Giving Up The Patriarchy | Lent 2022
Illustration by Nathalie Lees
I used to give up wine or cocktails, and when I was younger, chocolate. With everything going on in our world, giving up alcohol or sweets seems so 2019. Since 2020-- for all the reasons–and again this year, I am giving up the patriarchy for Lent.
This year my decision is more than symbolic. Women have been on the forefront of the ongoing efforts to fight Covid19 even while they lost more than 5.4 million jobs in 2020. The #SheCession, including a high proportion of women of color is, in itself, a national crisis. Further, women-owned businesses are suffering as we witness women across the country continuing to step up to both provide care for elders, neighbors, as well as perform the second shift at home.
For those that are wondering, “What does that look like to give up the patriarchy?” (“How are you going to do that?" has been a common question), here is how am I going about this:
I started by recognizing that a male dominated system may have made some kind of sense at some point, and perhaps even grew out of good intentions way back when. And yet the current dominance of one gender over another across every industry of our economy and within our largest institutions is not serving any of us well. Those of us that care about racial equity also recognize the interconnections and see that. So, as Marie Kondo suggests, I am releasing the male dominant system with gratitude for ways it may have served in the past, and discarding the patriarchy as it does not spark joy.
Recognizing all of the places where male dominance makes up the status quo is an important first step. From our state, federal and local governments, to agriculture and food production, to banking and financial institutions, to the boards of directors and C-suites of our tech start ups, to our largest companies, men (predominantly white men) are at the table, making most of the big decisions that affect all of us. And look where we are.
Men largely make up the candidate pool of executive searches, and once hired, they advance within companies more rapidly than others, and earn more on the dollar than women for the same positions. Men also make up the vast majority of Hollywood, both in speaking roles and behind the camera as film directors and executive producers, influencing the media landscape, determining what we see from their point of view.
In my job, as an asset manager, women and people of color combined, manage just 1.3% of the $80 Trillion financial industry. This means that white men are making decisions on which companies get investment and how funds are constructed 98.7% of the time. You can help shift this checking to make sure you have women managing the funds in which you invest.
Because the patriarchy is the water we swim in and the air we breathe, it's going to take some small and large changes in consciousness and in our daily practices to progress toward more balance. Here below, I highlight some of the steps I am taking to change this lack of balance, and move us toward parity and equality.
Vote for women! The lack of balanced representation in government hurts all of us. When you are filling out a ballot sheet (yes, do ask for paper), seek gender parity. And let's not stop at simply voting. We all need to encourage the women in our lives to step up to run for office. Emerge America, a non profit organization that recruits and trains progressive women to run for office, has found that it takes women ten times of being asked to run for office before they actually sign up. Be one of those asks!
Vote your proxies! One way we can vote out the patriarchy is with our proxy ballots, one company at a time. The business case for women in leadership has been made over and over again, and yet, it will take each one of us being active to shift the imbalance. At Nia Impact Capital, the impact investing firm I lead, we see proxy voting as both a right and a responsibility of stock owners. Each stock owner --or shareholder-- is entitled to vote on management issues, and on the boards of directors for each company. With proxy season upon us, do raise your voice (and/or if you have a financial advisor, you can ask him/her/they to vote on your behalf) and vote down all proposed boards that do not have the gender parity that we need to see and experience in corporate leadership.
Invest in women! Despite the research saying women boost the bottom line and inspire others, the statistics for women-led businesses getting the growth funding they need to succeed and scale continues to be abysmal. Typically in Silicon Valley and across the U.S., over 90% of venture funding is allocated to white men. Women led businesses receive 4-6% of venture backed funding, with people of color receiving less than 2%. And only 8% of partners among top 100 venture firms were female. There are many reasons we need to add more balance to who distributes and receives capital (not the least being that start ups with women in leadership tend to outperform). For alternatives to venture type investing, do check out Investibule.co and Crowdfund Main Street, two crowdfunding sites where small investors can participate in and support women led businesses locally and across the country.
Invest with women! Despite women making up a minority of financial advisors (fewer than 30%) and an even smaller minority of fund managers (fewer than 10%), research shows that female managers tend to outperform their male counterparts. And despite the alpha associated with women, they currently control an even smaller amount of capital. You can be a part of this crucial change, shifting our economy toward a balance in leadership by hiring women to help manage your assets, and by choosing funds run by women.
Eat with women! Have you ever chosen a restaurant according to who the chef is? Eating is yet another great place to use your gender lens. Here is a list of female chefs in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I call home. And here is a great list of Bay Area women-owned restaurants and another list of female lead eateries. After your fabulous dinner, enjoy a movie directed or produced by a woman! In Hollywood, as in most other places of power in our society, female voices are under-represented. In 2017, women accounted for 16% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers. Eight percent of directors were women, and women accounted for 10% of writers. #ItsTime we had a balance of stories told from a female perspective. To do that we'll need equal numbers behind the camera, literally calling the shots. Here is a great list of female film directors to get you started.
Shop with and do business with women! A key to flipping the patriarchal system is directing more capital to women and women-owned businesses. Look here for a national list of certified women-owned places to shop and do business. And do ask around to see which businesses are women-owned. Not all women have taken the time to officially certify their businesses. We at Nia are proud to be GEN (Gender Equity Now) Certified, meaning our workplace practices promote gender equality, though we have not yet done the heavy lift to become officially "Women-owned Certified." While our economy needs more women business leaders, we also need them to be successful, as women tend to direct the proceeds and earnings toward their families and their communities. Forbes statistics show that women give almost twice as much of their wealth away as men (3.5% vs. 1.8%). Which leads me to the next action I am taking during this lent season:
Donate to Women! While it's going to take us directing both consumer and investment dollars to make the largest difference, those with philanthropic capital, do join me in stepping up and donating to organizations empowering women and girls. As you can imagine, the amount of philanthropic dollars that go toward causes for women and girls is also small. According to AidData as reported by UBS, funding received by causes related to SDG 5, on gender equality, received only 2.6% of donations. To end patriarchy we will need to activate all cylinders including our donations.
Join the Drawdown Eco Challenge! Another initiative I am looking forward to participating in is the Drawdown Eco Challenge "Equity is Good for All of Us." As scientists from the Drawdown Project articulate, climate change is not gender neutral, and with women and girls making up 51% of our population, I applaud this call for commitments to raise up women, either by giving a micro loan to a female start up, funding girls education, or hosting a film screening, there are lots of small acts suggested here that, if we all participate together, will make more than a dent in bringing much needed balance to our educational and economic systems.
Being mindful about the needed change, and directing our votes and our dollars to women is what we need to dismantle the patriarchy. Join me!
Once Lent is over, the work and community building continues: Coming up in this summer (or when it is safe to do so): The Nia team is working with Kitchen Table Advisors to host two different farm tours of two female owned and run farms (Bay Area women in the impact space, stay tuned!)