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."

Friday, 4 October 2013

Social media headhoncha, Tamara Littleton, is in the hot seat

Tamara Littleton is founder and chief executive of eModeration, an early mover in social media that has been doubling in size every year since 2005. The business has grown organically, without external funding, and currently has revenues of circa £8m ($12.8m). A self-confessed geek, Littleton has no formal computer science background: rather, she has grown up with the internet and found it an inspiring sand-box.

Headhoncha: Why did you start e-moderation?

Tamara Littleton: From the earliest days of the internet I was fascinated by it. I'd had big company experience, working in publishing and then the BBC, managing all their online sites, except for News. I was used to fixing problems – sometimes getting up in the middle of the night in my pyjamas to fix something. I gave up a well-paid job but I thought, 'What's the worst that can happen? If I screw up, I'll just get a job'.

HH: Did you raise finance at the start?

TL: I started with £10k from my mother and a credit card - exactly how you shouldn't do it. For the first two years I continued to do some consultancy alongside the start-up until we had enough clients to support me full-time.

HH: From the name I'm guessing the original concept was for a reputation management company?

TL: I created a company looking after communities for brands, using my experience from the BBC. At the beginning it was about protection - especially child protection – online. There were fearful clients taking their first steps in digital marketing and we helped them sidestep the potential pitfalls of, for example, User Generated Content. 

HH: Was it difficult establishing yourself early on?

TL: I've always been quite a calm person and that reputation as a safe pair of hands probably helped us in the early days. Also I had a strong operational background.

HH: What does the company specialise in now?

TL: While we started the company focused on how to stop things happening now it's more about creating really good content. Moderation is only part of what we do. We also manage Twitter accounts for clients and content for their Facebook pages. The boundaries between social media, PR and marketing have become increasingly blurred.

HH: So you all work in London?

TL: Far from it - we have a 12-person office in central London so we can run our crisis simulations - wonderfully exciting - but everyone else works from home. More than half our staff are in the US and we have clients all over the world including Asia and Australia.

HH: What are the pros and cons of managing a remote workforce?

TL: We use social media in the way we run the company and tools such as Yammer. It means we can tap into a much wider source of talent. Many of our staff are women who want the flexibility of working from home but a real job. One of our differentiating strengths is that we do everything in about 50 languages and that's been possible due to the way we run the company. All our directors and the majority of our senior management team are women.

HH: Why are female entrepreneurs still in so small a minority?

TL: I don't think it's risk aversion, but it might be something to do with confidence. I'm not particularly aggressive or bolshy. I'm rather the opposite - collaborative  - and I'm running the company the way I want to. Maybe if there were more role models of company leaders - men and women – running businesses in a way that might be considered more female, it would encourage more people to start up their own companies.The media gives the impression that people at the top have to be aggressive and ruthless to be successful. The truth is you don't.

HH: Have you considered selling the company?

TL: I've turned down some ten offers for the business at various stages, but I'm not interested in selling. My focus has never been on the exit. I just wanted to build a company and keep doing it until I don't want to do it any more. When I started I was just driven by finding clients; getting it right; hiring great people. All I wanted to do was to dive in and work really and that's still what drives me. Growing the company fascinates me.