Elinor Who?

Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

Elinor Ostrom is the first woman to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences which she shares with Oliver E. Williamson.

I listened to a brief interview with Mrs. Ostrom on NPR in which she stated that in high school she took algebra and geometry but was denied the opportunity to take trigonometry because of her sex.

Now, I might not see that as such a golden opportunity given that I failed algebra, twice. In all seriousness, however, imagine how many bright young women were steered away from potentially brilliant careers in economics and science.

Elinor Ostrom was not to be deterred. She graduated with a BA from UCLA and then used a position in the personnel office as a spring board to enter the graduate program in public administration “at a time when women didn’t go to graduate school”. She met her future husband, Vincent Ostrom, at UCLA and the two remain together today. In fact, before Elinor’s Nobel win the couple were best known for founding the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at the University of Indiana, where they both teach, in 1973. The Workshop brings together students and scholars from disciplines as varied as business, anthropology and political science to conduct research in a supportive cross-disciplinary environment. The goal, “to promote the interdisciplinary study of institutions, incentives, and behavior as they relate to policy-relevant applications.”

The philosophy behind the Workshop is that “from the beginning, the Workshop’s founders, Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, have believed that ideas and theories must be considered through the lens of experience—that the critical connection is between ideas and what gets done.

This practical approach to solving big, big problems lies at the core of Ostrom’s ground breaking work \”Governing the Commons\” for which she won the Nobel Prize. It’s all about finding ways to better manage our resources as a community for the betterment of mankind.

Ivanka Trump may offer valuable lessons for young, ambitious business women and she’s certainly a style maven. And to be fair, she also has plenty of time to contribute much more than that. Elinor Ostrom went against conventional wisdom and blazed a trail for women. She might just have given us a path to change the world. What the hell, read both books!

Governing the Commons, the Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action

The Trump Card, Playing to Win in Work and Life


Al Franken Lets Halliburton/KBR Have It

Al Franken baby!

Al Franken baby!

Today’s post was supposed to a follow up to the Ivanka post in which I celebrate Elinor Ostrom’s historic Nobel Prize win. Over the weekend, however, I came across a Daily KOS post on Al Franken\’s grilling of a Halliburton/KBR attorney during a hearing on the Senate Amendment 2588.

In a nutshell, Franken, (D-Minnesota) proposed an amendment to a Department of Defense Appropriations bill that prohibits “the use of funds for any Federal contract with Halliburton Company , KBR, Inc., any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, or any other contracting party if such contractor or a subcontractor at any tier under such contract requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims.”

The indominable Jamie Leigh Jones

The indomitable Jamie Leigh Jones

“Certain claims” refers specifically to sexual assault cases like the one Jamie Leigh Jones brought against KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton at the time, after she was gang raped by colleagues in Iraq. When she attempted to report the crime she was locked in a shipping container and told if she left Iraq for medical treatment she’d be out of job. Unfortunately, it looks like Jones’ case may be one of many.

So, it would seem to make a lot of compassionate, common sense to say that vicious sexual assaults should not come under binding arbitration but are heinous criminal acts and should be prosecuted as such, in a court of law. Thirty Republican senators don’t think so. And if you want to know who they are, click HERE. That’s right, thirty Republican senators voted against the amendment, even after Jones bravely came forward with a story that should scare the hell out of female professionals, fathers and husbands everywhere.

Unconscionable. And the Department of “Justice” didn’t even bother to show.

But then Halliburton does give Republican senators lots and lots of reasons to defend them, don’t they?

Check out the following…

Jamie Leigh Jones’ story:

Al Franken’s questioning of Halliburton/KBR attorney:

Ivanka’s Trump Card

Ivanka Trump, 27 year old Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions, Trump Organization

Ivanka Trump, 27 year old Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions, Trump Organization

“Whatever it is you’re looking to do or make or sell, you build your business on the assumption that you can do it better, smarter, and more efficiently than the competition. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ivanka-trump/going-it-alone-an-excerpt_b_319579.html

Let me begin with the admission that I have not read Ivanka Trump\’s new book, “Trump Card” recently published by Touchstone Books/Simon and Schuster. I chanced upon an excerpt from the book on the Huffington Post website soon after listening to an interview with Elinor Ostrom, 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics on NPR.

I was struck by how different these two successful women are in the circumstances of their upbringing and how that has effected their contributions, (or in Ivanka’s case might effect future contributions) to society.

I read a few more online articles on Ivanka Trump and by consensus she’s an accomplished, hard working and savvy businesswoman in her own right. I found an article on MSN.com touting her level headed handling of her celebrity and lack of a sense of entitlement. Psychotherapist and rich kid himself, Richard Clark had this to say about wealthy children, “The moment that a child begins to believe that they deserve their wealth is the moment where things will begin to go downhill. . . . The unhealthy, unproductive progeny of the wealthy are the ones who begin to believe their own press.”

By all accounts Ivanka hasn’t fallen into that trap. She’s the first to admit that she’s a child of great privilege, born with opportunities others were not. Still, she prefaces her book excerpt with the affirmation,

“We’ve all been dealt a winning hand and it is up to each of us to play it right and smart.’ This is the philosophy with which I operate in my day to day, and I hope that every reader walks away from my book with the feeling that life is a series of roads to success.”

While I applaud Ivanka’s desire to establish her own identity and means of success, (Paris Hilton was raised in similar circumstances and she’s a cautionary tabloid tale) we’re not all dealt such a winning hand. In a sense, I think, while the philosophy behind the book is well intentioned, it’s also incognizant. The fact is, there are many kids born with the same innate potential as Ms. Trump, intelligence, desire, talent, curiosity but for whatever reason are denied the tools with which to cultivate those innate gifts.

Malcolm Gladwell studies this conundrum at length in his recent book \”Outliers\” published by Little, Brown. Outliers is a term Gladwell uses to describe the uber successful members of our society. Bill Gates is the most obvious example but there are many others. He refutes the long held, cultural belief that successful people are just that much smarter, more talented, etc. On the contrary, he provides thoughtful and compelling evidence that success depends on a myriad of variables not the least of which is, who your parents are. Success is a product not only of the innate gifts with which one is born but also, and perhaps more so, of “history, community, opportunity and legacy”. All of which Ms. Trump has been gifted in spades.

So, is it really that special that Ivanka Trump is an author and successful executive (at her Father’s firm) with her own jewelry business? What can we really learn from her rise to success? Quite honestly, with all the advantages of being Ivanka Trump and a degree from Wharton School of Business shouldn’t she be expected to “do it better, smarter, and more efficiently than the competition”? If she couldn’t, who could?

Managing Expectations

Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada"

Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada"

I came across this op-ed article on NYTimes.com debating the efficacy and superiority of female vs. male managers and I thought it would make a nice follow up to my previous comment on CEO’s.

The opinion piece quotes various researchers (four women and one man) in response to a business column interview with Carol Smith, senior vice president and chief brand officer for the Elle Group in which she puts forth that women make better managers than men do. Her assertion has nothing to do with character or emotion she simply thinks women are more organized and less given to distraction. Carol also contends that men are better at letting things go, not over analyzing an issue to death and I agree with her. I think women are more focused and less inclined to waste time at work because men take being at the office and their climb up the corporate ladder for granted. Women can’t afford that luxury, especially if they aspire to the executive level and raising a family. Most women really have two full time jobs in that scenario. Carol also mentions that she comes into the office for about four hours every Sunday to check her email and alleviate the Monday crush of to-do’s. I wager most of her male colleagues are on the golf course on Sunday mornings. I probably would be as well, quite honestly.

Desperate Housewife Lynette at the office

Desperate Housewife Lynette at the office

A few things stand out to me in the debate on male vs. female management….

1) I’m disappointed that the issue of “emotion” in the workplace still arises as a distinctly feminine management trait and almost all of the researchers agreed that women are more emotional at work. I disagree. I’ve seen men yell, make completely inappropriate comments, even throw things in a full out tantrum. This comment came up in the response thread and I loved it…

“Why is it that, still, in 2009 we are saying “Women also bring emotion to the workplace…” Why is it that when male bosses yell, trade insults, cut others down behind their backs, or refuse to take the blame, for example, this is not seen as anger, jealousy, fear, or a whole host of other emotions that men are capable of?”

When men express these emotions it’s a healthy display of passion, office bravado or trash talkin’ whereas when women make the same mistakes they’re seen as overly emotional, irrational or unstable.

2) Both male and female subordinates constantly complain that their female bosses are passive aggressive. Well, of course they are. What do you expect from people who have been consistently conditioned not to be aggressive, confrontational or “unfeminine”. Watch a few hours of Saturday morning cartoons, especially the commercials. Little girls hold baby dolls and coo or groom pretty pink horses, boys blaze new trails with trucks, race cars and GI Joe. I’ve never seen a girl in a Tonka truck commercial. The very characteristics that define the powerful, hard charging, effective successful CEO are considered unattractive in a woman.

Now there's a busy day

Now there's a busy day

3) Very few discussions on equality and female leadership in corporate America deal with the elephant in the room. As long as women hold primary responsibility for reproductive and child care decisions (see any birth control for men in the marketplace?) they will never truly achieve equal footing in the workplace. If Republicans and the religious right really cared about family values there would be a well staffed, government funded daycare in every company and corporation in America.

Men don’t stop to consider if a potential job opportunity allows for paternity leave or flexible scheduling and so forth. They don’t even have to think about it. Their wives will take care of all that while they’re on the golf course or talking about their fantasy football scores before the big board meeting. Job equality will come about when there are substantial cultural changes and that might take a while. In the meantime, if I have a little girl I’m buying her a big, mean Tonka truck.

Nikki Finke Dishes It Out and Hollywood Loves It

Maybe I’m dating myself but do you remember the old EF Hutton commercial…”when E.F. Hutton talks, people listen”? Well, when it comes to the Hollywood establishment, that applies ten fold to Nikki Finke. Author of the fast and furious blog Deadline Hollywood Daily, Nikki Finke has her fingers on the pulse of the L.A. based entertainment industry and she’s not afraid to apply pressure.

She’s been described as relentless and harsh and thuggish but she’ll be laughing all the way to the bank when the check comes in for the multi-million dollar sale of her blog to Mail.com Media Corp.


I started reading Finke’s blog upon the suggestion of a close friend of mine who works in casting. She mentioned it in that “guilty pleasure” tone, like it’s the kind of thing you read with a giggle and lots of bon-bons. Finke’s pull-no-punches style is a heady mix of investigative journalism (debatable) and Walter Winchell style gossip and I love it. I think the fact that Variety felt the need to attack her personally in a series of “fear the blogger” articles indicates that she probably gets more right than she does wrong.

She’s an ardent supporter of creatives and writers. Her blog served as an up to the minute portal for information during the WGA strike. Nikki Finke is not afraid to take the power elite to task in a company town. Accountability is as rare on Rodeo Drive as it is on Wall Street and that makes Nikki Finke and blogs like Deadline Hollywood Daily a necessary counterbalance to the old media establishment.  One recent post outs the salaries of the major media CEOs which are wildly out of sync with stock performance and shareholder equity. Searched Variety.com. Couldn’t find anything on it.

It’s true, she can be a little harsh at times. In one post she describes Nicole Kidman; “she has zero charisma onscreen: women don’t like her and men think she’s sexless”. Ouch. Except, I kind of agree. And that’s the great thing about Nikki Finke and blogs in general, they’re opinion portals. You should always take the information you recieve from them with a grain of salt. In fact, with the current state of journalism and media we should be taking all of our information or “news” with a grain of salt. Hello! FOX “News”? Not so much.

Hammer’s Time

USA Network CEO, Bonnie Hammer

USA Network CEO, Bonnie Hammer

Let’s start with the good news. On July 1st something truly historic happened in American business, Xerox became the first Fortune 500 company to be helmed by an African American woman. When former CEO, Anne Mulcahy passed the mantle to Ursula Burns it was the first woman to woman CEO handoff.

The bad news is that Burns became only the 15th female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. That’s right, out of the top 500 companies, only fifteen of the CEOs are women. That’s sad. Despite the fact that current statistics hold that women receive six out of ten college degrees and “in 2006 and 2007, (Executive) performance of men and women was almost identical” according to an article in USA Today women just aren’t crashing through that glass ceiling. When they do attain the top position they’re not paid as well as their male counterparts, about 1.7 million on average which is about 85% the median range salary of a male CEO in the Fortune 500.

So, I’m damn glad and happy any time I read an article about an astute and successful female CEO. In this case it’s the CEO of USA Network, Bonnie Hammer. The article is in the latest issue of Newsweek and it details Hammer’s career path and her strategy for choosing the innovative and character driven shows that have made USA Network the most watched cable network. One aspect of her management style, inclusion, is considered a more feminine approach but one that has benefited the corporate culture at USA. “Bonnie’s management style is inclusiveness,” says Jeff Wachtel, the network’s top Hollywood exec, who concedes he’d wondered at first, “Why are all these people in my business?” But he’s a believer now.”

Hammer’s inclusive approach works well and she’s been known to go out on a limb budget wise for shows she believes in creatively. Personally, I think it’s this combination of inclusion and vision that makes her successful in the entertainment industry. Interestingly, in the USA Today article I found this quote…

“The January Harvard Business Review includes a 360-degree feedback study by Herminia Ibarra and Otilia Obodaru. It finds that female leaders are seen by all around them to be strong in such traits as tenacity and emotional intelligence, but trail men in one important aspect: Their superiors, peers and subordinates say that women leaders lack vision.”

I don’t think that business women lack vision or talent. I sometimes wonder though, if the women who rise to the top are the ones that tend to conform the most. This may sound really sexist, but one of the articles I researched had photos of seven of the top female CEOs and out of the seven, only two have long hair. In fact, most of them looked, well, sexless. Not exactly masculine but with short hair, not a lot of makeup etc. I’ve always thought that being charming and sexy was more of a liability in the workplace but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

In the meantime, congratulations to Bonnie Hammer for a job well done, taking the USA Network to a whole new level and giving the viewing public quality, character driven entertainment. And ladies, keep tapping!

The Hurt Locker

Still from "The Hurt Locker'

Still from "The Hurt Locker'

IFC calls her “the most bad-ass chick in the action movie boys club” and Kathryn Bigelow\’s latest film “The Hurt Locker” proves the point. The film follows three members of the elite U.S. Army bomb-disposal squad in Baghdad, finely played by relative unknowns, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, as they try to make it through the last few weeks of their tours in one piece, literally.

Although taut, suspenseful and explosive, the real impact of the film comes from the interplay between the three characters. In her interview on Charlie Rose Bigelow expresses her desire to work with “hungry” actors, ones that don’t come with any preconceived ideas for the audience that they “can’t die until the end”. Personally, I think this casting philosophy is critical to great independent film making. With the exception of a few truly gifted actors, like Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Daniel Day Lewis who immerse themselves so deeply into their characters that celebrity fades from the screen, most “A” list actors are a distraction. I’m too aware of the persona, the tabloid presence and the blockbuster bankability that got the film greenlit in the first place and therefore to a certain extent disengaged from the story.

Bigelow also garners critical praise for her handling of the war in Iraq, or rather, the way she doesn’t handle it. There’s no ham-handed politicizing or moral high ground here, it’s a story that allows the audience to learn about the war in a certain context, from a compelling, boots-on-the-ground point of view. That’s what makes Hurt Locker a war movie and not a movie about the war in Iraq, the majority of which have completely bombed, pun intended.

Bigelow’s aesthetic sense and curiosity frame the story in such a way that the action never overpowers the story and thats what I feel women bring to the table in the action genre. I get so sick of the term “chick flick” and men who seem to think that any film written or directed by a woman or containing actresses in roles other than “girfriend” or “hottie” should be tagged that way and avoided at all costs. Hurt Locker doesn’t pull any punches. The violence is real, visceral and unapologetic but the characters are fully realized and deeply explored. Character scenes don’t get cut to allow for one more second-unit explosion extravaganza to appease an undiscerning, under thirty male audience. That’s what Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is for.

Check out \”The Hurt Locker\”