Pay parity for whom?

2248. Twenty-two forty-eight. A.D.

At the current pace, that’s the year American women will finally have pay parity with men.

Oh, you thought it was 2059? You were galled, because it’s still 42 years away? Well, hold your gall and ratchet it up, because it will be 107 years before black women have pay parity – and 231 years before Hispanic women do.

231 years. That’s 7 generations from now. 7 generations. Our great, great, great, great, great granddaughters might finally be paid fairly for their work.

Pause. Right now. How many of us can name our great, great, great, great, great grandmothers? We probably can’t, because 231 years was a long time ago. That’s the year Sacajawea was born. Davy Crockett died. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro premiered in Vienna. And it was still three years before we’d have our first US President. In case you’ve lost count, precisely 0 of the last 45 have been women.

231 years is unacceptable. Truth is, I don’t know if that even tells the whole story. But you get the point. When we talk about gender pay equity, we absolutely must include all women.

The Tribe of Badassery

Perhaps you’ve noticed the world is falling apart.

No, I mean really. Shit. Is. Bad. We’re talking steaming heap of hottest year on record – white supremacist revival – disdain for the rule of law – misogynistapalooza, with a cold slimy side of inept egomaniacal blowhard with his gauche little fingers on the button kind of bad.

And perhaps you’re feeling the weight of it.

The call to resist. The urgency to act. The certainty that if you do not read just one more article, that if you miss one tweet or meme or post, fail to sign that petition or send that postcard, you will not have done your part.

Who could survive under such weight? No one. And that’s the point.

So while we’re resisting, here’s how we win: we thrive.

That idea you’ve been kicking around? Say it out loud to somebody else. Right now. Bring it to life.

That passion project you’ve been dabbling with? The one you’ve been tending to on the margins because it makes you happy? Make it your thing. Own it. Do it. Put it front and center.

The little enterprise you’ve been running? The one that deep down you know could be so much more? Make it so. Take that shit up a quantum notch.

Now is the time to surround yourself with creators. With believers and doers. With the get up – dress up – show up, pavement pounding, ass kicking name takers.

The tribe of badassery is growing stronger every day, and it’s calling your name. You won’t regret answering.

How do I know? I found my tribe, buzzing and electric, early on a cold Friday morning. What I hoped would be more than me sitting alone in the dark eating donuts and scribbling on my white board became the 250-member strong F Bomb Breakfast Club. This merry band of cussing collaborators has compelled me not just to endure the world as we currently know it, but to joyfully and obsessively reimagine it.

The business plan I once thought was too grand? The one I’ve barely mentioned, and apologized for or minimized when I did? It. Is. On. And in the immortal words of Eminem, “Success is my only motherfucking option, failure’s not.” I am all in, thanks to my tribe.

So, have you found yours?

5 Women to Watch

Looking for inspiration? Need a little somethin’ somethin’ to nudge you in the direction of your dreams? Check out these local purpose-driven entrepreneur lady bosses putting their passion into action.

Ariel Bangs, the badass, community-building, love-spreading chef behind Healthy Creations. Chef Ariel takes all of the pretenses out of healthy eating and dishes up fun, flavorful, life changing food empowerment and donuts. Really good donuts.

Chef Ariel Pic
Watch her this year: Open Flavorgasms Donut Shop and expand her youth culinary anthropology program, Taste International, to five schools while working to create healthy food connections between local farmers, local entrepreneurs and underserved communities through community partnerships.

Kristina Larry, doyenne of the courtroom, the Sassy Litigator, the Pre-nup Princess, the multi-talented, game changing attorney turning traditional law practice on its head to connect with every day clients as the unique humans that they are. A la carte services. Affordable rates. Free classes to empower clients. All with panache. Kristina is not your grandfather’s lawyer.

Kristina Larry pic
Watch her this year: “Because I’m going to take no prisoners.”

Michele Gomes and Jenny Ting, the dynamic duo of filmmakers behind InterChange Media. Creative and conscientious, their art house produces videos, commercials, PSAs, and documentaries that educate and inspire people to action.

Ting and Gomes pic
Watch them this year: Release a feature-length documentary about the ongoing collaborative partnerships between New Englanders, Southerners and Mexicans who are working together to prevent the extinction of an ancient sea turtle species.

Tara Morgan Mulvenon, the adaptive rowing and fitness coach behind Seize The Oar, which cultivates and celebrates the athlete within people of all abilities. Tara is a firecracker inside a sparkler, a visionary of boundless energy who will make you believe anything is possible, on or off the water.

Tara Morgan Mulvenon pic
Watch her this year: Turn a part-time passion into a full-time thriving business of inclusive fitness and wellness.

Now it’s your turn. What passion will you put into action this year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Presumption of Incompetence

Ever walk into a firing squad of questions meant to disabuse you of the notion you’re worthy of where you are standing? Been on the receiving end of an eye roll, shade, wink, or head pat telling you it’s cute you want to sit at the grown ups’ table?

I am not the first, nor the best, person to write about this. Check out Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia.

But I’ve been hearing about it a lot in my discussions with female founders.

The sheer exhaustion women of color feel every time someone is surprised by their success. The wasted energy women expend just to arrive at the same starting place in a conversation as a similarly situated male. The indignity of being made to answer questions said male was not asked, and never would be.

It appears the presumption of incompetence is pervasive across industries and across stages of organizational life cycle. From pitching your idea to planning your exit, the male dominated business world is certain you don’t really know what you’re doing.

Here are a few ways you say you’ve responded:

I just bit my tongue and told them what they wanted to hear.

I took a giant swig of bourbon.

I left the room and burst into tears.

I got in the elevator and burst into tears.

I waited until I got home, then burst into tears.

I told them to fuck off. I didn’t get [the deal].

I mean, these are all perfectly human responses. But lord do they take a toll. What if we did these three things instead, whenever possible?

Presume competence in each other. While women are most often the ones presumed incompetent, men aren’t the only ones doing the presuming. Our own internal bias is often at play, triggering responses we need to check. So, let’s check that, every time.

Shut it down when we see it, especially when we’re in a position of power. When another woman enters our professional space and we recognize the all too familiar doubt about her abilities, speak up. “Obviously Ana is an expert on this matter, so how about we take the condescension down a notch and let her present her findings.”

Name it when we feel it, when we can afford to walk away. We can’t always, of course, but when we can, there’s great power in naming it right there on the spot. “The nature and tone of your questions seem to be driving at a presumed incompetence, and I’d like to understand where that’s coming from. If you have reason to doubt me, let’s pause here address it.”

What strategies have you deployed? What super powers have helped you hurtle over this particular [time wasting, soul sucking, ridiculous, I can’t believe it is 2017 and we have to talk about this] barrier?

Introducing The F Bomb Breakfast Club

All the best words start with “F”. Fabulous. Ferocious. Female. Best day of the week? Friday.

If you’re launching or considering a new venture, there may be some other “F” words frequenting your vocabulary. Like… finally! Funded. For real? Or my personal favorite: Fuckety fuck fuck fuck.

Me? I just founded a little law firm, and on the side, a fledgling little idea for an app. I’m dropping “F” bombs left and right.

During Seattle Startup Week, I’ve been taking comfort in surrounding myself with fellow and future female founders. And I hope to make it a habit. So I’ve set my intention for my first 2017 resolution and you’re invited.

Introducing the F Bomb Breakfast Club:

7am on the First Friday of every month
Level Offices 600 First Avenue, Pioneer Square
FREE – RSVP to megan@doyenne-legal.com

BEGINNING FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2017

A monthly gathering of female founders and friends in various stages of start-up to bitch, brag, cavort, and collaborate. Peer support and sounding board. Knowledge or expertise to share? Bring it. Questions or problems you need help solving? Let’s do that, too.

I’ll provide the space, coffee, and donuts. You just have to get up early.

PS – Kids, babies, dogs, totally ok.

***UPDATE: Find us on Facebook now at  https://www.facebook.com/groups/GetUpAndSwear

The Hustle

It’s Startup Week in Seattle. And since I recently started up a little law firm that, among other things, serves start ups, I’m in the hustle.

My hustle is currently meeting as many founders, funders, and dreamers as I can. Learning where they are. Gleaning their insights. Sussing out their needs. Clarifying (if only in my head) what I do and don’t have to offer in this space, with old experience and a new role.

A few early impressions:

There are a lot of great ideas bubbling in Seattle right now, for-profit and not-for-profit. It’s inspiring to witness the convergence of passion, drive, and foolishness. In need of hope for the future? Check out your local startup scene.

Entrepreneurial passion is interchangeable between the nonprofit and business sectors, and so is bad advice. There are zealots in both, certain they can lead you to success. Be wary of anyone making sweeping proclamations and speaking in absolutes.

Startups are smarter with women in the room. (<- Srsly, read this.) But men are still speaking over women, mansplaining and manspreading their expertise like cheap mayonnaise. It’s too much. Step back, brothers. Take a beat. Good things just might arise in that space when you stop filling it. And please, for the love of all things holy, as much as I love hearing women talk about the experiences of being women, let’s invite them to talk about their substantive areas of expertise, too.

I have more to offer than I thought. Technically, the legal aspects of starting a nonprofit usually aren’t too complicated. Starting a viable nonprofit that might actually accomplish what it aspires to? Strongly helped by working with someone who has been there in the trenches. Negotiating a contract? Any lawyer worth their salt can walk you through key elements of a reasonable agreement. But the ability to draw on real life examples of triumphantly successful and epically disastrous ones to help you understand the practical implications? I just may be your gal. Time to stop doubting myself.

Now, back to it. Can’t get out of the office to join me? Catch Twitter highlights at #SSW2016.

 

 

 

 

The “B” Word

What actually goes on in the Board room?  Does it matter who’s in there when decisions are made?

“B” is for Boards, as in, that male-dominated gaggle of experts whose profound knowledge and expertise accelerate a company’s success. That merry band of who’s who, whose resources and name recognition buy your company credibility. Or opportunity. Or time.

“B” is for Board Room, that man-cave like sanctuary where big decisions get made.

In the Board Room, beyond fiduciary duties, the roles and responsibilities of a board of directors can vary depending on things like the company’s business or industry, or the stage in its lifecycle. But invariably, boards hire, fire, and compensate chief executives. They inform and approve corporate strategy and key business decisions. They consider and adopt policies that impact employees, customers, and communities. So yes, it matters who is there to make those decisions.

Gender diversity matters in the Board room. Companies led by boards that include women perform better on everything from return on equity, sales, and invested capital, to corporate social responsibility. Women bring talent and insights desperately needed. In the technology sector for example, women directors are nearly twice as likely as men to possess professional technology experience, which seems like it might be a good thing for a technology company.

And yet women are woefully underrepresented on corporate boards. Just last year, the 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index of Fortune 1000 companies showed that only 17.9% of corporate directors were women. According to Catalyst, women of color account for a mere 2.8% of directors on Fortune 500 boards, and are twice as likely as white women to serve on multiple boards – meaning, companies are overly relying on the same few women of color rather than making space for more.

Of the 22 Washington companies on the Fortune 1000 list, ZERO have majority female boards. ZERO have a 50/50 gender balanced board. In fact, you might be surprised at how some of our state’s giants have shut women out of the Board Room:

ZERO women on the board of Zillow.

2 women on the boards of Costco (15%), Expedia (15%), and Nordstrom (17%)

3 women on the boards of Microsoft (27%) and Starbucks (23%)

A notable exception to this embarrassing list is Alaska Air, with 5 women on the board (45%).

Gender is far from the only type of diversity we should demand in the Board Rooms of the companies that so profoundly impact our region. But it’s an important one. 51% of the country is now female. Is it preposterous to think that a female majority board might have a competitive advantage in this changing demographic landscape?

Which gets to me to the final “B”. The big “B”. B is for Bring It. As in, bring on your best, lamest, most thinly transparent excuses for why this status quo is acceptable. Because we’re ready, and we’re coming for the Board Room.

 

SEC Rules and Gender Bias

Do investor rules keep women out of the game?

Since women earn 79 cents to the dollar on men, perhaps new SEC accreditation standards for women could help level the start-up playing field.

Women-led start-ups receive about 7% of all venture funding in the U.S. There is a wealth of female-inspired innovation not getting funded because men hold the wealth to fund it. In early stages, I think men often simply don’t understand or don’t value women’s ideas. One example? Sara Blakely couldn’t find a female patent attorney and the male patent attorneys she did find just couldn’t get their brains around the concept for Spanx – an idea which entirely disrupted a $110 billion global industry and made her the youngest self-made female billionaire.

Men are 60% more likely to get funded for the same pitch compared to their female counterparts seeking early stage funding. Gender bias plays out daily in conference rooms and board rooms where men are often credited for women’s ideas. Hat tip to the women of the Obama Administration for calling out and developing a specific strategy for combating this phenomena.

Here’s how the federal Securities and Exchange Commission compounds this gender bias: Its rules, designed to protect the public, make it really hard for women to join men in the angel investor market, where many ideas are either saved or sunk. To invest in a private venture, to be an angel, one must be accredited. Because the risk is so high, the standards for accreditation are meant to ensure that only those with money to lose are allowed at the table.

The standards are this: you must have earned $200k a year (or $300k jointly with your spouse) for the last two years, or you must have a million dollars in net assets, excluding your personal residence. As a matter of public interest this all seems perfectly reasonable, until you take into account persistent gender pay and wealth gaps. Women are simply less likely than men to achieve these accreditation standards. Which means that if you’re a woman with a great idea, and you need funding to get it out of the lab or into the market, it’s going to be harder to find a woman you can pitch the idea to than it is to find a man who is less likely to fund you.

How different would the start-up landscape look if we pared investor accreditation standards for women with pay equity? As long as women earn 79% of what men earn, shouldn’t we be allowed in on angel investing if we earn $158k a year or have $790,000 in net assets? What kind of capital might this open up for women entrepreneurs?

Of course, women are needed at every stage of investing, not just seed and start up. Last year, women-owned ventures accounted for 29.2% of entrepreneurs seeking angel investment, and only 14.4% of them got it. That’s a low yield rate; one that declined steadily over the previous four years. One possible reason? Women investors accounted for only 25.3% of a $25 billion angel market. If women entrepreneurs and women-owned companies are going to get a fair(er) shot at a slice of that pie, they’re going to need access to more women investors.

Sure, this business of removing barriers is a slippery slope. I mean, making it easier than it is now for women to invest could lead to more gender equity on corporate boards, since investing is one way directors “earn” their seats. And that means women could be more involved in big decisions that impact billions of customers and employees. Imagine what crazy ideas we might have. And since high risk can lead to big rewards, allowing women in on the game might just build more wealth for women. I wonder what we’d do with that.

I think it’s time women came knocking on the SEC’s door. Don’t you?

(PS – Clearly I’m new to this whole blogging business. Not clear to me are the rules for where to bold or what to cite, so I’m just doing that shit randomly. Shoot me an email if you have burning thoughts on such matters.)

Do women’s voices matter?

When we’re holding up examples of brilliance, does it matter which examples we choose? I think so. Apparently, the TED Radio Hour does not.

Like a Netflix junkie caught up on House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, I’ve been craving my next high. A friend turned me on to podcasts. Serial, to be precise. I devoured it. When the second season was released – I waited until all the episodes were available so I could sink into binge-y delight with it, too. But I needed more. On my daily walks recently, I began scanning my podcast library furiously for a fix. I found a few duds, a few surprises, and a lot of A-for-effort small batch productions out on the frontier of this fascinating medium.

And then I tuned in to the NPR TED Radio Hour. I recognized host Guy Raz’s voice immediately. I’ve heard a few great TED talks over the years. So I downloaded a bunch of episodes and rejoiced that my walks would again have some purpose.

The rejoicing was short lived. As I listened, I started feeling something … familiar. An annoyance. An itch. Something just beneath the surface you just can’t quite scratch.

This is a show self-described as “based on riveting TED-talks from the world’s most remarkable minds.” The emphasis there is all mine. The concept is that Guy and his team cull the TED world for the very best and most brilliant idea makers out there, and bring them to you in a tight, one hour symphony of interview and epic snippets.

The trouble was, I rarely heard women’s voices. Maybe it’s just this episode, this topic, I thought. Each time. And so I started listening to them all.

Obsessed, I sat down a few days ago to analyze the show. Of the 10 most recent TED Radio Hour episodes, women represented only 21% of speakers highlighted. One in five. In two episodes, there were no women speakers at all, and there were no instances of women-only episodes. In not one single episode was a woman the first speaker highlighted. Not one. She always appears later – like an afterthought, an antidote, an alternative.

This is funny, in that “this is not funny at all” kind of a way, because half the planet is female. Sure, we’re woefully underrepresented in the board room, the court room, elected office, and just about everywhere else that power resides. Apparently, we’re also invisible when guys like Guy go looking for the world’s most remarkable minds.

I’ve set up a fun little dashboard to track these stats. I now anxiously await each week’s episode in hopes Guy will pull the rug out from under me. He hasn’t yet. And maybe it’s not his fault. Maybe it’s just slim pickings from the TED archives. After all, he didn’t set the stage, he merely decided where to point the spotlight.

But what are we saying when we declare only 1 of 5 of the world’s most remarkable minds belong to women? What are we telling girls when we’re driving in our cars, and we choose to listen to the TED Radio Hour on NPR? “Hey girls, listen to these remarkable men on the radio! Shhhhhh. Aren’t they brilliant? When you grow up, you’re going to have so many amazing opportunities to listen to men’s remarkable and brilliant ideas! Oh yeah, I think there’s a lady whose going to talk, too, but we’re home now, so I guess we’ll just have to miss her. I’m sure whatever she had to say couldn’t have been that important.

I think it matters. To whom we hand the microphone. Where we shine the spotlight. What we edit, and how we produce. It matters, because in curating remarkableness, we’re shaping people’s ideas of what kind of person is remarkable – and what kind of person is not.

By the way, Guy’s next project is another NPR podcast called How I Built This, in which he promises to feature “innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built.” I have high hopes for gender equity in this next venture, because I’m an idealist. Or a damn fool.  Either way, I’ll be listening. At least in the beginning.