Janet Yellen is NOT a Chair

She is a woman… THE woman of the Fed.

Cue up the screeching harpy noises, cause I’m pissed and this entire blog should read as one long screech. Stop now if you are scared or get irritated by endless complaints.


A chair is something you sit on. Plain and simple. It is a piece of furniture.

Janet Yellen is THE Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve. She should use the honorarium she rightfully earned proudly, loudly, make it clear she is a WOMAN, she has a vagina and yes, she is different than a Chairman, let her roar damnit. She is not neutered so, she should not use the neutral alternative of Chair or Chairperson. Yuck. Boring. Takes all the fun out of the fact that she broke the glass ceiling. And for that, as an economist and a woman, I am fist-pumping-proud. She is the first and she is a leader and, while I do believe in personal choice, I would have loved to see her really stand tall and insist on people calling her Madam Chairwoman.

What is turning me back into being a full fledged FEMINIST is the fact that the need for action is so real in these parts of the world that I can taste it.

Like when I was a breast-feeding mother. I would be lactating and need to take a break to express my milk or there was going to be leakage. Instead of meekly excusing myself from meetings, I would say the words, “I am lactating and need to go bottle my breast milk.” I did not find it embarrassing. I like(d) saying breast. I learned to do this when a colleague pointed out that some people thought I was less dedicated to my work since the birth of my child because I was cutting out of meetings! It’s not like I was sneaking out and taking bong hits for goddess sake! I had just created life and was providing nutrition for a human being. That is rather fundamental to our race and to all of us.

I felt it important to say the words – breast feeding, lactation – and let the men I worked with think about just how different I am from them.

It’s okay.

I love the differences of the sexes, including all expressions of gender variance and nonconformity. I do not believe there is a definite, impenetrable line between the sexes or sexual orientation for that matter. It is all wonderfully squishy if people were honest.

I do not believe that being equal means the evaporation of our glorious differences. In fact, I think it is a failure to ignore differences. Our differences should be celebrated for all their diversity and glory. What should evaporate is closed minded, blatant sexism and genderism* (used not only in the “Joss Whedon” way, but also to highlight that there are idiots out there that think gender is binary and determined by sex at birth.)

I am a feminist and I do not mind being labeled as such.

And I love men and being in the company of men. And thank the goddess for that because there are sooooooo many men in Silicon Valley and not many women.

What is turning me back into being a full fledged FEMINIST is the fact that the need for action is so real in these parts of the world that I can taste it. There is an honest to goodness need for progressives of all sexes to be actively working to change the prevailing culture that I shockingly find myself in – a male dominated culture that demeans women, literally thinks less of the fairer sex, and discriminates against women directly as well as in the subtle ways of exclusion.

I got to poking around to see if the automotive industry is more diverse and accepting of women in leadership roles than the tech industry in the valley. Ignoring my LGBTQQIA and persons of color for the moment, I looked at the executive ranks and board of directors of top SV companies and top automotive OEMs. All information is derived from each company’s public website. Here is what I uncovered:

  • Apple – zero women in senior leadership (but adding an SVP from Burberry, she’s taking a step down since she used to be CEO, but gets 6 fold more market power)
  • Google – one woman in senior leadership – Susan Wojcicki who was kind enough to let Google set up in her garage and her sister was married to Sergey Brin; Susan obviously benefited from excellent timing!! That is not a knock. It is a hoot.
    • Google has three women out of 10 (30%) on the board and all three women have technical backgrounds – CFO, engineering, biochemistry
  • Tesla – zero women as senior executive
    • And zero women on the board
  • Facebook has Sheryl and Sheryl has her book and her salons and is obviously well qualified
    • Sheryl also sits on the board along with another woman from Genentech who is a doctor (33%, but should FB get credit for double dipping here?)
  • GM – CEO is a woman along with 5 other senior executives
    • GM has 4 out of 14 (28.5%) female board members
    • Oh, and Mary Barra makes 60% more than her predecessor – getting me closer and closer to buying that Corvette…
    • Ford – one woman out of 20 senior executives and she is sadly in the female ghetto of HR (accounting and marketing the other ghettos)
      • Ford has 2 women out of 18 board members (11%)
    • Chrysler – 3 out of 27 female senior managers, none from the ghetto, unless you count audit…yeah, it is a ghetto
      • One woman out of 9 on the board (11%)
    • Toyota in Japan, of course, has zero and zero for their senior executives and board members.
      • I know their US operations have some women in senior leadership roles, but no senior executives. They have an outside Diversity Board, but no real progress internally. But I know WAY too much about the problems in Toyota and will stop now…

    All in all, I think they both suck. It is hard to say that Silicon Valley is worse than the auto industry. Maybe I just hit a patch of bad luck on my first year here in Palo Alto by being subjected to some of the worst behavior I have ever experienced. Or maybe I just thought that nothing could be worse than automotive when it comes to gender equality.

    I was reading in Mother Jones that women entrepreneurs get way less seed money than men, by a long shot – something like 3% vs. 89% when comparing all female founding teams with all male founding teams and even only 8% for mixed teams. That is really depressing because if, as a woman, you get really tired of dealing with open, blatant chauvinism and decide to head out on your own, you’re likely to run into major stumbling blocks by virtue of having a vagina.

    It is a reasonable strategy for a woman to say to hell with the piggies, I’m gonna find a few cool men, men who love women, value diversity, and start something on your own. Create your own enlightened company. Here’s to hoping that 2014 is going to be different. I think it will be and I’m going to do everything in my power to effect positive change for gender equality.

    Wanna join me?

    * Here is a killer blog on Joss Whedon, genederism, and feminism and here is an amazing article about transgender and how squishy biology really is about sexual determinism