The week@work – ‘Walden, a game’, Uber’s culture, pollution & the stock market, and the ‘folly’ of abolishing the N.E.A.

This week@work the designers of a new video game would like us to take a walk in the woods, a former Uber engineer authored a blog post that opened a window on corporate culture, an economics professor demonstrated the link between air pollution and stock market fluctuations, and the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art warned against cutting funds to the National Endowment for the Arts.

When we talk about work/life balance we typically think about disconnecting from technology, not using it as a portal for relaxation. Robin Pogrebin‘s article ‘In Walden Video Game, the Object is Stillness’ offers an example of a seemingly contrarian application.

“…the new video game, based on Thoreau’s 19th-century retreat in Massachusetts, will urge players to collect arrowheads, cast their fishing poles into a tranquil pond, buy penny candies and perhaps even jot notes in a journal — all while listening to music, nature sounds and excerpts from the author’s meditations.

While the game is all about simplicity, it has actually been in development for nearly a decade. The lead designer, Tracy J. Fullerton, the director of the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, came up with the idea as a way to reinforce our connection to the natural world and to challenge our hurried culture.

“Games are kinds of rehearsals,” Ms. Fullerton said in an interview. “It might give you pause in your real life: Maybe instead of sitting on my cellphone, rapidly switching between screens, I should just go for a walk.”

“Maybe we don’t all have the chance to go to the woods,” Ms. Fullerton added. “But perhaps we can go to this virtual woods and think about the pace of life when we come back to our own world. Maybe it will have an influence — to have considered the pace of Walden.”

Uber has a new logo and a new ranking as #3 on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. “Uber’s most valuable asset is its data, which has been an important part of Uber’s business since it first launched.” Which is why we should not be surprised if the company is having a bit of a dysfunctional workplace moment.

th.jpg

Christina Cauterucci investigated ‘The Sexism Described In Uber Employee’s Report Is Why Women Leave Tech – Or Don’t Enter At All’.

“Uber is staging a major PR defense for the second time in recent weeks after a former employee published a detailed account of persistent sexual harassment and discrimination she allegedly faced while working as an engineer at the company. Susan Fowler, who left the company in December after about a year of employment, claims in her Feb. 19 blog post that her manager sent her sexual chat messages soon after she was hired. When she reported him to human resources, she writes, she was told that it was his “first offense” and that she should switch teams if she didn’t want a negative performance review from him. Fowler later found out that other women had reported witnessing inappropriate behavior from this same man, and each were told that it was his “first offense” and not a big enough deal to require action.

In her blog post, Fowler accuses a manager of changing her performance scores after a stellar review to keep her from getting a transfer to another team, because it reflected well on the manager to prove he could retain female engineers on his team. This is a particularly outrageous deed in an account full of outrageous deeds. Instead of enforcing a zero-tolerance sexual-harassment policy or asking female employees how management could better support them, Uber has allegedly moved to improve its substandard track record on gender by narrowing opportunities for women on staff and sweeping harassment allegations under the floor mat. Fowler writes that she made repeated, documented human resources complaints about the unfair treatment she endured, but she was gaslighted by an HR representative who told her the emails she sent never happened and that men are better suited for certain jobs than women. It took a statement on a public blog to get any action from company leadership.”

The folks who work in climate science have been under fire in recent weeks. The photo below is a reminder of what the New York City skyline looked like 44 years ago, before environmental protections were enacted.

manhattan2_0.gif

For those not yet convinced of global warming, maybe a direct financial consequence would be more persuasive. Scott Berinato found ‘Air Pollution Brings Down the Stock Market’.

“When University of Ottawa economics professor Anthony Heyes and his colleagues compared daily data from the S&P 500 index with daily air-quality data from an EPA sensor close to Wall Street, they found a connection between higher pollution and lower stock performance. Their conclusion: Air pollution brings down the stock market.

The effect was strong. Every time air quality decreased by one standard deviation, we saw a 12% reduction in stock returns. Or to put it in other terms, if you ordered 100 trading days in New York from the cleanest-air day to the dirtiest-air day, the S&P 500 performance would be 15% worse on the 75th cleanest day than it was on the 25th cleanest day. We also replicated this analysis using data from the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, and saw the same effect.”

img_7827

Finally, this story is not only for those who work in the arts, but for all of us whose curiosity and creativity were sparked by a play, music or a visit to a museum. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director, Thomas P. Campbell warns against ‘The Folly of Abolishing the N.E.A.’

“All too often, art is seen as a “soft” subject, the first thing to be cut, whether by local school boards or the federal government, when money is tight. But looked at purely in dollars, it is a false saving. The N.E.A.’s budget is comparatively minuscule — $148 million last year, or 0.004 percent of the total federal budget — while the arts sector it supports employs millions of Americans and generates billions each year in revenue and tax dollars.

The United States has no ministry of culture. In this vacuum, the N.E.A., founded in 1965, serves three critical functions: It promotes the arts; it distributes and stimulates funding; and it administers a program that minimizes the costs of insuring arts exhibitions through indemnity agreements backed by the government. This last, perhaps least-known responsibility, is crucial. This fall, the Met will host a major exhibition on Michelangelo that will bring together masterpieces from across the world. The insurance valuation is a whopping $2.4 billion — not even our museum, the largest art museum in the nation, could come close to paying the premium for such coverage without the federal indemnity the N.E.A. makes possible.

I fear that this current call to abolish the N.E.A. is the beginning of a new assault on artistic activity. Arts and cultural programming challenges, provokes and entertains; it enhances our lives. Eliminating the N.E.A. would in essence eliminate investment by the American government in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens. As the planet becomes at once smaller and more complex, the public needs a vital arts scene, one that will inspire us to understand who we are and how we got here — and one that will help us to see other countries, like China, not as enemies in a mercenary trade war but as partners in a complicated world.”

This week@work take a break and visit your local museum. Then go home and send an email to your member of congress. Remind them of the importance of “investing in the curiosity and intelligence of its citizens”.

 

Photo credit: Manhattan Skyline, May 1973 – Chester Higgins NARA

The week@work – wage gaps, low expectations, false assumptions,’Confirmation’, and reflections on a 50 year career

After reviewing the stories selected for this week@work, I realized there was a common theme in all except one: women who are pursuing their dream jobs in male dominated fields. The last story, and exception to the theme, is Alberto Tomasi’s, a cabdriver for the past 50 years in Rome.

There have been many conversations recently about the wage gap between men and women@work. One of the most egregious discrepancies occurs on the global stage of world cup soccer. Earlier this month, five members of the U.S. Women’s National Team filed a wage discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation. Carli Lloyd, co-captain of the team outlined her position in an essay, ‘Why I’m Fighting for Equal Pay’.

“I’ve worn a U.S. Soccer uniform for 12 years and have done so proudly. I’ve had some of the greatest moments of my life — winning two Olympic gold medals and the 2015 Women’s World Cup — wearing that uniform. So when I joined four teammates in filing a wage-discrimination complaint against U.S. Soccer late last month, it had nothing to do with how much I love to play for my country.

IMG_2458.jpg

When we talk about the wage gap in today’s workplace, experts estimate women earn 79% of a man’s salary for the same job. For U.S. women’s soccer, it’s 17% for the top players and 21% for the rest. There is no overtime pay in a career that requires a player to be on the road for 260 days a year.

In a sport where the women’s team revenue will exceed $5million vs. a $1million deficit for the men’s team, the top five women’s annual salaries are $72K vs the men’s at $406K. Members of the women’s world cup team earn $15K to the men’s $69K. When the women won the world cup last year they earned a $75K bonus. If the men were to win, they would bring home $390K.

The fact that women are being mistreated financially is, sadly, not a breaking news story. It goes on in every field. We can’t right all the world’s wrongs, but we’re totally determined to right the unfairness in our field, not just for ourselves but for the young players coming up behind us and for our soccer sisters around the world.”

In a related story, New York Magazine writer, Dayna Evans reports on the ‘expectation gap’ in salary negotiations uncovered by job marketplace, Hired – ‘Study Finds That Women in Tech Ask for Lower Salaries Than Men Do’.

womenwhocode1

“After analyzing 100,000 interview requests and job offers over the last year, tech job marketplace Hired found that, on average, tech companies offer women 3% less than men for the same roles. Among the most interesting—and troubling—pieces of data is that men receive higher salaries 69% of the time than women for the same job titles at the same companies.

Some of that disparity could be attributable to women not setting their demands high enough. Because Hired’s marketplace lets job seekers specify the salaries they’re seeking, the report provides a glimpse into both expectations and final offers. In roles that are more male dominated, women often set their salary expectations lower than their male counterparts.

Overall, Hired’s data shows that the average woman on our platform sets her expected salary at $14k less per year than the average man on our platform. When we break the expectation gap down by role — comparing women and men in the same job category — we found as the ratio of men to women in the role increases, so does the gap.”

The death of Pritzker Prize winning architect, Zaha Hadid on March 31 prompted The New York Times to send an “informal online questionnaire” asking “female architects among its readers to talk candidly about their experiences in the profession: the progress they’ve made and the obstacles they still face on construction sites and in client meetings.”

“For a woman to go out alone in architecture is still very, very hard,” the architect Zaha Hadid said. “It’s still a man’s world.” Ms. Hadid often stated that she did not want to serve as a symbol of progress for women in her profession. But, inevitably, she did. A study on diversity in the profession released this year by the American Institute of Architects found that “women strongly believe that there is not gender equity in the industry”; that women and minorities say they are less likely to be promoted to more senior positions; and that gender and race are obstacles to equal pay for comparable positions. Since Ms. Hadid won the Pritzker Prize in 2004, the percentage of female architects in the United States has barely grown, increasing to 25.7 percent from 24 percent, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

The article is a series of snapshots of successful architects@work, encountering obstacles in a still white-male dominated field. One example from Yen Ha, Principal of Front Studio Architects in New York.

13archwomen-span-master675

“We absolutely face obstacles. Every single day. It’s still largely a white, male-dominated field, and seeing a woman at the job site or in a big meeting with developers is not that common. Every single day I have to remind someone that I am, in fact, an architect. And sometimes not just an architect, but the architect. I’m not white, wearing black, funky glasses, tall or male. I’m none of the preconceptions of what an architect might be, and that means that every time I introduce myself as an architect, I have to push through the initial assumptions. Every new job site means a contractor who will assume I am the assistant, decorator or intern. It usually isn’t until the third meeting that the project team looks to me for the answers to the architectural problems.”

In 1991 there was a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Then President George H.W. Bush nominated U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Clarence Thomas to fill the vacancy. This past weekend, HBO aired ‘Confirmation’, the story of former colleague Anita Hill testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Thomas had sexually harassed her.

Unknown.jpeg

‘The Real Story Behind HBO’s ‘Confirmation’ From The NPR Reporter Who Broke The Story’ provides a Q & A with NPR correspondent, Nina Totenberg.

“I’d been hearing all summer long that there were women who said they were harassed by Clarence Thomas when he was at the EEOC and when he was at the Education Department,” Totenberg said. “But I could never really prove it. And then I heard about this woman, Anita Hill.”

That’s when everything changed.

You don’t recognize this now, but sexual harassment was a dirty little secret that most women had but they didn’t talk about. They were embarrassed by it; it was a hindrance and not a help in any way. Now suddenly, it gets popped into the open. … But all of those silent, female experiences materialized in the … phones exploding on Capitol Hill.”

Thomas was confirmed by a vote of 52-48. The legacy of Hill’s action was a dramatic increase in the number of sexual harassment claims filed with the EEOC.

“NPR received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for its gavel-to-gavel coverage — anchored by Totenberg — of both the original hearings and the inquiry into Anita Hill’s allegations, and for Totenberg’s reports and exclusive interview with Hill.”

Totenberg received individual accolades as well, but there was a downside.

“I was pilloried during this. I had one of the great stories of any reporter’s life. I had worked very hard to get it. And the cost was enormous in terms of negative publicity and people trashing me a lot and senators yelling at me. At one point I had a driver at Nightline who went around the corner [and] stopped and he said to me … “Lady, you better get a gun.”

The final story this week is ’50 Years in a Cab: A Long, Winding Trip for One Driver, and His City’, from Elisabetta Povoledo.

Rome_airal_picture.jpg

“From his front-seat perch, Alberto Tomassi, a Roman cabdriver for 50 years, has been both eavesdropper and confessor. He has played impromptu tour guide, thwarted muggings and rushed countless clients to the emergency room.

Expertly navigating Rome’s narrow, potholed streets — many conceived centuries before the internal combustion engine — he has developed the unflappable calm of a Zen monk.

“If you can get through the first 15 years without getting really angry, you can do it forever,” Mr. Tomassi said. “I just take things as they come.”

“You don’t get rich doing this job, but it’s honest work,” he said. “You can raise a family, put your kids through school.”

His only disappointment this year was in not being recognized for his service.

“…no party, no gold watch, no tribute — so he decided to place a round silver sticker emblazoned with “50 years of taxi” on the rear window of his cab.”