March is Women’s History Month. Many feminists get riled at the idea of designating a mere 31 days out of the year to the presence of women (well, at least it’s one of the longer months).
But the real problem is not the brevity of the honor, it’s that women are simply making less history than they used to.
I am heartened by women of influence who are committed to L.A. business, culture, opinion and society. For instance, I have had the pleasure of speaking on panels with 2013 mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, Los Angeles city controller.
Monica Lozano, chief executive of impreMedia LLC, is publisher of La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States (and its counterparts in New York and San Francisco). Oh, Lozano also serves on the boards of Bank of America and the Walt Disney Co., and in 2009 was appointed a member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board – in her spare time, I guess.
Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, helms the nation’s largest preservationist group.
Jennifer Ferro influences Los Angeles in myriad ways as general manager of KCRW-FM (89.9), as does Olga Garay, executive director of the city of L.A.’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Elise Buik made history in 2005 when she landed her post as president and chief executive of United Way of Greater Los Angeles.
What worries me: the shortage of such women. The 2011 UC Davis Graduate School of Management’s “Study of California Women Business Leaders, A Census of Women Directors and Highest-Paid Executives” included this withering observation: “California’s Glass Ceiling May Take a Century to Crack.”
Among other facts revealed in this study: Only 13 public companies in California had a woman CEO in 2011 – down from a grim high of just 16 in 2010.
In the study year, women held 10 percent of the 3,224 board seats of the 400 companies studied. Of those companies, 136 (that’s 34 percent) had no women – not one! – on their board or among their highest-paid executives.
What’s worse? Women, especially young women, don’t seem to get it. I felt the strong urge to shred when I saw December’s fatuous issue of More magazine, with its burbling cover story about low-paying jobs for women who “want their lives back.”
This thinly veiled respin of More’s own survey revealed that 43 percent of women surveyed were “less ambitious” than they had been 10 years earlier, because they wanted “more flexibility” in their day. These women stated that they were willing to take a cut in pay in exchange for more time off.
This represents an elitist view in America, and a feminist view nowhere. This is no time for women anywhere, least of all in America, to hit the snooze button in terms of leadership and engagement. The world needs us too much. My touchstone: “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” the New York Times bestseller by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn that was the spark that ignited the founding of joinFITE (more about that shortly). Holding up our half of the sky is not only an opportunity, it’s our responsibility.
Does every woman have to be a CEO? Must every woman run for public office? Does every woman need to serve on a board? No. But women are dropping out of the game. This is not good news for women, since the old issues – wage equity as in like pay for like work, reproductive freedom, maternity-leave issues relative to employment, child care resources – continue to define the lives of most women in the United States and many other places.
The missing urgency strikes at my gut core because of work that I do, and which is done through my company, with women who would not dream of forfeiting even a penny of their pay for “flexibility.”
In January 2011, Dermalogica founded a non-profit called joinFITE. This women’s initiative extends global microloans to women, through Kiva. I founded it in gratitude to the female entrepreneurs who have made my business a success for the past 25 years. The women who receive these loans work without rest to capitalize the investment and to pay back the loan. They may do so in places where there is no running water. Places where a mosquito net means the difference between life and death. You can imagine the rest.
Women bring not only a brain trust, but also what I call a “heart trust” to doing business. It’s true that women do business differently than men, and this difference is what will ultimately change the world – yes, the whole world – for the better. And sister, you can’t do it from your couch or from a stationary bike in that 4:30 spin class.
Starting in March, women need to wake up – so that we can begin to wake up the world.
Jane Wurwand is the founder and owner of Dermalogica, a skin care education and skin product company in Carson. She also is the founder of the International Dermal Institute, also located in Carson.
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