The week@work: 100 greatest business minds, inequality & activism@work

Have you noticed how little time we have to catch our breath between ‘breaking news’ stories? We seem to be suffering from group attention span disorder. This week@work the focus is on narratives with a thread longer than 140 characters; important stories that dim when the next shiny object distracts: leadership, inequality and activism@work.

Forbes Magazine is celebrating 100 years in publication with essays by the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds. “To celebrate Forbes’ centennial, we amassed an A-to-Z encyclopedia of ideas from 100 entrepreneurs, visionaries and prophets of capitalism—the greatest ever collection of business essayists and greatest ever portrait portfolio in business history.”

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Here’s a sample of thoughts shared by global leaders:
Georgio Armani: “I always try to maintain a sense of reality and ensure that I surround myself with the right people, who understand the times in which we live. In this line of work, my team is crucial. I’m the one who decides, but I like having lots of other people with whom I can discuss ideas, as this helps with the creative process. In the world of fashion, five years is already a hundred, so going forward, the challenge will be to capture the attention of a public that is increasingly stimulated by countless offers and new forms of communication.”

Lee Shau Kee: “There’s a Chinese saying: “Explore what’s best in the others and follow.” Among my friends, I always learn the best from them.”

Jacqueline Novogratz: “In our connected era, word spreads. People know when you are being true to your values. Don’t worry about reputation but about character. You build character by practicing empathy, practicing moral courage, practicing determination. Those traits are like muscles. When you are known for that, you don’t have to worry about guarding your reputation — others will do it for you.”

What’s the common thread here? Common sense.

Patricia Cohen reports on the historical trend toward income inequality this week@work, ‘Why the Pain Persists Even as Incomes Rise’. “The disconnect between positive statistics and people’s day-to-day lives is one of the great economic and social puzzles of recent years.

“…the forces undermining the middle class may reach back farther than many economists have thought. The latest evidence comes from a group of researchers at universities and the Social Security Administration who have been tracking the earnings of hundreds of millions of individuals over their careers.”

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In the late 1960s “instead of increasing, lifetime earnings for men made an about-face and began to decline. They have been dropping pretty much ever since. The result was that a 25-year-old man who entered the work force in 1967 and worked for the next three decades earned as much as $250,000 more, after taking inflation into account, than a man who had the same type of career but was 15 years younger…since the 1950s, three-quarters of working Americans have seen no change in lifetime income.”

Negotiating issues of gender and race form another aspect of inequality@work.

The ongoing argument around gender discrimination in Silicon Valley continued with the publication of Ellen Pao‘s book ‘Reset’ and Nellie Bowles‘ article ‘As Inequality Roils Tech World, A Group Wants More Say: Men”.



Jessi Hempel examined Ms. Pao’s career exploring ‘The Pao Effect is What Happens After Lean In’. “Pao’s story is, in part, her own attempt to discern just where reality diverged from her expectations. With clear-eyed hindsight, Pao reflects on her earliest career choices—where to apply to college and whether to go to law school, where to work and when to leave a job. She pauses to examine the things her college counselor told her, and the early sexism she encountered at Harvard Business School. “Honestly, I just thought there were a few men who were really immature, with lousy senses of humor, and I avoided them,” she writes of that time.”

Ellen Pao’s story is a cautionary tale for the intrepid women who ‘lean in’ to a career in tech.

Nellie Bowles’ ‘must read’ provides an up-to-the-minute update on the tech workplace. “a fringe element of men who say women are ruining the tech world…While many in the tech industry had previously dismissed the fringe men’s rights arguments, some investors, executives and engineers are now listening. Though studies and surveys show there is no denying the travails women face in the male-dominated industry, some said that the line for what counted as harassment had become too easy to cross and that the push for gender parity was too extreme a goal.”

The week@work ended with a demonstration of workplace activism reported by Nancy Armour, ‘In protests, NFL comes together for one of its most powerful days’.

170924164325-23-nfl-kneeling-0924-exlarge-169.jpg“The NFL had one of its finest moments before the games even began Sunday, coming together from every corner – players, coaches, owners and league office – in forceful rebuke of the latest torrent of hate from President Donald Trump. Whether black, white or brown, on bended knee or with locked arms, the NFL’s rare show of unity was both a dignified condemnation of the wrongs we still must right and a reminder that, for all of our differences, America remains our common ground.”

Where in the group of Fortune100 greatest business minds do we find the answer to the ongoing challenge of inequality@work?

John Paul Dejoria, founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems and co-founder of Patron Tequila shared his philosophy. “It’s a basic thing that goes back to the law to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Treat and pay your staff exactly the way you’d want to be treated if you were in their place…In all the businesses we’re involved in it’s the exact same way. If you love your people and let them know you’re giving back, not just hoarding all the money for yourself, they want to join in.”


Photo credit: Staten Island homes – Tom Maguire/Newsday July 7,1965, Green Bay Packers/Dylan Buell/CNN September 24, 2017






The week@work – the economy improves, the downside of ‘cultural fit’ & the new Fortune 500

The ‘big’ stories in this week@work included the release of the May 2015 US employment report and the 61st version of the Fortune 500. The small stories with potential ‘big’ impact told of the growing concern of the majority of Americans about income inequality and research showing discrimination at work is increasing as hiring managers rely more on ‘cultural fit’ to select employees.

On Friday the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics released the May 2015 employment report.

“Worries about the American economy’s momentum were blunted on Friday by the government’s announcement that employers added a hefty 280,000 jobs in May, well above the monthly average logged over the last year.

The official unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 5.5 percent as more Americans jumped back into the labor pool and began the job hunt. Hourly wages, which have grown fitfully, rose 0.3 percent last month, possibly helping to lure back some discouraged workers who had been staying on the sidelines.” (The New York Times)

Fortune magazine announced it’s annual listing of the largest U.S. companies by revenue.

“This year’s Fortune 500 marks the 61st running of the list. In total, the Fortune 500 companies account for $12.5 trillion in revenues, $945 billion in profits, $17 trillion in market value and employ 26.8 million people worldwide.”

The top ten companies are Walmart, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway, Apple, GM, Phillips 66, GE, Ford Motor Company and CVS Health. Compare that to the  top ten in Forbes Magazines’ list of ‘World’s Most Innovative Companies’ or Fast Company’s ‘Most Innovative Companies 2015’, and there is only one company that appears on two lists, Apple (Fortune and Fast Company). Forbes’ #1 company, Salesforce, the biggest tech company in San Francisco, appeared on the Fortune list for the first time in its’ 16 year history at #483.

Fortune’s number one, Walmart, is the company George Packer described in his book, ‘The Unwinding’, as the model that continues to influence our economy on a much broader scale:

“Over the years, America had become more like Walmart. It had gotten cheap. Prices were lower, and wages were lower. There were fewer union factory jobs, and more part-time jobs as store greeters…The hollowing out of the heartland was good for the company’s bottom line.”

A CBS/New York Times poll released on Wednesday found that the majority of Americans are concerned about the widening income gap that separates the Walmart shoppers from those on Rodeo Drive.

“The poll found that a strong majority say that wealth should be more evenly divided and that it is a problem that should be addressed urgently. Nearly six in 10 Americans said government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, but they split sharply along partisan lines. Only one-third of Republicans supported a more active government role, versus eight in 10 of Democrats.

Far from a strictly partisan issue, inequality looms large in the minds of almost half of Republicans and two-thirds of independents, suggesting that it will outlive the presidential primary contests and become a central theme in next year’s general election campaign.”

The last story of the week concerned the downside of ‘cultural fit’. Lauren A. Rivera, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, shared her research on candidate selection in ‘Guess Who Doesn’t Fit In At Work’.

“When done carefully, selecting new workers this way can make organizations more productive and profitable. But cultural fit has morphed into a far more nebulous and potentially dangerous concept. It has shifted from systematic analysis of who will thrive in a given workplace to snap judgments by managers about who they’d rather hang out with. In the process, fit has become a catchall used to justify hiring people who are similar to decision makers and rejecting people who are not.”

At the end of the week@work we know the economy is improving and folks are becoming increasingly aware of income disparity.

But is anyone concerned that the largest revenue generating companies have no relationship to the most innovative companies in the world? If you are starting out your career or considering a move, do you choose a revenue generating behemoth or a venture capitalized innovative organization?

And for all of us @work – we want to ‘fit in’ to the organization culture, but with our talents, not personal similarities.

The week@work – April 20 – 26 CEO pay, women@work & a yellow hairdryer

This week the conversation continued about Gravity Payments CEO’s decision to cut his salary and raise the minimum wage of his employees. Women@work were the topic of a viral gender equality spoof and Meryl Streep announced plans for a screenwriting lab for women over 40. And for those of you budding entrepreneurs comes the story of Dry Bar and those yellow hairdryers.

Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments announced in mid April that he would be ‘sharing the wealth’ with his employees. His plan is to raise the minimum salary for all his employees to $70K within the next three years. Business professors and cable TV pundits criticized his idea, suggesting he was crazy, going so far as to cite research that happy workers are not necessarily productive workers.

This is what you get for being innovative. How will you know unless you try it?

Conceding on MSNBC that he might be crazy, “he dismissed the back-seat business advice as misguided. Proudly calling himself a capitalist, Mr. Price…argued that the new salary structure would benefit his firm in the long run even as it would help, more broadly, to highlight the corrosive effects of income inequality in American society.”

He is building a corporate culture founded on values of fairness that he believes will benefit his company in the long run.

At the Tribeca Film Festival actor Meryl Streep announced plans to fund a screenwriting lab for women over 40.

As reported in Variety, “The retreat will be run by New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers.  

“Called the Writers Lab, the screenplay development program aims to increase opportunities for female screenwriters over the age of 40. This year the initiative will accept submissions May 1-June 1, with eight winning scribes named Aug. 1.

Among the mentors to participate in the Lab’s inaugural year are writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Beyond the Lights”), producer Caroline Kaplan (“Boyhood”), and writers Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde”) and Jessica Bendinger (“Bring It On”).

Citing current statistics, Forbes Magazine reported : “As of 2014, women constituted only 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films. Shockingly, this is the same percentage of women working in these roles in 1998. The needle hasn’t moved.”

Which leads us to ‘Its Only Fair That Men Should Have It All’ a video spoof of gender inequality. The video, created by Patricia Noonan, Nadia Quinn, and Emily Tarver used an all-female cast and crew of 70 to comment on a serious topic, with humor in words and music.

The last story of the week is a profile in The New York Times of the Drybar founder, Alli Webb.

“In just five years, Ms. Webb’s business has grown to a $50 million-a-year enterprise. (That was in 2014; the company says it is on track to generate $70 million in revenue in 2015.) This was not what she imagined growing up in South Florida. Back then, a young Ms. Webb (nee Landau), was forced to contend daily with her hair, which was wavy, and in humid Florida, very frizzy.”

What is Drybar? A visit to the website defines the product:

“Drybar is a brand new “blow dry bar” concept created around a very simple idea:
No cuts. No color. Just blowouts for only $40. You see, we believe that everyone (even us pros) prefers having someone else blow out their hair. Why? It just looks better! We also believe there has to be a better option than paying $60+ at a traditional salon, or going to a less-than-desirable discount chain. But there’s not. So, we decided to make one.”

Here is a simple business idea that originated with a basic beauty need and a woman who created a market for a product we didn’t know we needed until it arrived.

From the NY Times story: “Drybar now has 3,000 employees. There is a line of styling products, hot tools and brushes, sold in the Drybar shops and at Sephora. The company has about 50 investors, many of whom began as clients, like the actress Rose McGowan, and Alexander von Furstenberg, who got in touch about investing after he picked up his teenage daughter from a Drybar shop where she was getting a blowout. “I was like, wow, this place is so well run, just the execution, you know, everything,” Mr. von Furstenberg said.”

Most days you have to create your own success. Mr. Price of Gravity Payments is redefining employee compensation. Meryl Streep is recognizing the value of storytellers over 40. The creators of #makeitfair are reminding employers of the equal contribution of all workers. And Alli Webb has built her business based on 10 core values and a bright yellow hairdryer.