Alex Seagle's The Contrary Investor: "Womenomics"
Comment of the Day

March 18 2010

Commentary by David Fuller

Alex Seagle's The Contrary Investor: "Womenomics"

I always enjoy this letter from Fraser Management Associates, which takes us away from screen myopia and focuses on long-term themes. This issue starts with an informative primer on demographics and how they will likely increase demand for fertilizers. He mentions me in this section but please don't hold that against him. There is a sobering feature on US bank failures, including a compelling graphic showing that, so far, they are running higher in 2010 than in 2009. However I have selected a sample from the feature on women in the workplace
Now for the workplace. The most telling statistic comes from a 19 year Pepperdine University study of Fortune 500 companies. It, and other studies, found that those companies with the best record of promoting women outperformed the competition by anywhere from 41 to 116 percent in the best yardstick of all: making money for shareholders. In short, companies with more female managers make more money. And it is not terribly difficult for an investor to see which companies have women in senior management.

Women's management style is increasingly seen as valuable, not soft. Their right-brain skills like inclusiveness, a focus on compromise, and aversion to risk are necessary for a profitable business. According to one report from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, after looking at the dearth of women in investment banks, the not-so-tongue-in-cheek opinion was that "a Lehman Brothers with a few sisters on board might have contained the economic crisis."

Should our economy ever get back to hiring again, there is a looming talent shortage. The younger generations are smaller in number than the Baby Boomers, and the Economic Policy Foundation estimates there will be a 6 million person gap between college graduates and people needed to cover job growth. Highly educated employees will be in big demand, and guess which sex earns more college and advanced degrees?

But employers will need to understand and address women's preferences when it comes to who they will join in the workplace. Perhaps most importantly for women, time is the new currency, and money is often secondary. Companies need to recognize that flexibility is key to hiring women and improving employee productivity and morale. Early adopters like Capital One have no mandatory office time for their managers. They made the move to improve morale, but found a huge uptick in productivity too.

David Fuller's view My eldest daughter agreed with every word of the above.

Alex Seagle also organises the splendid Contrary Opinion Forum, about which I have never heard an unfavourable word. A rarity in this overly commercial world, it is one of the few financial conferences without sales booths and speaker commercials. The 48th Annual Contrary Opinion Forum will be held once again at Basin Harbor Club in beautiful Vergennes, Vermont from October 6th through 8th. Sporty delegates may wish to bring their golf clubs, arriving early or staying on for a few extra days. Mrs Fuller may bring her wetsuit and swim in Lake Champlain, which similar to Loch Ness, claims a monster. I may confine my workouts to the restaurant's splendid seafood salad. For more information on the Contrary Opinion Forum, email [email protected] or telephone: 802-658-0322.

Back to top