but they are still firmly ensconced in the older white guy category.

Many experts have said that it’s not that Donald Trump is doing a whole lot right (that’s an understatement) rather it’s that he happens to be in the right place at the right time. That place being a disquieted America. Dissatisfied. Disappointed. Disillusioned. Disengaged. Damn angry. And in many ways with good reason. The same experts suggest that Brexit was a result of similar populous sentiments. People feeling much like the character Howard Beale in the 1976 movie, Network, “… mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”

So many have been ignored for so long, passed over and screwed by political and corporate leadership that they have grown to believe that anything is better than the status quo. This is not an overnight shift, a new-found surge to get behind Don Quixote Trump as he rides on his high-horse “Narcissistic,” tilting at windmills. For more than a 100 million Americans, the reality of being-on-the-short-end-of-the-stick has been a way of life for decades (actually centuries) and the status quo has always been life imitating a swamp full of alligators. And the status quo didn’t originate with Hillary Clinton or Obama or Carter or Roosevelt. It started long before.

In 1776, Washington was 42, Adams 41, Jefferson 33 and needless to say, all white. And that’s the way it was. Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Martha Jefferson and all women new their place – and it wasn’t in leadership. And the blacks, they were slaves. Thomas Jefferson, who penned that clarion phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” was lying. He owned 130 slaves. The Founding Fathers, as they are fondly acclaimed, not only established a national foundation and rule of law, they established an enduring status quo. White guys rule, women follow, women don’t vote, blacks are not counted, and everything we have written in the Constitution lasts in perpetuity (as adopted by “strict constructionists” today).

These legendary, white father figures are embedded in the American culture and have created a historical arc that has been sustained to this day through the stories of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan.

The United States of America is not the same united bunch of people that it has been for almost two and a half centuries – a white cohort led by a bunch of mostly old, white guys. By mid-century the non-whites will be in the majority and most of the current 75 million “Boomers” will be dead. As Bob Dylan said, “The Times They Are a-Changin.”

Summers and Bernanke

Summers and Bernanke

 What’s ailing them?

Is it this looming demographic reality that has so many older white guys concerned, worried, insecure? Do they sense the evolutionary threat to centuries of their dominance? Are they clinging to their inherited beliefs? Do they think that the Mayflower and Ellis Island were symbols of a rights of passage that gave them dominion over all? Do they actually believe they are best suited to lead. To maintain their status quo?

More than ten million white people can trace part of their ancestry back to the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 and over 35 million whites have at least one ancestor who passed through the Ellis Island immigration station, which processed arriving immigrants from 1892 until 1954.

Are the descendants of the immigrant white men who tamed the Wild, Wild West now afraid of losing control to the new immigrants? Are they so frightened that they would elect any cowboy as sheriff or mythical Moses to try and make the promise land great again? Is it possible that just about anyone could come down from the mountain (or his Fifth Avenue gold tower) and say, “Only I can do it … Believe me.” And, presto, the spiritual flame of white entitlement would once again be ablaze.

We want someone who can help us rebel against our problems and lead us into the Promised Land. – Clotaire Rapaille

Ancestry, inheritance, royal lineage and racism create in human beings a narcissistic, self-deluded sense of entitlement and a fierce defense of the status quo. It has spawned genocide and wars since time began. After 400-500 years of American history, are we seeing the original white immigrants becoming increasingly afraid of losing control of the land they stole from the natives? Do they see this as a last stand (we know what happened to Custer)?

Donald Trump has poked the bear and hit older white guys over the head with a blunt force object – fear. And fear raises one of two innate human responses: Fight or flight. And since there’s no place to run to, millions of older, white guys are fighting, not for Donald Trump, but against the unknown, untried, unimaginable – an America that is not predominantly white, heterosexual, Christian and led by good ol’white boys.

Fear trumps whatever comes second
The long slide of white, male supremacy into marginalized insecurity has generated a typical human reaction – worry, fear, anger – but how does that translate into desperation and stupidity? How, when Trump’s flaws, failings and, yes, stupidity, are so obvious, so glaring, so frightening, can smart white guys support him? How can a decision to vote “anybody but Clinton” be intelligently rationalized?

If they simply ask the right question perhaps they’ll have a better chance of coming up with a better answer. Ask this:

As good, staunch, smart – wise – Republicans, why would it not be better to “let” Clinton win and focus on running the right Republican candidate in 2020, one who can tap into the Zeitgeist and  populous movement, one who can create a big tent that includes older white guys, one who is much smarter, more stable and a quintessential leader for the majority of Americans? Someone who is the opposite of divisive, deluded, dysfunctional, dangerous Donald Trump?

Or perhaps they have a better question?

By | August 18th, 2016|Categories: Current Events, Politics, Social|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Is the gender gap an evolutionary problem?

(7 minute read)

The year was 2134:

Once upon a time, back in 2016, a few good men and women had a chance to make a historic course-correction, to tip the scales in favor of the future of humankind. At the time, they knew what was needed, they knew the merits and weight of the task, they needed only to act, to do what they knew was right. However, there were many doubters who wondered if the men and women of the early 21st century had learned enough and developed their intellectual capacity to a level that they could overcome their deeply embedded evolutionary emotions?

Could the male species see the folly of their ways and fully collaborate with the women and together place all women in positions of equal status with men, thereby, eliminating the “gender gap” that was threatening the very survival of the species?

2016:

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap report, women are still a staggering 118 years away from closing the gender gap — in terms of labor market opportunity, education, health, and political clout. 118 years!

 

This unacceptable, almost evolutionary time frame is cited in a research report, When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive, that states: “We can — and must — do better, and employers and leaders have a critical role to play. The time has come for us to think and act differently. To break through the inertia and accelerate progress, organizations need actual behavioral change on the individual level — beginning with leaders and progressing peer by peer to create real momentum for change.”[1]

The future. Can we get there from here without women in the lead?

 We need the three Ws: women, water, and well-being. – Muhtar Kent, CEO, Coca-Cola

The numbers tell a tale of a male dominated civilization that struggles to adapt, stuck in its own Darwinian quicksand. Since the time of the Peking Man, we have relegated more than half the species – women – to a non-leadership role as we’ve built human societies that have grown exponentially at great cost to our long-term survival. If history has taught us anything, it is that regardless of what our male leadership has achieved, it has been at great cost. And it has been with few – very few – women in leadership.

At this point in our evolution is it not time to change how we do things, to develop a more balanced strategy, to let the women lead?

Despite success (we’ve made significant progress), we know we’re not in a good place. And short of having Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos shuttle us to new urban development on Mars, we need to solve some big problems right here on planet earth (i.e., climate change, nuclear war, viral contagions, terrorism, population, pollution, poverty, starvation, etc.). And to do this we need many more women in charge. Let’s think of it as a pilot project, at least for the next 118 years.

We need to start now! Because we have a long way to go in a short period of time. Here are a few numbers to highlight how far behind we are:

  • In the 10 years since the World Economic Forum began measuring the economic gender gap it has narrowed by only 3% globally.
  • Women make up only 35% of the average company’s workforce at the professional level and above.
  • Female representation declines as career level rises. Globally, women make up 33% of managers, 26% of senior managers, and only 20% of executives.
  • There is an increased focus on hiring and promoting women into executive ranks, seemingly driven by regulation and heightened media attention. [That’s the non-adaptive, Darwinian male brain at work].
  • Current female hiring, promotion, and retention are insufficient to create gender equality over the next decade. [Not sure how they square this with their 118 year statement in the same report?].
  • Improvements in hiring at the highest levels of the organization are not extending to lower levels.
  • The progress made over our 2014 data does not appear to be the result of systemic improvements in good practices that will support long-term success. Instead, it seems to result from ad hoc actions, such as increased hiring at the top.[2]
  • In 2015, in the United States Congress, 104 women hold seats, 19.4% of the 535 members; 20 women (20%) serve in the United States Senate, and 84 women (19.3%) serve in the United States House of Representatives. Four women delegates also represent American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands in the House of Representatives.[3]
  • In 2015, Canada elected 88 female Members of Parliament, representing 26 per cent, a 1% increase over 2011.[4] Prime Minister Trudeau’s cabinet has 31 members, 15 women (50%). [5]
  • In 2015, Britain elected 191 women out of 650 Members of Parliament, representing 29%, up from 23% in the previous election.

 

More business leaders are talking about the gender gap (not enough), not simply to benefit business but to build a better world than we have done so far. Make no mistake, it is, in large part, because of the imbalance in male/female leadership. As Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia say in their great book, Shakti Leadership: “The origin of the problem is crystal clear: societies around the world have consistently and egregiously devalued qualities and perspectives traditionally deemed feminine. For all of recorded time, the wisdom and unique perspectives of over half of humanity have been largely excluded from influencing how we live and work.”

From the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to major corporate initiatives, and countless books, articles and conversations, we are approaching this problem like we do most human endeavors, taking a “Johnnie-come-lately,” toe-in-the-water” effort – at this rate it could take 118 years!

Watch their feet, not their mouth

Women have been pushing for equality for centuries, but it’s usually only a handful of pioneers, from Mary Wollstonecraft and Susan B. Anthony to Gloria Steinem and Sheryl Sandberg. And only lately have the men been talking more and a few are moving their feet.

Peninah Thomson, Director of the Financial Times Stock Exchange’s (FSTE) 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Programme, demonstrates in her book, Women & The New Business Leadership that there is far more to be done than has been done.

There is nothing controversial about the idea that, in these times of lost faith in the resilience and self-governing quality of the capitalist system (or, at any rate, the financially-driven version of the capitalist system that flourished before the 2007-08 crash), a wider variety of eyes, ears and voices is needed in the boardrooms. The vulnerability of the system to “groupthink” and herd behavior have become all too apparent; more diverse, which is to say … more “gender-diverse,” boards have come to see [it] as a way to reduce that vulnerability.”[6]

If the corporate world is to change, it starts in the boardroom where many more women are needed. Now, not by some far-off timeline like 2025 – let alone 118 years. If there is any place where the talk and the walk are in contradiction, it’s at the top. Bruce Fritch, a US-based consultant, has been an advisor to boards, CEOs and senior executives for four decades and he says, “Too often, too many men aren’t listening. They’re too busy talking, directing and being authoritative – and calling it leadership. It’s not. It’s just a dominating imbalance.” He adds, “Women bring unique talents and innate gifts to leadership that men cannot. They offer insight and wisdom invaluably different then men.”

The elephant-in-the-boardroom question is: How do we get the male-dominant, herd mentality to actually change the herd? It’s a catch 22.

“If we were redesigning institutional leadership from the bottom up, using the findings of research into the links between gender diversity on the one hand, and corporate performance, the quality of corporate governance and the creativity of leadership teams on the other, we would not start from here. But here is where we are and we must focus on the process of rebuilding with the tools that are to hand.”[7]

From boardrooms to the front lines, we still do not have the “tools” for breaking the glass ceiling despite breakthroughs by an increasing number of competent women, and a few well-intended men who understand the critical importance that women can play in challenging ingrained, male groupthink. Sir Richard Olver, Chairman, BAE Systems plc says, “Women are better listeners and with women on a board, you’re less likely to get “groupthink.” The fact that the 2016 board of BAE has eight men and three women suggests BAE’s walk doesn’t match Olver’s talk, yet.

The glass ceiling has glass ears

A 2012 study by Princeton and Brigham Young Universities raised some facts on a very tangible gender difference that is not well known by men or women. And yet it is an everyday experience for women: Women speak less when they are outnumbered. That means any board dominated by male voices will dominate any decision-making rather than have the considerable benefit female voices can, and do, bring to our society.

But not all boards are sitting on their male groupthink laurels. In an article for CNBC, Jennifer Openshaw said, “Women are an untapped market. Smart companies like Johnson & Johnson, eBay, Salesforce.com and UBS are truly leveraging them — not just for their unique strengths but also to drive their business in areas like innovation and R&D.”

The Princeton-Brigham study demonstrated that when women were outnumbered in a group they spoke for almost a third less time than men. “These settings produce a dramatic inequality in women’s floor time,” said the researchers and concluded that one of the conditions for women to have more voice was dependent on more women being present and taking a strong lead.

The authors states that having a seat at the table doesn’t mean women have a voice.

  • “We found that women do tend to talk less than men and . . . this gender gap in speech can be overcome if certain procedures are in place.”
  • “If a group adopts a rule that a decision has to be made by consensus then every voice has to be heard.” And that means more women speak up.”
  • Women also speak up more when they are more evenly represented in the group.
  • “Women who are more prone to silence in groups usually have less confidence in their speaking abilities and knowledge.
  • “The average woman tends to participate much less than the average man.”
  • “That’s a big problem because when women speak up they have unique positions to add and something significant is lost when women aren’t speaking.”
  • Does the fact that the US Congress has a record number of women mean that lawmakers “will be more attentive to the needs of children, single mothers and Americans who are vulnerable because of low income, poor health and other disadvantages? Sadly, no. Our research shows that female lawmakers significantly reshape policies only when they have true parity with men.”[8]

Stepping up, standing out, having voice

If the 118 years is to be truncated then the gender gap needs an urgent and deeply collaborative strategy developed by both men and women. The men have to step up to the table. Stand shoulder to shoulder with women, in fact, get behind them and listen closely. And be mindful and respectful. Women need to stand out and make sure their voice is heard. Demand and expect reciprocity, be collaborative and perspicacious – “lean in” and add your voice. It is desperately needed.

 

Footnotes:

  1. When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive, p. 2 [report available for download]
  2. Ibid, p.15
  3. Rutgers, Center for American Women and Politics. http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-us-congress-2011
  4. Globe and Mail, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/we-have-a-record-number-of-female-mps-but-hold-the-applause/article26887164/
  5. Huffington Post, Canada, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/11/04/female-cabinet-justin-trudeau_n_8471908.html
  6. Women & The New Business Leadership by Peninah Thomson, p. 108, Palgrave MacMillan (2011)
  7. Ibid, p. xv
  8. More women, But Nearly Enough, New York Times, http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/08/more-women-but-not-nearly-enough/?_r=0

Canadian Debate: Be it resolved, Donald Trump can make America great again

(2 minute read)

Just a month before the US election and three days after the first Clinton-Trump debate at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, NY, Canada will have its own debate about Donald Trump and whether he is good, not so good or bad for “We the North” (not the Raptors, all of us).

On Friday, September 30, 2016. the Munk Debate will move the motion: Be it resolved, Donald Trump can make America great again.

And guess who’s coming to Canada – no, not Trump. But two surrogates from the right and two opposed from the left. Speaking on behalf of Trump will be former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich and he will be joined by Laura Ingraham, a radio talk show host. Speaking against the resolution will be Robert Reich, who  served in three U.S. administrations, including as Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. He will be joined by former two-term governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm. Ms. Granholm was re-elected as Michigan Governor with the largest number of votes ever cast for governor. Click here for debate details.

Why care?

Canada needs to care, a lot. We send around three-quarters of our export merchandise to the United States and merchandise trade is over 50% of the GDP, representing more than $400 billion.[1]  That’s a lot of reasons to care. Especially considering what Donald Trump said about free-trade in his speech on Monday, August 08, 2016 to the Detroit Economic Club: “A total renegotiation … If we don’t get a better deal, we will walk away.”[2]

The New York Times said about the speech: “Donald Trump said he wanted to usher in “economic renewal,” but most of his proposals would hurt the economy, rack up huge deficits, accelerate climate change and leave the country isolated from the world.”

Oh Canada!

The Globe and Mail said:

“The Trump pledge, nevertheless, is a potential danger for Canada, which has enjoyed a preferential economic relationship with its most important trading partner since late in the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Canada and the United States exchange more than $2.4-billion in goods and services each day, and Canada is the top export destination for 35 U.S. states.” – The Globe and Mail [3]

The selected roster for this debate is questionable. Two ex-politicians, an ex-cabinet member and a talk-radio host. Except for Robert Reich, the other three don’t measure up to most of the previous luminaries and great thinkers who have participated in these preeminent debates (e.g., Steven Pinker, George Monbiot, Niall Ferguson, Henry Kissinger, Paul Krugman, Ian Bremmer, Alain de Botton and the late, great Christopher Hitchens). But if that’s the best deal Rudyard Griffiths, director and moderator of the Munk Debates, could make with Trump, the self-knighted, deal-making king, then we’ll have to settle for it. Just as we might have to settle for a different world under a Donald presidency.

The Munk Debates are a signature initiative of the Aurea Foundation, founded in 2006 by Peter and Melanie Munk to support Canadian institutions involved in the study and development of public policy. Peter Munk said, “Melanie and I are committed to broadening public knowledge, education, and informed discourse.”

Well done Munk Debates.

Let us hope it is an “informed discourse,” not an-all-to-typical, US political ad hominem.

 

Download Munk Debate press release.

Footnotes:

  1. The Globe and Mail, Report on Business, p. B7, Aug. 06, 2016,
  2. The Globe and Mail, Aug. 08, 2016, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/trump-renews-threat-to-leave-nafta-in-speech-on-economy/article31324788/?utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_source=Morning%20Business%20Briefing&utm_type=text&utm_content=MorningBusinessBriefing&utm_campaign=136967786
  3. Ibid

The prestigious Munk Debates are jumping into US politics Click To Tweet