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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

Reality check: WeWork can make mistakes, lose billions – you can’t

(EDITORIAL) WeWork can afford (but shouldn’t be able) to literally burn money, but unfortunately you don’t so here is how keep that from happening

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WeWork money

Michelle Obama, toned-arm goddess that she is, gave me perspective on more than a desperate need to lift when she said about the mega-wealthy: “They are not that smart.”

American meritocracy is BS, and we all know it (I hope), but on some sad level, us 99% tend to think ‘Well, this person’s bank statement looks like a phone number with a personal extension on it, so they MUST know something I don’t.’

Well, no, not necessarily.

What the disastrous decisions WeWork made should tell you is that when you’re extra rich, you get to make extra mistakes.

For all the hand-wringing billionaires pay (or don’t) their subordinates to do for them about losing hundreds of billions to taxes, the fact remains they’ll still be left with more money than could be spent in any one person’s lifetime, plus the interest that just leaving that money in the bank nets them.

Now, wherever you fall politically doesn’t much matter here, this article isn’t meant to change anyone’s mind. What we should all be aware of though is that the cushion the rich getting richer have means something crucial to your business.

It means you cannot afford to look at the likes of WeWork guy and say ‘Well, hey, he was fine, so I’ll be fine!’

If you’re still in the rags portion of a rags to riches story, honey, you 100% will NOT be okay making the mistakes this guy does. And honestly, until you’ve got at least Oprah money, you won’t be.

So here are some pointers for starting entrepreneurs with moneyed faces on their vision boards.

1: Be aware of your starting point.

Are you working out of a garage? Is that garage the one in the guest house of your parents’ fifth home? Then you’re fine. Go forth and do dumb things, just do your best not to hurt anyone working under you who can’t see you’re going full King Lear on your business. Send them an Edible Arrangement garnished with a few hundred thousand dollars when your disaster chickens come home to roost.

Is that garage out of a house your friends rent, and also you rent it, and also you’re sleeping there? Then ‘Neumanning’ and letting the chips fall where they may is not the strategy for you. Every move you make requires cost analysis, time analysis, ‘Check yourself, sis’ (applicable to all genders), and the humanity that comes with knowing anyone you burn is 100% on your level, and can 100% put those flames back on your ass later on.

2: Keep in mind how much bigger a billion is than a million.

Billion, million, they sound the same, they have zeros, so… they’re basically the same thing, right? No, obviously.

A billion is a thousand million. Another way to put this is 1 million seconds is 11 days, 1 billion seconds is 31 years

Does Beyonce Knowles-Carter have more money than you? She’s worth 400 million, so probably. Oprah Winfrey is worth 6.75 Beyonces at 2.7 billion. At 1 billion, Adam Neumann is worth a little over two Beyonces.

If you don’t even have the assets of a half Beyonce, then you’re not playing on the same platinum court as WeWork, my friend. You’re not backed by a wealthy Japanese financier who is backed by a Saudi Arabian prince.

You cannot afford to make the same mistakes. Put a glaring picture of your mom / my mom / Mr. Terry Crews on your business credit card to help you remember that the mural in your rented office is less important than trademark fees, and calm down.

3: Sip up on that Perspective-Ade.

Or, put another way, just read the first two points here again. This isn’t kid’s stuff, and survivorship bias is beyond real. ‘They don’t write stories about the ones who played it safe,’ is a technical truism I hear from people who think they’re Evel Knievel for putting a mini-mini-golf course in a real estate parking lot.

No arguments from this corner on that, but I have an addendum to it… when was the last time you heard about someone taking a giant risk, losing it all, having to go back to retail, and crying every night?

It’s not just an MLM thing, people.

Analyze yourself, you assets, your ass coverage (insurance, colleagues’ goodwill, your pants) – you are not WeWork, so make like Simba, and remember who you are and what you actually have to work with.

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Opinion Editorials

‘OK, Boomer’ can get you fired, but millennial jokes can’t?

(EDITORIAL) The law says age-based clapbacks are illegal when aimed at some groups but not others. Pfft. Okay, Boomer.

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Boomer sad

A brand new meme is out and about, and it’s looking like it’ll have the staying power of ‘Fleek’ and ‘Yeet!’

Yessiree, ‘Okay, Boomer’ as related to exiting a go-nowhere conversation with out-of-pocket elders has legitimate sticky potential, but not everyone is as elated as I am. Yes, the Boomer generation themselves (and the pick-me’s in my age group who must have a CRAZY good Werther’s Original hookup), are pushing back against the latest mult-iuse hashtag, which was to be expected.

The same people happy to lump anyone born after 1975 in with kids born in 2005 as lazy, tech-obsessed, and entitled, were awfully quick to yell ‘SLUR’ at the latest turn of phrase, and I was happy to laugh at it.

But it turns out federal law is on their side when it comes to the workplace.

Because “Boomer” applies to folks now in their mid 50’s and up, workplace discrimination laws based on age can allow anyone feeling slighted by being referred to as such to retaliate with serious consequences.

However for “You millenials…” no such protections exist. Age-based discrimination laws protect people over 40, not the other way around. That means all the ‘Whatever, kid’s a fresh 23 year old graduate hire’ can expect from an office of folks in their 40s doesn’t carry any legal weight at the federal level.

And what’s really got my eyes rolling is the fact that the law here is so easy to skirt!

You’ve heard the sentiment behind #okayboomer before.

It’s the same one in: ‘Alright, sweetheart’ or ‘Okay hun’ or ‘Bless your heart.’

You could get across the same point by subbing in literally anything.

‘Okay, Boomer’ is now “Okay, Cheryl” or “Okay, khakis” or “Okay, Dad.”

You can’t do that with the n word, the g word (either of them), the c word (any of them) and so on through the alphabet of horrible things you’re absolutely not to call people—despite the aunt you no longer speak to saying there’s a 1:1 comparison to be made.

Look, I’m not blind to age based discrimination. It absolutely can be a problem on your team. Just because there aren’t a bunch of 30-somethings bullying a 65 year old in your immediate sphere doesn’t mean it isn’t happening somewhere, or that you can afford to discount it if that somewhere is right under your nose.

But dangit, if it’s between pulling out a powerpoint to showcase how ‘pounding the pavement’ isn’t how you find digital jobs in large cities, dumping stacks of books showing how inflation, wages, and rents didn’t all rise at the same rate, or defending not wanting or needing the latest Dr. Oz detox… don’t blame anyone for pulling a “classic lazy snowflake” move, dropping two words, and seeing their way out of being dumped on.

Short solution here is – don’t hire jerks, and it won’t be an issue. Longer term solution is… just wait until we’re your age.

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Opinion Editorials

Uber CEO regrets saying that murder is part of business

(EDITORIAL) Uber CEO calls murder a mistake. Should society support a business that seems to think death is just part of the cost of doing business?

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Uber Pickup

On February 21, 2016, I woke up early to notifications about a shooting in Kalamazoo, Michigan. An Uber driver shot multiple individuals. Although I live in Oklahoma, the Facebook algorithms correctly deduced that this incident would be of interest to me. I have family and friends in Michigan, some in the Battle Creek area, just miles east of Kalamazoo. Later that morning, I learned that one of my friends had been killed in the incident.

Uber was criticized for the incident. Lawmakers across the country called for tougher background checks on Uber drivers. It was a PR nightmare for the company. Ultimately, it was the driver who was charged. Earlier this year, the driver pled guilty to all counts against him and was sentenced to life in prison. Uber continued operating, although then-Governor Rick Snyder did sign legislation that increased regulations for the ride-sharing industry.

I say this out of disclosure. This Uber tragedy affected me in a way that may cloud my opinion. I believe that Uber should be regulated more than it is. But recent events have made me question why society supports Uber and what I believe is a toxic culture.

How does Uber keep managing their corporate profile?

Uber seems to weather their PR crises fairly well. They’ve been criticized for inadequate background checks. Sexual harassment allegations at corporate headquarters shook up the management team. Uber has suffered data breaches. In 2018, the organization settled with the FTC for $148 million. Still, the company enjoys a market share of transportation services.

In 2018, Dara Khosrowshahi, former CEO of Expedia took over at Uber as its new CEO, replacing the CEO and founder Travis Kalanick. It was reported that Kalanick “led the company astray” from its moral center. Khosrowshahi said at the time, “In the end, the CEO of the company has to take responsibility.”

Just days ago, during an interview, Khosrowshahi said that “the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a ‘mistake.’” It was a political murder. Khosrowshahi compared the assassination to a self-driving accident with an Uber vehicle that killed a pedestrian. It didn’t take long for Khosrowshahi to issue a retraction, saying that he “said something in the moment (he doesn’t) believe.”

Is Uber’s culture toxic?

Khosrowshahi says that his comment shouldn’t mark him as a person. He thinks that what he said was a “learning moment.” When a CEO misspeaks in an interview that isn’t just local, but international, maybe we should pay attention. According to him, murder isn’t a big deal. I wonder if he would say that if it was his father who died, or his friend who was killed by a driver.

When my friend died in the Kalamazoo shooting, I had to seriously think about how I viewed Uber. My friend wasn’t even using Uber at the time. She was getting into her own car at a local restaurant with some friends of hers. I recognize that Uber wasn’t responsible for the driver going on a shooting spree, but I have to wonder if it was Uber’s culture that led to a lack of response at the time.

Uber’s new CEO seems removed from how its services affect individuals and communities as its previous CEO did. When a company thinks that murder is a “mistake,” maybe it’s time to rethink about supporting a service that doesn’t seem to think about people, its employees, its drivers and its riders.

It may be more convenient than a cab, but it’s time to look at Uber’s real impact on society. I hear Uber saying that innocent deaths are just the cost of business. Is that the basis for a billion-dollar corporation?

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