Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Top ten women economists: no such thing?

Carmen Reinhart at WEF
The Economist's 2015 list of the world's 25 most influential economists does not include one woman.

While two of the most powerful figures in global finance are women (Janet Yellen, chair of the US Federal Reserve and Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund), neither incumbent makes the list. (Lagarde, of course, is no economist but a lawyer by training).

In the UK, the number of women who study economics at university has fallen over the last decade so that now just 27 per cent of economics graduates are women. Less than one in three (32.4 er cent) choose economics as an A level subject.

That's worse than the crisis in maths. Some 40 per cent of those taking maths A level (the most popular single A level subject) are girls.

Various surveys have suggested that the motivation for reading economics at university is different for men and women. While men see it as a springboard to a high-paid job in the City, women are more focused on macroeconomic problems and injustice. 

One thing's for sure: it's not about aversion to Quants and statistics. According to a study by the University of Southampton, girls who choose to study economics at university are twice as likely as boys to have A or A* grade in A level maths.

Any all-male club is a turn-off for bright, high-potential women who have choices. The losers are much less the potential women economists, who will find other ways to use their talents, but more society at large. With diversity a pillar of high performance, the 'dismal science' will be all the more dismal for losing out on female talent.

Here's my top ten of women economists globally. Who have I missed? Who would you include?

1. Carmen Reinhart, Harvard Kennedy
2. Esther Duflo, MIT
3. Charlotte Hogg, COO, Bank of England
4. Susan Athey, Stanford
5. Lucrezia Reichlin, London Business School
6. Claudia M Buch, Deutsche Bundesbank
7. Claudia Goldin, Harvard
8. Dambisa Moyo, author of Dead Aid and How the West was Lost
9. Oriana Bandiera, London School of Economics
10. Kristin Forbes, Bank of England

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Women elected Heads of State still under 8 per cent

Every year Headhoncha updates its list of elected heads of state globally. Here is the updated list, still numbering 16 of the possible 204 independent countries (if you include contested states such as South Korea). All but 11 countries globally now hold some form of national election, although not all are considered either entirely free or reliable. 

Expressed as a percentage, just 7.8 per cent of the world's elected leaders today are women. That's a bigger percentage than female CEOs of S&P 500 companies (4.6 per cent) or Fortune 500 companies (5.2 per cent).

In terms of geographical location, Europe leads the field with 7 female elected heads of government followed by South America/Caribbean with 5. Africa (2) and Asia (2) complete the map.

The list is ranked in chronological order, from first date of election. Chancellor Angela Merkel is the world's longest-serving elected head and Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is the newest addition.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany, 2005

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia, 2006

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina, 2007

Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh, 2009

Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Trinidad and Tobago, 2010

Dilma Vana Linhares Rousseff, Brazil, 2011

Atifete Jahjaga, Kosovo, 2011

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark, 2011

Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica, 2012

Park Geun-Lye, South Korea, 2012

Erna Solberg, Norway, 2013

Laimdota Straujuma, Latvia, 2014

Michelle Bachelet Jeria, Chile, 2014

Ewa Kopacz, Poland, 2014

Simonetta Sommaruga, Switzerland, 2015

Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Namibia, 2015

Vagabond of French Cinema finally wins her Palme

Apart from New Zealand's Jane Campion, no woman has won a Palme D'Or at Cannes. 

And no woman has been awarded an honorary palme – a plaudit reserved for those who, for whatever reason, have missed a Palme d'Or. Until now.

On Sunday May 24th the Cannes Film Festival 2015 will close by paying homage to one of the country's unsung heroes of art house.

Agnès Varda cut her teeth in the heat of the French Nouvelle Vague, but at 86, hasn't hung up her camera yet. She trained originally as a photographer and has a distinguished career as a screenwriter, installation artist, documentary-maker as well as director of fictional narrative.

Varda directed debut performances on film by Gérard Dépardieu, Philippe Noiret and America's very own Harrison Ford.

She is one of a breed of fiercely independent women born in the 1920s: think Louise Brooks, Zelda Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Bessie Smith and Georgia O'Keefe.

Writing a few days ago in the FT, Ali Smith quotes Varda who was giving a talk at the Brigton Film Festival.

"I'm one of the oldest film-makers still working," she says. "But as a film director, I am still so young."

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Happy IWD 2015 - ditch the booth babes and let in the geek girls

Happy International Women's Day! Or maybe not.

Consumer Electronics Show, 2012

A recent report by US law firm, Fenwick & West, shows that just 11 per cent of executive positions in Silicon Valley are held by women – and just 9 per cent of executive officers are female.

The report compares Silicon Valley companies with the S&P 100 where women comprise 16 per cent executive roles.

Female board members comprise 15.7 per cent of the total in tech firms compared to 20.9 per cent of S&P 100 companies.

While it has been acknowledged for at least a decade that in the west generally there is a dearth of women in technology, it was only last year when Google's head of human resources, Laszlo Bock, publicised the search giant's diversity figures in a blog that the true picture emerged. Only 30 per cent of Googlers are women and just 17 per cent of those in tech roles.

Google isn't alone. Last summer Apple released diversity figures for its employees worldwide and again just 30 per cent were women and only 20 per cent of its technical workforce.

Facebook, you might think, with its COO Sheryl Sandberg such an outspoken champion of the cause, must put on a better showing. You'd be wrong. Just 31 per cent of its employees are women, according to the latest statistics released last June. Men occupy 85 per cent of its technical roles.

Each of these companies expresses deep corporate disappointment and each of them has programmes targeted at improving the situation. This January the chief executive of chip maker Intel, Brian Krzanich, announced the company would be investing $300m to increase workplace diversity.

Bernadette Andrietti, Intel's VP for sales and marketing, EMEA, says, "If we look at who is using tablets, iPhones and other devices, women comprise an increasing proportion of that user base. We need women to be involved as developers of both chips and software if we are going to target this growing female market successfully."

It's not just a valley problem. Research by Gartner shows that the percentage of female CIOs across all industries and globally has remained static for a decade at about 14 per cent. The numbers are particularly poor in the EU where Gartner's figures show that only 11.2 per cent of tech leadership roles is occupied by women.

Tina Nunno, fellow at Gartner, attributes the poor European showing to "a traditional hierarchy with more institutionalised behaviour". Some unconscious "lean" towards men is a bigger cause of the problem than any overt sexism.

Andrietti says that at Intel the company is trying to change this by ensuring that hiring teams and shortlists include at least one woman "to help prevent a cycle of men hiring men in their own image".

Much is made of the low numbers of girls taking STEM and tech subjects at university, and there is little doubt that numbers are poor. New graduate intake at Intel, however, is now a balanced 50:50 across the genders.

"I am an example of a woman in leadership," says Andrietti, "with a microelectronics degree [from France's elite ESIEE]. "When I was studying just 5 per cent of those on the course were women; now it is 20 per cent."

Andrietti designed chips for seven years and continues to be responsible for the technical team as well as sales and marketing. However some may see her promotion from design to marketing all too typical of women's careers in technology companies, even when those women have an engineering background.

Visibility is a problem. While there are supernova achievers such as Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer in leading roles, there isn't visible female strength in depth.
Rather the public face of women in technology is represented by the ubiquitous 'booth babes' who grace - or should that be besmirch - the industry's top trade shows. Here's a slide show from this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Female talent on show, sure, but it's not their brains that strain for attention.

Tech firms might do better to spend less on endless face-saving diversity programmes and more on replacing booth babes with geek girls.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Are you a Glass Ceiling Woman or Harrassed Hipster?

It is election season in the UK and media channels have been buzzing with the new tribal classifications used by campaign bosses to help delineate the British electorate.

The regular reader of this blog is perhaps the Glass Ceiling Woman (in her 30s or 40s; stuck in the 'marzipan' layer under the male-dominated icing; struggling with childcare). Not you? Then perhaps you are a Harrassed Hipster (urban; time-poor, well-paid professional with or without kids) or a Squeezed Semi (married suburbanite on low to middle income) or Aldi Woman (formerly Worcester Woman, that middle-class, middle-England stalwart, morphed by austerity into a fan of the German costcutter). Alternatively you may be a Neo-Green – a digital native renter, short on tribal loyalty to established political parties and typically a first-time voter. If you're lucky you're a Settled Silver basking in your mortgage-free home, living off generous pension income and enjoying free public transport and the winter fuel allowance.

More seriously, recent polls suggest up to a third of women – whether they be Aldi, Glass Ceiling, Squeezed, Silver or Green – do not intend to vote. Voting numbers have been dropping. In 1992, 78 per cent of eligible women voted and by the last election just 64 per cent of us exercised our democratic right.

In the last week we have seen the results of a poll by TNS-BMRB for BBC Woman's Hour that suggests women are much less likely than men to vote, particularly if they are under 35.

Who are these women? The Disenchanted Distaff perhaps?

As we approach the centenary of women's partial suffrage (we had to wait until 1928 before women were given equal voting rights with men), I find it both disheartening and disquieting that our political leadership has so failed to engage the interests of the female electorate.

If as much effort went in to making politics more relevant to women and the young and less into ascribing stereotypes, we might stimulate a national debate that is both more meaningful and more inclusive, if only to honour the memories of Millicent Fawcett and Emmeline Pankhurst.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Davos and that 17 per cent

There has been quite enough hand-wringing about the low numbers of women delegates at the WEF's annual gathering on the magic mountain at Davos. This year – a year of record delegate numbers at well over 2,500 – the percentage of women is about 17 per cent, two per cent up on 2014, but underwhelming for all that.

Here's the thing: if you take heads of state, heads of Fortune 500 companies, heads of professional services, investment and financial firms, deans of universities and policy-makers from the public and not-for-profit sectors, what percentage is female? The 17 per cent is a reflection – or symptom – of the gender of power, not some arbitrary sign of Swiss sexism.

As one who neither moves nor shakes, I am not part of that 17 per cent. Had I been, I'd have signed up to hear Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo on her session on Leadership & Teamwork: On and Off the Field.

A few years ago when the Financial Times published a ranking of the Top 50 Global Women in Business, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nooyi. Born in Chennai, she took an MBA at the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata, did a couple of years with Johnson & Johnson in Mumbai and crossed the Atlantic to the land of opportunity with just $500 in her pocket.

"I had the immigrant feeling, arriving in the US in 1978," she said at the time. "I had to do an extra-good job –if it didn't work out, where was I going to go?" Every day, Nooyi said, she asks herself, "Did I earn the right to be CEO of this company today?"

How many male chief executives of Fortune 500 companies, investment bankers, consultants and politicians ask themselves that question, I wonder.

As reported in The Telegraph today, Nooyi made a bold statement at what is still the greatest gabfest in the world. "Businesses are really the only functioning entities around the world," she said, and better than governments at healing broken economies. "If you don't put your trust in business, who will you?" she asks.

For all the grouptalk, the jargon and posturing, the world needs Davos. It needs a place where people who do have the power to change the world can rub shoulders in the fondue queue, hear from those outside their silo and build trusted networks.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Art and money

After Lunch, Berthe Morisot, 1881
Christie's and Sotheby's figures for 2013 are predictably buoyant. Christie's auction sales for the year were up 12 per cent at $5.9bn and Sotheby's was up 19 per cent at $5.1bn.

Quantitative easing and low interest rates may partially explain the froth in the art market as money always needs a home, but economics doesn't explain the ever upward rise of prices paid for contemporary art.

Over one third of Christie's sales in 2013 derived from their contemporary and modern art sales ($2bn).

In one week in November, both auction houses achieved their highest ever single auction sales - Christie's with a world record $691.5m followed the next day by Sotheby's ($380.6bn).

These two sales broke a number of records for single works. Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud, sold by Christie's for $142.4m became the most expensive artwork ever sold, followed by Andy Warhol's Silver Car Crash, sold by Sotheby's for $105m.Works by Cy Twombly and Brice Marden also set new records.

And, more quietly, the year saw Louise Bourgeois' record for the highest price paid for a work by a female artist broken by the Impressionist painting, After Lunch, by Berthe Morisot. The work, painted in 1881, was sold by Christie's in February for $10.9m, making it the most expensive artwork by a woman.