Friday, April 24, 2015

In Her Spirit: an UnRetiring Passion Prevails

It really stuns me that two years after the death of Happy Fernandez, her legacy continues -- and is building. That's how much she inspired some two dozen women she brought together after retiring as president of Moore College of Art. Of course, she wasn't retiring. She was putting together a new challenge for herself -- trying to help women improve their leadership skills and rise in the ranks of non-profits, especially boards of trustees.
Since she died in January 2013, this rump group, made up of leaders of a number of Philadelphia non-profits as well as women on executive boards and high-ranking university officials, has met numerous times. At first, it was to honor Happy. But then it began gathering its own head of steam. The group's signature accomplishment so far was convincing the Forum of Executive Women to gather statistical information about women on non-profit educational and medical boards in the region for the Forum's annual report.
The results proved painful. Most of these boards had fewer than 1 woman for every 5 men. Some had none. And that despite the extraordinary number of women now holding high level jobs in all areas of the economy.
Happy's group hasn't stopped there. Now it is trying to use connections and persuasion to convince those who govern the Philadelphia area's non-profit universities and medical behemoths to address the lack of board diversity.  In today's Philadelphia Inquirer,  Jane Scaccetti -- a member of Temple University's board who also runs and is a founding member of a professional tax accounting firm -- partners with WHYY (public broadcast) president Bill Marrazzo to make the argument publicly.
Jane Scaccetti, CEO Drucker &Scaccetti

Bill Marrazzo, WHYY
This is not simply a question of gender equality.  As the article states, "We are not making the argument that women are 'better' than men. We are, however, making the suggestion, one firmly rooted in evidence, that perspectives informed by the different life and professional experiences men and women bring to the table yield new and often better decisions."
Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

An Immortality of Sorts

Photo and caption from Catholic Charities Appeal
Here's one cohort of workers who do not have to fear that, upon retiring, they won't know what to do with themselves. Their service is so in demand that they are constantly being called up for duty.
Who is this group?
As Kristin Holmes reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer,  the shortage of priests is so severe in the area that many well into their eighties are stepping up to the pulpit.
Nearly a third of priests and bishops in the Philadelphia Archdiocese  --171 out of 520-- are officially retired, the article says. A full 50 percent in the neighboring Camden Archdiocese are also retired. And no army of young recruits has emerged to fill the ranks. 
So people like Msgr.  James Mortimer are regularly recruited to replace priests on vacation or ill. He hadn’t wanted to retire in the first place, but back when he was 75, he hit the mandatory retirement age (already moved up from 65 because of the looming shortage.) He went off to fill in for priests in South Dakota and did a teaching stint in Rome.
Now Msgr. Mortimer is back in Philadelphia, retired but not really, at age 88.
I remember when the Quaker Lace factory closed in Philadelphia. Lace tablecloths and the like were being made on machinery so old that when the one man who knew how to repair them retired or died, they shut down.
What other jobs or industries are teetering as they lose their workforce with few or no replacements? What are the ramifications? Any thoughts?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Barbara Bergmann: A Feminist Economist

Barbara Bergmann
It was nearly two years ago that I had the remarkable opportunity to meet Barbara Bergmann, my daughter's backyard neighbor. It happened because of an enormous fig tree that she wanted Becca to have.
During the course of that afternoon, the moving of the tree, and the time to talk, I sensed that this elder, whom I was seeing only in the context of her garden was someone very special.  With a little research, I learned that Barbara Bergmann was a pioneer in the field of women and economics and that she had broken through glass ceilings even before that phrase existed. I wrote about her, the afternoon of the fig, and the difficulty we have as a society seeing past gray hair, thick glasses and a cane.
Sadly, it takes a death and the subsequent obituary to fully appreciate a person's legacy.
Barbara Bergmann died last week and yesterday the New York Times devoted significant acreage to her life.
Here are a few items from this obituary, which I encourage you to read.
For one, Barbara saw the advent of the word processor as a threat to women's employment. Thousands of women would lose their jobs as  typists, secretaries and clerical workers, she warned.
She argued for federal support for daycare, especially as the number of single parent households exploded.
And she fought for equal pay for women, even as she had fought on her own behalf to get academic jobs at universities that just didn't hire women.
Becca now has Barbara's fig tree, which after the shock of transplant, will soon bear fruit again. As for the richness of Barbara Bergmann's legacy, we thank her for the intellectual seeds she planted that continue to challenge old thinking and give parity to women in this economy.