CNBC President Says Women Important in Finances
Keynote speaker Pamela Thomas-Graham ’85, who is the president and CEO of CNBC, cited studies indicating that women tend to be more successful investors than men and that a third of working women make more than their spouses.
“Women are the bedrock, the financial foundation, in our homes,” Thomas-Graham said. “They are making the decisions about what to buy, not just in the supermarket, but in the stock market.”
She said the number of women owning small businesses in America has doubled over the last decade, and 50 to 60 percent of Asia’s food is produced by women.
Thomas-Graham’s remarks, delivered Friday at the Charles Hotel, was the main event in a two-day conference on “Women, Money, and Power,” which aimed to investigate gender, markets, and entrepreneurship through intellectual, political and cultural lenses.
The conference coincided with the opening of “Enterprising Women: 250 Years of American Business,” an exhibit at the Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library.
The conference spanned Thursday and Friday and included Thomas-Graham’s remarks as well as six panels, which varied in subject from “Women Without Money: Bankruptcy and Poverty” to “Women and Entrepreneurship in Contemporary America.”
Thomas-Graham, the keynote speaker, is author of two best-selling mystery novels, the first black woman to become a partner at McKinsey and Co. and currently the highest-ranking black American in cable news. She spoke at length about women’s role as “the corporate conscience.”
Thomas-Graham discussed women she called “modern-day Cassandras”—female corporate whistle-blowers who try to do the right thing and pay the consequences for it.
“I don’t agree with the statement women are more moral than men,” she said. “It is the fact that many of us don’t fit in which arguably gives us better perspective.”
Thomas-Graham noted that most whistle-blowers in the recent frenzy of corporate scandal have been women, listing Enron’s Sharon Watkins, WorldCom’s Cynthia Cooper and the FBI’s Colleen Rowley as examples of women who warned their organizations of trouble and wrongdoing and were ignored.
Bass Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel chaired a panel entitled “Women as Commodities: The Value of Gender.” He was joined by Mary Gordon, McIntosh professor of English at Barnard College; Leah Platt, a Harvard graduate student in economics; and Elizabeth Anderson, a professor of philosophy and women’s studies at the University of Michigan.
Anderson spoke on the ethical limitations of the market when things not usually considered commodities become commodities. She used commercial pregnancy contracts—surrogate motherhood—as her main example.
Platt debated whether prostitution is a profession and if it should be legalized.
Gordon offered a literary perspective, discussing the commodification of women through the marriage contract in Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.