Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On Women and Money

Dean Baker had an interesting piece on Truthout yesterday, looking at why two women, Sheila Bair and Brooksley Born, have done much better than the guys, both in seeing the problems with our financial system and figuring out how to solve them. Born headed the Commodity Futures Trading Commission during the Clinton Administration, and suggested that regulating derivatives might just be a good idea. But The Big Boys, Rubin, Summer and Greenspan, were opposed, advocating self-regulation etc. Well, we know where that got us. Rubin, in an attempt to defend himself, said that Born was insufficiently collegial and--strident.

Ah, whenever women tell men that they're doing something stupid or dangerous, we're strident. And/Or shrill. And that's always a sufficient justification for not listening. I mean, "if only she hadn't been so strident, we wouldn't have kept doing what we were doing, you know, the stuff that crashed the financial system." Not only is that really dumb, but it's not true.

Suppose Ms. Born had come into the meeting, sat demurely with eyes downcast, her hands folded neatly in her lap, and said something like, "I don't want to upset you, but I really think that we might want to think about looking at some problems that might, potentially, some day, show up, maybe, in the derivatives' market that could, if we weren't
careful, have an impact on the financial system." Then The Big Boys would have done what they did anyway, and defended themselves by saying that Born didn't seem overly concerned, or wasn't sufficiently forceful in her presentation.

Every woman who has ever done anything knows that it doesn't matter how we present ourselves. If they ain't gonna listen, they ain't gonna listen, and we might as well say what we have to say in the way that's most comfortable for us.


A. Mercer said...

Some other good commentary from Yves Smith (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/14850) on this. She introduced me to the Mandelbrot's criticisms of the risk models, which figured into Nassim Nicholas Taleb's work heavily.

I found her easy to understand, but it was hysterical seeing lots of the male commenters on that bloggingheads, needing a glossary to understand what the two women were talking about.

A. Mercer said...

Hey, here is another chick getting ignored on Madoff (http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/a-reporter-who-waved-red-flags-on-madoff/)