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Opinion Editorials

Does changing the gender of top earners really help gender gap discussions?

(EDITORIAL) In a recent Forbes Brazil article, an interesting new spin on the gender-gap issue was presented, but was it helpful or harmful?

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gender gap zuckerberg

The change up

Feast your eyes on ‘Marcia Zuckerberg’, ‘Billie Gates’, and ‘Carla Slim’.

bar
They are the gender-bending female doppelgängers of— you guessed it—Mark Z., Bill Gates, and Carlos Slim.

Ad Campaign Gone Wild

Featured on the latest Forbes Brazil issue of “The World’s Richest Women,” the prints created by artist Ogilvy Brazil provocatively compares the wealth of imagined female billionaires with their real world male counterparts.

The purpose, we are told, is to highlight what the top billionaires’ club would look like through the lens of equal pay.

This may sound like an innovative way to raise awareness, as many on social media suggested by tweeting it. But the ads are not only bizarrely cheeky; they distract our focus from the issues that matter.

What was the editor thinking?

That’s probably easy to answer. Sales.

Gender-gap is an easy green light for editors. Publish it, and you seize a progressive agenda. Add a provocative title and you’ll be trending in no time, the sweet spot for digital success.

Pay gap has been covered expansively— from medicine, tech, education, to conference speakers. Even College degrees that exacerbate gender based pay gap received spotlight.

Eventually editors hunt for new angles. Brainstorming ensues. Sometimes the upshot is investigative pieces that become journalistic gold standards.

Then there is the realm of the nutty provocateur. Forbes’s eerie print campaign is an excellent example of this.

What’s so groundbreaking?

The new Forbes Billionaire list has a “record” number of women, apparently. That is a good thing, we are told.

What they don’t tell you is that it is only a “record” because historically women participation has been so marginalized.

Of the 2043 world billionaires, only 227 are women. Some record!

56 self-made women billionaires made the list, 25 per cent of all female billionaires. Fifteen are complete newcomers, and all but one are from Asia. That’s progress of sorts.

However, the picture as a whole still speaks of an unmistakable gender gap. Consider figures from developing countries, where the number of billionaires is exploding. Since 2010, India has added a billionaire every 33 days! Yet, most of them are men. Of the 101 Indian billionaires listed by the 2017 Forbes list, only four are women. Just one, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, is self-made.

Feminism cannot unite billionaires with gender pay-gap campaign.

The Forbes ad campaign conveniently conflates two incompatible issues.

First, wealth gap is NOT pay gap, since billionaires do not have a fixed salary. Sure, the billionaires’ list underscores that amongst the top .1 per cent, men still create lion’s portion of the world’s wealth. Here is one example: the richest male self-made billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet together have more wealth than all 56 self-made female billionaires put together!

Nevertheless, factors causing gender wealth gap are not the ones that are also exacerbating gender pay-gap.

Secondly, those women who voice their support for equal pay are fighting against wealth concentration in the hands of a few—men or women. Gender cannot override the conflicting interests between a billionaire heiress and a lunch lady.

And here’s another point of contention that is often overlooked.

A big hindrance to eliminating gender pay gap is the difficulty of raising wages.

Last month when American Airlines announced pay increases for their flight attendants, the company shares immediately fell 8 per cent. Wal-Mart suffered a similar fate last year, after announcing higher wages for their employees.

“There’s always this tension between what companies would want for the long term and what Wall Street wants for the short term,” said John Cotton, MBA professor at Marquette University.

In other words, a female billionaire (just like her male counterparts) worried about her short-term stock value is by definition against equal pay for the overworked flight hostess and the Wal-Mart bagging lady.

Not just wrong, but in bad taste

In an era of rapid wealth concentration in the hands of a few, the pitfalls of inequality are plain to see. The gender pay gap infuriates by numbers alone. To toil under it is numbingly humiliating. Working mothers, especially single mothers, are acutely aware of this.

That is why so many of them strongly relate to Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, or with Jennifer Lawrence’s Lenny article “Why do I Make Less than my Male Co-stars?”

Gender bending Mark to Marcia, or putting blush on Bill Gate’s face doesn’t highlight that problem in any new meaningful way, nor does it offer solutions. To the contrary, Forbes’s ad makes light of a historical injustice for the sake of catchy PR tactic.

Journalistically speaking, that is not praiseworthy.

#GenderGap

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

Opinion Editorials

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.

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In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.

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better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

Minimalism doesn’t have to be a quick process

(EDITORIAL) Minimalism is great and all…but how do you get started if you’re not sold on getting rid of basically everything you own?

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minimalism desk

Minimalism. This trend has reared its head in many forms, from Instagram-worthy shots of near empty homes to Marie Kondo making a splash on Netflix last year. If you’re anything like me, the concept of minimalism is tempting, but the execution seems out of reach. Paring down a closet to fit into a single basket or getting rid of beloved objects can sometimes seem too difficult, and I get it! Luckily, minimalism doesn’t have to be quite so extreme.

#1 Digitally

Not ready to purge your home yet? That’s fine! Start on your digital devices. Chances are, there are plenty of easy ways to clean up the storage space on your computer or phone. When it comes to low stakes minimalism, try clearing out your email inbox or deleting apps you no longer use. It’ll increase your storage space and make upkeep much more manageable on a daily basis.

It’s also worth taking a look through your photos. With our phones so readily available, plenty of us have pictures that we don’t really need. Clearing out the excess and subpar pictures will also have the added bonus of making your good pictures easily accessible!

Now, if this task seems more daunting, consider starting by simply deleting duplicate photos. You know the ones, where someone snaps a dozen pics of the same group pose? Pick your favorite (whittle it down if you have to) and delete the rest! It’s an easy way to get started with minimizing your digital photo collection.

#2 Slowly

Minimalism doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you’re hesitant about taking the plunge, try dipping your toe in the water first. There’s no shame in taking your time with this process. For instance, rather than immediately emptying your wardrobe, start small by just removing articles of clothing that are not wearable anymore. Things that are damaged, for instance, or just don’t fit.

Another way to start slow is to set a number. Take a look at your bookshelf and resolve to get rid of just two books. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for minimizing while not pushing too far. Besides, chances are, you do have two books on your shelf that are just collecting dust.

Finally, it’s also possible to take things slow by doing them over time. Observe your closet over the course of six months, for instance, to see if there are articles of clothing that remain unworn. Keep an eye on your kitchen supplies to get a feel for what you’re using and what you’re not. Sure, that egg separator you got for your wedding looks useful, but if you haven’t picked it up, it probably has to go.

#3 Somewhat

Sometimes, minimalism is pitched as all or nothing (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be that way. Just because I want to purge my closet doesn’t mean I’m beholden to purging my kitchen too. And that’s okay!

Instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be reduced, just pick one aspect of your life to declutter. Clear out your wardrobe and hang onto your books. Cut down on decorations but keep your clothes. Maybe even minimize a few aspects of your life while holding onto one or two.

Or, don’t go too extreme in any direction and work to cut down on the stuff in your life in general. Minimizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything – it can mean simply stepping back. For instance, you can minimize just by avoiding buying more things. Or maybe you set a maximum number of clothes you want, which means purchasing a new shirt might mean getting rid of an old one.

The point is, there are plenty of ways to start on the minimalist lifestyle without pushing yourself too far outside your comfort zone. So, what are you waiting for? Try decluttering your life soon!

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