Women and Work, Francesca Donner, Podcast # 157

Francesca Donner is the New York Times gender director, and the editor of In Her Words, a 3x weekly column that examines women’s issues globally. We got together to discuss women’s position in the workforce and the labor market amidst covid.

To hear more from Francesca, read the NYT column In Her Words.

You can also hear this podcast on Soundcloud or iTunes.

Our next guest on PGG will be Mira Laldin, the founder of VR Perspectives, and a pioneer in the use of VR storytelling in diversity and inclusion training.


Simply put, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Aly Raisman, and former college champion Maggie Nichols are rockstars. These four women athletes who succeeded at the highest level in their sport were sexually abused, and it appears that the FBI, and others, turned a blind eye.

We should all ask, how did this happen? Yet we all know why it happened because they were women in a girl’s sport. Being able to articulate to an authority what is happening takes so much courage, yet they were ignored. That anger and mistrust have been buried deep inside each one of these women. The toll it has taken on their brain, and overall being is obvious from the testimony we saw this week.

We all know the story because the main abuser, Larry Nasser, is serving a sentence for up to 175 years. These women all mustered up the courage to testify against him before, and here they are again. This time it is different. They were each able to tell stories that many would not particularly shaming the FBI. That takes serious courage.

My heart ached to see each of these women tell their stories of abuse again. It was the entire gymnastics system that let them down. Seeing each of them rise above it and call a spade a spade is inspiring. These women are rockstars, and I hope that their truth changes for the many women entering any sport and others in the years to come.

Content Will Always Be King

So where is content going?  Let’s begin with movies.  Guaranteed people particularly ones in the film industry are sitting around tables asking themselves “how do we get people back to the movies”?   The biggest question is what’s the next business model? How do you capture eyeballs without popcorn? 

There is so much content.  What is good and what is bad? Very personal decisions. What will I like and then dip out fifteen minutes because it sucks?  Is it more of an HBO model or Netflix?   How do we know how many people actually watched the film all the way through?  How does that change our pricing structure?  Is it more niche?  

 The film industry has so many incredibly talented humans in it who have produced game-changing content.  Few hit the big time but many make a huge impact on what we see, the content we take in, get behind films be it short, long or a series that marks the times we live in.  We will see so much brilliant content over the years to come post-Covid.  How do we take it in and still have a business model that works? People need to get paid.

At the end of the day we have to change the business models away from advertising as the backbone and obviously popcorn and figure out what comes next.  Content will always be king.  It just depends on what the business model needs to be.

Maybe It All Comes Down to Fear of Change

I have been trying hard to understand the hatred in America. Reading just what I believe in certainly doesn’t help, so I have been attempting to read and understand. It is not easy.

For some, on the right-wing of politics, it is about paying as little taxes are possible. Others want to feel that they are in complete control of their own decisions. For others, it is purely about religion, and abortion is what comes to mind. They fundamentally do not believe in abortion and feel that we should have a law the bans abortions. Although many who are for certain laws don’t believe that Biden has the right to make everyone get vaccinated. Does that make sense? Not really.

We also tell a narrative about our history that doesn’t really reflect our history. It appears like there have been a lot of edits over the years. The most amazing thing that has really come out of Covid is the cracks and realities about what our country looks like and where it is going.

Just look at the media. Every person, gender, color, religion, size, and demographic is on TV, magazines, podcasts for all our eyes to see. We are moving forward, divided as we are.

What I don’t understand is the hate towards the LBGTQ community. Everyone is who they are, and we should embrace that.

The more I read, the more I see all the hypocritical leanings that work for one’s beliefs, the use of politics to appeal to a base, and most of all, the hatred comes down to fear of change. People can attempt to bring us backward, but I am not buying it.

One thing in history is for sure. We always move forward, and change always wins. There is also the fact that I read yesterday. 50 Republican Senators represent nearly 40 million people, less than 50 Democrat Senators. Ending the filibuster would change this. The reality is California should have 12 Senators for their population, but our countries constitution wasn’t set up this way. If representation equals population, then Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana would have one senator combined. Think about that.

Perhaps the reason that it is so painful moving forward, particularly in Government when it is the loud minority that slows the wheels already in motion.

Buy Now Pay Later?

Is it me, or has everyone else noticed that everything these days allows buying now and paying later? Affirm, a publically traded company is the bank that empowers online shoppers with paying solutions. I just don’t see this ending well. There are levels of living beyond one’s means. Sounds like a juicy rationalization, right?

There was certainly a time in our lives when we could barely live within our means. We had credit cards with absurd interest rates but eventually found out that was better. We tried really hard to pay off what we bought each month, but it isn’t easy when you want more than you can afford. The hope is eventually, you catch up and don’t get into trouble.

When I see all those opportunities to buy 25% now and put the rest on credit with a pay later plan, I think about the mortgage crisis. The first few years are a deal until you can’t pay the exploding number and default hangs over your head. That is not good.

But somehow, we do it again and again. Why? Here is a state I read last week. One-third of consumers who opted to buy now, pay later plan have fallen behind on at least one of their payments. Um, that’s not good. Where does this end up? Do the number just work for Affirm? Do they end up taking what was purchased if it isn’t paid? Some of these things are clothing. No value there.

This might be something that becomes quite ugly when we get to the other side of Covid.

Art and Fashion

This is the first post-Labor day weekend. NYC is seriously alive.

Fashion week was definitely being felt downtown using the inner atrium of Westbeth on Bethune Street. Lots of cameras, music and great outfits. The bike paths were packed. The uptick in bicycle traffic is incredible.

On the west side, which used to be barren, is now filled with volleyball sand courts, outdoor cafes, tennis courts, and plenty of green spots to relax, picnic, read a book, or even exercise.

The art shows were here too. The Armory show was held at the Javits this year. It was refreshing to be back in a space seeing art and other people. The protocol was set having to show your vaccination card, your ID, and wear a mask. The same goes for restaurants although the mask thing isn’t enforced when you are obviously there to eat and drink. Loved this piece. If you can’t read the tag it says “racism catcher”.

Loved this Mushroom Piece from Roxy Paine at Zwirner.

Fred and I rode Citibikes over to Grand Banks for lunch Saturday. A large boat, sitting on the water with some seating on and off the boat. The waterfront was humming.

We continued down to the Independent Show, located in the new Cipriani’s spot, club on the 2nd floor, next to the ferry station. A smaller show. It was just nice to be out and about.

Made our way back home before heading out to Claro’s in Brooklyn for dinner. Tequilla for everyone.

Back to our friend’s rooftop to gawk at the city and remember the past. All and all, a very NY weekend.

Twenty Years Later

The sky is as clear, and the air is as crisp as it was twenty years ago today. I am sitting in our kitchen looking out at the sky, hearing the roar of the cars coming up and down the west side highway. When I stepped outside this morning to walk Ollie, I turned left at the highway where we have a direction sightline to where the Twin Towers once stood.

I have been reading countless articles this week and this morning. The ones lost, the children who never knew their parents, the families left with a gaping hole that lost a family member, and the countless brave firemen, firewomen, and police officers who were left with life-changing illnesses from the rubble, smoke, and ash.

I remember that day as if was yesterday. The countless photos taped up everywhere downtown looking for lost relatives that would never be found. The city stood still for weeks particularly downtown.

The biggest question that looms is around the decisions our Government made that day. I disagreed with their response and questioned the authenticity of their decisions. Today, we are witnessing the downfall of those mistakes, money, and lives destroyed in Afghanistan. Once again, thinking we could foist our views and ideals on other countries. It never works, it has never worked, and it has left our country divided, angry, and disgusted.

I remember walking up 6th Avenue with Fred and our children. The city felt apocalyptic. People were crying, and people were in shock, people were covered in ash. I felt like I was in a Stephen Spielberg film. It was as if the world had stopped. The question that Josh kept asking is why. Why would someone do this? How do you tell a 5-year-old kid that we live in a very complicated world, that there are people who hate us and our society, that we must get up tomorrow and not let this get the best of us? We will be ok.

The world has changed so much in twenty years. The pandemic has wreaked havoc in countless ways, but it is the anger, the divide, the polarization, and the politicization of everything that is sitting with me today. How do we acknowledge 9/11 today without thinking about the last twenty years and the next twenty to come with the hope that we are all better off and, most importantly, that we can agree to disagree and respect each other at the same time?

Nobody feels as safe anymore and in the back of my mind I do wonder, when will something like this happen again?

Robots Making Pizza?

About six years ago, I was at a small event in Paris with mostly start-up founders. I walked out to the street to signal my desire to leave to Fred and struck up a conversation with a robotic maker. He was doing a deal with France Disney using his pizza robot to change the game. I remember thinking to myself, is that really where we are heading? Guess what, good news is we are.

I loved this line I read in Axios on replacing human workers. We’ve been worried about technology stealing our jobs since Edison’s lightbulb replaced the candle boy. It sums it all up. As much as people have been worried and complaining about technology stealing our jobs, it might not be such a bad thing after all.

There are 8.5 million unfilled jobs and 10 million people that are not filling them. I am sure they aren’t all making pizza, but many back-breaking jobs are having difficulty being filled. Yet over 70% of Americans still want to go out and shop in person. Both points of this data point to the need for innovation.

I think about those old tales when the parents would say, “I walked ten miles back and forth in the cold rain and snow to get to school every day” is over. The next generation doesn’t care. They will live their lives differently, and perhaps a robot making pizza is in all of our future.

PRIDE, documentary series

These days there is so much content out there it has become a bit overwhelming. When I catch up with people besides asking what books they are reading or what films they have seen, we also have to flash through the shows worth seeing.

If you have not seen Pride, a documentary series on Hulu, watch it. Seven directors, six series; Tom Kalin, Andrew Ahn, Cheryl Dunye, Anthony Caronna, Alex Smith, Yance Ford, and Ro Haber. I sat down and binged.

The doc chronicles LGBTQ struggles in America from 1950 through the 2000s. What sat with me is how the LBGTQ movement is intertwined into all the conservative mistakes our nation has made over the past 70 years, including the war on drugs, the Vietnam war, and plenty more, even 9/11. This series drove that home for me.

Like Vietnam by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick or Crip Camp, a documentary on the disability revolution, Pride should be added to the list. Each of these documentaries should be required viewing in every school in our country. That is where the conversations on our history must begin, with the youth, who are our future. Let’s hope they understand the terrible misfortunes of our past and work to make a better future for everyone.

Eating out…or in

In the 50s and 60s, restaurants weren’t as abundant as they are today.  The socialization didn’t stop but took place in homes.  There were cocktail parties and dinner parties.  I love a good cocktail or dinner party. I was quite looking forward to entertaining heavily this Autumn, but it appears that is not so easy right now.

Growing up, going out was only something we did on Sunday nights for Chinese food, of course. My parents had dinner parties, they went to dinner parties, and going out to dinner didn’t really begin to amplify until later in the ’70s.

I remember my father taking my sister and me out to dinner at an Italian restaurant in downtown DC, 1977. My parents were getting divorced, so the occasional meal with Dad was what we did. The owner knew my Dad and that fed my brain too many mixed messages. Yet, it was the first time I had spaghetti with peas, pancetta, cheese, and lots of cream. I was in ecstasy. We never had this kind of food in our house, too fattening! This opened my eyes to a whole new world.

In the 1950s it was the beginning of fast food spots. The 1960s brought the growth of casual family dining. Two family working homes created a need for more restaurants, so people didn’t have to cook. It made life easier. That was probably the beginnings of pre-made food that blossomed into grocery.

Pre pandemic, it was becoming more and more difficult to make any money in the restaurant business. Unfortunately, I can’t say post-pandemic because we are still in it, but since the pandemic, we have seen countless restaurants close while the survivors have morphed because they had to. I applaud them all. Yet, on the other hand, the creativity that has happened in that industry is epic. Where does it go from here?

In urban cities where many people eat out nightly, I wonder about the future.  I actually knew people when we first came to NYC who used their oven for storage. How will restaurant dining change?  Smaller spots?  Fancier intimate spots for special occasions?   More spots where you can take it home but not sit there?

Those changes might shift our social life to more cocktail parties and dinner parties as it was 60 years ago but in urban spaces, going out is as essential as getting a cup of coffee in the morning. The next generation of chefs and restaurants is beginning to sprout. I am excited to watch and participate.

I swear that I can still remember the first bite of that pasta.