Saturday, July 5, 2014

Women's Magazines

Our family gave a gift subscription of the New Yorker Magazine to our primary care physician so that we would be guaranteed an interesting reading experience while waiting for our appointment. As a consequence, we have become acutely aware of the available reading materials in other doctors' waiting rooms.

Recently, I visited a dominantly-female waiting room where I discovered the magazines there were: Self, Glamour, Elle, and one huge 916-page issue of Bazaar. It was the Bazaar spring fashion issue, loaded with beautiful, skinny models in this year's "must have" colors and cuts. Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs never were so massive!  As I thumbed through the pages of picture after picture of near-starved models, I wondered how women could not possibly be intimidated and overwhelmed by this overdose of fashion.

I had an urge to bring in my own copies of Fortune, Scientific American, MIT Technology Review, or National Geographic just to show women what magazines with real WORDS looked like.

Since then, I have become acutely aware of magazines available to women and how they present the world of opportunities to them - young and mature alike. I walked by a newsstand and discovered that fully 60% of the display was dedicated to the limiting range of women's needs: how to dress to attract a man, how to use make-up to attract a man, how to lose weight to attract a man, how to cook to attract a man.

Two sisters were raised in the same family, environment, and geographical location, went to the same schools, and shared many of the same teachers. One was enamored of the girls' fashion magazines, while the other was fascinated by books about great historical figures (women as well as men).  Who really knows why one person turns off the powerful pull of peer influence, while the other is attracted to its enchanting song? Advertising is a magnetic force, especially enticing in today's all-embracing online environment.

We express concern that girls and young women are not attracted to, or interested in, fields which we know will contribute to their secure, financially-rewarding, and intellectually-satisfying future. These fields, generally, are described as STEM - science, technology, engineering, and math - or at least professions which have these knowledge bases at their foundation.

The latest efforts in this area seek to entice young girls and women into computer science classes where they currently constitute a startling 1% of the headcount. The newest initiative, by non-profits following the lead of $50 million in funding from Google, is called Made With Code. The theme of this initiative is to persuade young girls that "programming is fun" using such examples as learning how to use a 3D printer to produce bracelets and other jewelry. Or, how to program computers to design and fabricate dresses or jeans.

Seemingly irrelevant to these efforts are the facts that women were the programmers instrumental in calculating trajectories used on board ships and by artillery in the field during World War II; a woman (Admiral Grace Hopper) led the effort to design the first business programming language (COBOL); a woman was instrumental in the founding of scientific computing (Ada Lovelace); a woman was the founder of telecommuting (Dame V.S. Shirley); women "computers" were responsible for the identification, location, and measurement of our inventory of stars - a key aspect of the origins of astrophysics; a woman (Anita Borg) was instrumental in building a fault-tolerant Unix operating system (a core component of most academic and many government computing systems today); a woman (Donna Dubinsky) was one of the co-founders of Palm Computing Co., the first hand-held personal digital assistant; a woman (Dr. Anita K. Jones) was instrumental in the early development of computer security systems within DARPA, the same entity that developed the Internet; and a woman (Ayah Bdeir) founded and is CEO of littleBits, an innovative systems hardware design business that offers an easy to use electronic construction toolkit to build electronic circuits using an extensive modular electronics library.

The Anita Borg Institute documents literally hundreds of other women role models in the field of technology and all of its related scientific professions. Rather than build on that magnificent foundation of exemplary women in computer science leadership, Made With Code advocates have decided that the best way to get women to address complex contemporary social, economic, and technical problems is to teach young girls how to make bracelets with computers, scanners and 3D peripheral equipment that cost upwards of $1,000 a pop.

Perhaps we might start by re-thinking how we teach young girls to envision their future. Could we teach them to view a future that revolves around THEIR accomplishments, rather than as an appendage to either a spouse or a family? Could we possibly teach them to view the world as an empty slate or screen on which THEY might write the solutions to substantive problems they encounter, rather than sit back and demand that someone else make it easy for them? Perhaps we need to toss them on some figurative desert island where they have to discover for themselves how to solve the problems they encounter using only the resources that surround them. Perhaps that figurative island is a hack-a-thon where they take what skills they have acquired in real programming courses and collaborate with other team-members to build an application they are willing to have judged by adults as meaningful products addressing important issues.

Young women can do this. There are stellar examples of young women of achievement succeeding in the Intel Science Fair, one of many competitions where the best and the brightest in science, engineering, and technology are acknowledged and rewarded.  Our expectations of young girls and women, as they make their educational and career choices, today, are crucial in determining which path they will follow. Will they follow a path that fills their closets and minds with clothes, trinkets, and the superficial trappings that advertisers want them to buy or will they follow a path that fills their minds with the wonders of the universe and confidence in their appropriate role in the discovery of its truths, opportunities, and solutions?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Linda A. Livingstone

It was announced May 27, 2014 that Dr. Linda Livingstone will leave Pepperdine University as its Dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management to accept the challenge of heading the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB) in Washington, DC as the former dean of GWSB leaves a $13 million cost overrun and the prospects of a six year review of the school’s teaching standards by the national academic accreditation board.

Dr. Livingstone may find herself sweeping out some Augean Stables. The previous head of GWSB, Dr. Dan Guthrie, was invited to leave as dean in August 2013 over “fundamental differences about financial and operational performance” according to the leadership of GW. His accomplishments are many, although his methods were challenged.

Guthrie established two new degree programs in China (a master’s of finance, a master’s of accounting) with a master’s in business analytics in development. GWSB signed a deal with Pearson plc to launch an online MBA program, revamped the school’s existing online programs in project management and information systems technology, and established a healthcare MBA. GWSB also is in the middle of an accreditation review by the Association to Advance Collegiate School of Business (AACSB). A written report to the accreditation review committee is due in early September and a site visit to the school is expected in December. (More on Dr. Livingstone’s qualifications to deal with that challenge, below.)

Dr. Livingstone brings an amazing packet of credentials to GWSB. She certainly looks like the right person in the right place at the right time.

She’s been Dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University since June 2002, overseeing a student body of about 1,600 on six campuses and over 35,000 alums around the world. She was responsible for oversight of a $200 million expansion of the business school's regional campuses and establishing partnerships with 40 different business schools around the world.

Other key accomplishments under her leadership:

  • the Education to Business (E2B) Applied Learning program involving corporate support from 300 companies. “E2B is an MBA consulting program in which teams of students address a pressing business problem for a real company over the course of a semester, culminating in a final proposal and presentation.”[i]
  • a business plan/ pitch competition to foster entrepreneurship
  • an entrepreneurship emphasis added to the school’s full-time MBA program
  • a certificate in Socially, Environmentally and Ethically Responsible business strategy (SEER)
  • a Center for Applied Research and a Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence
  • new MS degrees in management and leadership, applied finance, global business, accounting, and entrepreneurship and
  • the Dean’s Executive Leadership Series, providing students and alumni access to contemporary business leaders.

Since 2009, Dean Livingstone has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Association to Advance Collegiate School of Business (AACSB), the pre-eminent international accrediting body for institutions offering undergraduate, master's and doctoral degrees in business and accounting. Since 2013, she has served as the board’s vice-chair/chair elect. She serves on the AACSB Maintenance of Accreditation Committee, AACSB Impact of Business School Task Force; the Advisory Council of BizEd Magazine (the official AACSB publication); and is on the board of directors of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

Prior to Pepperdine, she was an associate dean for graduate programs at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She spent 11 years at Baylor where she was an assistant professor and then associate professor of management before serving as associate dean of graduate programs from 1998 to 2002. She was responsible for the oversight of 11 full-time graduate degree programs. While at Baylor, she led faculty groups in revising the Hankamer School's full-time MBA curriculum, enhancing the rigor of the program and raising its admission standards. She also was instrumental in developing a study abroad program in Cuba and established and managed a cooperative program with the Shandong Electric Power Company in Jinan, China, where she taught at its educational campus.

Born and raised in Perkins, OK, she is the daughter of an assistant basketball coach at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.

“Livingstone played basketball at OSU as an undergraduate. She said her athletic experience at the university helped shape who she is today. It provided her with opportunities to lead a team in difficult situations, an experience which has helped her in her career.

“Those leadership opportunities were really critical,” she said.”[ii]

Livingstone received her B.S. in management and economics, an M.B.A., and a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University. She was inducted into the Spears School of Business (OSU) Hall of Fame and honored by her alma mater, Oklahoma State University, as its first-ever recipient of  the Outstanding Ph.D. Award.

Dr. Livingstone’s research interest focuses on creativity in organizations as influenced by the fit between the individual and the organizational environment.

Another woman clearly outstanding in her field.

[i] Dean's Corner: Faculty Development at the Heart of Technology Enabled and Experiential Learning
AACSB enewsline October 2013
[ii] Lessons learned at OSU help Pepperdine dean
by Silas Allen, Stillwater NewsPress, July 24, 2010
Sources: Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University, faculty profiles:
Graziadio Business Review:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Confidence Gap

In The Atlantic article by the same name (April 14, 2014) Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write about their two years of research which resulted in their new book, The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know  (HarperBusiness, April 15, 2014).

“The elusive nature of confidence has intrigued us ever since we started work on our 2009 book, Womenomics, which looked at the many positive changes unfolding for women. 

Most women (and probably all men) will start reading this 6,500 word treatise and not make it to the last 750 words which actually tell women how to overcome the all-too-typical problems of lack of confidence that women display.  So, I’m going to start with their conclusions:

Confidence “is the factor that turns thoughts into judgments about what we are capable of, and that then transforms those judgments into action.”
In psychology test after test, women are not less competent than their male counterparts. Women did poorly on such tests when they didn’t answer the questions – when they don’t even try.  When they do try, the results are indistinguishable between men and women.

Confidence matters just as much as competence.  The consequence of low confidence is inaction. The same findings were revealed in research about women entrepreneurs who pursued venture capital.  When women applied for funding, they received it on a par with the men entrepreneurs.  But, too often, women don’t even apply.

Over 4,000 words in The Atlantic article were dedicated to talking about all of the ways and how women lack confidence – example after horrific example.  Another 1,500 words were dedicated to analyses of the conditioning women experience as children, fostering this abject lack of confidence.

Finally, in the last couple of paragraphs, we find a few words of hope. 

The lessons that actually can help us are these:
  • We can teach girls differently.
  • The brain is essentially an adaptable medium.
  • Sports can provide the kinds of training and stimulus that girls need to understand and accept victory and defeat. 

When I first heard about this article, I was with a large group of women executives who were networking.  All they could do was “trouble talk” about those first 4,000 words. 

It’s our job to force women to skip all that garbage, which they know only too well, and get on to reading the solutions, the answers, the truth – not the myths.