As Washington’s power women (from Olympia Snowe to Claire McCaskill to Maxine Waters) work to sort out the Obama Administration’s stimulus package, WVFC  continues its Mistresses of the Universe conversation (click here for parts one and two)with a dialogue about women and our financial future.

Barbara Olsen, School of Business, SUNY College Old Westbury: It seems that we are
proceeding with a Keynesian reinvestment plan.  I know we need help to
get more money into the system, to guarantee essential health,
housing and education needs (yes, I’m a liberal), to prevent and help
the homeless, to get people back to work.  A big part of the problem is
resurrecting the banks and getting Wall St. to act responsibly.  My
instincts tell me there is something wrong with having the same people
fix the problem who created it. But, most important:  the US
mentality needs a major overhaul, because for decades we’ve weaned an
entire generation on lower taxes.  I honestly believe that the stimulus
won’t work without raising taxes.  As it is being written, we are
borrowing more money to make money flow.

As a nation, we’ve become
self-preoccupied.  We no longer think about the best interests of our
country’s future or even of democratically sharing the economic burden
of maintaining a government that protects and nurtures its people.  I
tell my students that it is a democratic, nationalistic duty to pay
taxes.

In “the best of
all possible worlds” taxes work for us to live better – happier,
healthier, safer lives – and will stimulate the economy if they are are
sent back to local governments to defray costs of maintaining our
social services and infrastructure or used properly to fund
government agencies that guarantee competitiveness and safety in the
marketplace.

I’m showing a film in my Marketing class today, a 2004 Frontline documentary  “Modern Meat,  and asking students to read with it  “Inspecting Our Food: How Many Cooks?” from today’s piece from  from the January 11, 2009 issue of The New York Times. The latter addresses the current chaos in the
FDA and USDA, from mismanagement and lack of funding to staff these
agencies properly:

“The fragmented system was not developed under any rational plan but
was patched together over many years to address specific health threats
from particular food products,” the report said. Efforts to address
food safety, it says, are “hampered by inconsistent and inflexible
oversight and enforcement authorities, inefficient resource use and
ineffective coordination.”

It went nowhere. In the decade
since, the problems have only worsened. As food imports have soared,
the number of inspectors has declined as budgets have been cut. There
has been salmonella in peanut butter, botulism in canned foods and melamine in infant formula.

The counter argument, of course, is what is done with the tax money that spent in
wasteful, inefficient programs only serving special interests.

In “the best of all possible worlds” the stimulus
will work to help us all prosper in good health, individually and
collectively.  How can it be done?  I don’t know.  I only hope that
those who are trying will do it right this time.

Dominique Browning (author, The Well-Lived Life:

Nick Kristof’s  column raised all sorts of complicated reactions in me. In general, I intensely dislike looking at things from a female or a male perspective. It wasn’t so long ago that scientists were saying women’s hormones and brain chemistry rendered them incapable of leading, remember? So using hormones to prove a point about human behavior is tricky. After all, isn’t part of growing up and learning to lead getting past being pushed around by hormones?

The study looked incomplete to me. In other words, is it the case that when women are put in positions in which they have to act quickly, think decisively, make bold moves, do they too have surges of testosterone, or the equivalent? And were these men where they are because of a self-selecting process?

Mainly, I know and have watched too many women in positions of power and leadership whose management styles are as nasty, abusive, and hard-hearted as any man’s could be. And of course I’ve known men who exhibit what would be the traditional woman’s characteristics. Basically, I believe there should be lots of different kinds of people in any organization simply because diversity is important–way beyond male/female mixes, you get a richer stew of personality, background, temperament, experience, and the like.

Which is not to say we don’t need to push harder and harder to have more women in prominent positions. The latest sad comment on where we are is that there will be more women in the workforce simply because higher paid jobs are being cut.

Patricia Yarberry Allen: The most important point to be made is that diversity on boards
responsible for corporate governance (with women in larger numbers)
should make a difference as we go forward.  I agree with you: this
is not simple.

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