Monday, May 4, 2015

There are Three (Familiar) Sheriffs in Town

“Every story is about class, race or gender. This one is about gender.”

And so began Monday’s event “The Women Sheriffs of Wall Street” at Harvard’s Memorial Church. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, current Director of the Project on Public Narrative at Harvard, the discussion included former FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair, former SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro and United States Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Suskind started the session with a brief history lesson in American economics, starting in the 1970s, whose hardships he described as a bruise to the country’s ego. Shortly thereafter, Ronald Reagan declared that it was morning in America and ushered in an era of deregulation in an attempt to create confidence in the American economy, whether it was earned, manufactured or willed into the public consciousness. Suskind argued that 2007 was the pinnacle of this trajectory and saw the coming together of two disparate trends: (1) the male-dominated finance industry, which was driving the economy and culture and (2) female regulators, namely, the ones with whom he was sharing a stage, gaining power.

It’s been five years since TIME Magazine baptized these three women as the “New Sheriffs of Wall Street.” Since then, Warren has risen from Harvard Law professor and chief architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to the United States Senate and brought financial reform and consumer protection to the national spotlight.

Sheila Bair, who served as Chairwoman of the FDIC from 2006-2011, was a bank teller early in life because her Philosophy degree couldn't get her any another job. Bair said that growing up in rural southeast Kansas kept her grounded in everyday people’s struggles, and she credits her philosophy background with forming her ethics, solidifying her dedication to fight for people, not banks. A self-described Populist Republican, Bair was a political appointee under several administrations and ran an unsuccessful Congressional bid in her native Kansas in 1990. 
2010 TIME Magazine Cover
Mary Schapiro, who served as the 29th Chairperson of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said she “always believed that government was a force for good,” and worked for the federal government right out of law school. Schapiro cited her time playing sports as what gave her a leg up in a male-dominated industry and believes that the expansion of women's sports under Title IX will do a lot of good for young women entering professional life. She said sports teach respect, as well as how to take hits, work as a team and play by the rules - something she said we don’t see enough of on Wall Street.

Elizabeth Warren, who needs little introduction these days, explained that when she first began to study bankruptcy policy, it was during an age of massive misunderstanding over what filing bankruptcy meant. The general public believed that "welfare queens" were gaming the system, but when Warren looked at the data, she instead found that 90% of bankruptcy petitions were due to a major medical issue, longterm unemployment, death or divorce. It turned out that many people filing bankruptcy were college-educated and living in households where both parents worked. In All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plana book that Warren wrote with her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi in 2006, these statistics were confirmed. Warren found that a household with two working parents in the 2000s had less disposable income than households with one working parent in the 1970s.

Warren recounted a particularly painful memory of hers, of the day her mother walked to Sears to apply for a minimum wage job. Though the story was sad, Warren credits this job with saving both her house and her family. She emphasized that minimum wage jobs simply don’t do that anymore, saying “We cannot have a country where you work full-time and are in poverty. If some billionaire wants to fight me on it, I’m ready."

Bair chimed in, arguing that several lessons could have been learned from the great Recession, both good and bad. The wrong lesson to glean from the financial crisis is that bailouts are acceptable. The other, more important lesson is that short-sighted, greedy behavior wreaked a lot of havoc on our economy and in our communities and that we need to change going forward. 

Suskind asked the panelists if they believed there is a way for the financial services industry to be less focused on these high-risk rewards and winner-take-all setups, and he cited research by Harvard Business School Professor Robin Ely on oil rigs and culture change as an example. Schapiro responded hopefully, citing transparency as a major tool. “It’s amazing what people will stop doing if they have to tell the world they’re doing it.”

As could be expected, the discussion wasn’t complete without a question about Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. A member of the audience asked Warren what kind of financial sheriff she thought Clinton would be. In response, Warren emphasized that the 2016 race is an opportunity to move forward on these issues. She argued that it’s common sense to be a financial sheriff in today’s political world, as most Americans think that the financial services industry is not working for them and want more regulation on Wall Street. For possibly the first time, there is broad national consensus for making the financial services industry safer and more accountable. According to Warren, it is this opportunity that any Presidential hopeful should seize. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Want National Security? Focus on Women's Safety: A Discussion of the Hillary Doctrine

In the last seminar of the academic year, WAPPP welcomed Valerie Hudson to discuss research explored in her latest book, The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy. Hudson, the George H. W. Bush Chair of The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, is well known for her work on bare branches, the theory that violence is increasingly caused by skewed sex ratios within a society. She has long argued that the security of women is vital to the security of the nation, which - though largely accepted now - was considered a revolutionary concept at the time.

Research for the book began in 2010, and the content was largely written in 2013, after Hudson's co-author Patricia Leidl completed fieldwork in several countries. Hudson emphasized the role that qualitative data played in their research. Data on cultural norms, customs, practices and laws were missing from the current research, so Hudson and Leidl created a massive database to fill this niche.

One might wonder why the idea that women's security affects national security is called the Hillary Doctrine. Hudson explains that though Clinton was the third female Secretary of State, she was the first woman in that role who made women’s issue priorities for the Department. The book, though not about Secretary Clinton herself, explores the effects that her belief in this idea has had on American foreign policy.

Source: Associated Press
The book is presented in three parts. The first focuses on the history of how women came to matter in American foreign policy, starting with the Nixon administration. Hudson explained that Ambassador Swanee Hunt, who wrote the book's foreword, was instrumental in informing this portion of the research.

The second section focuses on the theory and cases that explore whether the Hillary Doctrine is justified. Hudson argues that her past research reveals the doctrine is in fact based on a solid premise. She presents the theoretical argument for what she terms fempolitik, arguing that the realization that women’s security is closely linked to national security is a pillar of clear-eyed realpolitik. She argues that male-female relationships are a foundational issue, while poverty, explosive violence, ill health and other widespread problems are the macro consequences of women's insecurity.

The third and last section of the book focuses on the implementation of the Hillary Doctrine from 2009-2013. Jen Klein, advisor to Secretary Clinton on global women’s issues, explained in an interview for the book that the State Department adopted four initial principles to guide their work on women. These principles stated that their work (1) would be non-partisan, (2) would not impose U.S. views or laws on others (indeed, the policies focused on the agenda enshrined in CEDAW, which the U.S. has not ratified), (3) must be based in evidence, even though the Department also thought it was the right thing to do, and (4) must demonstrate that the benefits created by such policies also apply to national security, not just women’s security. Though these principles were paired with strategic frameworks from major government organizations, Hudson explained that the disconnect between high-level policy and the actual work on the ground manifested itself in a fairly predictable fashion, citing some terribly ineffective initiatives.

Hudson closed by sharing some of the top items off the book’s “to do” list. These included using the bully pulpit to discuss women's issues, developing hard targets and performance benchmarks on women's inclusion, focusing on male accountability, and adding a jus ex bello element to the just war theory, one that focuses on the harms after war has ended that disproportionately affect women. She also emphasized the importance of Presidential will to work on this issue, quickly adding, “depending on who is elected the next President, maybe we won’t have a problem in the will department.” 

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Power of Working Moms

In the week’s WAPPP seminar “It Takes a Family and a Country,” Harvard Business School Professor Kathleen McGinn spoke on the importance of role models, both within the home and on the country level, and how they affect economic outcomes – and welfare outcomes more broadly – of both women and men.

McGinn started by asking a seemingly simple question: What drives outcomes between men and women? In developed countries, women on average are more educated than men, so a traditional understanding of learning or education doesn’t explain the advantage men hold over women in many areas. McGinn and her coauthors, Mayra Ruiz Castro also of HBS and Babson College, and Elizabeth Long Lingo of Mount Holyoke College, looked instead at learning in the home and from famous national figures, or what they refer to as the “role model effect.”

Their research question was “Are non-traditional gender role models in families and in societies related to national, organizational, and individual differences in (1) employment, (2) supervisory responsibility, (3) earnings, (4) allocation of household work and (5) caring for family members?

Studying this effect across 25 countries, McGinn et al used survey data from 2002 and 2012 to see changes in attitudes and outcomes over time. The data suggests that gender inequality has shrunk over the past decade, though unevenly. Women still do more work at home than men do across countries, though in more developed countries, there is less time in aggregate spent on household duties due to technological advances. Gender attitudes have also gotten more liberal over time, which counters recent research that suggests they're stagnating.
What happens when your role model at home is also a
country-level role model?
To measure the effects of gender inequality and its variations within country, McGinn et al defined role models on the micro and macro level. The study described role models at home as working mothers, defined as mothers who ever got paid for work outside the home before the respondent was 14 years old. To measure country-level role models, the study also looked at the average proportion of female parliamentarians in a respondent’s country before he or she turned 14. The focus on role models was critical because they shape what people see as appropriate behavior via exposure. Results indicated that this was especially true for role models within the family.

(1) Employment: The effect of being raised by a working mother is significant for women only. Likewise, the proportion of female parliamentarians during childhood increases women’s likelihood of employment but has no effect on men's employment.

(2) Supervisory roles: Women are generally less likely to hold supervisory positions across countries. There was no supervisory effect of having a working mother for men, but having a working mother had a significant and increasing effect for women. The effect of female parliamentarians is negative for women holding supervisory roles, though McGinn and her coauthors are still trying to understand why.

(3) Earnings: Being raised by a working mother had no effect on men’s relative incomes, while women’s incomes were higher for those raised by a working mother. This effect was mitigated by gender attitudes, however. Perhaps surprisingly, growing up during an era with a relatively large proportion of women in parliament dampens wages, and this effect is more pronounced for men.

(4) Allocation of household work: McGinn emphasized that gender inequality in the public sphere is affected by gender inequality at home, though the cycle flows both ways. Earlier research assumed that households acted as single units with shared preferences, but more recent research has acknowledged and accounted for individual preferences within households. Being raised by a working mother decreases women’s hours and increases men’s hours spent on household work, and growing up during an era with relatively large proportion of women in parliament had the same effects.

(5) Caring for family members: Being raised by a working mom increases both men and women’s role with children, and gender attitudes have no effect. A higher proportion of female parliamentarians increased just men's time spent caring for family members.

In short, having a mother who worked outside the home improved women’s outcomes in the workplace and increased men’s participation in household work. As McGinn put it, "There are few magic pills that have proven to reduce gender inequality in all of these public and private spheres, but being raised by a working mother comes close."

Friday, April 3, 2015

What Do Women Really Want? Equality, to Start

Claiming to know “What Women Want” can be a slippery slope, but fortunately, it was Professor Deborah Rhode of Yale Law School, and not Mel Gibson, making the claim at this week’s WAPPP seminar. Professor Rhode discussed the widespread and varied gender disparities featured in her 2014 book of the same title. She began by speaking about her time in law school and as a young law professor, remembering that gender was noticeably absent from the curriculum, and comments that would be considered sexual harassment today ran rampant and unchecked.

Rhode argued that changing gender disparities begins by recognizing them, though there is a gap between those who recognize such inequality and those who self-identify as feminists. When the definition of feminism is provided, between two-thirds and four-fifths of women identify as feminists, yet when the definition is not provided, only one quarter of women self-identify. This is important because identifying as a feminist is correlated with activism around gender equity issues.

Though we often discuss the harms of gender inequality anecdotally - our friend who struggles to balance her job and parenting duties, the story of a survivor of campus sexual assault in the news - Rhode made the case for just how widespread and systematic these disparities are. This unfortunate truth is exacerbated by the fact that many women who experience discrimination aren't likely to challenge it. Even individuals who have convincing evidence of bias are hesitant to challenge the institution responsible for it; many are deterred by the high psychological and financial cost of challenging their institutions, paired with the low probability of success. The recent gender discrimination law suit by Ellen Pao against a prominent venture capital firm is a prime example of this.

The statistics in many areas of professional and personal life are bleak. Women constitute over a third of MBA graduates but only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs. Though much of the country's pay gap is driven by women being clustered in low pay industries, similarly situated women also earn less than men, even when controlling for many relevant factors.

Gender pay disparities are the most pronounced among those who opt out of the formal economy, which are disproportionately women. Less than 1% of men with kids under 15 are stay-at-home dads, and women are responsible for twice as much childcare and three times as much housework as men. The fact that the U.S. is one of three countries in the world without paid maternity leave speaks to how far our society has to go on the issue.

Rhode argued that a major way to remedy these disparities within household labor division is to protect women's reproductive rights, which include working towards making abortion safe and unnecessary. Despite the ideological divides over this issue, about two-thirds of women believe the Supreme Court should not overturn Roe v. Wade.

The intersection of economic opportunities and women's security was also highlighted. Rhode pointed out that inadequate safety nets keep women in violent relationships, and this is especially important when we consider that two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. In addition, the United States has the highest rate of partner homicide in the developed world, and women in the United States Armed Forces are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed in action.

Rhode argued that to change the agenda and move the dial on all of these issues, we must get more women into leadership roles. It's well-documented that the statistics on women in political leadership in this country is dismal. The U.S. ranks 78th in the world in the percentage women in office, below Saudi Arabia. Indeed, only 10% of American governors and mayors of major cities are female.

Rhode was quick to point out that putting women in positions of power is not the same as empowering women, however, arguing that we also need a strong women’s movement to create political support for these issues. She suggested greater dialogue between generations on strategies for activism and applauded young women tackling campus sexual assault, whose activism led to a Presidential Task Force on the subject.

When asked about the potential use of quotas in American government or corporate boards, similar to those recently instituted by European countries, Rhode expressed concern. In addition to what she deemed America's negative knee-jerk reaction to affirmative action programs, she also questioned whether appointing more women would change corporate culture. However, Rhode argued that more disclosure on the gender breakdown within organizations could be used to embarrass institutions that have large gender disparities.

In closing, Rhode made sure to remind the audience that it is difficult to know what women really want because we don’t know what preferences would be in an equal world. There are currently far too many ways in which society constructs and constrains the choices of women, so our desires might be very different in a world in which women could really choose.

Friday, March 27, 2015

When to Compete: Do Women Know Better?

Women are more attuned to competitive environments and change their behavior accordingly, argued Harvard Business School doctoral candidate Pinar Fletcher, at this week’s WAPPP seminar. Titled “Competing at All Costs: Gender and Dysfunctional Competition,” the presentation focused on destructive competitive behavior and how it varies by gender and environment.

Past research featured in a 2013 WAPPP seminar, indicated that there are significant gender differences when it comes to competition. A randomized control trial revealed that 73% of men chose to compete in winner-takes-all competitions for potentially higher pay over working independently for lower pay under piece-rate pay schemes, while just 35% of women chose the winner-takes-all option. Researchers have been trying to explain this gender gap for years now, and Fletcher hopes to use the field of behavioral economics to better explain the issue.

Some arguments frame this gender difference as a problem, arguing that women’s propensity to not compete is a weakness, but Fletcher pointed out that men often lose money by choosing the competitive scheme. Since men are not always benefitting from their higher propensity to compete, it could be useful to examine the competitive context.

Fletcher’s research, which she conducted with coauthor and HBS Professor Kathleen McGinn, looks explicitly at destructive competitive behavior, i.e. competitive behavior that aims to hurt competitor(s) but has the potential to give net losses or net gains to the instigator. In an organizational context, the factors that determine the costs and benefits of destructive competitive behavior are (1) the incentive systems, (2) the performance feedback systems, meaning what your performance is compared to, and (3) behavioral norms of the work environment.

There are two organizational contexts in which this kind of competition can occur: high intensity and low intensity. Low intensity environments are still competitive, but individuals feel that their performance matters regardless of how they compare with others, usually because they receive feedback in relation to how they did over time or based on objective standards. Here, the expected payoff of destructive competitive behavior is uncertain because the costs of competing in that manner outweigh the benefits. High intensity environments are just the opposite, stressing that winning over someone else is key. In these environments, there is more certainty that destructive competition will bring more benefits than costs.

Fletcher’s hypothesis was that the propensity for destructive competitive behavior would be greater in high intensity environments than in low intensity ones but predicted that an interaction between gender and competition intensity would mitigate these differences. The authors predicted that in high intensity situations, the certainty of the expected payoff of competitive behavior would wipe out any gender differences, while in low intensity situations, the ambiguity would allow gender differences to creep back in.

Fletcher and McGinn conducted three randomized control trials involving partnered tasks with varying payment schemes, all of which confirmed these hypotheses. The first and second studies focused on incentive systems and social comparison/performance feedback, while the third study focused on behavioral norms.

The first study, in which everyone was paired with a relatively well-performing competitor, participants were assigned to either a high intensity or low intensity environment and made decisions in “strong” – or certain – contexts as well as “weak” – or ambiguous – contexts. In strong situations with high intensity competitions, men and women competed just as much as men.
In weak situations with low intensity competitions, men performed better than women. However, as Fletcher noted, women’s actual net payoff was greater on average than men’s.

The second study manipulated the incentive scheme and performance feedback type separately to parse apart how men and women reacted differently to incentives. This study replicated the findings of the first study, showing that women change their competitive behavior in response to the environment, while men exhibit the same competitive behavior across conditions. Additionally, men factor in incentive scheme to some extent, but not as well as women do.

The third study revealed that the overwhelming majority (~90%) of destructive competitive behavior was driven by a utilitarian or self-serving justification but that it varied by the competitive behavioral norms of the environment.

In short, men are more likely to engage in reflexive competitive behavior, while women are more context-dependent and attuned to the “rules of the game,” but gender differences in destructive competitive behavior only reveal themselves in low intensity competition settings. In addition, women in high intensity settings perceive their competition to be with female colleagues, while the perception in “low intensity” settings is competition with their male colleagues. Women reap more benefits from destructive competition in high intensity situations, however, so future research looking into women’s advantages in these settings may help organizations perform better. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Negotiating Across Gender: A Workshop

If you’ve ever found yourself in need of a better salary, a title that reflects your skill set, or a bigger staff to get the job done, then this week’s WAPPP seminar applies to you. Harvard Kennedy School Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and WAPPP Research Director Hannah Riley Bowles used the workshop to guide attendees through a research-based negotiations toolkit she recently created. Bowles argued that these main takeaways can help anyone - not just women - succeed in their professional negotiations.

1. Apply negotiations skills broadly. Bowles encouraged attendees to think about negotiation skills broadly, since academics and the media tend to focus too closely on salary negotiations. Through negotiation, employees can enhance their recognition and rewards (i.e. securing a new title or getting their name on research), seize opportunities to expand their authority (i.e. budget or who reports to them), overcome barriers, since more powerful employees are more prone to action, and make their work more personally meaningful.

The research: A recent Simmons CGO Survey of 364 female executives revealed that 80% of participants reported recent career negotiations. The most commonly cited opportunity that involved negotiations was seeking a new position or leadership opportunity, demonstrating that negotiating is about more than just salary.

2. Avoid ambiguity. Bowles encouraged attendees to consider the importance of ambiguity in negotiations. Research shows that ambiguity can lead to a heightened potential for gender-specific attributions, especially if the employees are operating in a gendered environment. There are two types of ambiguity at play here: norm ambiguity, or the degree of clarity about norms for appropriate negotiating behavior, and structural ambiguity, or the degree of clarity about zone of possible agreement and appropriate standards for agreement. When you provide employees with these standards, however, the gender gap disappears.

The research: A study that Bowles conducted on MBA graduate job market outcomes highlighted the power of ambiguity. Controlling for 30 variables that might otherwise explain the difference in income, Bowles found an overall gender gap of $5,000 (on an average salary of $100,000). In low ambiguity situations, such as investment banking and consulting, which comprised 70% of the sample, there was no gender gap difference. However, in high ambiguity situations, Bowles observed a 10% salary gap, leading to an average gender gap of $11,000 a year.

3. Be conscious of where you get your information. Bowles cautioned to make sure that our information search itself isn’t gendered, as we are likely to compare ourselves to those who are similar to us, therefore creating a self-perpetuating cycle. Since informal networks enhance access to information and advocacy channels, it’s important to reach outside of convenience networks to get information.

4. Watch out for stereotypes – both others’ and your own. There are several kinds of stereotypes in negotiation. Explicit and implicit biases might be more familiar to us; the former is easier to recognize and therefore avoid or correct, while the latter is harder to detect. There is also descriptive stereotyping (assumptions about what an individual will do) and prescriptive stereotyping (assumptions about what an individual should do). Bowles explained that self-advocacy violates society’s prescriptive stereotypes of feminine behavior, which in turn limits willingness to work with or hire the woman who violated that norm.

The research: Using a study of a fake resumes with a gender-neutral name, Bowles found that women who advocate for themselves are perceived much more negatively than women who advocate for others.

5. Enhance negotiations through relationships, and enhance relationships through negotiations. Bowles argued that explaining why what you’re asking for is legitimate in your employer's eyes will enhance your chances of getting what you’re asking for. In addition, signaling concern for your organizational relationships can mitigate the social cost of such negotiations. While some question whether teaching organizations to reward women who act relationally and don’t reward the women who don’t is helpful for women's professional prospects, Bowles asserted that the skills she encourages women to use are good practice for any employee facing a negotiation situation.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Keeping the Peace: the Case Study of an All-Female Peacekeeping Unit

This week’s WAPPP seminar, “All-Female Contingents on the Front Lines of Peace and Conflict,” covered the case study of the all-female peacekeeping unit in the southern Philippines charged with ensuring that the 2014 ceasefire agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is upheld. Margaret Jenkins, Research Associate at Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace & Security and a current WAPPP Fellow, presented her research on the subject, as the first half of a two-year research project on the effectiveness and experience of all-female contingents working in conflict zones.

Despite the goal of having women make up 20% of UN peacekeepers by 2015, under 5% of current peacekeepers are female. Jenkins considers this unit in the Philippines to be an innovative insight into why progress is so slow, calling it an “in your face” example of gender mainstreaming in this field. She argued that the case is so important because it a) amplifies the debate over mainstreaming via an all-female unit and b) lends itself to comparative research with all-male units.

After decades of fighting between the Moro insurgency and the Government, which left 100,000 people dead and thousands more displaced, a political agreement was signed - although not ratified - between the two parties last year. Following this agreement, Mary Ann Arnado, Secretary General of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, suggested the creation of an all-female peacekeeping contingent in addition to the other, largely conservative, Muslim and all-male units in the area.

As might be expected, there has been pushback in response to the all-female contingent. The women in the unit have noted that they feel like they haven’t been taken that seriously, while some are concerned that their duties as peacekeepers violate their religious obligations to live within strict gender norms. Some outsiders have expressed concern that the unit’s purpose is based on foreign or Western ideas, as well as questioned whether the unit is tough enough or if its members have the necessary skills and awareness for the task at hand. The unit has responded strongly to such concerns, citing international law to defend their legitimacy and building relationships within the communities served.

Though some might assume that fighting gender-based violence (GBV) would be a priority for an all-female unit considering that women are overwhelmingly the victims of gender-motivated crimes, the unit has a particular jurisdiction that does not focus on GBV. They are tasked primarily with monitoring the ceasefire, just like other civilian protection groups in the region. However, Jenkins recounted incidents involving rape in which the local communities and tribes called on the local knowledge of the all-female contingent for help.

Jenkins examined the cohesion and diversity of the unit and found that diversity is central to the contingent. The women serve in a very diverse region with a long history of sectarian violence, to the point where many of the women in the unit had never interacted with a woman of another religion prior to serving together in this mission. The unit itself is comprised of indigenous women, Christian women and Muslim women all from same area, with ages ranging from 22 to mid-60s. A major policy lesson Jenkins took from this case is how the effectiveness of the unit lies in the women’s local knowledge and this dedication to diversity. 

Much of the justification behind creating and maintaining an all-female contingent is based on essentialist arguments - i.e. that women bring something unique to the table, such as their inherent peacefulness, experience as caregivers, etc. - which many in the field find problematic. Jenkins emphasized the need to analyze the effectiveness of such units, the same as how any other peacekeeping unit would be evaluated. She hopes that her future research will focus on a similar all-female peacekeeping unit in Sudan, which has recently been recognized internationally, as well as all-female UN contingents.