Women Are Better Investors

New research conducted by Fidelity over a ten-year period found that its female customers earned an average of 0.4 percentage points more annually than their male counterparts. Ron Lieber, writing for the New York Times, reports that this difference can be seen as small but “can add up to tens of thousands of dollars more” over a few decades. This research included 5.2 million customer accounts that individuals controlled from 2011 to 2020, excluding 401(k)s, where investment decisions are made by organizations.

Lieber points out, with some seriousness and some humor, that all the titans of Wall Street have been men: Merrill, Lynch, Goldman, Sachs, Charles Schwab, E. F. Hutton, and so on. He says that it was probably a mistake that only men established the culture of investment and banking in this country “because it turns out that women are often better at investing.” He also notes that it is ironic that neither women nor men seem to be aware of this strength women have.

Why do women have better investment returns? The answer seems to be that women tend to trade less. In other words, women let their investments sit for a long time without engaging in trades while men, according to a study by Vanguard over the same decade, make trades 50 percent more than women every year. These new studies by both Fidelity and Vanguard confirm earlier research conducted between 1991 and 1996 and published in the Journal of Finance in 2000 entitled “Trading Is Hazardous to Your Wealth.” The authors Brad M. Barber and Terrance Odean found that “individual investors who traded the most earned an annual return of 6.5 percentage points worse than the overall performance of the stock market.”

Why do men trade too much? Lieber cites scholars Barber, Odean, and William J. Bernstein, a neurologist, as explaining that overconfidence produced by testosterone is the source of the overtrading problem for male investors because

  • Testosterone decreases fear, which can create unnecessary vulnerability when markets fail.
  • Testosterone increases greed, which can lead to taking too much risk.
  • Testosterone contributes to overconfidence, or having more certainty about your investment decisions than is wise.

Lieber explains how men can emulate women when investing:

  1. Make balanced investment decisions.
  2. Take a reasonable amount of risk.
  3. Leave the investment alone (not trading) until you need it.

It’s not hard to see what can go wrong when testosterone drives investment decisions. After all, the market crash of 2008 was all about excessive risk and greed driven by predominantly male investment firms and banks: Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, for example. We need more women at the tables where these decisions get made that affect all of us. And let’s celebrate this strength that women bring!

 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

 

New Research: The Impact of Everyday Sexism

New research conducted and published by Jessica Nordell and Yaryna Serkez measures the impact of the less visible forms of bias that women experience in the workplace “day after day, week after week.” While many studies have been done on individual dimensions of gender bias, such on women being interrupted more in meetings and unfair performance reviews, these researchers wanted to measure the collective impact of the small indignities that women experience daily. The authors developed a computer simulation where they could manipulate and measure different variables to reveal “how large organizational disparities can emerge from many small, even unintentional biases happening frequently over a long period of time.” Here are some of the small biases they considered:

  • Women’s successful solo projects are valued slightly less than men’s.
  • Their successful joint projects with men accrue them less credit.
  • Women are penalized slightly more when they fail.
  • Women’s potential is underrecognized compared with men’s despite their successes.
  • When women point out examples of unfairness, they are penalized as “self-promoting.”

These biases have all been demonstrated in other studies of individual professions. For example,

  • One study of 500,000 physician referrals showed that women surgeons received fewer referrals after successful outcomes than male surgeons.
  • Women economists are less likely to receive tenure the more they coauthor papers with men.
  • An analysis at a large company found that women’s, as well as minority men’s, performance was effectively “discounted” compared with that of white men.

The authors also examined the differential impact of the intersections of gender with race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other dimensions of identity. For example, a Bar Association study found that white women and men of color face similar hurdles to being seen as competent, but women of color face more than either group. Backlash also plays out differently. A survey of hundreds of female scientists by Erika Hall of Emory University found that Asian American women reported the highest amount of backlash for self-promotion and assertive behavior. White women were more penalized for demonstrating dominant behavior than Black women.

The findings from this research are dramatic. The mathematical models that the study developed found that even small increases in gender bias could lead to dramatic underrepresentation of women in leadership over time. For example, even when women and men start out at the same entry level, if a woman’s performance is valued at 3 percent less than a man’s, it will take a woman eight and a half years to reach the seventh level of leadership compared to a man who started at the same time, who will reach the same level in four years. When women’s performance is valued at 5 percent less, only 2 percent of the women who started out at the same level as men make it to the C-suite level.

The authors ask, What is to be done? They note that diversity training is common but may not have much impact. They cite studies that show that after mandatory diversity training, there is either no change in promotions or positive evaluations for women, or there is only a short-term impact that doesn’t last. The authors suggest that what does work is

  • Overhauling the promotion process to be less subjective and more fair
  • Actively sponsoring women and people of color
  • Holding their managers accountable for promoting women and people of color
  • Tying compensation to achievement of representational goals

If leaders don’t seriously commit to these actions, then nothing will change.

 

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Mexico City’s Woman Mayor Takes on Christopher Columbus

Mexico City’s mayor Claudia Sheinbaum—the first woman ever elected to lead North America’s largest city—made a bold decision to replace a statue of Christopher Columbus, erected in 1877, with one of a precolonial Indigenous woman. Anatoly Kurmanaev and Oscar Lopez, writing for the New York Times, note, “Statues of Columbus are being toppled across the Americas, amid fierce debates over the region’s legacy of European conquest and colonialism.”

Bringing down and replacing the statue of Columbus in the heart of Mexico City has been very contentious because it not only challenges narratives of classism, race, and history in the debate about the legacy of colonialism, but it also injects gender into the debate. The authors cite Mayor Sheinbaum as saying that the new statue “represents the fight of women, particularly the Indigenous ones, in Mexican history.”

One of the legacies of colonialism in Mexico, and in many places in the world, is a male-dominated culture, which often replaced egalitarian and matrilineal cultures. The European colonizers established power structures that allowed only men to vote, own land, control money, own businesses, and lead government. Embedded in these systems of patriarchy is a devaluing of women. But the feminist movement in Mexico has been growing. Kurmanaev and Lopez recount that Mexican women have been increasingly taking to the streets to demand government action against domestic violence, among other issues, pointing out that “at least 10 women and girls were murdered in Mexico on average every day last year, according to official government figures, and most crimes go unpunished.”

Thanks to Mexico’s feminists, in September 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion for the whole country. This is in sharp contrast to the abortion restrictions being imposed in the United States. Mary Beth Sheridan and Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul, writing for the Washington Post, note that “the vote comes as a powerful women’s movement is transforming Mexico. Female politicians now make up half of the National Congress, and an ambitious constitutional reform passed in 2019 aims to ensure gender equality in senior government positions.”

The choice of the statue of an Indigenous woman to replace the one of Columbus embraces important symbolism. Authors Kurmanaev and Lopez explain that the replica of the stone carving the Young Lady of Amajac was discovered in January 2021 and dates to the time of Columbus’s voyages, about 550 years ago. The fact that the decision to replace Columbus with a statue of an Indigenous woman was made by the first woman mayor of Mexico City should also be acknowledged as an important symbol of the difference that women leaders can make.

 

Photo courtesy of Alfredo Gayou (CC BY 2.0)

Paid Family Leave Program: Lessons Learned

Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times notes that while a handful of states and most developed nations offer a form of paid family leave, the United States does not. In 1993 Congress passed a law requiring twelve weeks of unpaid leave, but not much has changed since then. Miller points out that the design of paid leave policies determines whether they will be accessible and fair. Research from states and other countries is available about what does and does not work. Miller cites Lelaine Bigelow at the National Partnership for Women and Families as saying, “What we’ve seen in the states is when you make poor policy compromises, it supercharges inequities in the programs.” What do we know that works?

  • A broad range of circumstances must be covered in the paid leave policy. Research from states reveals that broadening paid leave to cover births, illnesses, domestic violence, a spouse’s military deployment, bereavement, and caregiving for extended family decreases the chance of employer discrimination against women of childbearing age. “There is evidence that employers penalize people who take leave,” reports Kathryn Anne Edwards, an economist at the RAND Corporation. If everyone is eligible to take leave at some point in their career, it is more likely to be used and supported.
  • Paid leave works best when it is for at least three months but no more than six months. In Europe, where it is common for women to take a year off after birth, women are less likely to achieve a senior role than women in the United States and are more likely to work part time. In other words, research shows that longer leaves hurt women’s careers. But if leaves are too short, then the benefits can be lost. Miller cites Maya Rossin-Slater, an economist at Stanford, as saying, “There’s no research-based reason one should go down from twelve weeks” when designing a leave policy. She goes on to state, “You lose some of the benefits like breastfeeding, maternal mental health, and child immunizations” with shorter leaves.
  • Paid leave must include job protection. If you design a leave policy without building in job protection, you don’t have much of a leave benefit. Miller points out that a significant proportion of workers, especially low-wage workers, will not use it unless job protection is included.
  • Men and low-wage workers are more likely to take paid leave if wage replacement is high. Miller notes that it makes sense that low-wage earners need close to full wage replacement to be able to afford to take leave. In California, the first state to offer paid leave in 2002, the share of replacement pay for low-wage workers increased to 70 percent in 2016. A lower percentage is available to higher-wage workers. Another finding from research on existing state programs is that men are more likely to take leave if a higher share of their income is replaced. Miller shares that “when men take leave, research shows, it has a host of benefits, including decreasing the penalties on women who take it and increasing the health of the women and children men care for.” Research from other countries shows that when men who are eligible to take leave do not take it, gender inequities deepen.

It is shameful that the United States is the only developed country that does not provide paid family leave. It is also clear that research exists about how to offer leave that really works as a benefit. Let’s encourage our government to take this step.

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Closing the Childcare Gap

Compared to the rest of the developed world, the United States has a significant childcare gap. Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times writes that the pandemic “has forced the issue” about the relationship of childcare to the health of our economy. She cites Gina Adams, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, as noting, “Parents can’t work without it. It’s gotten to the point where the costs of not investing [in affordable, quality childcare] are much, much more clear” in terms of the drop in women’s workforce participation. Also at risk is the early development of children, especially low-income children, who are losing out on opportunities to participate in high quality early childhood education programs that prepare them for school and lead to successful adult lives because affordable childcare is not available.

Miller spells out the childcare gap for the United States as follows for care of children two years old or younger:

Category of childcare for children two years and younger United States Other

countries

Percent of childcare costs paid by parents 100 percent Denmark: parents pay maximum 25 percent

France: government gives tax credit for 85 percent

Average cost per month per child $1,100 Nordic countries: free

Denmark: free plus $700 quarterly child benefit paid to parents

Percent of GDP paid for childcare 0.2 percent OECD: 0.7 percent
Amount per child paid by federal government in tax credits annually $500 Denmark: $23,140

Norway: $29,700

Germany: $18,700

Combined amount paid by federal, state, and local government per child annually $1,000  
Paid family leave No federal policy Europe: fourteen months paid family leave

The resistance to subsidizing childcare in the United States runs deep. Miller notes that “Americans have long had mixed feelings about whether young children should stay home with family or go to childcare.” But as women continue to drop out of the workforce or are unable to return due to unmet childcare needs, our economy continues to struggle, and our youngest children are left behind. It is time for the United States to invest in childcare and catch up with the rest of the developed world.

 

Photo courtesy of Fons Heijnsbroek (public domain)

Women in the Workplace: New Research by McKinsey and LeanIn.Org

Each year, McKinsey, in partnership with LeanIn.Org, conducts the largest study of women in corporate America. This is the seventh year of this research, which involved 423 participating organizations employing twelve million people. Sixty-five thousand people participated in this year’s survey on their workplace experiences, and in-depth interviews were also conducted with women of diversew identities. The study covers a broad range of topics including the intersectional experiences of different groups relating to representation, promotions, COVID-19 burnout and stress, leadership recognition, microaggressions, the allyship gap, and “only” dynamics. The report also offers recommendations to organizations for change.

The top finding from this year’s research is that burnout is higher for women. The authors report that women in corporate America in 2021 are even more burned out than they were last year “after a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic—and increasingly more so than men.” One in three women report they have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce this year compared to one in four last year, a few months into the pandemic.

Other findings from this year’s research include the following:

  • Women’s representation in senior leadership has increased despite the added stress and exhaustion. The authors report that women have stepped up as stronger leaders. “Compared with men at the same level, women are doing more to support their teams and advance diversity, equity and inclusion [DEI] efforts. They are also more likely to be allies to women of color.”
  • There is a lack of recognition for women leaders who support their teams and advance DEI efforts during the pandemic. Their extra efforts go largely unrecognized and unrewarded.
  • Microaggressions persist. Women of color face the same types and frequencies of microaggressions as they did before the pandemic. They are far more likely than white women to experience disrespectful or “othering” behavior from coworkers. Women and others with traditionally marginalized identities who regularly experience microaggressions are twice as likely to burn out as those who don’t.
  • White people are still not allies. Even though white people in the study report themselves to be allies to women of color, the study authors report that white people “are no more likely than last year to speak out against discrimination, mentor or sponsor a women of color,” or to advocate for them in other ways.
  • There is a “broken rung” in the promotion pipeline. The study authors note that the first step up to manager has been “broken” since they started tracking trends in 2016. Specifically, “women are promoted to manager at far lower rates than men.” For every one hundred men promoted to manager for the first time, only eighty-six women are promoted. This explains why representation of women at senior levels has improved more slowly than women’s overall representation: the number of women eligible for promotion to senior levels becomes more and more narrow as women move up.
  • While women have made some gains overall, women of color have lost ground to white women and to men of color at every step in the pipeline and are severely underrepresented at the top. “Between entry level and the C-suite, the representation of women of color drops off by more than 75 percent. As a result, women of color account for only 4 percent of C-suite leaders.”
  • Being an “only” takes a toll. The experience of being an “only,” or often being the only people of their race or gender in the room at work, is difficult and takes a toll. The authors note that “onlies” stand out and are often heavily scrutinized, their work put under a microscope. “Double onlies,” or women of color who may be the only woman and the only person of color in the room, face more bias, discrimination, and pressure to perform, which can result in faster burnout.
  • Mothers of young children are often another type of “only” when they are the only member of a team with a young child. Mothers face more barriers and biases than fathers in the workplace.

The study also offers some of the following recommendations for change that companies, managers, and employees can make:

  1. Invest deeply in DEI to create a culture that fully leverages the benefits of diversity.
  2. Put practices into place that ensure promotions are equitable.
  3. Reduce bias in hiring and performance reviews.
  4. Track representation, hiring, and promotions and break out metrics for women of color instead of lumping all women together.
  5. Hold senior leaders accountable for progress on diversity goals and factor diversity metrics into performance reviews with material consequences for poor performance.
  6. Reward managers for investing in employee well-being to prevent employee burnout.
  7. Raise DEI awareness for all employees.
  8. Provide training on bias, antiracism, and allyship.
  9. Include valuing diversity in the company’s values.

With these steps, we can make the workplace a better place for everyone.

 

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

 

Women Are Underestimated by Their Managers: New Research

New research published by the Yale School of Management and conducted by Kelly Shue, professor of management at Yale, shows that while women get higher performance ratings than men, they are consistently judged as having less leadership potential by their managers and receive fewer promotions. Shue and her coauthors, Alan Benson of the University of Minnesota and Danielle Li of MIT, studied a large North American retail chain and found that while more than half of the entry-level workers—56 percent—are women, fewer and fewer women hold positions at each level of increasing responsibility:

  • 48 percent of department managers are women
  • 35 percent of store managers are women
  • 14 percent of district managers are women

When the authors studied the assessment and promotion records for nearly thirty thousand workers at the large retail chain, they found that women are 14 percent less likely to be promoted at the company each year because “they are consistently judged as having lower leadership potential than men.” The company uses a two-part annual assessment for (1) for evaluating actual performance and (2) rating leadership potential. While women’s performance at the company is rated 7.3 percent higher than men’s, on average, their potential ratings are 5.8 percent lower. The authors estimate that this lower potential rating could explain up to 50 percent of the gap in promotions.

Previous studies have shown that women are rated higher, in general, on seventeen out of nineteen leadership characteristics, but both the gender pay gap and the dearth of women in senior management positions have not changed despite high ratings. In Shue’s study, she and her colleagues tested whether managers might be correct in assessing women as excellent performers in their current roles but also as lacking the skills to be promoted. Shue explains that to test this possibility, “they identified women and men with similar performance and potential scores for a given evaluation period,” then looked at evaluations for these same employees in the next evaluation period. The women continued to have higher performance scores than men whether they had been promoted or not. In other words, the women who had the higher scores but were not promoted were held to a different standard than the men who were promoted. The authors point out that the ratings on leadership potential are highly subjective, which probably makes them more vulnerable to unconscious bias.

This research also found that as women move up to more senior positions, their potential scores get lower and lower, which eventually shut them out of the most senior roles. It is not a surprise, then, that women end up earning less than men.

What can companies do to create a level playing field? The authors suggest that organizations look for other metrics or methods for forecasting who will be a good manager. It is clear that the current decision-making processes for promotions used by most organizations reflect stereotypes and biases that blind them to the leadership talent that is often right in front of them.

 

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Forgotten Women in History—Part VII

From time to time I find it inspiring to write about women from the past with amazing accomplishments who I have never heard of. Today I’m writing about the first Black woman to earn a medical degree in the United States, a woman who discovered the universe, a woman whose research on genetics overturned hundreds of years of misconceptions, and the woman who built pianos for Beethoven. Have I got your attention?

Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831–1895)

It took from 1895 until 2020 for Rebecca Lee Crumpler to receive the recognition she deserved. Cindy Schmerler, writing for the New York Times, notes that until 2020, Crumpler and her husband lay in unmarked graves in a Hyde Park, Massachusetts, cemetery, her contributions forgotten.

Crumpler earned her medical degree from the New England Female Medical College in 1864, the only medical degree ever granted by them to a Black woman. After graduation, she worked as a medical doctor for the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency created by Congress during Reconstruction to provide services for emancipated slaves for whom it was difficult to get medical services from white physicians. Schmerler explains that “throughout her life, she was ignored, slighted or rendered insignificant, even invisible. Because of her race and gender, Crumpler was denied admitting privileges to local hospitals, had trouble getting prescriptions filled by pharmacists and was often ridiculed by administrators and fellow doctors.”

She persevered because she knew the Black community needed her. From her house in Boston she treated mostly women and children, regardless of their ability to pay. She published a book, dedicated to nurses and mothers, called A Book of Medical Discourses, which is considered the precursor to the popular book, published in 1984, What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Cecelia Payne-Gaposhkin (1900–1979)

Born in England, Cecelia Payne-Gaposhkin’s mother would not give her money for a college education, so she won a scholarship to Cambridge. Although, she completed her course work there, Cambridge would not grant her a degree because she was a woman, so she moved to the United Stated to work at Harvard. According to the New York Times archives, Dr. Cecilia Payne-Gaposhkin was one of the foremost women in astronomy, yet her accomplishments go largely unmentioned. The New York Times notes that she was the first woman to receive a tenured professorship at Harvard and headed the university’s astronomy department from 1956 to 1960. Her doctoral thesis on stellar atmospheres was later described by Otto Struve, head of the International Astronomical Union, as “undoubtedly the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.” Dr. Payne-Gaposhkin is described as the woman who discovered what the universe is made of.

Nettie Stevens (1861–1912)

Born in Vermont in 1861, Nettie Stevens pinched pennies to slowly pay for her education. Finally, at the age of forty-one, she received her doctorate at Bryn Mawr College in the study of genetics. As reported by the New York Times in 1912 in her obituary, “Dr. Stevens was one of the most eminent morphologists in this country and by her success in research and her many scientific articles published in American and German biological journals had made her name widely known both here and in Germany.”

Genetic sex determination was still a mystery, and doctors thought that sex was determined by what a woman ate during pregnancy or how warm she kept her body. Stevens did research on insects and discovered that male insects had XY-shaped chromosomes while female chromosomes were shaped like XX. This discovery overturned hundreds of years of misconceptions. Unfortunately, around the same time in 1905 that she made and published her research, her former advisor, Edmund Wilson, made the same discovery. Her writings were received with skepticism, although her work had the strongest proof. Because of her untimely death, her work was largely overlooked or forgotten, and Wilson is largely credited with this discovery.

Nannette Streicher (1769–1833)

Nannette Streicher is remembered in history as a close friend and caretaker of Beethoven, but she was also a master pianist in her own right who performed for Mozart at the age of eight. She was also was one of the finest piano builders in Europe. Patricia Morrisroe writes that Streicher was a mechanical genius who mastered her father’s piano-building techniques by the age of ten. After her father’s death, she established her own piano-manufacturing company and expanded the range, sound, and sturdiness of the piano as an instrument to be played in performance halls. Her manufacturing warehouses produced fifty to sixty-five pianos a year. She was a friend to Beethoven for over two decades, and they were united by their shared devotion to the piano.

Let us not forget these and the countless other women who have made history.

 

Photo is public domain.

Men Drop Out of College But the Gender Pay Gap Persists

The Wall Street Journal reports that three-fourths of the pandemic-driven college dropouts in the United States were men. These numbers would seem to depict a crisis for men that predicts lower future earning power. If the earnings for men are going down, does that mean the gender wage gap will close? For many reasons, the answer appears to be no. Kevin Carey of the New York Times explains some of the reasons why the gender wage gap persists—and why men in the United States, in general, are not in a pandemic-driven education crisis:

  • The gender imbalance in college enrollment and graduation is not new. Carey notes that women’s enrollment in college surged during the 1970s, but “women have outnumbered men on campus since the late 1970s. . . . The numbers haven’t changed much in recent decades.”
  • Male enrollment in public and private nonprofit four-year colleges dropped more from 2018 to 2019—before the pandemic—than from 2019 to 2020.
  • The raw numbers do not take into account that some college degrees are worth more than others. For example, men still dominate in fields like technology and engineering, which offer some of the highest salaries.
  • There are still some good-paying jobs available to men without college degrees, but there are relatively few for women.
  • Many female-dominated jobs don’t pay well.
  • As women overcome obstacles and move into male-dominated fields, the pay usually goes down in those fields.
  • Data reflects a class difference: students from higher socioeconomic classes are less likely to drop out of college.
  • Last year, women were less likely than men to leave community college despite their disproportionate responsibility for caregiving and domestic work during the pandemic.
  • There is structural admissions discrimination by selective colleges that do not want a gender imbalance in their enrollment. While women apply to colleges in larger numbers than men, their applications are often rejected to maintain a gender balance. Carey cites a dean of admissions at Kenyon College as saying, “Once you become decidedly female in enrollment, fewer males and, as it turns out, fewer females find your campus attractive.”

Carey points out that the gender pay gap has been persistent despite the higher levels of enrollment and graduation from college by women for decades. Obviously, the problem is not just about whether or not you have a college degree. The problem is about societal attitudes about work and family, discriminatory policies and procedures that limit women’s access, and the lack of affordable childcare.

Just today, my cousin called to tell me how surprised she was when a woman plumber showed up at her door today to fix a plumbing problem in her house. The fact that it is still so unusual to see a woman plumber says a lot about what we consider “women’s work” versus “men’s work.” We still have a long way to go to even this playing field.

 

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

International Roundup: Gender Issues in the Workplace

I believe it is important to check in on top stories in other parts of the world on the topic of gender issues in the workplace to balance out our US-centric media. Today’s headlines take place in France, Japan, and Nigeria.

France

In Paris, France, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has announced that she will run for president as the Socialist candidate in the April 2022 presidential election. Elected as the first woman mayor of Paris in 2014 and reelected in 2020, Hidalgo is known as a charismatic and divisive mayor. In 2018, she was fined $110,000 by the French government for appointing too many women (eleven out of sixteen top positions) to senior city government positions. Hidalgo declared the fine “absurd” as she worked to address systemic problems with the underrepresentation of women in top civil service jobs across the country. The ministry in charge of the French Civil Service found that since she was elected, “Paris has made great strides in correcting historic imbalances. Across the city government, women now hold 47 percent of senior management positions.”

Hidalgo, the daughter of poor Spanish immigrants, would be the first woman elected as president in France. Roger Cohen, reporting for the New York Times, notes, “Up to now, the Fifth Republic has produced eight male ‘présidents’ over six decades.” Fittingly, she was anointed as the standard bearer for the Socialist Party at the Chateau de Blois, where in 1429 Joan of Arc stopped for a blessing before defeating the British at Orléans. Cohen observes that “French Socialists appear ready to put their faith in a woman facing a tough campaign and unlikely odds.” Let’s see what happens.

Japan

Even though the Japanese government promised in 2003 that by 2020 women would occupy 30 percent of all corporate management positions, only 13 percent of management positions in Japan were occupied by women in 2020. Ben Dooley of the New York Times notes that Japan continues to have some of the starkest inequality in the developed world. He reports that

  • Women in Japan earn 44 percent less than men.
  • Only 6 percent of board directors in listed companies are women.
  • 44 percent of women worked in part-time or temporary positions compared with just under 12 percent of men.
  • Many women leave their jobs after having a child because Japan’s seniority-based systems does not allow them to make up for lost time due to maternity leave.

In the meantime, despite Japan’s tech-savvy image, Malcom Foster reports that Japan is actually “a digital laggard with a traditional paperbound office culture where fax machines and personal seals known as hanko remain common.” The pandemic heightened awareness in the country that it needs to modernize, but Japan has a severe shortage of technology workers and engineering students. However, Foster reports that university programs that produce these workers have a near absence of women:

  • Japan has some of the lowest percentages of women in the developed world in science and technology programs, according to UNESCO data, and the smallest share of women doing research in science and technology.
  • Women make up 14 percent of university graduates in Japanese engineering programs and 25.8 percent in the natural sciences. This compares to 20.4 percent and 52.5 percent in the United States and 30.8 percent and 51.4 percent in India.

While the government of Japan has started to address these problems by mandating computer programming classes in elementary school for all boys and girls, there is still a long way to go before the mindset changes in the larger culture that tech is a strictly male domain.

Nigeria

Martha Agbani is the leader of a business in Nigeria that empowers women and cleans up the environment ruined by oil-polluting multinationals such as Royal Dutch Shell. Her goal is to put money in the pockets of women, who suffer disproportionately from the effects of oil pollution when their livelihood, harvesting shellfish, is destroyed by oil spills. Ruth Maclean of the New York Times explains that Agbani is doing this by hiring a lot of women to raise mangrove trees that they will sell to Royal Dutch Shell.

Maclean explains that mangrove trees filter brackish water, provide protection against coastal erosion, and provide breeding grounds for aquatic life. After two oil spills in 2007 and 2008 killed off thousands of acres of mangrove forests near Agbani’s village, Shell agreed to compensate the community. Agbani plans to both heal the ravaged environment and empower local women by planting large mangrove nurseries and selling the mangrove tress to Shell. This is entrepreneurial environmental activism and activism for women’s rights at its finest.

Let us continue to learn about and support women around the world who are championing women’s rights.

 

Photo by Dovile Ramoskaite on Unsplash