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.

Getty and Sheryl Sandberg collaborate

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and author of the multimillion bestseller, Lean-In, is working with Getty Images to provide a less sexist bank of stock photography for media use.

It's a good idea. Search for "business woman" or "female professional" and you are rewarded with, for example, an image of a woman, legs crossed in seamed stockings sitting on a desk, the shirt open to reveal she is not wearing a bra. Inexplicably many of the search results show women on all fours (rear view); sucking lolipops or in boxing gloves. 

A gender-neutral search – business meeting – will return plenty of pictures of mixed groups in business suits, but the vast majority show a man at the head of the boardroom table. Fair enough - that just reflects reality.

The Lean-In gallery is designed to show a better balance of gender roles, so not only will there be more images of older professional women (with bras, we must hope) but also more images of men changing nappies, feeding kids and undertaking the routines of normal domestic life.

Getty has a bank of some 150 million images serving 2.4 million customers worldwide. Lazy or pushed picture editors routinely use stock images and we would be foolish to think the content of these images has no effect.

Davos in the Twittersphere

Last year's party of the powerful on Davos' magic mountain was marked by 'Reverse Reality' - the Warhol-spoof portrait by Fernando Morales-de-la-Cruz and Cornelia Vinzens.

This year, as last, KPMG monitored Twitter for Davos-related messaging both from delegates and the rest of the world.

According to the infographic 'women' as a theme outperformed 'outlook', 'Europe', 'work', 'jobs', 'economy', 'tech', 'session' and 'growth' to make the Number One spot in 2014. (We can only presume that 'cocktail' or 'bar' were not on KPMG's watch-list.)

The ten "most influential" tweeters, as measured by the number of times tweets were shared - or retweeted - were:

1. Ian Bremmer
2. Gita Wirjawan
3. Enrique Peña Nieto
4. Bill Gates
5. Nouriel Roubini
6. Neelie Kroes
7. Carl Bildt
8. Juan Manuel Santos
9. UK Prime Minister (sic)
10. Paul Allen

It makes an interesting list. We have five serving politicians, including three political premiers; the two co-founders of Microsoft; a global economist; the CEO of a political risk consultancy and one woman who is a tech and enterprise-focused Eurocrat. All go by their real names except for the shy UK Prime Minister, who hides behind his office, or perhaps in his office.

Something odd is happening. 'Women' has become a headline subject in almost any field you care to choose. Women artists, women authors, women book reviewers, women entrepreneurs, women scientists, women politicians, women expert commentators in the media, women academics - on the list goes. But the topic 'women' seems to have less and less to do with actual women - as in those of us of the female gender. It is almost as if by saying 'women' often enough, we no longer need to focus on change or increasing diversity.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Current elected women heads of state

About a year ago, headhoncha listed the all the world's female state leaders.

We excluded those, such as Queen Elizabeth II, who are heads of state by accident of birth or who have no real constitutional power.

Here is the same list, updated as of today. A year ago there were 17 elected country leaders: today there are 16. If you include countries whose sovereignty is sometimes disputed (Taiwan, South and North Korea, for example) there are 206 individual countries in the world. Women lead 7.7 per cent of them.

Joyce Banda (Malawi)

Alenka Bratusek (Slovenia)

Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica)

Park Geun-hye (South Korea)

Dalia Grybauskaité (Lithuania)

Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh)

Atifete Jahjaga (Kosovo)

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia)
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina) 

Angela Merkel (Germany)

Anna Maria Muccioli (San Marino)

Iveta Radicova (Slovakia)

Dilma Rousseff (Brazil)

Yingluck Shinawatra (Thailand) 

Portia Simpson-Miller (Jamaica)

Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Denmark)

With the election of Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1960, Sri Lanka became the first country in modern times to elect a female head of government. Over 50 years on, progress towards more equality in political leadership continues to be slow.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Fiona Woolf uses 800-year-old office to raise City diversity issues

Fiona Woolf is elected to Lord Mayor of the City of London
Fiona Woolf becomes only the second woman in the City of London's 800-year history, to be Lord Mayor. It's something she's used to. She was the first female partner at her City law firm, CMS Cameron McKenna and 32 years' later there are 24 more women partners.

She has used the media spotlight today to draw attention to diversity issues in financial services and corporate leadership in general. As scandals such as LIBOR rate-fixing continue to thunder around the square mile, breaking down the doors to the old boys' club is an ongoing priority.

"I'm not comfortable," she told the FT, "with the number of women in senior executive positions. The City is perceived as being really quite conservative – and yet there's a lot of effort going from a lot of CEOs who really want to push the agenda forward and a lot of frustration that it's not happening as fast as we would like."

Woolf has questioned whether organisations are applying "a true meritocracy" especially to middle-management promotions.

"The City's diversity and openness is one of the keys to long-term success," she told the Evening Standard, "so it is vital we work hard to move to a 'new moral' by freeing up the talent pipeline. Businesses need to capture the innovation and ideas that difference within the talent pool generates."

Monday, 4 November 2013

Google puts rocket fuel into Astia

Astia, the 15-year-old veteran N4P dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs scale high-growth businesses, has been a seismic force in a sometimes bleak landscape, but the organisation's recent link-up with Google adds rocket fuel to its engines in a deal that could transform female entrepreneurship forever.

"This Google partnership brings to scale our ability to create more access to capital," says Sharon Vosmek, chief executive of Astia,  modestly. At the very least it will triple the number of venture lunches Astia hosts in New York, Silicon Valley and London, tripling the number of companies getting vital exposure to investors.

"Google said if you have a pipeline of companies ready to fund-riase, we'll get the funds and access to markets," says Vosmek.

From its incesption, Astia has focused on the business end of entrepreneurship. "We recognised that they key to success for women entrepreneurs is integration – integration into the opportunity of high-growth entrepreneurship," she says. "It can't be not-for-profit; it can't be women-supporting-women. It really has to be about growth."

It has proved to be a winning strategy. Supported by some of the biggest names in private equity, Astia's blend of boot-camp, MBA programme and dating agency has helped hundreds of start-ups raise funds. In fact two out of every three companies who present at Astia lunches get investor term sheets by the time coffee is served. Investors are storming the lunches: the next one, later this week, has 52 investors registered.

"We should stop asking the question, 'Why the dearth of women entrepreneurs?'," says Vosmek. "Our experience is that is not a dearth; it's just that you don't know about them. They're not in your network. our work with Google is getting the message out loud and clear."