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Miss America 2.0: Taking a Stand on Women Empowerment

Storyline:

Recently, Miss America announced a change in their industry. No longer will they support the swimsuit competition, commonly seen as a way to judge women’s outer appearances and ultimately enforcing the sexist outlook women have been fighting for decades. The shift calls for a focus on women’s inner beauty and replace the body revealing categories for a live interview on the goals and aspirations of the competitor.

Part of this forward movement will require the competitors to discuss their chosen cause, also known as “social impact initiatives,” and how they will advance their goals. This rebranding effort has continued to receive hits from all sides. Some say taking away the swimsuit competition is like taking away the heart of the show, while others feel it is a good modern advancement.

The show will still consist of women in nice gowns and other clothing items, yet the focus will primarily be on talents and scholarship.

Miss America has received negative reviews throughout the years, starting in the 1960’s when 100 feminists confronted the pageant on their body-focused judging standards in Atlantic City. The women participating tossed bras, fake eyelashes, wigs, curling irons and other female-targeted products into a trashcan to symbolize freedom against men’s beauty standards. Since then, movements like #MeToo and #SeeHer have impacted the decision to revamp Miss America. The show has been slowly declining in views the past decade, as have all live television shows. Miss America viewership has dropped by 10% in the past four years.

As Miss America 2.0, the company hopes to further the movement of women’s empowerment and individuality. While throughout the decades Miss America has claimed to do this already, they are said to now finally be following through with their actions.

Noteworthy:miss america 2.0

  • Not only is Miss America taking a stand with social initiatives, they are encouraging their competitive participants to do so by adding a requirement to speak on their goals to change the world.
  • Movements such as #MeToo and #SeeHer inspired the organization to replace the swimsuit portion of the show and focus on a competition rather than a pageant. A 10% decline in viewership also may be a contributing factor.

Activators Quest & Actions (Q&A):

  • What changes can you make in your organization and community to support greater empowerment and equal rights for women?
  • What line would you draw in shifting from a pageant to a women’s competition? What competitive events would make it more empowering?
  • Should businesses support Miss America 2.0 through advertisements and sponsorships? Or, should Miss America just retire?

 

Sources: ABC News, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Miss America, Forbes
Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

Did you hear the one about Jack Dorsey walking into a Chick-fil-A?

Storyline:

On June 10th, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, posted a picture on Twitter of how his debit payment service from Square works. He was at a Chick-fil-A. Soledad O’Brien, CEO of Starfish Media, noticed it and tweeted back about how that was an interesting place to be during Pride month. Jack responded that he forgot Chick-fil-A’s background. From here, the controversy took off.

Pride month is LGBTQ Pride Month. LGBTQ Pride Month is celebrated in June each year and started in 1970 after the Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York City in 1969. More than a celebration, LGBTQ Pride Month is a protest and call for continued political activism and change.

Now to Chick-fil-A. In 2012, Chick-fil-A’s CEO, Dan Cathy, stated that he is a supporter of the biblical definition of marriage. Part of their corporate culture is rooted in the Bible. After this statement, many protestors expressed their concerns that Chick-fil-A is anti-gay. Cathy later called the remark a mistake and emphasized that they treat everyone with respect no matter their sexual orientation or gender.

Noteworthy:jack dorsey LGBTQ

  • Dorsey’s tweets were effective in alienating two groups – LGBTQ and Christian groups. LGBTQ groups are unhappy with his visit to Chick-fil-A during June, and Christians are dissatisfied with his negative characterization of Chick-fil-A’s background.
  • The Stonewall Riots served as a tipping point that led to a long march toward greater LGBTQ rights and recognition. Almost 50 years later, progress may seem slow.
  • A seemingly innocent promotion ignited a controversy and no further comment reactions from Dorsey and Cathy. No further elaboration or discussion, letting it slide into a shallow social media debate.

Activators Quest & Actions (Q&A):

  • Is an opportunity being missed to engage in a more meaningful conversation about LGBTQ rights? If you were Jack Dorsey, what would you say now?
  • What can business leaders do to prevent becoming red and blue companies? How are these actions reflected with customers and employees?
Sources:  Washington Post, Library of Congress, Vox, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal
Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

 

Where is the business leader bravado on tariffs?

Storyline:

With the G7 summit over, the rhetoric on tariffs is far from it. More than a war of words, tariffs are real as each nation prepares to respond. Tariffs are simply taxes on certain goods coming into another country. The buyers of selected imports will pay the imposed percentage on the amount of the purchase, and the added costs are passed on mostly to consumers.

Although there is some debate on the value of tariffs, many economists believe they are harmful to industry and consumers. Many agree that China has been taking advantage of the U.S. More criticism goes to the lack of intellectual property protection, and China using this opening. However, rather than imposing tariffs, forming multinational coalitions to address China or other trade imbalances is a better strategy, some believe. Working through the World Trade Organization is another option. However, the current administration does not have an appetite for coalitions or global organizations.

business tariffsWhile the political noise between President Trump and leaders of other nations is loud, business leaders are relatively quiet. Some congressional members are beginning to raise their concerns. Interestingly, when FDR was president, Congress transferred trade matters to the president.

Who has been raising their business voice? The Steelworkers Union supports the tariffs, along with the AFL-CIO (although they don’t like the impulsive negotiating tactics). The National Pork Producers Council and the U.S. Apple Association say the timing is not good for their industries. Add in the Distilled Spirits Council as stating the tariffs will harm the hospitality sector. The American Chemistry Council says the tariffs will be punishing, and they represent companies like 3M, Procter & Gamble, DuPont, and ExxonMobil.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation also voiced their concerns. While the U.S. Chamber says the tariffs could threaten 2.6 million U.S. jobs, the National Retail Federation says the tariffs will negate any advantage the tax cuts offered.

Noteworthy:

  • Finding specific business leaders or CEOs raising their concerns, support, or opposition to tariffs is challenging. Many are silent right now, passing it on to trade associations and unions.
  • Many industries that support tariffs are traditional ones while technology companies would likely prefer better intellectual property protection.
  • Leaders from the G7 nations are holding President Trump in check, but it will lead to a battle of raising tariffs. Most employees and consumers do not win in these battles.

Activators Quest & Actions (Q&A):

  • Are business leaders doing enough in either supporting or opposing the tariffs? Why are they more silent on this issue than others?
  • Have you thought about how raising tariffs might impact your business? What will be the impacts in your work and home?
Sources:  CBS News, New York Times, National Review, NPR, CNN Money, Newsy, CNBC
Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

 

Dimon, Buffet go long on short-term guidance

Storyline:

Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal urging that public companies stop providing quarterly guidance. Quarterly guidance delivers to shareholders an expectation on earnings for the next quarter. Dimon and Buffet argue that this leads to “short-termism.” Short-termism prevents business leaders from making the necessary investments and plans for the long-term. Eventually, short-term focus can ruin a business strategy and competitive edge.

While they argue halting short-term guidance, they believe that is still acceptable to issue quarterly earnings reports. The difference in guidance versus reporting is transparency. Quarterly reporting offers shareholder transparency into how the company is performing. However, some argue that the only way to end short-termism is to stop both quarterly guidance and reporting. The needed shift is to report semi-annually.

The United Kingdom (U.K.) did just that in 2014, eliminating quarterly reporting. However, due to many U.K. companies being listed in the United States financial markets too, they must report quarterly anyway. Over 90 percent of U.K. public companies still report quarterly performance.

Noteworthy:dimon buffet long-term

  • Dimon and Buffet have teamed on another initiative – forming a company to fix healthcare in America. The third partner in the fix-healthcare mix is Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Bezos did not participate in the call to end quarterly guidance.
  • Transparency is essential in the business world, but maximizing shareholder value as a corporate mantra has led to short-term decisions and performance over long-term strategic growth and leadership. Maximizing shareholder value, more than short-termism, has led to massive layoffs, quick-fix strategic decisions, and dishonest financial practices.
  • Robert Reich, former U.S. Labor Secretary, would likely call the end short-termism just a “symbolic action.” Moving back to a business stewardship approach and eliminating an intense focus on maximizing shareholder value is what will bring better business leadership and decision-making.

Activators Quest & Actions (Q&A):

  • Would business leaders be more effective if performance was reported on a semi-annual timeline instead of a quarterly one? Why or why not? What leadership behavior changes would you observe?
  • How would corporate organizational culture change if performance was reported semi-annually? Be specific in what changes you would expect.
  • What mindset makes a better leader – short-term or long-term?

 

Sources:  MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, Commonsense Corporate Governance Principles, Fast Company
Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

Google ditches DoD Project Maven for employees

Storyline:

Project Maven is a Department of Defense (DoD) artificial intelligence (AI) initiative to help drone operators be more precise in their work. Simply stated, the AI would help drones deliver more accurate strikes. Several Google AI researchers threatened to resign if the contract continued, and over 4,000 Google employees signed a petition to express their disagreement with the company’s involvement in the Project Maven work. The initial contract was for $9 million, but Google expected this to scale rapidly. Some argue the contract could have generated $250 million and more a year for Google.

While some may applaud Google’s gain on conscience, others say they lacked backbone. One of the objectives of Project Maven is to better tag buildings to avoid destruction and prevent civilians from being harmed. The AI intent is to save lives and civilian infrastructure during military operations.

While Google will step away from Project Maven, other technology companies will likely fill the void. Amazon has worked with the DoD on similar projects and could replace Google. When the contract was opened initially, Microsoft and IBM competed to do the work. Employees at other technology companies may see the work differently than Google.

Noteworthy:google project maven

  • Employee activism is real, starting with a handful of AI researchers and moving to 4,000 employees signing a petition. This represents about 6 percent of Google’s employees.
  • Without a union, employees formed a coalition to stop the company from taking an action they disagreed with.
  • With the story being picked up by traditional and social media, momentum built quickly with a change in corporate strategy happening within a few weeks.
  • AI projects continue to be controversial in how they are applied, whether in potentially eliminating jobs or making the military more precise.

Activators Quest & Actions (Q&A):

  • What would you have done differently than the Google leadership in their interactions with their employees? Could you have prevented the showdown?
  • As a business leader, would you walk away from $250 million in revenue to take a stand against an initiative that will likely be taken over by a competitor?

 

Sources: New York Times, Bloomberg, The Intercept, Quartz at Work
Photo by Matthew Kwong on Unsplash
Update: Google’s CEO issued their principles on AI. Read them to understand their shift.