This InFocus photo collection of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations is stunning. The ones with the cell phones seem out of some future dystopian political thriller.
And from a very different time, a team of Yale researchers has indexed by county ten years’ worth of Depression-era photographs by government-hired artists. The database is here, and High Country News gives a little more background on the project.
I think Manuel Quinones is one of the best energy reporters in the country, so I’m intrigued by the new book, Turning Carolina Red, that he’s a contributing author to, along with others from Environment & Energy Publishing. It’s a look at the way that the fossil fuel money influenced and then captured state politics in North Carolina. I’ve had the pleasure of talking about Northwest coal and oil exports with the good folks at E&E on several occasions, and I expect their treatment of the subject will be very good.
You may have heard of the “resource curse,” also known as “the paradox of plenty,” which is the observation that regions with abundant natural resources (oil, gold, diamonds, etc.) actually see slower economic development than places where resources are scanty. Apparently, over-specializing in resource extraction can have all sorts of unwanted effects, including undermining the competitiveness of other industries; encouraging the “best and brightest” to fight for a slice of the resource pie, rather than focus on innovation; and subjecting an economy to a disruptive cycle of booms and busts.
The idea of the resource curse gained traction back when Japan—a relatively resource-poor country—was experiencing explosive growth, leaving oil- and mineral-rich nations in the dust. And while much of the research looks at the resource curse operating at the national level, a recent report from Headwaters Economics found evidence of the resource curse at work in the county level in the Western United States. They found that counties that experienced a sustained boom in oil and gas development in the 1980’s saw lower growth in per capita income, higher crime rates, and lower educational attainment than counties with only a short, shallow boom. (Many thanks to Sherry Richardson for pointing this one out to me!)
As if I needed more evidence about bias against women, more has appeared. Transgender people who have been both a man and a woman—often in the same workplace—can tell us: yup, it’s better to be a man. Women who were told they were “too aggressive” became a man and found that co-workers loved their take-charge attitude! Someone actually said to a transgender man: “Ben, your work is so much better than your sister Barbara!” (Barbara and Ben were the same person.) Men who became women were surprised to find their opinions suddenly questioned or ignored. Sigh.
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In a recent study of workplace reviews of top performers, managers criticized women more than men, and most of that criticism—76 percent—was not about the woman’s work, but about her personality. Women are too abrasive, judgmental, and strident. Only 2 percent of the criticism of men was about their personality. Tara Mohr offers some advice: if an investor doesn’t like your business idea, don’t take it personally, take it as your chance to learn about what investors want. I have mixed feelings about this advice. If the investor is reacting to the fact that you are a woman and not to the substance of your pitch, then trying to glean lessons about what the investor wants in a pitch is pointless. What he want is for you to be a man. You can tweak your business plan all you want, but you would be best off just hiring a male actor to play you.
People have no idea how unequal our society is! Americans think, ideally, CEOs should make about 7 times more than workers. They think CEO’s actually make 30 times more. The reality: 354 times more. Whoa.
But maybe, just maybe, some smaller innovative companies can start to shift the ridiculous realities on both gender bias and out-of-control CEO pay. How? Show us the money. Buffer, a company I love, makes its salaries completely transparent. The CEO gets paid more if the company does better (instead of, you know, most companies where the worst-performing CEOs get paid the most), and he only makes two times the salary of his lowest-paid employee. A CEO who uses salary transparency says: “data transparency creates natural optimization. It creates a more effective meritocracy. Now that we’ve experienced it, the rest of the world seems even more alien.” Amen.