I met with Raffi Sapire and Ashley Bush last spring. Two smart women who were graduating from Barnard. They came down to my office to interview me for a piece they were doing on women entrepreneurs, investors etc. We started to talk about what they wanted to do post-graduation. They planned on going on the road to meet women around the country who have built careers around their passions and tape their stories to create mini-films on each one of them. I loved the idea considering I speak to women entrepreneurs and tell their story once a week, the idea of meeting passionate women around the country making their own mark sounded fantastic.
We have kept in touch. They call their series Route by Route. This is their first episode.
Nilofer Merchant sent this infograph out to a list serv that I am on. Always interesting to see data pulled together in this way. Take a look.
Women are leading the charge these days. More women entrepreneurs, more articles pointing to discrimination against women and women doing something about it, more events centered around women, more opportunities as a whole for women of all ages. It is as if the curtain was drawn back and it is ok to be a woman...a leader, a mother, an entrepreneur, a rebel rouser, whatever. Women seem to feel stronger as a group and you can feel it on the streets like the pounding of high heels on the pavement.
I met with Claudia Chan the other day to talk about an event she is putting on. Claudia has been an entrepreneur bootstrapping her own business since graduating from college. Her next move is just an evolution in her career. She is putting on a conference in NYC around women.
The event is called the S.H.E. Summit. It is a week of women's event happening around the city hoping to inspire women at every level from work, exercise, mentorship, motherhood and everything in between. She hopes that the success of this will able her to roll this concept out across the country and maybe the world where there is a womens week in every location at the same time creating worldwide bond. Claudia calls it the S.H.E. movement that she helps will empower more women everywhere.
There was an article in the Herald Tribune called "In marriage, the unseen bottom line" by Katrin Bennhold. For all women, an article absolutely worth reading. She writes about how many women, actually most, really don't pay attention their joint finances once they get married yet they certainly took care of their finances when they were single. They are happy to put a small amount of money that their husband might not know about so they can treat themselves to a pair of killer shoes but don't really know the interest rate on their mortage.
Here is the thing, unless you have an underlying desire to add up numbers most people, particularly women, find their finances boring even though they understand them. I get it but at the end of the day if you don't pay attention to your finances then you don't know how your money is being spent and in essence you don't control your life.
When my parents got divorced, my Mom rose to the occasion of dealing with the finances. She had no choice but she made it very clear to me that I should always know where the cash is and where it is going. It might not be fun but it is essential. My guess and again and this is just a guess because I have seen it first hand particularly when I lived in the suburbs is that when women make a choice to stop working for awhile to raise the kids, they don't feel they are entitled to their love of hand bags and shoes because they aren't working. BTW, that is utter bullshit because as I used to say to people when they asked me what I did when I wasn't working and my kids were young, I'd answer either "Superhero or something that I don't get paid for". So many women them hide what they purchase instead of being honest that we are 50/50 and I need to have these things on occasion. How are we going to make it work so it works for the both of us just because I got off the train for awhile doesn't mean I shouldn't get my fair share of the salary.
I've talked about this before. Fred and I have pooled our finances from day one because we had so little when we began our careers post-college. When I came home one day with a pair of shoes that were just so out of his realm, he freaked. I get it. He grew up with 3 boys in an Army house and had no idea that Jewish women needed to fill certain needs more often than most. We sat down and we planned a budget. He had one and I had one so neither of us cared what either of us bought as long as we stayed on budget. It was heaven. Every time I brought home something I loved, he loved it too because he knew I'd never go off budget.
Bennhold writes that women control 70% of the consumer spending worldwide. Wow. Yet, we only account for 1/10th of the voting power on the worlds key interest rates and run only 18% of the Fortune 500 companies. Those statistics alone should make all of us pay more attention to the money. As she says, the family is the best place to start. I couldn't agree more.
Understanding money, budgets and finances is the best way to be in control of your destiny be it in the house or running a corporation. It puts us in control of our life. Agreed, it can be so boring but honestly isn't exercise too. We exercise because we know we should and it makes us feel and look better. We should feel the same way about our money...that means "our" if you are married.
If you are at a total loss, then follow Dailyworth. That is one of the reason I invested in Dailyworth, it teachies women to think about their finances every day. A little shot in the arm makes you think intelligently about how to spend your money, how to invest your money and how to save your money everyday.
It might not always be exciting but I know where the money is in our house and I know where it is spent and although I might not be the one balancing the check book or physically paying the bills, I know exactly what is going out and in...and that makes me feel empowered and I wouldn't want it any other way. BTW, I am still on a budget and it still works.
There has been a slew of research done on women these days from universities looking at how women engage in information vs men, how many women entrepreneurs are getting funded vs their male counterparts, the impact women make on businesses when they are involved at senior levels, etc. I wish I could keep up on all the papers being written these days.
We seem to be entering an era that is redefining feminism. Women have always had options when it comes to the career world. They can choose to stay in the game 100%, they can opt out and stay home for a time with their kids, they can stay in 50% or they can shift their focus from an every day job to perhaps part-time volunteerism. Yet regardless of which road women take, we are the consumers of the majority of products in the household and are generally responsible for managing the finances of our homes.
Dailyworth puts out three newsletters that are geared directly to women running their own finances. The feedback from our readers have been empowering to the team. I had lunch with someone this week who is trying to tap into why women tend to take a back seat when it comes to manging their finances with a financial adviser. Is it because they don't care or is it because they don't feel comfortable doing it or is because it makes them scared that they might make a bad decision, would women prefer to work with women advisers vs men. I am not sure what the answer is but we are going to drill down and find out.
Here is an answer I would like that I never had understood. Research says that men and women enter most fields after college in equal proportions. At one point, basically around the time that women hit their early 30's they start to check out. That is when many large corporations particularly finance, banking, law firms, start to look completely male driven at the top. This is an issue that companies are very aware of and understand that this is something that needs to be resolved. How can those companies attract women who are entering the workforce want to take jobs with companies that can't retain women once they hit a certain age.
Yet there is something I don't understand and never will. When I was home with my kids living in the suburbs there were plenty of smart women who were part of the group that checked out of companies even though they had significant jobs and clout. They did not embrace taking care of their families finances but almost signed up to be full time mothers that had stopped using their intelligence. A plumber or electrician would come to their homes and they would literally say, please wait here while I call my husband. This happened several times. I found it fascinating. These women ran organizations where they have large staffs and were responsible for many people but at home they became almost brain dead. Why? These are women with college degrees. What happened when they shifted their focus to the home? How come they took a back seat instead of a new role?
We need to figure out how to keep women engaged who choose to opt out for a few years to stay home with the kids. That is where I want to see research get done.
Last night I had dinner with a small group of really interesting women. Most of them come out of the finance world. It was absolutely fascinating to hear their stories in regards to how difficult it was to climb up the corporate ladder, how women were treated vs men, how women treated women, how they looked at things differently, etc. For me, it confirmed that women climbing up the ladder, no matter what field they are in, is not an easy hurdle.
The question that was asked last night was "what if women were the ones running the largest corporations over the last century, would things be different"? I don't know the answer but it certainly makes you think. Women process information completely different than men. Men tend to take more risks and jump in feet first without giving anything as much thought as a woman does. How would that be for corporate America?
Personally I am a big believer of a mix of both men and women in senior management. The combination of brains makes for a much more successful enterperprise....and the statistics, data and research proves that to be the case.
I just finished reading 11/22/63, Stephen Kings book. The story revolves around a portal that takes the main character from 2011 to 1963. He can spend four years in 1963 but when he returns to 2011 only two minutes have passed. He goes back to change history, 11/22/63 is the day that JFK was shot. What would happen if he never got shot, would the world be a different place? There is no doubt that it would be but for better or for worse?
So, as we bounced this concept around last night I kept thinking about the book. I absolutely believe getting more women to run companies is better for the economy, families, community and just everything. Would it have made a difference if men stayed home all these years and women went to work? Not sure it is physically possible as women as the only ones who can actually have the babies but maybe they could have just had the kids and left them home with the men. Women might not have ruled the world in the past but perhaps we will be in the future. If anything, the conversation just gives interesting food for thought. On a side note, we actually do rule the world but perhaps not from a corporate seat.
Last night I went to see Rachel Sklar moderate a panel of four women conversing about the start-up world. Questions around growth strategy, management styles, coders, etc. The event took place at Pivotal Labs which has been taken over by Tech Stars for the past month. Great space.
The Pivotal Labs space has become the stomping ground in the past month and will be until April for people and events surrounding the tech space. It has become something akin to the local bar in college where friends hang out.
Last nights panel included Alexis Juneja who is a co-founder of Curbed, Sarah Tavel of Bessemer, Emily Hickey of Hashable and Beth Ferreira of Etsy ( and many other things ). An interesting group of women. All engaging, all smart, all on top of the start-up world. These are the positive women that I love to talk about. Loads of energy, lots of interesting experiences and advice all rolled up into one panel. There might not be a lot of these women running through the veins of the tech community but the ones that are are pretty damn impressive. Their energy and smarts is what will drive other women into this industry.
I also had the opportunity to reconnect with a bunch of people who I have talked to over the past six months. Catch up on their businesses and where they are at. I am hoping we will do that with the Womens Entrepreneur Festival too. As someone raved to me about the festival last night and what has taken place in her life since. I'd love to get everyone together again in June and hear a bunch of people, like speed-dating, get up on stage and give us a brief synopsis on how WEF impacted their life, their network and their thoughts since the conference. It would make quite a powerful presentation.
The buzz is in the air for women. It is fantastic seeing so many women in the room again last night who were sharing ideas and doing their own fair share of networking. Nice one Rachael.
There are many things I liked about Emily Lutzker besides her interesting career path that led her to do a start-up but what I truly love is that she is and will always be an artist.
Emily began her artistic journey, as most do, through education. She got her BFA at the School of Visual Arts in NYC and her next stop was at the New School where she got a degree in Media Arts. Continuing on to graduate school in Saas-Fee Switzerland where she got a PhD in Media and Communication at the European Graduate School.
As Emily explained to me, trying to fund your life (not necessarily lifestyle but just life) as an artist is not easy. There are odd jobs along the way just to make rent while practicing your passion. She worked in the film business, helped produce videos for the web even sometimes took a job as a stylist just so she could support her artwork life. Eventually she ended up taking a job as a teacher at the New School in the New Media Studies Program.
Her work was being shown at galleries all over the world from NYC to Minneapolis to Miami to Tel Aviv, which was definitely satisfying but it will still hard to make ends meet. After the New School, she was offered a job teaching at Beit Berl College in Israel in the New Media and Games Development department. Seemed like a great opportunity to spend a few years in Israel and off she went.
It was in Israel where she met Eyal Fried, the co-founder of OpenInvo. Both Emily and Eyal had so many interesting ideas but that certainly wasn’t paying the rent and one day Eyal said to Emily, “let’s make a business selling ideas”. That was two years ago and OpenInvo launched this past September.
OpenInvo is a site where you can enter your ideas. Everyone has a good idea but at the end of the day it is all about execution. Artists in particular have lots of interesting ideas. Once you enter your idea, OpenInvo decides if your idea is worthwhile and accepts it based on what they deem to be a saleable. It is free to enter your ideas into the system and you can enter as many as you like. What you hope will happen is that somebody will buy or even license your idea. That is why it took two years to launch. A company, such as Proctor and Gamble, would pay OpenInvo an annual fee for the ability for ten people in P&G to spend time on the site over a course of a year to look for ideas. If they come upon an idea that they thought was viable for their company then that is when things become interesting. Contracts have to be drawn up; lawyers have to be involved, etc.. It took time to build the site, flush out the idea, raise money from friends and family and make sure that all the legal ducks were in a row. OpenInvo takes a small piece of this transaction.
The smartest idea was OpenInvo. An aggregation of ideas from people all over the world for companies or people (no reason that a person couldn’t pay the annual fee) to find and bring to market. Some people have great ideas but they don’t have the ability to execute on them by themselves or have any interest in it. Entrepreneurs are a rare breed and it isn’t just about the idea.
In reality, Emily has always been an entrepreneur through her art. Her life has definitely not been a straight line. Finding a way to support her art through a variety of interesting jobs made her think differently about how she could possibly sell her ideas in order to continue to support her art. Instead, she took that big idea and created a place for anyone to post their ideas and sell them to the rest of the world. She may be an artist at heart but currently she is in love with her business and being an entrepreneur.
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Judy Solomon was my mother. She died this past week, taken away at the early age of 73. Old enough to have lived a full life yet young enough to have had her life cut short. I always thought she would live to the ripe old age of 90 something, but life doesn’t always turn out as expected.
Judy came from a generation of women who didn’t feel complete without a man. They got married early because god forbid you weren’t engaged before you graduated college. She would have liked for someone to take care of her financially and provide a good life for her and her family. But because it didn’t work out that way, she took the reins into her own hands.
Judy was a daughter of an entrepreneur. Her father was a merchant who had opened up and owned a few shoe stores in Bakersfield, CA when she was a young girl. When he died, he left the business to his son. But the business didn’t survive that transition for very long. We used to say that if Judy had taken over the business, there would have been a chain of shoes stores across the country. She had a nose for business.
When we were young, Judy was always searching for her own identity. I could feel it. Our early years were spent in Los Angeles where she stayed home, watched the kids and played bridge with her friends. She was an amazing card player. My father took a job as a Professor at the University of Michigan. The shock of the cold and snow and being taken away from Los Angeles threw her for a loop. She renovated an entire house to keep her busy and tried to find a community of friends. I still have visions of her taking an axe to a wall in her bedroom.
Our next move was to Arlington, VA where we lived for a year. That was probably the beginning of the end of my parent’s marriage. No doubt my Mom felt lost and lonely in yet another location with three kids in tow longing to return to California. She took up painting as a way to express herself and then she read The Feminist Mystique by Betty Friedan. She read that book and said to herself, this book is talking about me.
A year later we moved to Potomac, MD and it was here that my Mom decided that staying at home was killing her. She needed her own identity, she needed something to call her own, she needed something that intellectually challenged her, she wanted to make her own money. And so her life as an entrepreneur began.
My Mom opened the Green Scene in Georgetown along with our neighbor just as the plant generation was exploding. I remember spending hours in Georgetown in her store. Not only were they selling plants to locals, they were doing offices and large home jobs. They created a business.
I don’t remember the entire time-line but as the business ended so did my parents’ marriage. She then started a magazine for kids called Getting There. That is when she began creating content, selling ads and building an audience. If she was doing that now, it would have been a blog.
It became apparent to her that Getting There was not going to get her there financially and she enrolled in a short course at American University. I don’t remember what the class was but she took a job soon afterward at NADA; National Automobile Dealers Association. She did not enjoy working for a large company but it was bringing home the money and she had three kids who she had to feed and clothe. A large company from Japan came into the space and decided to lure her away with a nice sum of cash. One week after she went with them, they decided not to go forward with the business but they paid my Mom for a year in good faith.
It was with that money that Judy Solomon Associates was born.
She grew the company bringing in a variety of trade magazines that she serviced by growing their ad base. At one point, there were five people working for her. It was quite an impressive business. She was making cash, she was running her own business and she was enjoying her life. She had created the financial rewards that she had always wanted with the flexibility an entrepreneurs life style provides. She was competitive although hated confrontation and wanted to live life on her own terms. The business truly consumed her. She was determined to be financially successful.
I always wonder what her life would have been like if she had been born in another generation. She always stayed on the cutting edge not only keeping up on the latest fashion trends but also the latest music and technology. She was part of a generation that didn’t want to be the At Home Mom yet wasn’t really sure how to create that balance. She was always peeking over the fence thinking that someone’s lawn was a bit greener than hers. She was always looking for an identity outside of being a Mom and through many tries finding herself a successful entrepreneur while still yearning for the comfort of someone to take care of her financially. The push-pull of that made her a very layered and sometimes complicated person.
Her quest for her identity was not always easy on the three kids. The refrigerator was perpetually empty and we all did our own laundry and most times one of us made dinner although Judy was an outstanding cook. I always felt that we were living under her roof as a group of independent people taking care of ourselves as we went about our daily life. It bonded us yet also made us adults quickly.
There are always pros and cons to being a stay at home mother or a mother who goes out to pursue their own identity in the world. Sometimes it is for pure financial reasons as it was for my Mother but it really was her love of creating her own business and destiny. It isn’t easy having a balance. In fact it is almost impossible. I do believe each generation gets better at it and the shifting roles between partners are changing. She was a single Mom who rolled up her sleeves and did what she felt she needed to do for herself as well as her family. As she would say many times, “I did the best I could do”.
It really has not hit me yet that my Mom is gone. There will be many moments over the next few months where I will reflect on her and our relationship. One thing that always resonates with me about my Mom is she was a DIY girl, a tenacious entrepreneur who kept her eye on the carrot and whenever lemons came her way she always seemed to be able to make lemonade.
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Dave Eggers: The Circle
a crazy book about a company that seems similar to a google or yahoo that is essentially moving towards world domination. a world of complete transparency. makes you really wonder about the 24/7 world we live in. lots of interesting conversation here.
R. J. Palacio: Wonder
Wonderful young adult book about August, a young man with a severe facial deformity. After being home schooled he begins school in NYC in 5th grade. The issues he faces are challenging. The story is written highlighting different characters each chapter and how they see August. The book is about growing up, being brave, being accepting and more than anything about the importance of being kind. A great quick read.
Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch
I can't imagine that this will not be my top book of the year. An insanely well written fantastic book.
Naoki Higashida: The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
A beautiful insightful book written by a boy with Autism. He explains what goes on his mind and the way he reacts to the world. A true gift for everyone who has someone with Autism in their life.
Jesmyn Ward: Men We Reaped: A Memoir
A powerful memoir about growing up black in rural Mississippi with poverty, racism, drugs and lack of jobs. Watching more than a handful of Ward's young male friends lose their lives and way before 25 is what prompted her to write this memoir. A stark reminder of how the odds are against young black males in this country and why. A really powerful honest book that will stick with me.
Amanda Lindhout: A House in the Sky: A Memoir
Incredible book Must read.
David Levithan: Two Boys Kissing
Everyone should read this book. It flows like a beautifully written essay. Two gay boys in high school try to break the world record for kissing. The event goes viral. That is the main thread of the book among a few other gay relationships. The hardships of coming of age and coming of age gay. Can't say enough good things. Loved this book.
Mitchell Jackson: The Residue Years
An autobiographical novel that goes back and forth between a young man and his mother in Portland, Oregon. The draw of the drugs on the street continues to bring them both back to something they want to move past. The language and swagger of the characters looking to overcome obstacles that are hard to shed.
Katherine Boo: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
A biography of the desperately poor in Mumbai, India. It is actually a non-fiction book but reads like fiction. I did not finish it. I hope to go back to it but I have read several books on this subject and although this was real I just couldn't get through it.
Karen Joy Fowler: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Fun read, well written page turner. The main character describes her life living with a chimp, a father scientist, a mother and a brother who left home. Nature vs nurture.