Monday, April 28, 2008

Lady in Black

“What’s better than being in a room full of women?” declared the auburn-haired blue-eyed woman in the front of the room. No, this was not “The Vagina Monologues,” and the woman was not Eve Ensler, nor was it Hugh Hefner. It was First Lady of American Magazines, Cathie Black.

I had met Cathie a few years back at one of the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women in Business Conferences, a list she has been on each on every year since its 1998 debut. This time around the venue was much more intimate, a salon gathering in an apartment overlooking the East River. I have occasionally found such senior women to be aloof and unapproachable, but not Cathie. She was funny, warm and real.

She was there to talk about her book and share war stories about 30 something years in the industry. In Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life), readers are offered candid personal stories, teachable moments, and straight-up advice from a woman who has seen it all. Hired as the advertising manager at Ms. magazine in its early days, Cathie was charged with winning over skeptical advertisers. Her sales team often showed up with promotional materials printed on hot pink paper. It was a heady time. Because a feminist magazine seemed a risky—and controversial—venture, potential advertisers sometimes pushed them straight out the door. As Cathie notes, "Adversity is a great teacher."

Cathie went on to become publisher of New York in 1979—and the first woman publisher of a weekly consumer magazine. Currently, she heads up Hearst Magazines and manages the financial performance and development of publications from Cosmo to Esquire to O, the Oprah Magazine.

In Basic Black, Cathie asks readers to ponder what "having it all" really means, to them, today. She explores the idea of creating what she calls a "360-degree Life" for oneself, encompassing work, relationships, home life, and family. ….Though the book is a great read for any professional woman it is especially good for those just starting out. Imagine having a career coach like Cathie to tell you how to handle job interviews, which rules to follow and which ones to break, and why you should make your life a “grudge- free zone”.

When, in an effort to defend Hillary Clinton, Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey declared “Bitch is the New Black!”, clearly she had not yet met Cathie. Cathie is the legendary Black – just like your perfect little black dress she had advice for every occasion.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Subscribe to the New 85 Broads Magazine

Few women have done more to create community for women then Janet Hanson, the founder of 85 Broads. This network, which now boasts to have over 15,000 of the smartest women on the planet as members, existed long before we ever heard the term 'online social network.' Started 11 years ago as a way for Janet to remain reconnected with the fabulous women she worked with at Goldman Sachs, it has since taken on a life of it's own. The membership is now available to alums at over 250 schools. Once you sign-up you become a part of this powerful network.

The immediate news is that Janet has decided to launch a new magazine! So here is what you can do. Subscribe. It will be the best $12.95 you ever spent.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Catch me on FOX Business News 10 to 12 this AM

Today is my second appearance on FOX BIZ as a market expert and I am waiting anxiously for the email to arrive announcing the topic areas. Having followed the business headlines so religiously since the start of the year it is amazing how much they have changed, despite the fact that none of the problems that were the early focus have gone away. The Media just moves on. The last time I appeared you could not escape the news on the Monoline Insurers, and despite no solutions to their problems, are we hearing about it anymore? Nope. It is not surprising that the election, the price of oil, massive write-downs, surprising earnings reports and global food shortages are now the focus, but I wish someone, somewhere, would keep a list going of what we were talking about yesterday and now today. ( and this could include good as well as bad news) That list would highlight the issue/concern/reason for headline, then map the evolution of the problem/solution, and could even feature the current administration's ( and candidate's) responses. The voters last night responded so clearly that the issue for this election is the ECONOMY and the media could do a much better job in keep America informed not only of the issues of the day, but the bigger picture.

If you have limited time on your hands their are two weekly must reads to stay relatively informed - the Economist and Barron's. I also try to scan the Journal, The NYTimes, and the FT - but given the intensity of the what is going on right now, just reading what catches my eye is quickly becoming a full time job. It is not surprising that many are likely suffering from "Overnewseditis."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Warren Buffet and Investing Like A Girl

One of the many projects I have been working on for a while is the writing of a white paper that takes a comprehensive look at women as investment professionals, with a focus on women as traders, hedge fund managers, and portfolios managers. In collaboration with a good friend Carrie McCabe, a true goddess in the institutional hedge fund space, and the National Council for Research on Women ( ) we hope to uncover some of the reasons why women are so underrepresented in these important areas. As many of you know, I was a trader and have for almost twenty years been actively involved with promoting investment careers to women. I participated in countless recruiting events while at Goldman, and today still enjoy speaking at University gatherings on the topic.

I was very excited to hear about an upcoming book on Warren Buffet in a piece appearing in Motley Fool, and online investment news source. It seems that one of the greatest investors of all time has been accused of investing like a girl! The article hints at sound research that is out there and our upcoming paper, which we hope to release in the fall, will provide you with the full bibliography of such research. For now here is what the writer, Lou Ann DiCosmo, has to say:

“So how exactly do women invest? Check out these characteristics of female investors that distinguish them from their male counterparts.
- Women spend more time researching their investment choices than men do. This prevents them from chasing "hot" tips and trading on whims -- behavior that tends to weaken men's portfolios.
- Men trade 45% more often than women do, and although men are more confident investors, they tend to be overconfident. By trading more often -- and without enough research -- men reduce their net returns. But by trading less often, women get better returns and also save on transaction costs and capital gains taxes.
-A study by the University of California at Davis found that women's portfolios gained 1.4% more than men's portfolios did. What's more, single women did even better than single men, with 2.3% greater gains.
- Women tend to look at more than just numbers when deciding whether to invest in a company. They invest in companies they feel good about ethically and personally. And companies with good products, good services, and ethics tend to have better long-term prospects -- and face fewer lawsuits. “

I look forward to the day when like a girl is no longer used in a derogatory sense and books like these will no doubt help that day come sooner.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Epic Evening

Tonight I will be attending an event I have been looking forward to for some time, the EPIC AWARDS, which will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the White House Project. Those of you who know me would not be surprised to learn that this is an organization I have supported for years, and encourage you all to do the same. “The White House Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that aims to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors—up to the U.S. presidency—by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly diverse, critical mass of women. “ I like that. We need that. The organization is run by one of the most incredible women leaders of the non-profit sector, Marie Wilson. Before starting this organization (with others) Maria was head of the Ms. Foundation, another noteworthy organization I am proud to support. For over 30 years Marie has worked on behalf of women and girls in this country and beyond. I am truly honored to call her a friend. To get a sense of Maria read her latest post on HuffPo.

This year the WHP will be honoring, among others, Abigail Disney who is responsible for the new documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, a film about the extraordinary story of a band of Liberian women who came together in the midst of a bloody civil war, took on the warlords, and brought peace to their shattered country. I believe it is premiering soon so be sure to put that one on your list.

They will also be honoring a group of 10 women, for their extraordinary contributions, including many I know well: my dear friend and mentor, Barbara Dopkin, my new friend and powerhouse at Best Buy, Julie Gilbert, the head of human capital management at Morgan Stanley, Linda Reifler, and the two Goddesses who are behind the “Women Moving Millions Campaign” , Helen LaKelly and Swanee Hunt. It will be an absolute and complete feminist party and I cannot wait to be there.

Hmmmm …. Though I was planning on wearing a red dress, I just might have to break out my Wonder Woman Costume. I cannot think of a better occasion.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Global Fund for Women

Kavita Ramdas believes that the world would be a better place if women’s basic human rights were strengthened, protected, and advocated for across the globe.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to have lunch with Kavita, the President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, to discuss why investing in her fund makes a difference. For over 20 years this organization has been identifying women’s groups around the world that are meeting local needs in the areas of economic justice, ending gender-based violence, advancing health, providing access to education, and expanding civic and political participation. In funding them, I would be funding over 500 different groups a year that have been carefully screened for maximum impact. I suddenly felt a weight off my shoulders. Having struggled to find the time to search out organizations that were serving in the most underserved places in the world, I felt my prayers were answered. Kavita spoke passionately of so many programs that were impacting lives, real lives, people she had met and touched. Kavita’s home base is in San Francisco, but we all have an opportunity to meet her at their upcoming benefit in New York on June 5 th, in honor of the Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Though she is not particularly fond of glitzy fundraisers, she realizes that people need to be exposed to their work here on the East Coast, and this is a great way to do it.

The Global Fund for Women is an A ranked charity by the American Institute of Philanthropy and three stars on Charity Navigator. They are also a member of the Women’s Funding Network.

Consider being a donor to this amazing organization. Visit their website.

On June 5th they will be having a gala in New York City to both raise funds and build awareness. For more information and tickets email .

For an insightful recent oped by Kavita visit HuffPo.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

“China Shares Fall on Beijing Rate Signals”

Shares in mainland China dropped 5.6% yesterday. ( according to WSJ) To put that in context that would be equivalent to a 690 point drop in the DOW. 690 POINTS. Could you imagine what the fed would be doing if we had a day like that???? What set it off according to the journal? Continued bad news in the US ( note that stocks in the US barely moved yesterday) including a poor earnings report by GE, as well as a year over year 16.3% increase in money supply. Excuse me, but can you spell inflation? To put that in even greater context the “Shanghai Composite Index is down 46% from the high reached last October, and down 37% so far this year.” That makes our down 8% ish market look like a blessing.
Now the real question is why? Why are Chinese equities performing so poorly given that there economy is so much stronger than ours? I have not read about a Chinese Sub-prime problem, nor have I read about a credit market meltdown. In fact, I am not sure they really even have any mortgages over there to speak of, and certainly not securitized ones. I seem to recall that people in China actually do save up to buy homes, which for many takes a lifetime. So why? The most common answer I have gotten is because there was a speculative bubble in Chinese equities. After years of off the charts performance it was just time for a breather. A 46% breather.
So now the question is if you were not one of the people caught in the frenzy, is it time to buy? I am not sure, but I am certainly working my way to figuring it out.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Market Post - The Pain is Far From Over

March was an interesting month for the markets. After a really bad January, and a bad but better February, March closed out barely in the red. The equity markets bottomed out on March 10th, and spent most of the month making a recovery. That sentiment continued in to April. Many seem to feel the worst is now behind us, at least until last Friday when GE reported majorly disappointing earnings. The week ended solidly in the red. Dow Jones 12,325 down 2.3%, Nasdaq 2,290 down 3.4%, S & P 1,332 down 2.7%.

So is the worst over? I say, hardly, and I can give you a long list of people who are still firmly on that side of the wall. I predict that GE and the others that reported this week will be but the first few of a long list of companies reporting earnings disappointments. The bad news is not likely to end there. Peeling back the layers of the poor employment report will likely reveal even more bad news, and so will be true for inflation numbers. The FED is most certainly doing their best to keep the wheels turning, but the problems in the US economy are much deeper then the FED can solve on a timely basis. Their hope, I believe, is that they can do enough to help the financial firms attract more capital to sustain substantial losses yet to come.

The most alarming news I heard this week was reported in Barron’s. Ed Hyman, of ISI Group said that “banks hold $4 trillion or so in unsecuritized loans on their balance sheets, much of which is home-equity, interest only loans, option arms”…. And the like. Let me say it again, unsecuritized. Combine that with the a few tidbits reported by John Burns, a US housing market expert that recently did a piece for John Mauldin, that 8.8 mm homeowners will have mortgage balances equal to or less then the value of their homes by the end of March, and you have to ask, how could the worst possibly be over? He goes on to say that at the end of 07 5.82 % of all mortgages were delinquent, and it takes an average of 15 months from the date of the first missed payment by a homeowner to a liquidation of the house. The pain is far from over.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Meeting Jane

I had watched her tapes, read her books, bought the appropriate leotards and leg warmers. I was 18, and I was a fitness nut. Jane Fonda was my fitness role model. I knew she was an actress first, but I had not watched any of her movies that I could recall. Then in 1982, came the multiple Academy Award winning movie, On Golden Pond. She was now beyond a tight-bunned Goddess to me. Although I was not yet 20 years old, I remember how the film moved me to consider the importance of my relationship with my father. Then last night, at an intimate living room gathering, I heard Jane Fonda read from her memoir. I was sitting in the front row. Before me was this stunning, fit, 70 year old woman, and I thought to myself, boy, those millions of leg lifts have really paid off.

The purpose of the gathering was to thank donors and introduce potential new ones to the work of the Women’s Media Center. Founded in 2004 their mission is to “make women visible and powerful in the media.” Jane was one of the founders of this organization, together with Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan and generously supports the cause.

Jane embraced the podium for her reading. “I DON’T LIKE YOU!” she belted with a pointing finger and a quivering head, mimicking Katharine Hepburn’s first meeting with her. Jane was trying to convince Katharine to except the role, opposite her father, the late and great Henry Fonda. She went on to read, act, the entire 18th chapter of her book, in which she shares the most intimate details of not only making the film On Golden Pond, but of her complex relationship with her father. She closed her reading with tears, and the words: “Dad died five months later.” She was brave, vulnerable and real, and I wanted to give her a hug.

Jane invited questions and I raised my hand. ” How do you feel at this very moment about the role women are going to play in shaping our future?” With clenched fists she unleashed her response. It was a had-to-be-there kind of moment. In a nutshell, she said, the time is now.

Although I had already thanked her and said good-bye, I couldn’t leave. I turned and walked back to her. I grabbed her hand and looking in to her eyes, I said “We are sisters.” With a big, beautiful smile she agreed.

For Girl with Pen's take click here