Farnaz on Featured, Negating Stereotypes, Redefining Archetypes, New World Trends, New Realities

Rapid Georgraphic and Demographic Shifts in Poverty rates

Not all trends in The New World Marketplace are positive and cheerful.  But it’s important to share all trends and forces–positive and negative. I believe the first step in creating social and cultural change is always awareness and knowledge. And perhaps if we knew that we’re all in this together, socially and economically, we will take necessary steps in changes for the better.

Last year I wrote a blog, when you think poor do you think Black or Hispanic?  It contained important research with social and demographic shifts in poverty and cautioned broad-stroke depictions of race by marketers.  Since then, there has been enormous amount of focus and research about geography and demographics of poverty in America.  Negating so many stereotypes.

Let’s start with top line headline.  Brookings Institute reports that in 2012, the number of people living below the federal poverty line ($23,492 for a family of 4) remains stuck at record level of 40%. Yes, that’s more than 1 out of 3 people. Between 2000 and 2008-20012, the number of people living in these distressed neighborhoods of 40%+ poverty, grew by 5 million (or 76%) to 11.6 million. This is big. The nation’s 100 largest metro areas have 70% of all these distressed census tracts. One in four (23%) lived in big cities in 2008-2012, compared to 6.3% in suburbs. But suburban communities experienced the fastest pace of growth in these areas…almost 3 times the pace.

If we also look at high poverty rates between 20-40%, cities grew by 21% to 5.9 million, while suburbs more than doubled growing by 105% to 4.9 million. All together, the growing prevalence of distressed and high-poverty neighborhoods in suburbs meant that 38% of suburbanites lived in tracts with poverty rates of 20% or more (up from 27% in 2000).

Suburbs in the sun belt experienced some of the steepest increases in concentrated disadvantage. Atlanta ranked in the top 3. Click here to see the table and complete report.  There is also an interesting research by Raj Chetty and others, which explains the rapid rise of poverty in Atlanta caused partly by its already pronounced levels of racial and income segregation. Surprised? I wasn’t. I lived there for 9 years.

There are also demographic shifts with these poverty rates. This new report shows lower-poverty neighborhoods became somewhat more diverse –but still largely white.  In contrast, higher-poverty neighborhoods became more white–although still largely minorities. This is effecting everyone despite the race.  And the fact that so many of these residents are located in suburbs only adds to the challenge and the need for urgency, because these communities are ill-equipped to deal with these needs. This report suggests that ignoring the growth of suburban poverty runs the risk of creating new areas of concentrated poverty.

These new poverty findings have huge business and social implications, specially for retail businesses relying on trade area demographics for transactions.

In another Brookings report, I found that it is not just the fact of being born poor that heightens the risk of staying poor, but inadequate education, race and family stability.  These three factors top inabilities for social mobility. A child raised by a poor unmarried mother has a 50% risk of remaining stuck in poverty and just a 5% chance of making it to the top. Even crueler odds (54% and 1% respectively) face those who fail to complete high school. And we are still reminded by the stain of racism, even with an African American President, with black children living in the poorest neighborhoods and attending the worst schools….half of the black children growing up on the bottom rung remain stuck there as adults (51%) compared to just one in four whites (23%).

We’ve always referred to upward social mobility as the American Dream. Then do we know why this American Dream is in a much better shape north of our border, in Canada? This report sites explanations including wider differences in school quality in the US, higher rates of teen pregnancy, and a bigger gap in college graduation rates by family background. Optimism about the American Dream will fade further as meritocracy is fiercely pressured from two sides: a growing economic divide between earned income and inherited wealth; and a growing social divide marked by differences in education, race and family structure.

Poverty remains a harsh reality for all Americans. It must be a harsh reality for business, social and political leaders as well.  For 2013, Brookings estimates of the poverty rate for all persons and for children are 14.9% and 21.8%, respectively.  No statistical difference from 2012, despite unemployment rate falling by 23%. Think of it this way, a headline adult poverty rate of 14.9% means 47.0 million people—as many as are living in both New York and Texas combined. The children’s rate of 21.8% translates to 15.7 million children. In other words, as of 2013, about one in three people living in poverty in the United States was a child. Think of what that might say for the future of this nation.

The silver lining here is that analysts predict there will be a gradual decline in the headline poverty rate for the foreseeable future, although they don’t expect it to return to its pre-Great Recession level by 2024 despite the fact the unemployment rate is projected to do so. They conclude that there has been a reasonable effort supporting people with various forms of cash (tax credits) and noncash assistance (health care, housing, nutrition, child care) despite a severely depressed economy and an unprecedented lack of jobs. Whether these programs will be enough to fight the ongoing tide of demographic changes (e.g., more single parent families) is doubtful.

We need more…primarily in the forms of education and job training. If not for the sake of social implications, for the sake of business success. I can not imagine these growing poverty rates helping businesses at all. We all know that economic and business growth comes from a growing and thriving middle class.

 

Like to hear your thoughts and comments below…..

 

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Work/Life Balance is no longer a gender issue, it’s cultural and generational

Work/Life balance has been in the forefront of business productivity plans for over a decade as more women entered the work force in management positions and contributed to better company performance. What started out as a gender issue, later became a generational issue, and now it’s a cultural issue. With 70% of US moms working in 2014, the cultural conversation has shifted from whether women should work outside of home to how do we understand the needs and values of the working parents, and tailor policies accordingly, to attract and retain the best talent regardless of gender and/or generation. Talent is a company’s most powerful sustainable competitive advantage. These valuable insights are extremely important in branding strategies of your value propositions to the new world marketplace customers as well.

WMRI (Working Mother Research Institute) recently conducted a fascinating study on 3 generations of men and women that make up majority of the work force now: Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1980) and Gen Y, aka millennials (1981-2000). Interesting similarities and differences between generations of parents as it relates to the best ways to manage work and personal lives….clearly common grounds for all working parents as well as areas where generational and gender attitudes diverge…..

Do you remember Gen X being referred to as slackers years ago? They earned this reputation mainly because they were the first generation that demanded work/life balance. For work-centric boomers, they were slackers. Can you imagine what Boomer bosses are going through now with Millennials? I’ve spoken to many business leaders who stereotype and mischaracterize Millennial’s love and expectation of work/life balance as laziness and lack of ambition, versus a cultural shift and thoughtful re-prioritization of personal and family values.

This WMRI extensive study clearly outlines that Gen Y moms feel far more optimistic and happy than previous generations—mostly because of the support they are receiving from their spouses (as equal active partners) but also from their parents and managers. Gen-Xers tend to be stressed often viewing work as a financial necessity…but they are ambitious, highly educated and tech savvy, and overwhelmingly part of the dual-earner couples. And baby boomers feeling stretched as new demands of caring for parents, retirement and aging are upon them….hard to imagine when they find the time to look and feel younger than their age. The only group that outshine Millennials in their optimism is the female breadwinners—in every category. Interesting, huh?

Couple of surprises about Millennials, even for me…although they are cheery about family finances (64%), pleased with their relationship with their spouses and partners (71%) and were even happier about contributions fathers make in caring for their children (73%)…and although this generation is more career-minded than the previous two….they are more conflicted about child care and career. Most agree that one parent should be home to care for the kids (60%) and home when a child gets there (83%). And this is the generation that feels free to choose between work and staying home and they figure out how. Don’t be surprised if Millennial parents choose to stay at home for some years during their career. Providing flexibility may or may not be enough for them. More than half of all men and women in Gen Y think flex causes work to interfere with family time. So separation of work and family is more important to them. And encouraging unplugging even more so, specially at nights, weekends, vacations, etc.

Depending on your perception, this may emphasize some stereotypes about laziness and sense of entitlements for this generation, but like it or not, this is the future work force. Millennial’s need to unplug is not to avoid hard work, but to help them fuel for the job—whereas boomers and Gen X’ers liked the always-on, always-connected work culture that gave them flexibility of working remotely. Let’s not mischaracterize these cultural shifts in needs and values. The always-on fatigue is somewhat evident in previous generations.

What everyone wants most in the workplace, no matter the gender or generation, are job security and stability, competitive earnings and flexible schedule and culture. But communicating each for different generations may be very different. The key is ensuring that the flex options match the needs of each life stage.

Here’s the common ground regardless of gender or generation…top 3:

  • Couples should have equal input of how income is used no matter who earns what
  • Children should be cared for equally by both parents
  • Work and personal time should be kept separate

Now ask yourself if your current business practices and policies support these values? How about your branding and marketing strategies? I’m starting to see a few fathers in commercials but are we representing working parents both equally caring for children and deciding on spending? Think about it…this is a huge opportunity.

I have written about many studies that have shown that Millennial dads are more enthusiastic and engaged with their kids than previous generations. The latest Pew research released this month revealed that more dads are staying home with the kids. Although this study did not break down by generation, it showed an overall rise of stay at home dads in recent years. High unemployment rates around the great recession contributed to this increase, but the biggest contributor to long-terms growth is number of fathers who stay at home primarily to care for their family. Even more interesting and noteworthy is that working fathers with children under 18 are just as likely as working mothers to say that it is difficult to balance work and family. Roughly equal shares of working fathers (48%) and mothers (52%) prefer to be at home raising their children, but they need to work because they need the income.

These are the trends that will likely have dramatic impact on workplace policies in the not-so-distant future for both mothers and fathers. And they should have dramatic impact on your marketing and branding strategies today and onward.  Do you want to have a powerful competitive differentiation and advantage?  Start embracing these cultural shifts in needs and values.

Are you ready for the shift?

Keep staying informed, and please share your thoughts and comments below….

 

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Negating Stereotypes: When you think “Poor” do you think Black and/or Hispanic?

Who do you think of when you hear the word “poor”?  There are myriad of reports on economic doom and gloom and rise in poverty in the US, but none that hit the nail on the head with what I call, negating the stereotypes…..

A recent Huffington Post article noted that 4 out of 5 adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives–a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American Dream—driven by an increasingly globalized US economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Many people think this poverty is skewed toward racial minorities—primarily Blacks and Hispanics—but this is no longer true.  The race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially.  While Blacks and Hispanics are still three times more likely to live in poverty, census data reports that by sheer numbers, the predominant face of the poor is white…more than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, or 41% of the population, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

To further negate stereotypes, the same article shows numerous studies that reflect:

  • While marriage rates are in decline for all races, for the first time since 1975, the number of white-single-mother households living in the poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade—spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock birth among whites—1.5 million in 2011 comparable to blacks.  Hispanic-single-mother families in poverty trailed at 1.2 million.
  • The share of white children living in high-poverty neighborhoods is increasing to 17%, up from 13% in 2000, even though the overall population of white children in the US has been declining.  The same share of black children dropped to 37% (from 43%) while Latino children went from 38 to 39%.

These shifts have clear indicators as it relates to values, causes and beliefs.  These studies show that nonwhite minorities have more optimism about the future while whites (particularly working-class/no-college) have never been so pessimistic.  Whether these feelings, beliefs and values are ignited by Obama’s election and re-election, and/or economic hardships, they are reflected in hard facts.  And no one can negate the social and cultural changes that are rapidly challenging the status quo.

This puts a different spin for marketers for price/value brands, doesn’t it?  And not just in advertising and marketing campaigns, but also in growth strategies with distribution.  A different spin for politicians, election campaigns and how we evaluate social policies.  A different spin in how we feel about the widening wealth gap between the rich and the poor.  A different spin in how we see “us” versus “them”.

Two years ago, I wrote about Middle Class shrinking and the vanishing American Dream.  And last year, I wrote a blog “The Emerging Middle Class Culture in America” challenging companies and marketers to avoid broad-stroke depictions of non-white consumers.  I defined multiculturalism by a mosaic of different cultures in one platform and a society that is ethnically and culturally diverse.  I always reiterate that does not mean excluding whites or implying ethnic minorities only.

As multicultural societies become the new mainstream and new normal, and non-whites approach a numerical majority in the US, expect to see wealth, income and class to become far greater indicators and predictors of behaviors, consumption and lifestyles than race and ethnicity ever were.  I think we are in that marketplace now.

That’s not to say that race and ethnicity don’t have any cultural impact on lifestyles.  But unless you are selling products and services that cater to a very specific cultural nuance, know that your customers’ needs are driven primarily by their socioeconomic status, not their skin color.  So, start marketing to the inside of your customers, not outside.  This is not easy to do since most analysis, measurements and ratings are still broken down by age, gender, race, etc.  And that’s OK, since the same type analysis is helping us negate our stereotypes.  But, as marketers, we must learn to understand and measure customers’ needs that transcend many demographic lines.  The first step is to start negating stereotypes and challenging orthodoxies, and finding commonalities.  This not only helps your strategic positioning and marketing campaigns, but also help us remember that we’re all in this together.

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Cultural Change Expert explains why women don’t need to man up to be successful leaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (by Tate Publishing)

ATLANTA, GA. – It’s The New World Marketplace afterall, and women, youth and multiculturalism are shaping our future.  A rapid cultural shift has occurred over the last decade, but author and thought leader Farnaz Wallace believes it’s not being addressed by businesses and leaders.

“With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power,” she said.  “Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies to eliminate obstacles that force talented women to choose between family and career, and others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up–but I believe there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.”

Wallace breaks these down into four essentials for women to succeed in The New World Marketplace Leadership: Inner-authenticity, Being the woman leader other women want to work for, Re-defining Power, and Avoiding all gender stereotypes.

“I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love always follows,” she said.  “But how can women gain trust and respect if they’re trying to be someone they are not?”  Wallace believes it’s far more important to find the richest, fullest expression of one’s authentic self, and spend majority of time in strength and passion and generate results, versus trying to fit into a perceived cultural norm.

“Research shows that women have a tougher time working for women,” she said.  “To be a successful leader, people of all ages, cultures, race and gender must want to follow and work for you, specially other women.  Men and women largely agree on life goals. It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves.”

“That’s even more of an important toptic than gender inequality because the old business culture of command and control doesn’t work for men or women,” she said.  Wallace believes it is time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others, and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership–a blend of hard and soft powers, she calls it “smart” powers.  “Women don’t need to man up to be successful, they need to possess smart powers,” she said.

“Women are different than other women, just as men are different than other men, why the continuous focus on gender stereotyping?” she asks.  “I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.”

Wallace is a thought leader, speaker, and strategic consultant focused on helping companies capitalize on cultural macro trends in today’s fast-changing marketplace. She is the published author of the book, The New World Marketplace, and presently resides in Atlanta.

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4 Tips on How to Become A New World Woman Leader (Video/Blog)

With all the great empowerment initiatives for women today, we are still looking at massive gender inequality in corridors of power.  Many great women thought leaders point to re-evaluating business policies as it relates to the flexible work schedule and eliminating obstacles that force brilliant women to choose between family and career.  Others point to women’s ambition calling us all to man up.  While I think there is truth in both, I think there are 4 missing links from this important dialogue.

In my keynote speech at Possible Woman conference two weeks ago, I addressed what it takes to be a successful woman leader in The New World Marketplace.  Here’s a 5-min video highlight of this keynote address followed by my written summary of the 4 tips I shared:

 

 

1.  Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect

I wasn’t just a woman working hard to advance my career in Corporate America, I was an Iranian-American woman….so you can just imagine the brutal stereotypes I had to face and overcome.  I wasn’t just an Iranian-American woman, but I had multi-colored hair and tattoos.   A far cry from a traditional image of a successful businessman.  But at the end of the day, results speak for themselves.  Under my CMO leadership, we drove 5 years of consecutive same-store-sales growth.   So, I built trust and respect instead of focusing on changing myself to fit into a cultural norm…and I’ve always believed once you gain trust and respect, love follows.  Trust and respect are two most important shared values in relationships in The New World Marketplace.  But how can you possibly gain trust and respect of your collegues, employees, bosses, even your customers, when you’re trying to be someone you’re not?

It’s far more important to always find the richest, fullest expression of your authentic self, and spend majority of your time in your strengths and passion, versus trying to fit into an exclusive image of the professional businessman, which is no longer the success archetype in The New World Marketplace. Because being good at what you do has nothing to do with how others see you…but it has everything to do with how you see and feel about yourself.

I not only believe the inner authenticity translates in to your own power and success, but I believe authenticity in branding strategies also translates in to your company success.   Strategy is not about being the best, it’s about being different and unique.  Your own branding strategy has to be the same….about your own uniqueness and differentiation.  Be authentic, focus on your own unique differentiation, gain trust and respect and let the results speak for themselves.

2.  Be the woman leader other women want to work for

Beyond my non-traditional image and my business and financial performance, it was my style of leadership that differentiated me.  I was determined to become the woman leader other women wanted to work for.  As an emerging leader, I was always promoted every 2-3 years by working hard and driving results.  And I’ve had just as many female bosses as I’ve had male bosses….yet the women bosses weren’t the ones promoting me.  I always questioned whether it was a scarcity mentality that there is just not enough abundance to go around for all of us…or a flaw in leadership training for women.  I decided then that I wanted to be a woman leader other women wanted to work for and that I’d provide an environment for women to thrive and succeed.

As I was doing research for my book, I came across this data from Time Magazine:   More than 2/3 of women still think men resent powerful women…yet 45% of women say female bosses are harder to work for, versus only 29% of men.  This is a major issue not often addressed.

Believe it or not, men and women of all races and ages largely agree on life goals.  It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women ourselves.  That’s even more of an important topic than gender inequality, because one of my biggest fear is reaching gender equality but maintaining the same business culture of domination, command and control.  Because that model is not working, and simply switching gender without redefining power and success will not address the core issue.

3.  Redefine Power as a blend of hard and soft powers – SMART powers

I believe it’s time to redefine power as less need to limit or control others and define power as affiliation, linking and partnership.  In fact, the need to control and dominate, in reality, is a feeling of powerlessness.  That means leaving behind the hard, conquest and domination-oriented values.  I don’t believe you need to man up to be a successful woman leader.

Feminine values or soft powers are loaded with polarizing reactions, but they are meant to refer to values associated with creation, life-generating, nurturing powers, caring, relating…human and relationship values that have become a business imperative and taught in almost all leadership materials…versus taking, conquest and domination.

It’s time to use feminine and masculine powers as qualities and values in all women and men, instead of gender stereotyping.  Let’s face it…there are many women who lead with masculine hard powers, and there are many men who lead with relating, nurturing, caring & soft powers.  It has nothing to do with gender.

I believe we all need both…. and it’s a matter of knowing when to use which… Blend of hard powers and soft powers….let’s just call it “SMART POWERS.”  It’s time for women leaders to re-evaluate how they view power to succeed and use SMART powers.

4.  Stop gender stereotyping, avoid focus on gender differences

Men are from Mars.  Women are from Venus.  Ask yourself why do we persist to focus on gender differences.  Men are logical.  Women are emotional.  If that’s true, and marketing is designed to get an “emotional” response and attachment from customers, why do we bother market to men at all?  Men are different from other men.  Women are different than other women.  Why the continuous focus on how men and women are different?  Haven’t we confused our next generations of leaders enough?

I, for one, have defied all gender stereotypes, but that doesn’t mean I forgot how to be a caring, nurturing woman as a leader.  I used my masculine powers to gain competitive market share and drive financial results, but I led my team with feminine powers of caring, relating and partnership.

The focus on gender inequality must be different than our continuous focus on gender differences.  In fact, I believe if we want to achieve gender equality, we must first stop gender stereotyping for it serves no purpose other than protecting traditional orthodoxies that have held women back for generations.

 

In The New World Marketplace, it’s neither the man’s world nor a woman’s nation.  It’s a dynamic, cooperative shared reality that is under constant evaluation.  And the template of success and happiness is very unique and personal to each individual, and is gender neutral and color blind.  If you lead with authenticity, purpose and passion, power and success will follow.

 

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Gen Y, Negating Stereotypes

I often talk about “negating stereotypes”…..even devoted a category on my web site to it.  Recently, I realized there are just as much stereotyping with Gen Y as there are with women and multiculturalism.  There are obvious dangers with stereotyping millions and billions of people in to a few headlines.  The opportunity here is to take research directionally, instead of replacing our insights—meaningful insights that only happen through relating, understanding and experiencing “people.”

Gen Y is often referred to as the lost generation battered by economy.  One of the great articles, America’s screwed generation, shared great, shocking stats …. but just as the title suggests, painted a dark picture.  Yes, the wealth gap between younger and older Americans is now the widest on the record.  According to US Census, median net worth of young people under 35 fell 35% from 2005-2010, versus 13% for adults over 65.  The older generation not only benefited from good economic timing, but they also are not retiring as early.  Entry level positions are filled with experienced talent pool, making unemployment rates among Gen Y 50% above national average.  Then there is their debt—from student loans to credit cards.  Many stay in school just so they are not forced to start paying their student loans without a good job—or any job—so they incur more debt.  It’s a doom loop, you see?

Inevitably, Gen Y has delayed adulthood in many milestones.  According to a Pew study, one third have put off marriage and kids and a quarter moved back with their parents.  There are other personal and cultural factors at play with this delay in adulthood (see my blog do you really know 20-somethings), but regardless, this can have major demographic implications in the decades to come.  Twentysomething Inc report that 85% of new grads move back with parents to save on living costs while they job hunt.  And when they are finally ready to move out, the prospects of “owning” a home is out of reach for so many.  But home ownership, starting a family and other traditional milestones for adulthood are not life’s starting points for Gen Y.

Sure, no generation has suffered more from the recession than Gen Y.  This has led into assumptions that are now backed by research data.  But the world economy has been tough for a while now.  Many members of Gen Y haven’t personally experienced the economic boom most of us have, or bitter about pay cuts, downsizing or outsourcing.  They are experiencing the new normal in The New World Marketplace.

I see more positive signs amid all these negative statistics.  I wonder how much of our own economic fears we project on to this generation.  This is the unafraid, optimistic, tech savvy, educated, resourceful, and diverse generation who will know what works and what doesn’t…. greatly decreasing the collective learning curve.  Culturally liberal, one third were raised by a single mother … so gender roles are blurred and multiculturalism is the norm.  Gen Y men prove to be hopeless romantics .… young women earn more than men in big US cities ….. young women now top young men in valuing a high-paying career….these are just a few research examples of negative stereotypes when it comes to Gen Y.

Financial success, beyond necessities, is just one part of happiness….probably a small part.  They are committed to find “meaningful” work and pay out student loans versus getting rich.  Unlike previous generations, there is no shame in getting help from parents, but a luxury worth bragging about.  Parental support, technology and rise of entrepreneurism provide this generation the freedom to pursue their hearts’ desires.  And they will.

Despite all the labels and stereotypes (including my own), majority of work force will be filled by Gen Y by 2025—so, the current sluggish job market and steep student loans will not hold them back.  It’s just the timing.  More importantly, it will be about when, where and how work gets done that will bring forth the big cultural change.  And the new values and ideological power of Gen Y will shape our future work force.

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An Honest Discussion About Gender Gap – in Leadership and Politics

The gender gap continues as the hottest topic as both business leaders and women’s movement continue their focus on underrepresentation of women in high government positions, C-suites and corridors of power.  You don’t have to like politics or follow partisan conventions to know that the gender gap is at the forefront of political campaigns as well. The empowerment initiatives are overtly celebrated, but little to no honest discussions are taking place in regards to the real social, cultural and business barriers women face.

This is the Republican National Convention week.  Judging by the line-up of speakers, it is easy to see how the GOP is going out of their way to show that this is not just the party for the older white men.  Last night, Condoleezza Rice and Susana Martinez gave brilliant speeches.  Paul Ryan referred to his mom as his role model.  Ann Romney saluted moms, specially working moms who have to work a little harder.  All clearly designed to bridge the gender gap for the Romney campaign.  Again, empowering but no mentions of the real issues and barriers, nor any solutions on how to overcome them.

Ann-Marie Slaughter wrote an amazing, honest article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.  I personally wouldn’t use that title, because asking whether women can have it all is a rhetorical question.  We never seem to ask if men can have it all, and the question itself is airbrushing reality for both men and women.  It’s the same ironic label as “working women” when women represent over 50% of the work force.  We don’t seem to ever say “working men.”

Slaughter stepped down from her high power government position so she can spend more time with her sons.  She notes reasons such as, inflexible schedules, unrelenting travel and constant pressure to be in the office, conflicts between school schedules and work schedules, and the insistence that work be done in the office.  This is not unique to Slaughter.  These are the barrier most women face with our current social and business policies, particularly in positions of power.  What is more unique is her financial independence and the ability to choose family over career.  A choice most working mothers, with the same maternal instincts, do not have….they struggle to simply keep what they already have.  This may explain why we have over 50% women representation in low-to-mid-management positions but a very small token in top positions.

Do we want social/business policies and political platforms that keep women at home or a better gender balance in leadership that has proven over and over again to grow the businesses and economy?  This brings us up to the honest dialogue about the gender gap.

When given a choice, women seem to make compromises that men are less likely to make.  Of course, fathers do not love their children any less than mothers do, but men seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their career.   Whether this “choice” is culturally driven or maternal instincts (I think it is both), the reality remains that positions of power provide that choice, while lower positions are occupied by those without one.

Work-life balance is not a women’s issue—it is a social and business issue for all of us. Slaughter offers good solutions for flexible working hours, investment intervals and family-comes-first management culture….shifting the false notion of when, where and how work will be done.  I agree and implemented all these suggestions in my previous C-suite position, while generating great financial results.  I’d add longer maternity leave, better affordable child-care, and women’s health issues to this list—particularly pertinent for those working mothers, without a choice, who are our future leaders.

Many men, just like women, would like this cultural change too, but we need to redefine what success looks like.  Her article sites research proving that organizations with extensive work-family policies have better performance.  So, what do you think is stopping politicians, specially female politicians who fight so hard for women’s votes, from addressing these issues?  We keep hearing that children are our future, but are they paying any respect to our future when it comes to working mothers?

I don’t have any kids, so this is not personal for me.  But I care and believe in policies that support women not to choose between family and career.  I can afford my own insurance, so taking away women’s right to have health insurance pay for birth control is not personal for me.  But I care and believe in women’s reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, and the freedom to “choose.”  Professional success with real commitment to family life–with or without kids–is important to everyone.  Don’t you think it’s more about country’s social and business policies than women’s lack of ambition, as often repeated by the status quo?

Political campaigns are rightfully centered on job creation and keeping women and men employed.  But they are missing a greater point on how to support families when they are employed.  A big opportunity in closing the gender gap in leadership, as well as political votes.  You see, it’s time to have an honest dialogue about the gender gap.

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Evolving Archetypes & Rise of Women – Should Men Falling Behind?

I saw the movie Snow White & the Huntsman last week and was intrigued by the twist to this fairy tale.  This Snow White didn’t just lie down waiting to be kissed and saved.  She got trained in the art of war by the Huntsman and led an army of her fellow men in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.  These archetypal changes for the roles of women is nothing new in movies and our pop culture.  Remember Princess Leia standing up to Darth Vader in Star Wars, or Trinity fighting alongside Neo in The Matrix?  And who can argue whether Angelina Jolie is the new James Bond or not?

The hero/ine is an archetype that is universal, but we are now recognizing that it is also gender neutral.   Practically all new epic movies from Avatar to Harry Potter have female heroines as well as males heroes who physically go to war, fight injustice, and bring peace, harmony and happiness to the world.  I find it interesting that different female archetypes throughout history were far more diverse and complicated than where we ended up in our current social model and branding messages.  Even in the classical music world, we’ve seen classical trumpeters as stereotypically male.  But women like Alison Balsom, who won the female artist of the year in Classic Brit Awards 2011, have trumped that stereotype as well.

I read an interesting article on New York Times, Boys Have Fallen Behind, about how American girls have achieved parity with boys in math but are well ahead in verbal skills and reading.  The National Honor Society says that 64% of its outstanding members are girls. Some colleges even give special help to male applicants to avoid skewed sex ratios.  How is that for a change?  Among whites, women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees and 62% of master’s degrees. Among blacks, the figures are 66% and 72%.  One of my own continuous sound bites: for every two men graduating from college, three women graduate, and with better GPAs.  This is real, and contrary to the popular belief that it may due to multicultural demographic growth in the US, it is a global concept.

The National Bureau of Economic Research outlines this beautifully in the article, Why Do Women Outnumber Men in College.  In 2003, there were 1.35 females for every male who graduated from a four-year college. That contrasts with 1960, when there were 1.6 males for every female.  This article suggests that the shift started in the 70s when women aimed to have careers rather than to follow in their mothers’ footsteps, and as a result the age of first marriage increased by 2.5 years.  Factors include the availability of the contraceptive “pill”, the feminist movement, social acceptance of co-habitating without marriage and higher divorce rates.  By 2009, the median age for the first marriage was delayed by 5 years (Do You Really Know 20-somethings).  I believe it is a byproduct of cultural, social and economic forces.

And to top it all off….Sorry, Young Man, You’re Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech, either.  It turns out that women are new lead adopters of the whole bundle of technology.  The technology industry’s focus on men is just a reflection of women’s current underrepresentation at major venture capital firms and electronic/internet companies.  And it is built on a plain wrong stereotype and a far cry from the reality of the new marketplace.  To negate this stereotype further, this research shows that the majority of technology users are women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, not the 18-24 year olds.  So who do you think you should ask about what the future looks like?

At a time when men are still hugely overrepresented in Congress, on executive boards, and in the corridors of power, do we think this will shift the future of our Corporate and Leadership culture?   The Dark Side of Girls’ Success in School article in Huffington Post argues that it won’t unless girls shift the “good student” toolkit for greater risk taking and challenging the authority.  This article attributes girls’ success in school to respect for an obedience of authority, careful rule-following, people-pleasing and succeeding in an externally imposed framework…qualities that will translate into their success at lower-mid-levels, but not as leaders and game changers.  While there may be some truth in this perspective, I can shoot holes in it by women’s zest for entrepreneurship, which is all about risk taking…and decades of women’s movement which is all about challenging the authority and shrugging off criticism.

So when I’m asked on interviews whether we will ever achieve gender equality in leadership in my life time, I always say, yes, we will, and just by default of this cultural evolution currently in progress.  Even the child care culture is evolving as men get more involved with this responsibility.  And young families will end up with the spouse most qualified to earn higher pay taking on greater financial responsibility, regardless of gender.  Again, a byproduct of cultural, social and economic forces.

Should we care whether boys are struggling in schools and underrepresented in colleges?  Of course we should.  The feminist movement, rise of women and the evolving cultures and archetypes were always about equality and partnership–to make the best use of human capital for economic success and to enhance our social models–but never about the shift in power, making one inferior to the other.  Wouldn’t it be a better world if everyone focused on their own personal and unique strengths and passions, regardless of gender?  I would argue that this will be the only way to increase productivity and prosperity , both at work and in personal lives.

 

 

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The Emerging Middle Class Culture In America

We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in the US, and most people and companies are not aware.  Some of us who are, ignore it or simply not happy about it.  Just the word “multicultural” draws in polarized reactions.  This is one of the three macro trends that I define as imperatives for business and social success in the future.  And it is shaping the emerging middle class in America.

I remember the marketing days when Latinos were primarily segmented into the lower income category.  But that is no longer the case, is it?  According to a new Nielsen report published last month, Latino’s income growth during the past decade has significantly surpassed the nation’s average.  Although 43% of Latino’s still earn below $35k/year (versus 35% total), 36% earn $35-75k (at par with 34% total) and growing at a higher rate.  What may be even more surprising to most is that 10% earn $75-100k, which is a 31% growth since 2000…. and 11% over $100k per year, which is a dramatic 71% increase.

Over 52 million strong, or 1 in 6, Latino buying power of $1 trillion in 2010 will change to $1.5 trillion by 2015.  You can expect Latino population and buying power to continue growing even with the decline in the immigration numbers.

Let’s put this into context… There are more Latinos in the US than Canadians in Canada, Malaysians in Malaysia, or South Africans in South Africa.  Latinos in the US represent second-largest Latino nation, right after Mexico, and before Spain, Columbia and Argentina.  If a standalone country, the buying power would be one of the top 20 economies in the world.

In my November blog, how to reach the fastest growing Asian market, I explained how the Asian market is over-indexing the US national average in just about every meaningful consumer category—specially in income, education and family size.  With this recent study showing Latino income on the rise, we can safely say that the landscape of American middle class is rapidly changing into a multicultural mosaic.  We are about to redefine the culture of middle class in America, which will in turn redefine every aspect of the pop culture, consumerism, politics, economy and business.  Just think of how branding strategies will have to shift for retail, residential buying, food, education, financial services, transportation, entertainment and media.

American marketers have never relied on a broad-stroke depiction of White consumers.  They should keep the same mindset when it comes to Latinos and other racial/ethnic groups.  Stereotyping the Latinos or Asians in the US will not be any different than stereotyping Caucasians.

According to Census, among US children, Hispanics are already 1 in 4 of all newborns.  Hispanics, Asians and multi-racial children accounted for all the US youth growth in the last decade.  Think of how this will define the next generation of our country.  The multi-racial children are clearly the result of inter-racial marriages.  Marriage across racial and ethnic lines has doubled since 1980, with 41% of all intermarriages in 2008 between Hispanics and whites, 15% between Asians and Whites, 11% between blacks and whites, and 16% in which both parties are non-white.

Contrary to the popular belief on language barrier, Neilsen particularly notes that Latino consumers’ usage rates of smartphones, TV, online video and social networking/entertainment makes this group one of the most engaged in the digital space.  During February 2012, Latinos increased their visits to social networks/blogs by 14% from a year ago.  This is also true for all multicultural population as Gen Y is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history.  Unlike the ethnic groups in previous generations assimilating in the mainstream culture, the new and young multicultural populations take big pride in their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and are considered acculturated.

This article is not intended to be an advertising campaign for Hispanic media and agencies.  For me, it is critical to add that older, white males are just as much part of the multicultural societies as any other ethnic groups.  I define Multiculturalism by a mosaic of different cultures in one platform, and a society that is ethnically and culturally diverse.  That does not mean excluding Caucasians or implying ethnic minorities only.

So, how are you defining or stereotyping your multicultural initiatives?

 

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More Than 50 Women Presidents and Prime Ministers Worldwide – Why Not America?

The United States is considered the most powerful country in the world.  Then why is it that we stand 90th in the world in terms of women in national legistures?

Most don’t know that even countries like Cuba, China, Iraq and Afghanistan have more women in the government than the US.   Most of us remember Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher, thanks to Hollywood and pop culture.  But not many know that Argentina had the world’s first women President more than 3 decades ago—Isabel Peron.  But she can’t claim the title of the world’s first elected female head of state.  That position was filled in 1960 in Sri Lanka by Sirimavo Bandaranaike…even before Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir.

Since then, more than 50 women have been elected heads of state, from powerful nations like England and Germany, to smaller countries such as the Phillippines, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, to developing countries like Lithuania and Rwanda.  Some of these countries have already elected women leaders two or more times (to see a complete list, click here.)

So the question remains, how come the US has not elected a woman President yet?  This can’t be just a conspiracy by men.  Let’s face it, there are more women voters than men, just as there are more women in the population and work force than men.  Could it be that women are not voting for women, and if so, why?

This is not to imply that the qualifications should be gender based, but let’s at least ask the question:  are we really standing up for the right values?  Even the highly acclaimed oscar-nominated movie “The Iron Lady” about Margaret Thatcher’s life showed the hard powers versus soft powers.  And yes, she got elected 3 times.  Do we think that’s what it takes?  Safety, security and domination before freedom, openness, trust and partnership?  Women and men of all races, cultures and ages largely agree on life goals.  We all have masculine and feminine qualities.  It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women themselves.

You can’t be what you can’t see.  I believe that media’s misrepresentation of women has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.  We see that in top Corporate/Board positions (only 5-8% women representation) to Congress (17%).  So surely there is emotional and cultural resistance on top to fiercely guard the status quo.  This is largely due to all the gender stereotyping and how we define power and success in media as well as business and social models….how we create a culture of fear that justifies the social model of domination in the name of safety and protection.

Being the most powerful country in the world is not an easy position to maintain on an ongoing basis.  But so long as we continue embracing the mindset of security, protection and domination for that top position, we are forcing our nation to default into the masculine qualities and hard powers. And, yes,, women are perceived as softer/nicer.  Why else would we have 93% of prison population occupied by men, and only 7% by women.  I believe as long as we value hard powers, masculine qualities for President position, we will continue asking ourselves this very same question—or maybe in a decade or so, end up electing another “Iron Lady.”

Great New World Leaders—women and men—should be ready to trade fear, scarcity and domination mindset for love, abundance and partnership mindset….lead from the heart and manage from the head.  That means combining hard powers of safety, protection and competitive advantage with the soft powers of love, caring and relating.  Let’s just call it “smart powers.”

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