I’m Giving Up The Patriarchy For Lent–Join Me?
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 pre-pandemic. Since the beginning of covid in 2020, gradual gains toward gender parity have taken a hit. Women have lost jobs and economic opportunities—and gender parity is even farther from being realized. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2022, at the rate we are moving, it will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap. As global crises are compounding, women are doing more as caretakers, workforce outcomes for women are grim, and the risk of global gender parity backsliding further intensifies. In the U.S., where our numbers are somewhat better, it’s expected to take between 59 to 62 years to close the gender gap. Can the world really wait that long?
For all these reasons–again this year, I am giving up the patriarchy for Lent.
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 I am going about it:
I started by recognizing that a male-dominated system may have made some kind of sense at some point in time, and perhaps even grew out of good intentions way back when. 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 equity—whether that’s racial, gender, or social—also recognize the interconnections and see how they fit together. “To enlighten certain Departments of Education (we won’t name names), that’s called intersectionality…”
So, as Marie Kondo suggests, I am releasing the male dominant system with gratitude for ways it may have served some 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—rolling back long-established rights to bodily autonomy for women, still fighting for climate justice and opportunities for women and girls and watching the attacks on public education by religious institutions with very narrow views of what constitutes a family, a gender, and which individuals deserve dignity.
White 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, and determining what we see from their point of view.
In my job, as an asset manager, women and people of color combined, manage just a fraction of the $80 Trillion financial industry. As of 2021, asset management firms with diverse representation in ownership manage just 1.4% of U.S. based assets under management. This means that white men are making decisions on which companies get investment and how funds are constructed 98.6% of the time.
We get the economy we invest into. Can you imagine the economy we would have now if women were making more of the investment decisions? You can join me in helping to shift these statistics and our economy by 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 move us toward parity and equality.
Vote for women! The lack of balanced representation in government hurts all of us. In Congress, we have seen that so often it is women who challenge the status quo. 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 and experience that we need to see 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%. Maybe that’s because only 8% of partners among top 100 venture firms were female.
The pandemic didn’t help. In fact, reports show that Covid adversely affected investment in women-owned businesses and start-ups with some estimating that investment for women was down 27% in 2020. The pandemic “has exacerbated inequalities around the world, including gender inequalities.” The World Economic Forum states that investing in women is the key to post-pandemic growth and recovery.
There are many reasons we need more balance in 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 status quo. The patriarchy has us siloed and separated, feeling alone in our investing and in other areas of life–and has women of different backgrounds pitted against each other. Let’s not fall prey to their plans. Let’s connect with each other to move forward. Join me!
Once Lent is over, I’ll be here, still working toward change. The movement and community building continues: every time we choose to support women we get that much closer to gender parity. Let’s move that needle.