$350 million for WeWork co-founder shows how broken and biased venture capital is

Of interest (for the WeWork story, watch the AppleTV series, WeCrashed):

A reported $350 million investment into a new, yet-to-be-launched real estate venture founded by a controversial businessman has drawn criticism from women entrepreneurs.

The investment, which was made and publicly shared by venture capital powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz, is in Flow, the new company of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann.

Given Neumann’s questionable business dealings and his abrupt exit from WeWork amid a fraught initial public offering in 2019, this new investment typifies the immense gap that exists in comparison with how much money venture-funded companies founded solely by women garner, experts say.

The investment is a prime example of how venture capital (VC) ecosystems “have always been inequitable,” Rebekah Bastian, the CEO and co-founder of OwnTrail, a startup that helps people achieve their next personal and professional milestones, told NPR.

“When 16% of investment partners at VC firms are women, 3% are Black and 4% are Latinx, it’s not shocking that women founders have received 1.9% of venture dollars so far in 2022,” Bastian told NPR over email. “Black-founded startups in the U.S. raised less in Q2 2022 in aggregate ($324 million) than Adam Neumann received in a single check from Andreessen Horowitz.”

Andreessen Horowitz did not respond to requests for comment.

Why the venture funding for Neumann received such a visceral response

To understand why Neumann, Flow and the millions of dollars raised caused a groundswell of condemnation among women, one place to start is Aug. 14, 2019.

That’s the day WeWork first released its paperwork to go public and revealed to the world how Neumann had siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars for himself, restructured the company to provide himself a tax break and rented his own properties to WeWork.

A month later, The Wall Street Journal reported on Neumann’s partying and “unusual exuberance and excess.” One of the more puzzling aspects of Neumann’s tenure was how an entity he controlled “sold the rights to the word ‘We’ to the company for almost $6 million—before public pressure led him to unwind the deal,” the Journal reported.

Neumann stepped down as WeWork’s CEO on Sept. 24, 2019, not long after the company’s valuation, once estimated at $47 billion, dropped precipitously.

To see Neumann raise hundreds of millions of dollars roughly three years after his exit from WeWork is a sign of how “there will be Adam Neumanns but there won’t be Abagail Neumanns,” said Katica Roy, a gender economist and the CEO and founder of Pipeline, an award-winning startup that uses artificial intelligence and cloud computing to close the gender equity gap in the workplace. Roy is also the daughter of a refugee who was brought to the U.S. on Air Force One after being granted passage by President Dwight Eisenhower.

“The Flow funding illustrates perhaps the most high-profile example of ‘prove it again’ bias, or the fact that women have to work harder than men to substantiate their competence,” Roy told NPR over email. “These biases lead to smaller and fewer checks for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color.”

Neumann and Flow also reveal a double standard that exists around second chances in business, said Amy Nelson, co-CEO of The Riveter, which has built a collective of work and event spaces for working women across the United States.

“I think the outrage is about the fact that a lot of Black and brown founders, a lot of women, don’t even get the chance to fail. You can’t show the world a comeback if you can’t even get into the arena,” Nelson told NPR.

How bias is woven into the world of venture capital

Despite a banner year that brought in a record $330 billion of venture capital funding in the U.S., only 2% of funds in 2021 went to women-founded teams, Roy said.

Part of this disparity stems from how investors question founders who are women in comparison with those who are men.

A 2018 journal article, “We Ask Men to Win and Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding,” revealed how women receive more prevention questions from potential investors. Prevention questions focus on safety, responsibility, security and vigilance; for example, “How predictable are your future cash flows?”

Meanwhile, men receive more promotion questions from potential investors, according to the article, published in Academy of Management Journal. Promotion questions focus on hopes, achievements, advancement and ideals; for example, “What major milestones are you targeting this year?”

“These biases also reflect the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the U.S. Fully 65% of VC firms have zero women partners or GPs [general partners], and women represent only 4.9% of all VC partners in the U.S.,” Nelson added. “We call ourselves the land of opportunity. However, as we see time and time again, opportunity is not equitably distributed.”

These issues are among the many that explain why entrepreneurs like Jaclyn Fu did not seek out venture funding when starting their companies.

Fu and her co-founder, also a woman of color, launched a 470% successfully funded Kickstarter campaign that helped get their business, Pepper, a direct-to-consumer bra brand for small-chested women, off the ground.

The venture capital that Neumann raised is just another sign that the industry hasn’t progressed, Fu told NPR.

“I was furious that time and time again, VCs invested in the same pattern that rewards toxic, growth-at-all-cost behavior and ineffective stewardship of capital,” Fu said. “It’s wild that safe bets for VCs look more like Neumann with fanciful ‘vision’ versus founders who can actually prove product-market fit and real customer opportunity.”

Change is slow but coming to the venture capital industry

Andreessen Horowitz and its co-founder Marc Andreessen do not care what the world thinks when it comes to their investments, Nelson said.

“No white man has to care,” Nelson added. “White men account for almost all of venture capital investors and almost all of venture-backed founders, and I’m convinced that their money flows in a circle.”

That circle must be broken, said Lizelle van Vuuren, a U.S.-based South African who is co-founder of Undock and founder of Women Who Startup, a learning community for women entrepreneurs. Van Vuuren is also the chief growth officer at OwnTrail.

Van Vuuren was among the first of many women to respond to Neumann’s VC raise on Twitter. When it comes to the world of venture capital, women not only have “to change the game, the rules and the playing field, we have to do it with a smile,” she tweeted.

“I think more women are going to win. I think more Black and brown, Asian, immigrants and disabled founders are going to continue to win, because we’re not going to shut up,” van Vuuren told NPR. “Every generation has yearning for improvement. That is the beauty of human evolution. We will always, hopefully, be focused on improving the way we found things, especially younger generations. So whether Adam continues to make headlines or whatnot is irrelevant to someone right now, at her desk, trying to build a startup with four team members with about $400,000 in the bank. They’re gonna be out of money in several months. And she has to figure out how to raise money. She’s focused on that.”

Source: $350 million for WeWork co-founder shows how broken and biased venture capital is

Paul: The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don’t Count

A plague on both their houses:

Perhaps it makes sense that women — those supposedly compliant and agreeable, self-sacrificing and everything-nice creatures — were the ones to finally bring our polarized country together.

Because the far right and the far left have found the one thing they can agree on: Women don’t count.

The right’s position here is the better known, the movement having aggressively dedicated itself to stripping women of fundamental rights for decades. Thanks in part to two Supreme Court justices who have been credibly accused of abusive behavior toward women, Roe v. Wade, nearly 50 years a target, has been ruthlessly overturned.

Far more bewildering has been the fringe left jumping in with its own perhaps unintentionally but effectively misogynist agenda. There was a time when campus groups and activist organizations advocated strenuously on behalf of women. Women’s rights were human rights and something to fight for. Though the Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified, legal scholars and advocacy groups spent years working to otherwise establish women as a protected class.

But today, a number of academics, uber-progressives, transgender activists, civil liberties organizations and medical organizations are working toward an opposite end: to deny women their humanity, reducing them to a mix of body parts and gender stereotypes.

As reported by my colleague Michael Powell, even the word “women” has become verboten. Previously a commonly understood term for half the world’s population, the word had a specific meaning tied to genetics, biology, history, politics and culture. No longer. In its place are unwieldy terms like “pregnant people,” “menstruators” and “bodies with vaginas.”

Planned Parenthood, once a stalwart defender of women’s rights, omits the word “women” from its home page. NARAL Pro-Choice America has used “birthing people” in lieu of “women.” The American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime defender of women’s rights, last month tweeted its outrage over the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade as a threat to several groups: “Black, Indigenous and other people of color, the L.G.B.T.Q. community, immigrants, young people.”

It left out those threatened most of all: women. Talk about a bitter way to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

The noble intent behind omitting the word “women” is to make room for the relatively tiny number of transgender men and people identifying as nonbinary who retain aspects of female biological function and can conceive, give birth or breastfeed. But despite a spirit of inclusion, the result has been to shove women to the side.

Women, of course, have been accommodating. They’ve welcomed transgender women into their organizations. They’ve learned that to propose any space just for biological women in situations where the presence of males can be threatening or unfair — rape crisis centers, domestic abuse shelters, competitive sports — is currently viewed by some as exclusionary. If there are other marginalized people to fight for, it’s assumed women will be the ones to serve other people’s agendas rather than promote their own.

But, but, but. Can you blame the sisterhood for feeling a little nervous? For wincing at the presumption of acquiescence? For worrying about the broader implications? For wondering what kind of message we are sending to young girls about feeling good in their bodies, pride in their sex and the prospects of womanhood? For essentially ceding to another backlash?

Women didn’t fight this long and this hard only to be told we couldn’t call ourselves women anymore. This isn’t just a semantic issue; it’s also a question of moral harm, an affront to our very sense of ourselves.

It wasn’t so long ago — and in some places the belief persists — that women were considered a mere rib to Adam’s whole. Seeing women as their own complete entities, not just a collection of derivative parts, was an important part of the struggle for sexual equality.

But here we go again, parsing women into organs. Last year the British medical journal The Lancet patted itself on the back for a cover article on menstruation. Yet instead of mentioning the human beings who get to enjoy this monthly biological activity, the cover referred to “bodies with vaginas.” It’s almost as if the other bits and bobs — uteruses, ovaries or even something relatively gender-neutral like brains — were inconsequential. That such things tend to be wrapped together in a human package with two X sex chromosomes is apparently unmentionable.

“What are we, chopped liver?” a woman might be tempted to joke, but in this organ-centric and largely humorless atmosphere, perhaps she would be wiser not to.

Those women who do publicly express mixed emotions or opposing views are often brutally denounced for asserting themselves. (Google the word “transgender” combined with the name Martina Navratilova, J.K. Rowling or Kathleen Stock to get a withering sense.) They risk their jobs and their personal safety. They are maligned as somehow transphobic or labeled TERFs, a pejorative that may be unfamiliar to those who don’t step onto this particular Twitter battlefield. Ostensibly shorthand for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” which originally referred to a subgroup of the British feminist movement, “TERF” has come to denote any woman, feminist or not, who persists in believing that while transgender women should be free to live their lives with dignity and respect, they are not identical to those who were born female and who have lived their entire lives as such, with all the biological trappings, societal and cultural expectations, economic realities and safety issues that involves.

But in a world of chosen gender identities, women as a biological category don’t exist. Some might even call this kind of thing erasure.

When not defining women by body parts, misogynists on both ideological poles seem determined to reduce women to rigid gender stereotypes. The formula on the right we know well: Women are maternal and domestic — the feelers and the givers and the “Don’t mind mes.” The unanticipated newcomers to such retrograde typecasting are the supposed progressives on the fringe left. In accordance with a newly embraced gender theory, they now propose that girls — gay or straight — who do not self-identify as feminine are somehow not fully girls. Gender identity workbooks created by transgender advocacy groups for use in schools offer children helpful diagrams suggesting that certain styles or behaviors are “masculine” and others “feminine.”

Didn’t we ditch those straitened categories in the ’70s?

The women’s movement and the gay rights movement, after all, tried to free the sexes from the construct of gender, with its antiquated notions of masculinity and femininity, to accept all women for who they are, whether tomboy, girly girl or butch dyke. To undo all this is to lose hard-won ground for women — and for men, too.

Those on the right who are threatened by women’s equality have always fought fiercely to put women back in their place. What has been disheartening is that some on the fringe left have been equally dismissive, resorting to bullying, threats of violence, public shaming and other scare tactics when women try to reassert that right. The effect is to curtail discussion of women’s issues in the public sphere.

But women are not the enemy here. Consider that in the real world, most violence against trans men and women is committed by men but, in the online world and in the academy, most of the ire at those who balk at this new gender ideology seems to be directed at women.

It’s heartbreaking. And it’s counterproductive.

Tolerance for one group need not mean intolerance for another. We can respect transgender women without castigating females who point out that biological women still constitute a category of their own — with their own specific needs and prerogatives.

If only women’s voices were routinely welcomed and respected on these issues. But whether Trumpist or traditionalist, fringe left activist or academic ideologue, misogynists from both extremes of the political spectrum relish equally the power to shut women up.

Source: The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don’t Count

Tolley: Women and racialized political candidates are being set up to fail

I’m less pessimistic than Tolley given overall progress election to election, albeit slower than desired. And gender equity may be more of a factor in winnable ridings as visible minority and Indigenous candidates are largely, but not universally, as a function of riding demographics:

Recent elections have resulted in more women, racialized and Indigenous people holding political office in Canada. That’s good news, but we’ve got a long way to go. Elected institutions still do not reflect the demographics of the populations they claim to represent. These representational gaps are a clear indicator of democratic inequality.

It’s not that there is a shortage of qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. It’s that the major parties still tend to privilege candidates who are white, male and middle-aged. Parties have many of the tools they need to address electoral under-representation, but rather than being a gateway into politics, parties are frequently the gatekeepers. It’s time this changed.

Political parties are the central pressure point in any effort to address electoral under-representation. The problem isn’t really voter bias: Canadians tend to base their voting on party and leader preference, and this inclinationtends to override all but the strongest prejudices against local candidates. There also isn’t a shortage of qualified candidates, but parties frequently underestimate the electoral potential of those who don’t fit the mould.

If all parties nominated a more diverse slate of candidates in winnable districts, elected institutions would be more representative.

In the lead-up to Ontario’s most recent election, commentators pointed to the high number of women and racialized candidates, including many with immigrant and minority backgrounds. But when the votes were counted, the legislature’s gender composition remained stalled at just 39-per-cent women.

What happened?

We need to look beyond aggregate candidate “diversity” numbers. It’s not just who gets nominated, but also where they run. Realizing it is electorally advantageous, some parties have attempted to recruit more women and racialized candidates, but women especially continue to be disproportionately nominated in ridings the party has no hope of winning. This isn’t inclusion.

And although there has been some progress in the right direction, it’s not enough – and it hasn’t been across all parties at all levels of government.

For example, prior to the Ontario election, the Liberals set aside 22 ridings and designated them women-only nomination contests. In the end, the party’s dismal electoral fortunes meant they only eked out a victory in one of those designated ridings, but polling indicates this was more a rejection of the party and its leader than the individual candidates.

If all parties committed to nominating more women in winnable ridings, the demographics of our elected institutions would shift.

International evidence confirms the key role that parties can play.

In 2005, Britain’s Labour Party introduced legislation that permits parties to use all-women short lists to achieve gender equality in Parliament. In the 2019 election, 51 per cent of the party’s elected MPs were women. There is noevidence voters punished Labour for using a positive discrimination measure, and the selected women were every bit as qualified as other candidates, often even more so.

There is a straight line between more equitable nomination practices and increased gender representation. Political parties that are serious about democratic equality should take note.

But parties need to think about diversity beyond gender.

In Canada, the primary beneficiaries of most diversification efforts are white women. Federally, my own research shows that racialized candidates come forward for party nomination in numbers that exceed their share of the population, but parties still show a preference for white candidates, even in some of the country’s most diverse ridings. And even when they nominate more diverse slates, parties nonetheless funnel more money to prototypical white, male candidates.

Without financial and organizational support, candidates are being set up to fail.

Politics is increasingly seen as inhospitable. Electoral engagement is at an all-time low. If parties wait to see which candidates knock on their door and want to run, chances are it will be one of the usual suspects. The time to think about candidate recruitment and organizing is now – not just at election time or the few frantic months that precede it.

Enough hand-wringing. Parties need to recognize their role and commit to action. To open the gates, they must pro-actively identify, recruit and support a more representative slate of candidates with money and organizational capacity in ridings where they can actually win.

Source: Women and racialized political candidates are being set up to fail

Cohen: U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling throws away a half-century of law

Good column:

Well, why should we be surprised? Who on God’s green earth did not expect — given the ideology and origins of the majority of justices on the United States Supreme Court — that it would, at its first opportunity, vote to end a woman’s right to abortion? Do you think this just fell from the sky?

It didn’t. The decision — a draft of which was leaked Monday, confirmed Tuesday and will be issued in June, perhaps in different words with the same effect — has been a generation in the making. It is a triumph of the conservative movement that never supported Roe v. Wade, the judgement that established a woman’s right to abortion in 1973, and has denied it ever since.

One by one, judge by judge, social conservatives put in place the majority that will, this time, reverse the decision. First came Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by George H. W. Bush; Samuel Alito, appointed by George W. Bush; then Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by Donald Trump.

Conservatives cheered their nominations, if not proposed them, knowing that one day they would get their wish. They were aided by Republicans in the Senate happy to deny a Democratic president (Barack Obama) his opportunity to fill a vacancy, and later to jam through another nomination (Barrett) days before a general election that ousted a Republican (Trump).

Of course, when asked about abortion, those nominees said they would not touch precedent. They persuaded moderate Republican senators who supported abortion that it was safe to put them on the bench.

The most gullible was Susan Collins of Maine, who was under pressure in 2018 to oppose Kavanaugh. She voted for him. She believed that Kavanaugh would not overturn the abortion ruling because, after all, he’d told her “many times” the decision was settled law. She said the same about Neil Gorsuch.

We don’t know with certainty whether Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will rescind the right, but we certainly assume they will vote with their conservative colleagues.

Poor Collins, as naïve as her critics said, who got up on her low horse Tuesday and said, gee, if the draft ruling stands, it would “be completely inconsistent” with what they told her personally in her office and in the hearings.

Well, yes, it would be, but it would reflect their judicial philosophy, which is the reason they were appointed by Trump, applauded lustily by the Federalist Society and opposed mightily by Democrats and pro-choice women’s groups. All knew what Collins did not.

Now we know the old rules no longer apply. A high court of the United States no longer seeks consensus, or honours precedent or a half-century of law. It ends a constitutional right with a leak — and a shrug.

A president rejects the results of a democratic election and foments an insurrection and walks away unpunished. He is twice impeached and twice acquitted. Senate Republicans eviscerate a black jurist of impeccable credentials, turning her nomination for the Supreme Court into a circus. Their unhinged cousins in the House of Representatives attack America’s support for Ukraine.

All this is tolerated. All is normal. Meanwhile, Republicans in the states put in place the people and rules to overturn the vote in 2024, beginning with the mid-term elections in 2022. Trump awaits, America’s strong man, vowing to make Joe Biden’s presidency an interregnum. (His man, author J.D. Vance, who wants to fire federal bureaucrats and replace them with Trump acolytes, won the GOP nomination Tuesday and is likely to be the new senator from Ohio.)

It may be that ending abortion will send angry women into the streets. It may be that this is the moment a somnolent people sees the threat from a reactionary court, which may now undo contraception and same-sex rights. When Americans understand minority rule is creating an autocracy. It can happen here.

Maybe. If so, and there really is a struggle of values between red and blue states, then the end of legal abortion this spring will be seen as the Fort Sumter of America’s new civil war.

Source: Cohen: U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling throws away a half-century of law

GM takes new approach to worker diversity as Oshawa production returns

Of note:

The hulking grey shell of GM’s Oshawa assembly plant looks just like it did when the company shut down production on a frigid December day in 2019, but much of what’s inside is strikingly new. 

There’s a new product — as of the November restart, the plant makes huge (and hugely profitable) Chevy Silverado pickup trucks — fancy new robots to swing them about the plant, and kilometres of new conveyor lines to usher them through to completion. But maybe the biggest change is a workforce that is not only largely new to the plant, but to the manufacturing sector at large after the automaker made a concerted effort to hire women for about half of the 1,200 line positions.

“I didn’t even know how to use a hammer until I came here,” said Adriana Wilkinson, who is now a production team leader in the body shop.

Like many of the new hires, Wilkinson’s previous job — she ran an escape room — was disrupted by the pandemic, so she said she jumped at the “life-changing opportunity” for her and her family when GM started hiring last year, and now says she’s here for life. 

“I never thought I’d be working with vehicles, never knew how to use a tool, and totally out of my comfort zone, but I jumped right in and I love it.”

Others on the line include people like Heather MacLeod, who is starting a new career after retiring from the RCMP; Honey Panchal, a controls system engineer who moved to Canada from India last year; and Crystal Cooper, who moved from customer care at GM to working as a group leader on the final assembly line because she wanted to get out of her element. 

“Coming into the manufacturing world was completely different, but it was challenging, and I really wanted to be a part of something bigger,“ said Cooper. 

The gender parity on the production line is a big shift for an industry where in Canada, women make up only about 23 per cent of auto assembly jobs, according to the Future of Canadian Automotive Labourforce Initiative. 

GM Canada president Scott Bell said diversity has been a priority for some time at the company, which is led by Mary Barra and has a gender-balanced board, but he said it was the restart of the plant that led to the push for gender balance.

“We just recognized the fact that we’ve got a unique opportunity, and let’s put the effort in.” 

To encourage more women to apply to the job, GM highlighted stories of women who had already worked there as part of its campaign, as well as made sure to do targeted social media advertising, They hardly had to worry though, with some 13,000 people in total applying from across Canada as well as internationally for about 1,800 positions including skilled workers. 

The opportunity to hire a whole new workforce, however, came at the expense of the many early retirements, layoffs and disruptions to those who thought production would never return.

“I am not thrilled that GM closed our plant,“ said Rebecca Keetch, who is back working at the plant after choosing to stay on standby when production was suspended.

She said she’s excited that production is back, but that the rapid closure and reopening was disrespectful to workers and the community, and led to the loss of higher-paying senior positions. Workers at third-party suppliers were also hit without getting the same supports as GM workers. 

Keetch is active in a group pushing for electric vehicle production in Oshawa, and was disappointed that the plant didn’t get new commitments from GM on that front.

“I just don’t see a sense of long-term security unless they decide to make Oshawa part of their autonomous, electric, connected vision of the future.”

GM Canada’s Bell said the 2019 plantclosure was unfortunate, but that it was part of a wider restructuring. With better-than-expected demand for pickup trucks, GM has spent $1.3 billion on Oshawa as part of its commitment to the plant, he said, that will help fund the company’s transition to electric. 

“It’s a substantial investment. Trucks are going to be around for a long time, so we feel good about that. From an EV perspective, you know, we’ve got to fund that business.”

Demand for pickups has increased during the pandemic, with plants working overtime to produce them, said Sam Fiorani, head of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions LLC.

He said that with GM already twice announcing the closure of Oshawa, first in 2008 and then in 2018, it’s risky to bet on the plant’s future, but he also doesn’t see pickup truck demand waning, and Oshawa is the only GM plant that can produce both light and heavy-duty models.

“This is the most hopeful outlook for any plant in Canada, any Detroit Three plants in Canada, for a longer-term future.”

Many in the plant are hoping that’s the case.

“I plan to be here for the next 30 years,” said Stephanie Waudby, 38, a production team leader on the trim line.

Waudby had her own cleaning business before the pandemic slowed things down and she jumped into manufacturing for the first time. She wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with the auto manufacturing though, asshe isa now third-generation GM worker at the plant.

She said she’s proud to carry on the family legacy, and that everyone’s excited about building trucks again in Oshawa.

“It was really heartbreaking for a lot of people when the plant had to shut down, so just being able to bring that back to this area is amazing.”

Source: GM takes new approach to worker diversity as Oshawa production returns

Biden seeking professional diversity in his judicial picks

Significant. In contrast, my analysis of judicial appointments under the Liberal government (close to 500 appointments, 55.7 percent women, 8.5 percent visible minorities, 3.1 percent Indigenous):

President Joe Biden spent a recent flight aboard Air Force One reminiscing with lawmakers and aides about his start as a young lawyer in Delaware working as a public defender in the late 1960s.

The flight from New York to Washington was short, and there wasn’t much time to explore the president’s brief time in the job during the civil rights era. But as Biden considers his first Supreme Court nominee, this lesser-known period in his biography could offer insight into the personal experience he brings to the decision. The account was relayed by a person familiar with the trip who insisted on anonymity to discuss it.

Biden has already made history by nominating more public defenders, civil rights attorneys and nonprofit lawyers to the federal bench during his first year in office than any other president, increasing not just the racial and gender diversity of the federal judiciary but also the range of professional expertise. And it’s possible that theme will continue as he looks to make more history by nominating the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court.

While three of the current justices have experience as prosecutors, none was a criminal defense attorney. The last justice with serious experience in defense was Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights attorney nominated about 55 years ago. He was the first Black person on the court and retired in 1991.

Some of the women on Biden’s list of potential nominees have deep public defense or civil rights backgrounds: Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, for example, worked as a public defender and served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission before she was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama. Eunice Lee, 51, whom Biden named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in August, is the first former federal defender to serve on that court.

Biden’s judicial appointments thus far make clear his interest in professional diversity.

Nearly 30% of Biden’s nominees to the federal bench have been public defenders, 24% have been civil rights lawyers and 8% labor attorneys. By the end of his first year, Biden had won confirmation of 40 judges, the most since President Ronald Reagan. Of those, 80% are women and 53% are people of color, according to the White House.

“It’s so important to have a diversity of perspectives and having the judiciary really reflect the diversity of lived experiences and perspectives of the folks who are coming before them,” said Lisa Cylar Barrett, director of policy at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

The Supreme Court hears only a fraction of federal cases filed each year. Federal judges are hearing most of the cases, with roughly 400,000 cases filed in federal trial courts a year. The high court hears only about 150 of the more than 7,000 cases it is asked to review annually.

Most of the judges appointed to the federal bench have worked as prosecutors, corporate attorneys or both. A survey three years ago found more than 73% of sitting federal judges were men, and more than 80% were white, according to the Center for American Progress.

A diversity of professional expertise makes for a more fair and just bench, advocates say. Judges draw on their personal histories to help them weigh arguments and decide cases, and they also learn from each other. Public defenders often represent the indigent and the marginalized, those who often can’t afford their own attorneys.

“They represent the 80% percent of people in the criminal legal system too low-income to afford a lawyer,” said Emily Galvin-Almanza, a former public defender who founded the nonprofit Partners for Justice. “So when you put a public defender on the bench, you’re putting a person on who listens with a very different ear. You have a person on the bench with an experience of the realities of very, very disempowered people.”

Biden’s brief time as a public defender isn’t widely discussed, and it isn’t listed in his official biography on the White House website. He’s more prone to talk about his 36 years as a senator and his time as head of the Judiciary Committee, where he oversaw six Supreme Court nominations.

But the president has spoken at times about his brief time as a public defender before he became a U.S. senator at the age of 29. It’s informed some of his decisions in office, like directing federal grant money for public defense and expanding other federal efforts on public defense.

“Civil rights, the Vietnam War and President Nixon’s rampant abuse of power were the reasons I entered public life to begin with,” Biden said in a 2019 speech in South Carolina during the presidential campaign. “That’s why I had chosen at that time to leave a prestigious law firm that I had been hired by and become a public defender — because those people who needed the most help couldn’t afford to be defended in those days.”

In a 2007 memoir, he called the job “God’s work.”

The president promised during his campaign for president that he’d nominate a Black woman to the bench, and he spent his first year in office broadening his potential applicant pool through judicial appointments. Most Supreme Court justices have come from federal appeals courts, but it’s not a requirement. Among the current justices, only Justice Elena Kagan wasn’t a federal appeals court judge before joining.

Federal judges are often chosen from state courts, which also lack in diversity. But Biden’s very public push to diversify federal judges could have an impact on how judges in the states look, too.

“Neither state courts nor federal courts reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, or the diversity of the legal profession. Courts across the country are falling short,” said Alicia Bannon, the director of the Judiciary Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “But we’re hoping that is slowly changing.”

Biden has promised a rigorous selection process for his Supreme Court nominee. His team, led by former Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, is reviewing past writings, public remarks and decisions, learning the life stories of the candidates and interviewing them and people who know them. Background checks will be updated and candidates may be asked about their health. After all, it’s a lifetime appointment.

The goal is to provide the president with the utmost confidence in the eventual pick’s judicial philosophy, fitness for the court and preparation for the high-stakes confirmation fight. Interviewing potential candidates comes later, but Biden has already spoken to some of the women who may be under consideration back when they were being appointed to other courts.

Biden will also continue to seek the advice of lawmakers. He was to host Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats on Thursday, a White House official said.

Source: Biden seeking professional diversity in his judicial picks

DiManno: Why can’t we say ‘woman’ anymore?

Some silliness going on that DiManno highlights:

“You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Person with a Vagina.”

“Man! I Feel Like a Person who Menstruates

“Oh, Pretty Person with a Cervix”

Apologies to Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain and Roy Orbison, but this appears to be where we’re heading if language radicals get their way.

And they’re getting it, tying everybody up in linguistic knots so as not to offend or get clobbered by the social media mob.

The inclusive objective is worthy.

The erasure of women is not.

“Woman” is in danger of becoming a dirty word … struck from the lexicon of officialdom, eradicated from medical vocabulary and expunged from conversation.

Which is a bitchy thing to do to half the world’s population.

It shouldn’t leave well-meaning people tongue-tied, lest they be attacked as transphobic or otherwise insensitive to the increasingly complex constructs of gender. 

“The Lancet,” the prestigious and highly influential British medical journal, put “Bodies with Vaginas” on the cover of its latest issue, referring to an article inside, entitled “Periods on Display,” a review of an exhibit about the history of menstruation at the Vagina Museum in London.

Maybe the editors, who tweeted the piece, were just looking for clickbait, with a pullquote on the cover teasing that “Historically, the anatomy and physiology of such bodies have been neglected” — this although the author had used the phrase “bodies with vaginas,” only once and “women” four times. 

A hell-storm broke out, quite rightly, with readers indignant over the wording. As one, an author of books on childbirth and women’s bodies, wrote: “You’re telling us that you’ve noticed that, for hundreds of years, you’ve neglected and overlooked women, and, then, in the same breath, you are unable to name those people you’ve been ignoring.”

The magazine’s editor-in-chief apologized hastily. 

This isn’t an argument against gender self-identification. Surely we’re well past that. It’s more about an infelicitous evolution of language, which is fundamentally about communicating clearly. Even if making the argument ends up aligning uncomfortably with reactionaries and regressives with whom I have no truck. 

In one fell swoop, “The Lancet” — remember, this is a medical publication! — reduced womanhood, biological or metaphysical, to purely anatomical parts, a gross reversal of the century-long campaign to, not only achieve equal rights, but for women to be seen as more than their biological and rampantly objectified, sexualized packaging. This is fundamental to feminism and humanism. Further, we are seeing, in, for example, legislation passed or coming down the pike in U.S. to severely restrict abortions, basically undoing Roe vs. Wade, how fragile these gains can be. 

“That Lancet” episode was not an over-woke outlier. 

The American Civil Liberties Union took detestable liberties by deliberately mauling the words of beloved and brilliant Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in marking the one-year anniversary of her death. Reaching back to comments Ginsburg made during her confirmation hearings in 1980, wherein she spoke about the right of women to obtain an abortion, the ACLU unilaterally removed “woman,” replacing it with “person.”

It came out thusly: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a (person’s) life, to (their) wellbeing and dignity …. When the government controls that decision for (people), (they are) being treated as less than a fully adult human and responsible for (their) own choices.” 

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, also subsequently issued a grovelling mea culpa, promising he’d never again drastically alter quotes in the future.

But is that really a lesson that needed to be pounded into his head? 

And still Romero tried to justify his interference by claiming that Ginsburg would have supported more inclusive language.

Maybe so. I would really like to know what she might have thought. But we don’t and can’t and it’s outrageous for anyone to mishmash the justice’s voice.

Women have abortions. Or, I suppose, in the tiniest of numbers, people born with female genitals who identify as male or fluid can terminate a pregnancy.

Women have babies. Or, in the tiniest of numbers, people born with female genitals who identify as male or fluid, can get pregnant. 

Yet in 2016, the British Medical Association recommended staff use “pregnant people,” instead of pregnant women. A British hospital now instructs staff on its maternity ward to use “birthing people,” instead of pregnant women. The Biden administration’s proposed 2022 budget substituted “birth people” for mothers. Rep. Cori Bush has used that term, while her Congressional Squad teammate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has talked of “menstruating people.”

These are women I admire but they’ve jumped the shark. 

All of this recalls the point bestselling author J.K. Rowling was trying to make, wryly, in a tweet that got her bludgeoned by the mob: “People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” 

Rowling was branded a TERF — activists do like their neologisms — meaning trans exclusionary radical feminist. As if she was hostile to the trans movement, which she assuredly is not. Some bookstores removed her work from their shelves. Were she not a gazillion-selling author, Rowling could have lost her publisher.

In Britain, where roughly 680,000 people do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, according to government figures, midwives at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals were told to start using terms such as “chest milk,” instead of breast milk. This, apparently, because some transgender men who give birth and nurse their babies were distressed at being reminded of what they were doing with those lactating female appendages. Although surely “breast” is a gender-neutral term, as both sexes have them and both can develop breast cancer. 

This is all directly a phenomenon resulting from trans activism run amok.

I get the passion for recasting language, to improve gender and LGBT equity, to minimize the “cognitive mental salience” of males. 

The movement has been spectacularly successful in the progressive West, although English isn’t as heavily gendered as, say, Italian or French. Truly, props for an undertaking that has given voice and power to a demographic historically oppressed, horribly shaped and disproportionately subjected to violence!

Merriam-Webster was the first dictionary to add gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “themself” to refer to a person whose “gender identity is non-binary.” 

But these examples go far beyond insistence on neutral pronouns, into an outer orbit of linguistics where both women, as a gender, and “woman” as a noun are being blotted out. 

There’s more than a whiff of misogyny to it. Why “woman” the no-speak word and not “man?” Why not “persons who urinate standing up” or “people who eject semen?” 

Certainly there are words — they are slurs mostly — that are no longer acceptable. “Woman” shouldn’t be one of them. 

The battleground of language has turned into a baffleground of agendas. 

I am woman and I am roaring.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/10/15/why-cant-we-say-woman-anymore.html

Khan: Why would we ever believe that the Taliban will now be kinder to women?

Indeed:

The Taliban have promised a “kinder, gentler” approach after the fall of Kabul – vowing to be more inclusive and humane following the defeat of the internationally-backed Afghan government.

The world must not fall for this charm offensive.

Thus far, the interim government has no women, nor any representation from the ethnic Hazara minority; the cabinet is formed entirely by Taliban members; on Sunday, Kabul’s Taliban-appointed mayor told the city government’s female employees to stay home. The ministry of women’s affairs has been eliminated, cutting off vital services for women. In addition, peaceful protests have been met with arbitrary detention, live ammunition, batons and whips, according to the United Nations. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the country’s constitutionally enshrined watchdog, has been unable to fulfill its duties after the Taliban’s forces occupied its buildings.

On Aug. 25, the government issued a “temporary” policy requiring all Afghan women to stay at home until its fighters could be trained to respect women. Imagine having 20 years to build an army, but failing to instill basic respect for women during that time, and having no shame in admitting so. As a result, Muslim women in Afghanistan are effectively being told to fear for their safety from Muslim men, their so-called “brothers” in faith. This should be condemned throughout the Muslim world.

Many don’t believe this is a temporary order. Humaira Rasuli – a human-rights lawyer who is the founder and executive director of the Kabul-based Women for Justice Organization (WJO) – remembers that in 1996, the Taliban declared that they weren’t against education or work for women, but that they needed more time to ensure their safety. But while the prohibition of women from the workplace never did lift before the government fell in 2001, women who were the sole providers for their families were relegated to poverty during that time; some were forced to beg on the streets. Little wonder Ms. Rasuli is convinced that the Taliban intends to suppress the advances made by women over the past two decades.

Ms. Rasuli herself serves a case in point. Her organization is crucial for the functioning of civil society: providing robust legal representation, raising the next generation of lawyer leaders and strengthening government institutions. The WJO spearheaded forums for leaders to contribute to law and policy reform proposals on criminal procedures, sexual harassment laws and policies and edicts demanding virginity testing. But their office was raided by Taliban fighters during their first morning of rule. The staff has since been forced into hiding, destroying documents overnight. Three staff members, including Ms. Rasuli, had to flee Afghanistan; others are in hiding in Kabul.

But over the past two weeks, despite the chaos and challenging personal circumstances, the WJO has managed to re-group with a new strategy. Having overcome corruption, conflict and endless challenges in Afghanistan in recent years, it is determined not to give up.

Taliban militants, says Ms. Rasuli, have usurped and are monopolizing interpretations of sharia, or Islamic law, co-opting it for their political ideology around female erasure. IS and al-Qaeda factions, which are rooted in similar ideologies but have veered in even more extreme directions, have rapidly proliferated too, making the threat all the more urgent. So the WJO has worked to form a coalition of Afghan law and sharia experts to push back on such interpretations, while equipping young leaders and civil-society activists with the language and concepts they need to contest them.

They are not hopeful that the Taliban will be receptive to a more gender-equal interpretation of sharia, but they will try – and at least, as a matter of principle, they have vowed not to allow extremist ideas to harden into unquestioned consensus. Even amidst the enormous challenges, they remain committed to the long-term goal of an inclusive government elected through free and fair voting, and to the preservation of key legal structures that safeguard the fundamental human rights of all Afghans, especially women and minority groups.

If only the world showed the same resolve.

“I am calling on the international community and the world to eliminate terrorism in Afghanistan,” said Ms. Rasuli, speaking to me from a military camp in the U.S. following her evacuation from Afghanistan. “So many people have died in this war, so many left injured, so many people displaced internally, so much grief and suffering and now, Afghanistan has been entirely abandoned. Please, for the sake of innocent civilians, support us. We have sacrificed our work, home, families and basic rights to bring peace to Afghanistan. We have built Afghanistan with our own hands. It is enraging and disappointing to see it used as a battleground for warring nations. Neither peace has come to Afghanistan, nor our rights have been protected. I am really disappointed by the silence of the international community.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-why-would-we-ever-believe-that-the-taliban-will-now-be-kinder-to-women/

Trichur: Microaggressions in the workplace cause more than bruised feelings. They also create business risks

Of note. While with respect to gender, applies more broadly:

Every workplace has at least one.

That guy who excels at preening, politicking and pushing women to the sidelines: Mr. Microaggression. He is a master of subtle slights and snubs.

Microaggressions are everyday comments or actions that trample the dignity of women but also visible minorities and other equity-seeking groups. Intentional or not, these acts of bias or discrimination cause great harm.

Human resources experts say such behaviours taint workplace cultures. And in the post-#MeToo era, these routine acts of exclusion, which are too often dismissed by managers, are creating legal, regulatory and reputational risks for companies.

“In our globalized world, overt racism, sexism and other prejudices are officially unacceptable – which unquestionably marks progress – but bias still finds expression in aversive or avoidant behaviour,” states a human resources guide prepared for UKG Inc. by Vancouver-based Parris Consulting.

“Where outright violence and oppression were once rampant, prejudice expresses itself more subtly now – in the form of microaggressions.”

Sure, some colleagues deserve the benefit of the doubt if they commit a faux pas or make a clumsy remark at work. But well-meaning folks generally have the reflex to acknowledge and apologize for hurtful behaviour.

Mr. Microaggression, however, undermines his colleagues with impunity. And make no mistake, everyone in your organization knows it.

Although he is not shy about showing disdain for certain male co-workers, women – especially those who are junior to him in age, rank or tenure – make up the majority of his targets because they are less likely to fight back.

He is, of course, smart enough not to say or do anything overtly sexist. After all, plausible deniability is pivotal to his pretense of professionalism.

Instead, his behaviour is less conspicuous: leaving female colleagues off e-mails, interrupting them during meetings, passing off his grunt work, going over their heads to snatch away plum assignments, commandeering internal committee work or elbowing them out of high-profile presentations to top bosses.

Some women are also guilty of flexing their privilege by perpetrating microaggressions against their colleagues. Whether it is on the basis of race, sexual orientation, disability or some other difference, such comments or actions amount to an abuse of power because they have the effect of discrediting their intended targets.

“Even if the slights are ignored or minimized, the work environment may still be chilly,” the human resources guide states. “It’s hard to feel collegial toward people who commit microaggressions. It’s uncomfortable pretending everything is okay when it’s not.”

Equally frustrating is the inaction of managers who chalk up such incidents to misunderstandings, coincidences or personality quirks. Perhaps the biggest mistake they make is appearing more concerned about placating the perpetrators instead of doing right by employees who have suffered repeated indignities.

Diversity and inclusion have become buzz words in corporate Canada. But business leaders who wilfully ignore systemic discrimination in their workplaces, including by downplaying the harmfulness of microaggressions, will experience higher turnover of top talent and expose their companies to legal and regulatory problems.

Microaggressions aren’t just about bruised feelings – they also create business risks.

Global banking regulators, for instance, are increasing their scrutiny of culture and conduct risks after being urged to do so by the Financial Stability Board, an international body that makes recommendations to improve stability of the global financial system.

In Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), for instance, is continuing its “work on advancing culture as a key area of focus” in its supervision of financial institutions.

OSFI has wrapped up its initial cultural reviews of banks and insurance companies, spokeswoman Carole Saindon said in an e-mailed statement. Those introductory assessments specifically probed how cultural factors affect “strategic decision making” inside financial institutions.

“These reviews have provided insights into behavioural indicators such as transparency and communication, diversity of thought, ability to provide challenge and reflective learning,” Ms. Saindon said.

Of course, microaggressions are just one facet of a problematic corporate culture. It also clear that culture and conduct risks affect more than just banks and insurers. Recent scandals involving technology, entertainment or natural-resources companies also highlight the link between human behaviour, social mores and excessive risk-taking.

That’s precisely why, as a starting point, business leaders across all sectors must be pro-active about educating their employees about microaggressions and how to respond to them.

“It’s critical to understand the current thinking on microaggressions – how they are (or should be) defined, how they may cause harm, how and why they should be called out, and what critics have to say about them,” the human resources guide adds.

“This last point is crucial because organizations and HR professionals need to make decisions about employee relations. If an accusation of committing a microaggression is levelled, they will need to understand it from all sides.”

Still, the onus shouldn’t be on women and minorities to solve the systemic discrimination they face at work. That’s the responsibility of business leaders and HR departments.

The #MeToo movement should have been a wake-up call for the business community that microaggressions can signal much deeper problems with corporate cultures. In fact, there’s even a microaggression app for women in the workplace, Variety reported earlier this year.

Managers need to stop coddling toxic employees. Mr. Microaggression isn’t misunderstood by his coworkers, he’s a menace to your company. Time to keep him in check.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-microaggressions-in-the-workplace-cause-more-than-bruised-feelings/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Morning%20Update&utm_content=2021-9-9_7&utm_term=Morning%20Update:%20Leaders%20square%20off%20over%20child%20care,%20federal%20spending,%20in%20first%20official%20French-language%20debate&utm_campaign=newsletter&cu_id=%2BTx9qGuxCF9REU6kNldjGJtpVUGIVB3Y

ICYMI: Women in executive roles make 56 per cent less than men, study shows

Of interest:

Women executives earned about 56 per cent less on average than men executives and this pay gap widened even further for racialized women, who earned about 32 per cent less than non-visible minority women, according to a new study from Statistics Canada that underscores the sweeping disparities in Corporate Canada.

Translated into dollar figures, there was a $600,000 difference between the average woman executive’s income ($495,600) and the average executive man’s ($1.1-million). The average compensation for visible minority women was $347,100, while visible minority men took home $681,900.

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The research included data from the Corporations Returns Act, which collects financial and ownership information on mid-size to large corporations, and census information from 2016.

In unpacking the gender divide at the most senior levels, researchers looked at marital status, number of children, education, backgrounds, sector of work, job title and professional networks.

One of the study’s most shocking findings concerned the number of racialized women in executive roles. There were so few Indigenous executives – both men and women – that Statistics Canada was limited in what could be reported over concerns about violating the individuals’ privacy. About 1 per cent of executives were Indigenous, although this group represents about 4 per cent of the working population. Most of the women Indigenous executives worked at large corporations.

Over all, about one in 10 women executives identified as a visible minority. The most common groups represented were South Asian and Chinese, with fewer executives being Black and Filipino.

Paulette Senior, the president and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said the report’s findings were extremely concerning.

“It’s worse than I thought,” she said. “This makes me wonder what have we been doing? What have decision makers been doing in addressing [these issues] – whether it’s a leaky pipeline, or who is sitting at tables during hiring. What has been going on that this is the picture in 2021?”

Statistics Canada’s findings are in keeping with an analysis that The Globe and Mail conducted as part of its Power Gap investigation, which has been examining gender inequities in the modern work force. The series found that among women in the top 1 per cent of earners, just 3 per cent were racialized. In general, women were found to be outnumbered, outranked and out-earned by almost every measure examined.

Elizabeth Richards, who co-authored the Statistics Canada paper, said one of the most intriguing findings concerned companies that operate in Canada but are American owned. The researchers found that visible minority women were five times more likely than non-visible minority women to work at one of these American-controlled companies. The same trend – to a lesser degree – was also found with visible minority men, she said.

“That’s a key takeaway,” Ms. Richards said. “That to me says there’s some more country-specific influences that maybe we don’t fully understand and we should dig into further in future research.”

The analysts also examined the family status of the executives. Women were less likely to be in a relationship – about 80 per cent of women executives were married or in a common-law relationship, compared with 90 per cent of men – or to have children. When they did have children, they had fewer of them. About 36 per cent of women executives had two or more children, while about 44 per cent of men did.

The report also found that women executives were, on average, younger than the men – 51 years old compared with 54 years old respectively.

Economist Marina Adshade, an assistant professor with the University of British Columbia, said the finding about age was interesting and perhaps a clue as to the cause of the pay gap. In her own research, she’s found that women are retiring early, perhaps before they can fully reach their potential on the corporate ladder.

Prof. Adshade said that, as a country, the focus has been on keeping women with young children in the work force – which is important – but there hasn’t been enough attention paid to what’s happening at the other end of the career spectrum.

“We are starting to lose women in the work force at 45, 55, 65,” she said. “Why are women leaving the work force? … They have other caregiving responsibilities: caring for parents, spouses, grandchildren, for example. Older women are so undervalued that literally no one wants to think about why they’re not in the work force.”

Prof. Adshade noted that the average age of a senior manager in the federal government is 53, so if women are starting to retire at 45, it’s not surprising they are underrepresented at the top.

Another rationale for the executive wage gap that has been suggested is that women’s networks are smaller. Ms. Richards said that she and her co-author Léa-Maude Longpré-Verret were interested in seeing whether this held true with their dataset – it didn’t.

“There is some previous research that suggests that being connected to more executives leads to higher pay,” Ms. Richards said, “but what we found is that women actually had more extensive networks of colleagues.”

The reason is that women were more likely to sit on large boards with more members. On average, women directors were found to be connected to 7.5 colleagues through their board positions, while men were connected to 6.7 colleagues. Women were also more likely to be connected to other women directors.

Ms. Richards said that in their report, the goal was to quantify the extent of the imbalances in as many ways as possible, but the root causes will be for someone else to explore.

“Hopefully this provides some valuable information for other researchers,” she said. “We wanted to leverage everything that we could from the analysis and share our findings, but it is preliminary and it is exploratory so we would recommend that the academic business community or other researchers continue to really provide more insights in this space.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-gender-and-diversity-gaps-persist-in-corporate-canada-new-statistics/

StatCan: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11f0019m/11f0019m2021005-eng.pdf