17. Rebuilding America: A Woman’s Economy (with Sandra Finley, Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman, Jennifer Justice and Rachel Payne)

With Guests:

  • Sandra Finley, president and CEO of the League of Black Women, a national organization that provides strategic leadership research to communicate the collective voices of Black Women with attention toward sustaining joyful living in families, communities and workplaces. Finley is also president of Praxis Leadership Institute and has lectured nationwide for Fortune 100 companies.
  • Dr. Patricia Jones-Blessman, a licensed clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience as a clinician and administrator of mental health programs. Dr. Jones was the founder and president for the Institute for Psychodiagnostic Interventions and Services—one of only a few minority-owned, private sector psychological service corporations nationwide.
  • Jennifer “JJ” Justice, an entertainment and live-experience executive known for her expertise in building artists’ careers and business portfolios by marrying art with commerce. The former attorney for Jay-Z, in 2019, JJ founded The Justice Dept, a management, strategy and legal firm that works with female entrepreneurs, executives, talent, brands and creatives to build and maximize their value focusing in the areas of tech, consumer product, finance, media, entertainment and fashion.
  • Rachel Payne, managing director and head of innovation and technology at FullCycle and a technology executive, entrepreneur, investor, inventor and philanthropist. She is the CEO of FEM Inc. and a former executive at Google, as well as a startup mentor for Techstars and the University of California Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator.

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In this Episode:

COVID-19 has had an undeniable negative impact on the economy—an impact felt most deeply by women, especially women of color. Women are being pushed out of their jobs and there are significant barriers to pursuing new ones—from an imbalance in the division of household responsibilities, to stagnancy and job loss in women-dominated industries like retail, dining and the government sector.
What should be at the top of the economic agenda for the Biden-Harris administration? How should women fend for themselves in a COVID economy?  What are the keys to negotiating for what women deserve?

Have something to share? Drop us a line at ontheissues@msmagazine.com.

Background Reading:

Are you or a loved one experiencing domestic violence? Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224, or visit their website to live chat with a support person at www.thehotline.org

Head here to read previous Ms. coverage on domestic violence.

Transcript:

00:00:00 Michelle Goodwin:

Welcome to “On The Issues with Michele Goodwin” at Ms. Magazine, a show where we report, rebel and tell it like it is. On this show, we center your concerns about rebuilding our nation and advancing the promise of equality. Join me as we tackle the most compelling issues of our times. On our show, history matters, we examine the past as we pivot to the future. Now, on today’s show, we focus on Rebuilding America: A Woman’s Economy. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an undeniably negative impact on our economy. It’s clear that this impact has been most deeply felt by women, particularly women of color. Let’s face it, women have lost more than 5.5 million jobs since the beginning of COVID. It’s been that one, two, three punch that The New York Times has talked about recently. It’s women who are working moms, women who are taking care of others, it’s women who are working in government. And all of this leads to the question, how important is it that women know their worth?

There’s so many questions for us to unpack on today’s episode and joining me today to help us sort out these issues and to answer your questions are Sandra Finley. She is the president and CEO of The League of Black Women, a national organization that provides strategic leadership research to communicate the collective voices of Black women, sustaining joyful living in families, communities, and workplaces. 

I’m also joined by Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience as a clinician and administrator of mental health programs. Dr. Jones was the founder and president of the Institute for Psychodiagnostic Interventions and Services, one of only a few minority-owned private sector psychological service corporations nationwide. 

I’m also joined by Jennifer Justice or JJ. She is an entertainment and live experience executive known for her expertise in building artists’ careers and business portfolios by marrying art with commerce. In 2019, she founded The Justice Department, a management, strategy, and legal firm that works with women and woke men, entrepreneurs, executives, talent to build and maximize their value. 

Finally, I’m joined by Rachel Payne. She is the managing director, head of innovation and technology at Full Cycle and a technology executive, entrepreneur, investor, inventor, and philanthropist. She is the CEO of Fem, Inc. and a former executive at Google. She is a startup mentor for tech starts and at the University of California Berkeley’s Blockchain Accelerator. I’m so happy to be joined by these fabulous guests. 

Patricia, I want to start with you. You’re on the board of the Family Defense Center, the mission of which was to advocate justice for families in the child welfare system. You also have over 30 years of experience as a licensed clinical psychologist. Can you tell us about what these times mean for families that are experiencing COVID but can’t leave the house both for women and also for the children?

00:03:26 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

Well, one of the first issues connecting the pandemic to violence is the stay at home orders. We know in any times when holidays or vacations, whenever families are spending more time together that those are usually times when you see an uptick in the amount of domestic violence that gets experienced. So, whether it’s due to a quarantine or working from home, families are basically essentially stuck at home together in a relatively small area, and this can create sort of a perfect storm or petri dish for increased violence. Globally, we’ve seen an uptick in reporting. It used to be that one in three women would report some incidents of physical abuse or some harassment and now globally it seems like it’s one in two worldwide. 

Interestingly, the amount of reported intimate partner violence has actually decreased. But we suspect that that may be due to the inability, some of the barriers to actually reporting it, because if you’re stuck together in a house in a relatively small area then there’s not enough privacy to be able to make that kind of phone call. So we’re concerned about that. Some of the reasons we’re concerned about that is because the number of murder/suicides where the person, the receiver of violence usually has been killed along with the person who perpetrates it. So we see a steep increase in the murder/suicide rate. 

We know that travel restrictions can impose or impact escape or safety plans and reasonably so, there’s a fear of entering a shelter because of the potential exposure to COVID. 

00:05:34 Michele Goodwin:

So these are some significant challenges then that women are facing during COVID who are at home. To be clear, this crosses the socioeconomic spectrum, isn’t that right?

00:05:46 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

Correct. We know that domestic violence impacts women or hits women of all socioeconomic statuses, so rich, poor, doesn’t matter. We know that women across the board are impacted by that. 

00:06:01 Michele Goodwin:

And isn’t it true then that the abusive situations that you speak to, they affect women in the household but they also affect children, too, and I know that you are and have been an incredibly significant psychologist in relation to matters that affect families and that also affect children. What are some of the concerns there that mothers, women, aunts, grandmothers have to be concerned about?

00:06:28 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

Well, first of all, children I’ve spent a large part of my career working with children who have been sexually abused or physically abused in their homes, and so the pandemic creates a situation where children are not…because they’re not able to go to school and not able to go visit, perhaps the auntie or the grandmother or the play mom or a safe person that they might talk to, to let them know what’s going on with them or even just to go to school that they are more at risk and this is a much more dangerous time for them. 

There was a case here, I mean it has gotten extreme. There was a case here in Chicago where a child was in a Zoom class and the abuser wanted her…had her engage in oral sex in…it was recorded on a Zoom class. Presumably, the abuser didn’t know that that was what was happening. But those are the kinds of things that children can be exposed to or that can be happening to children, unbeknownst to us. 

00:07:51 Michele Goodwin:

And in that case, there are other kids then who also then saw that and traumatized by that as well. 

00:07:57 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

Exactly. Because they watched. They saw it and knowing that their classmate went through that experience. And of course whether that was a godsend or a lucky thing that it happened to be caught, that it was on tape, that we were able to catch the perpetrator and bring some justice for that child but not every child is going to be in that kind of situation. Not every child is going to have the ability to be able to report what’s going on and to document what’s happening to them. 

00:08:36 Michele Goodwin:

And in situations like that, what’s the recommendation? So as a psychologist, are there places that children can turn to that you recommend and that women can turn to that you recommend just for our listeners?

00:08:50 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

But we also know that abusers will try to keep them socially isolated and so I know that this is going to be challenging but finding creative ways to find some privacy and some space to be able to reach out to either a hotline or someone that’s trusted in their community, someone that they feel comfortable talking to, that it becomes even vitally important to have check-ins or wellness checks with your village, with the people around you that you’re close to. I know there’s a Facebook post that was going around where it’s if you say certain keywords that your girlfriends knew something was going on and to check in on you and to come by or to stop by. So people have had to get very creative about how we want to keep our sisters and our children safe during this time. 

00:09:53 Michele Goodwin:

I’m so glad that you raise that because the reality is that a lot of women put the mask on every day, right along with their makeup and domestic violence is a real issue. Economic violence happens to be a real issue and sometimes there are women that are encountering both and it’s across the socioeconomic spectrum. Sometimes it’s even women who are in college, who are in medical school or who are in law school. So just know that we hear you and that we see you. 

Sandra, I’d like to turn to you because the concerns of economic violence are ones that you and your organization spend time thinking about and these are important issues to consider when we’re talking about rebuilding an economy and an economy that includes women. So how do we go about doing that?

00:10:46 Sandra Finley:

Sure. First of all, thank you so much for the invitation to be with you, Dr. Goodwin. I want to follow a little bit of what Patricia was talking about. She talked about the situation inside of homes that are under stress and distress and what the Black Women’s Economic Agenda does. We call her Black womanomics, so you know. What she does is she looks at the larger society and she asks the question whether or not the larger society is supportive of an idea of Black women living well. If it is not, then the stresses just kind of compress, compress, compress on down and then start to become the unfortunate stories of our lives. 

00:11:32 Michele Goodwin:

There’s a distinction that you brought in there because you said living well and so that’s not just living. So unpack that just a little bit, the difference between just living and living well. 

00:11:45 Sandra Finley:

Oh, that’s my most fun thing to do. One of the pillars of the Black womanomics economic agenda is called joyful living. Now, we took a look when we started this work at how Black women were living and determined, as you already know, we are under considerable stress, unending stress from all sorts of forces and found out that modern Black women, well, they can do everything, were doing everything under undue and growing amounts of stress and distress. What we were asking about, so how are you living and they say something like I’m blessed and highly favored. We say, well, we know. 

00:12:26 Michele Goodwin:

That looks like those billboards on the side of churches. 

00:12:29 Sandra Finley:

It’s what we would say while we were still enduring the hardship. But to your point, we did a little bit more focus group work to determine what Black women were thinking about when they thought about living good lives and it was mostly situational responses. That is situational happiness. I had a break and went to the hairstylist. I saw my family. Something that was about an occasion and we determined that what needed to be the anchor of the Black women’s economic agenda was joyful living and that is a living status where in everything in the society supports the probability that you will live in a joyful state. It is not something you occasionally will reach for, something that will happen to you like a lottery number. It is just the general state of wellbeing and that in society we be intentional. We’re promoting and supporting the idea that we would have that. 

So that is generally what we call joyful living. We ask Black women to get a handle on joyful living and know that it’s an internal barometer that will let you know quickly whether or not something going on, on the outside is not promoting a likelihood that you will have a joyful life. Now you can get to the specific things, the inequities in pay. The difficulties in living well in specific neighborhoods. The difficulties in getting promotions. The difficulties in being respected for the power of your office. All of those are the things around it but they are generally supported by a larger society that attacks you through its economic weapons and essentially says that you are not entitled to the blessings of liberty. 

00:14:16 Michele Goodwin:

So I’m wondering how, during this period of COVID, we are to come out of this for women and an economic agenda because women have disproportionately suffered through the pandemic in terms of job-related losses. Women have lost over five million jobs. In fact about 5.5 million jobs is the estimate and that accounts for a significant percentage of overall job loss just since this crisis. I want to turn to you, Rachel, in helping us to think about that because you’re an economic leader. You’ve built businesses and firms. You’ve sold businesses and firms. You were one of the early women at Google and leading out generally within the space of tech. So how are you processing what this time means for women and job loss. What do we do with this? How do we understand it?

00:15:17 Rachel Payne:

There have been so many gains women have made in all fields and this pandemic has set us back generationally. We’re talking about women from all levels, who have now suddenly taken on full-time responsibility for educating their children at home and managing the stress of trying to accommodate what everyone needs while everyone is trying to work virtually and that’s for people who have internet access. So this is a situation where women are bearing undue stress and are suffering both in their work performance because it’s very difficult, as you said, to concentrate. But they’re suffering very directly because they’re concentrated in the industries that are seeing the most losses. 

So while women make up about 40 percent of the labor force, their job losses are 54 percent of the lost jobs so far. So this is a disproportionate impact. We’re talking about small business owners, light manufacturing, industries like service industries where they’ve been completely shut down. This is not like 2008, where a lot of the job losses happened in manufacturing sectors and areas of the economy that were dominated by men. What we’re seeing very clearly is that there’s a pain point that has been persistent in this country, not just the lack of healthcare system that works but importantly, lack of access to affordable, safe and high quality childcare. 

Now, when we talk about child support at home, we’re not getting the kind of resources that are actually relevant and necessary to support those people in the family who are actually burdened with trying to maintain their status as an income earner, whatever that means in today’s world but they’re also trying to make sure that their families are taken care of. Now, add to that complexity the large percentage of families that have a single parent, most likely a single mom

I grew up in a single parent household. My mother worked two jobs, minimum, to take care of us and to do what she could to provide the maximum positive care for us. But she was gone a lot because she was working. I think about the single parent households who have to make the hardest choice of all. Do I work, do I take care of my children? How do I put food on the table? How do I make rent? Then we have a Senate, who’s literally missing in action. They go on recess when we have a bill passed in the House and really we’re at an impasse. 

00:17:47 Michele Goodwin:

The HEROES Act you’re talking about, right? 

00:17:50 Rachel Payne:

Yeah. That could help families who are struggling right now. No, they’re on recess and they don’t really seem to care that this is the situation that has really bottomed out. 

00:18:02 Michele Goodwin:

So what you’re suggesting is that this could all be different. We could have a HEROES Act that’s passed. We could have a better society altogether. This brings me to wanting to turn to you JJ because of your work. You spent 17 years as the attorney for Jay-Z. You’ve been in an industry, just like with Rachel, which where the patriarchy actually dominates and rules. Rachel, you with the tech industry, and then JJ, you the music industry and working with music moguls, as they say. But these are places where it’s just been hostile for women in a lot of ways. So I’m wondering, how have you not only coped but how you’ve also thrived in those spaces when there are others that would say I don’t know if I could make it, I don’t know if I could do it?

00:18:48 Jennifer Justice:

You know, I think the short answer to that and I only have now hindsight in that is I’m not sure if I did. I think that I eventually hit a glass ceiling, and I started really analyzing what it was that was preventing me from even going farther and farther up and the numbers will show, still, in the music industry that there is a very, very, very small percentage of women at the top and there still has never been a woman that is at the top, top. They’re always answering to a man above. 

So yes, I did well. I was a student of it. I was a student of listening to men in conference rooms and seeing how they did business, which led me to what I’m doing now. But ultimately, the imposter syndrome I think got actually worse the older and the more experienced and higher up I got because I was like I’m never going to be part of this crew. It doesn’t matter. I’m not talking about a particular person or man or anybody that I worked for. It’s just in general. It could be the people that we were having meetings with. I was having two different conversations every time I was in a conference room. One was what the subject matter was at hand and the other was an internal one going, oh, my God, did they literally just talk over me? Are they asking my junior male colleague that reports to me, are they addressing him more than me?

That’s why I really was like the patriarchy does not serve me. It is not meant for me. It’s not meant for women in general. It’s not meant for anybody who is not written in the constitution or thought of in the constitution really is what it is. How can I switch this, which is why I started The Justice Department and started focusing instead of knocking on the doors of patriarchy and getting approval, going let’s all build our own economy, the matriarchy, sit at our own tables, and build our own economy because we control 80 percent of the purchasing power and give each other business and only each other business. And when there’s a pipeline of men who understand that or whoever else is not buying into it because women also don’t buy into it then we will let them in. 

00:21:07 Michele Goodwin:

Just ones second. Let’s build on that because you just said that there are some times that women don’t understand that. So can you break it down just a little bit more? You’ve shared but what was that like helping other people be successful and then not getting credit for what it was that you were doing or being in those meetings?

00:21:28 Jennifer Justice:

I mean I don’t know I didn’t get credit but I definitely didn’t get as much as the man sitting next to me, and I definitely didn’t get the financial advantages of a man sitting next to me. Then I’m an advocate by nature. I represented people who didn’t have the same education as me to advocate for them. That’s fine. I couldn’t do what they did. They can’t do what I do. It just became abundantly clear every time I represented a woman. It was the deal was much smaller. The conversation was much different than when I represented a man. So frankly, it was depressing and started to really weigh on my mental health. I was just like I can’t continue to do this. I can’t continue to advocate for something and then a little bit to the point about the other women. I would be like this is crazy. I got an offer for a man, an entry level at $130 thousand dollars and I got an offer for his boss at $90 [thousand dollars]. Why is this okay with anybody? 

People would be like, “What, they’re okay with it.” I’m like, “But are they or are they just brainwashed into thinking that it should be okay.” You know what, “I just want to stay the only woman in the room so I’m just going to be quiet and I’m not going to be a troublemaker because we’re community-based and we like to problem solve.” I was dumbfounded. Look, I’m from a single teenage welfare mom, who no one had advanced education other than me in my entire extended family so I didn’t know that women were prejudiced against in that way in the workplace. I had no clue, so I was shocked. 

And then the higher up I got the numbers became bigger. That could really change your wealth and your ability to be like F-off and quit a job and to do so something else. That’s really important because it’s important for your choice. It’s not for your happiness but it’s the choice for your family that you can make, that economic independence. 

00:23:30 Michele Goodwin:

Absolutely. And being able to see it at that scale because what you offered was the $100 thousand range but I’m sure that you also saw that in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and millions in terms of the difference. This is a contract that’s in the millions for him and then this is a very different contract for her. Rachel…

00:23:54 Rachel Payne:

I could write a book on this part. 

00:23:55 Michele Goodwin:

You could. There’s a lot of misogyny in the industry that you come from. So what’s that experience been like? Has it gotten better?

00:24:04 Rachel Payne:

Wow. So now I’m in private equity, which is…

00:24:08 Michele Goodwin:

Okay. Industries, because you just spend time in these industries. 

00:24:13 Rachel Payne:

I don’t know. I think I’m a glutton for punishment. So in tech, Jennifer, to your point, I was one of those women early in my career I joined a startup. I joined one month later than my male peer who was a product manager as well. When we started talking, I found out he got 10 times more stock than I did, and we were in the same role. Then I found out later when I was leaving…

00:24:35 Jennifer Justice:

I get goosebumps when I hear that stuff. I get so angry. 

00:24:38 Rachel Payne:

And that stock became worth a lot. We exited very successfully. Some people did very well and later in my career, I joined a team at Google. I was leading a whole team regionally and when I got into the role, I realized that one of the account executives who worked for me was being paid more than me. So of course I reset that but if I hadn’t thought, if I hadn’t pushed this would have been accepted and there’s no situation where that’s acceptable. Then I could just go on and on. I mean there’s so many examples. 

I stepped forward to lead Google Africa and they insisted on paying me local African wages, even though I have to maintain all of my household in the Bay Area. I mean the kinds of sacrifices that women make to get ahead personally, professionally, economically are staggering and it’s the price to pay to play and that’s literally what you see in private equity. You have a lot of emerging fund managers. Diversity is improving but what you don’t hear about is the dirty little secret that people who’ve been in private equity for a really long time and this is also for VCs, when they’re starting a new fund they don’t pay themselves. But if you’ve been in the business for decades, you’ve made a lot of money, it’s no big deal. Now, if you’re a first-time woman in VC or private equity and you don’t get to pay yourself for many years, that is a completely different situation and that is another structural barrier. 

This is just like startups. So I’ve had four startups. Two of which I cofounded and led and in all cases, but especially in the two that I cofounded, the attitude among VCs was you’re not committed unless you put in the first, let’s call it 500 thousand in capital yourself and you don’t pay yourself until your next very large institutional round. It was just assumed that you wouldn’t pay yourself. Then I talked to male CEOs, there’s no way they wouldn’t pay themselves. So there was this very stark contrast in what’s expected, and I called it women subsidizing the rich. It’s basically where our economic labor yet again is being used to subsidize broader sectors of the economy. 

00:26:47 Michele Goodwin:

So I’m with you, JJ, it is infuriating to hear such stories but there are the realities that so many women are experiencing and alongside that there are lots of young women who are coming up who are experiencing imposter syndrome wondering whether they’re qualified to be in the spaces that they occupy, failing to understand that sometimes they’re far more qualified than the guys who are seated right next to them and yet you find that there are women who are not being paid not only what their male counterparts are making but also being underpaid compared to the men who are reporting to them. 

So this raises many different questions about staying in the game, keeping skin in the game, and so I’d love for our listeners to hear a little bit more about your personal stories and about your own journeys and how you made it to the other side to a space of thriving or doing exactly what Sandra says, which is to bring in that space of joyfulness. I want to start with you, Patricia. 

00:27:48 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

As I was thinking about this show today, I was thinking about my first time that I wanted to go out and buy a home and approached the bank that I had been…I’m 65 so this was years ago, but I approached the bank that I had been banking with since I was in college. At the age of 39 I was about to buy my own home. So I’d been at this bank for almost 21 years and I had started a new business. My business actually had been in business for about three years at that point, and I was doing really, really well. So I was going to buy a condo and I had enough money actually in my savings account to actually buy the condo with cash but I wanted to use financing for it. 

Long story short, this bank, I mean after sending me through all of the rigamarole, all the paperwork and I had to show exactly where all of the finances were coming from, the income from my businesses and all of that. So I did all of that and everything seemed to be fine until the day that I had to personally show up to the bank. First of all, the first time I went to the bank I was interviewed by a person of color and they looked at my paperwork and stuff and they were like great, great, great. And everything was fine until we got to the last bit and I decided…went through all the channels and stuff so two months later we’re in the process where I think I need to turn in an appraisal or something like that. They assured me it was going to go through and then I showed up at the bank in person to give them the appraisal and then all of a sudden they couldn’t do my loan. 

Everybody was shocked. The people that I knew who were in banking. All the people I knew who were in banking were kind of shocked and then they told me we know you have enough money here to pay for it outright. Why don’t you just take all your money out, pay for it outright and then we will subsidize it based on you have ownership of it. I was mortified. But it also harkened back to stories of when my mom talked about how difficult it was to get credit in her name. How difficult it was to open up an account as a woman. So those are the kinds of things that I’d like to see change. When I think about some of the women that I work with where financial independence becomes critical in order for them to be able to leave situations that they find themselves in. If they’re experiencing violence or abuse or anything like that. 

So we have a saying in the Black community, God bless a child who has got her own and it speaks to the need for financial independence and at least provides one layer of protection for women and their children that they’re able to at least have some ability to create the lives and the futures that they want, based on having some financial independence. I don’t remember which one of our…I think it was maybe Jennifer or Rachel mentioned that we control 80 percent of the purse strings in the economy but yet there are only…I think the last time I looked at Mightydeposits.com, there’s only 13 women-owned banks in the United States. I think that we control less than maybe out of the banking industry, I think their total deposits are about one billion altogether, which is tiny, tiny, tiny. 

So that whole movement, the movement for financial independence and how a woman’s economy can impact not only just do we get to survive. 

00:31:59 Michele Goodwin:

But do we actually get to a space of actually being able to thrive as well?

00:32:03 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

And have a joyful life, right. 

00:32:05 Michele Goodwin:

Right. The joyful life part. So Sandra, let me bring you in here, right. In terms of that joyful life part. But also breaking through barriers and a bit of your genesis story as well. So was it always so fabulous or did you have to break through as well?

00:32:22 Sandra Finley:

It has not been fabulous. It has been incredulous all of these years and more to come I’m afraid. So I’ve been listening to our conversation and grateful for the candor and the kindness even in the decision to share so openly. It made me, though, want to take us a little bit deeper because I would like for…

00:32:49 Michele Goodwin:

Take us there. 

00:32:51 Sandra Finley:

I would like for us to be able to talk about the differences of things that are going on because of how we are perceived in our society. You see, there’s the concept of the difference between the intersectionality that is gender and race. Gender and race. So my stories are going to be different from I just didn’t get the promotion or the job salary I was supposed to get. I have to tell the stories of I wasn’t supposed to be there at all. At all. I wasn’t supposed to have power at all. I wasn’t supposed to have voice at all. I wasn’t supposed to have a point of view at all. And to talk about my own experiences amongst other women who are not Black then I was perceived not really a team player amongst the women. That has continually to be the ongoing divide between women. 

00:33:49 Michele Goodwin:

So a kind of truth and reconciliation amongst women. 

00:33:53 Sandra Finley:

Thank you. A truth and reconciliation amongst women. We are not all the same. We should not be required to be all the same in order to be able to be supportive of each other. With these assumptions that we are and that there’s one fix for all of us is going to be the end of us. In times passing, we have an opportunity here in the United States of America for new government, leadership, and we cannot continue to ask everybody to look back when and be restorative and talk about the loss. We have got to build bold, new ideas of what a future will be, and a future won’t be anything that we have lived in the past. So we cannot get there with our own old constructs. I am not a dark-skinned light woman. I really am not. White women, try as they might, and will with their good hearts will not get me. They don’t need to get me. I need for them to get them and I got me and then together we’ll build something that is altogether new. 

The Black Women’s Economic Agenda talks about a new house where all of us can probably find a way forward with our distinct needs. It is supported by a demand for economic security. It’s supported by a demand for economic equality and equity. It is supported by a demand for economic access all the way up and through. We will not be underpaid or undercompensated ever anymore. Can’t happen in this house and it will have a pillar for joyful living because that is how we know it is all well with us. These things matter. We are not, in America as Black people, poor. We are broke. We are broke and if you continue to live in a state of broke then it mimics not having the resources and then they pronounce you poor, which simply means you have no access to where the wealth is and you shouldn’t expect any because you are poor. 

But at 1.4 trillion in Black buying power, we are broke because what we have to do is push the money away from us in order to get the resources instead of having it work amongst us. I’m very happy to hear that there is a venture capitalist onboard because the league is doing something about us being perennial broke as Black people. We are creating an accelerator for Black women owned businesses so that we can grow our microbusinesses, of which we have many, to mid-size enterprises, which would be 50 million and up of revenue. And we’re going to get there by skipping over being small and go strictly to the growth and the vitality of the merger and acquisition. So we’re going to buy things bigger than ourselves to be bigger and be of a size that can actually contribute to the economies of our community. So we are thinking in a different kind of architecture for what we want our future to be. 

00:36:47 Michele Goodwin:

Sandra, so what I’m hearing from you is that the future of a woman’s economy must engage the differences that women bring to the table. What does an economy look like that’s thriving for a woman who has disabilities? What is a woman’s economy for a woman who is indigenous and living on a reservation? What is a woman’s economy when she’s working very hard trying to put food on the table and she’s at the lower economic rungs of society but wants more for herself and for her family and the fact that women have to be mindful and thoughtful about other women with multiple diverse backgrounds and agendas and how do we help to lift up other women?

I’m also hearing that we need to think about how we build forward that it wasn’t intended that women would be able to vote. It wasn’t intended that women would be able to own their own businesses. It wasn’t intended that women of color should be able to even run for office or see themselves as citizens of this country, and we know even just over the last few years the dramatic circumstances that so many women who happen to be Latina, Latinx have had to experience in this country. So I want to turn to you, Rachel, because you ran for congress. These are issues that were central and important for you. What’s the advice going forward? We have a new administration coming into the White House in January. Kamala Harris is VP, Joe Biden as the president. What’s the advice that you give to them and others who are listening who are in Washington DC or state capitals about rebuilding a woman’s economy? And I also want to hear from you, Jennifer, on this question. 

(Kamala Harris / Twitter)

00:38:35 Rachel Payne:

Well, this is an incoming administration that has already demonstrated a very sophisticated level of understanding about how to integrate social justice throughout all policies and in addition to that, how to put climate change really front and center in a lot of the economic opportunity that a recovery presents. So when you look at the policy memos that have been released, you find that Build Back Better Plan, etcetera. You find that there is a sense of intersectionality. There is a sense of climate justice, and I think that is foundational because we are dealing with multiple threats at once. 

Interestingly, the solutions to address those threats are common. What we have is an opportunity to invest in communities, communities that have traditionally been disadvantaged with clean infrastructure. That improves water. That improves air quality. That improves clean power generation. That also means that communities that have been disproportionately affected with negative health outcomes as a result of, let’s call it climate pollutants, particulate matter, etcetera are the ones who would be most benefitted. So what we need to do is double down on investing in areas that have been underinvested in. 

To your point, earlier, Sandra, about VC, during the last couple of years VC investment in women has actually gone down. This is despite Time’s Up. This is despite all the effort that’s been made to have discussions about the need for equity and equal access to capital but the practice has not improved. What you are seeing is the rise of emerging fund managers, of greater diversity and that’s extremely exciting. So the accelerator that you mentioned and some of the newer funds that have emerged that are focusing strictly on diversity, whether it’s Black women entrepreneurs or I have a number of friends who are starting VC funds that are focused on Asian entrepreneurs. This is the kind of variety that we need because the level of intelligence and innovation that exists in the world is distributed. It’s not in a rarified group of men who all look alike and we need to recognize that the businesses of the future and the ones that will really drive new opportunities in the economy are very much housed in the centers of wisdom that reside in communities who are frontline communities for many of the issues we’re talking about. 

00:41:00 Michele Goodwin:

So what I appreciate about this conversation is that it’s an in-house conversation, though we’re sharing it with hundreds of thousands of people but it’s a frank conversation about where women are in rebuilding America, thinking about building towards a woman’s economy. We would be remiss in a conversation about this for a failure during COVID to talk about women who are essential care workers who are at the frontlines. So many of these women, while called essential, are not treated that way. They’re treated as being fungible, dispensable, and these are things that we have to pay attention to. The women who happen to be at the front line, whether it’s at the nursing homes, whether they’re doctors, nurses, orderlies, or they happen to be working in the restaurants. 

Women who are essential workers have been especially vulnerable to the gendered economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr)

They happen to be the people who are working at the grocery stores that bag the groceries or are the tellers. We can’t have this conversation without thinking about them and keeping that front and center and especially for folks, again, in the state houses and in Washington DC to be paying attention to their needs and the needs of their families. It’s some of these women whose children have to sit outside of a Taco Bell, a McDonald’s or whatever place that’s sending a strong enough Wi-Fi signal so that their kids can actually get it and do their homework. 

I want to turn to you, JJ, in keeping that in mind. You even talked about coming from a family where you had a single mom, teenage mom, and the first person in your family to break through certain barriers in terms of going to college. Then there have been other barriers that you’ve broken through but you’ve also done something that many people would say is incredibly risky. Being at the top of your game, having worked for Jay-Z, Beyonce, other folks, whatever. Really managing at that high level and then deciding to leave that and start your own firm focused on women and as you say, woke men. What leads you to do that and what’s your message to people who are afraid and who say I could never do that? I’m not happy where I am. I’m not getting what I want but that’s just a bridge too far. That’s just a risk that’s too high. 

00:43:19 Jennifer Justice:

Well, I left more because I had this unique education and understanding business, business structures, business development strategy, as well as legal. Helping build businesses along the way that helped create economies and building cultures in spaces that hadn’t been built yet, right. So I had again…you just heard how I was representing and advocating for a lot of women and you’re right there was tens of thousands of dollars of difference and it got up to millions of dollars of difference. But I just realized that I was making money for the patriarchy, making money from men by day and trying to overthrow the patriarchy at night and trying to help women because it was a big source for me. 

I’m also on the board of this organization called Free From, a domestic violence organization that helps women not only get restitution, repairs their credit and teaches women how to be entrepreneurs so they can get away from their attackers and become survivors and thriving. So I was using all of this time. I’m also a single mom of seven-year-old twins and I was like I have all of this. I came from nothing. I have all of this knowledge. What can I do? I decided to take and do exactly what I was doing before strategy business development management and legal but do it solely for women and really help women maximize their earning and their potential so they no longer have to look at a VC who, when they’re pitching their company and they’re like I don’t really get it. Isn’t there a lot of stuff for women’s hair? It’s just like you don’t get it. This is none of your business. You’re not the buying population. Just give us the money and shut up and I’ll give you your return. You know what I mean. 

It’s so patronizing. To Sandra’s point, we’re all women and the great news is we’re 50 percent of the population but we are still every race, religion, socioeconomic background, and sexual orientation so we’re not all the same. Not one thing fits all. They would be like I was at a company that did live experiences. It’s like let’s have this one thing for women. Well, aren’t there a lot of things for women? No. There are not. There are not a lot of convening places for women experiential but you guys have 20 different sporting events to do on any given day plus golfing outings, etcetera. So we’re all lumped in. 

My whole point is to give women economic freedom. And yes, I’m talking about a certain economic class of women. Women who are usually negotiating big employment deals or trying to get money in a female-founded company and women who are individuals building out their brands themselves and building their own businesses. The thought and the prayer but there’s research to back this up is that women actually is the one place that trickle down economics will work. We then build our own matriarchal economy and society. So that is why I did it and that’s why…so I quit my job being a single mother of seven-year-old twins living in New York City to represent a population that at most makes 80 percent of what men make. I’m virtually unemployable by a man ever again so…

00:46:59 Michele Goodwin:

That’s important, standing on integrity. That’s the point of what you’re trying to do and trying to build on for future generations of folks. So I want to turn to knowing our worth, right. Before we begin that point of wrapping up on our show because I think that’s the struggle for a number of women and it’s also the struggle for a number of girls and teens, too. How do you know your value? How do you know your worth? People toss around phrases like that. Don’t do this because you’re worth more than that, but these are really tough decisions that folks make sometimes, even when they know that they’re not going to be paid what their male counterparts happen to be but they think the job is here today and I need to just jump in and take it. So is that the case? I’ll open it up to any of you. Is it the case that you see an opportunity and you have to take it and you shouldn’t push back or what’s the advice that you’d give to somebody who’s maybe interviewing for a new job and they want more. 

00:48:02 Sandra Finley:

All right. I want us to be more precise about how we think about what we’re bringing to the table. The concept of my worth is I am priceless, incalculable, my worth is. Me. All right. But my talent on the marketplace is something that we can assign value to, and we can know what that value is. The things that I do are this amount that I expect in exchange for what I choose to do. Now, once I do that then I want to learn how to negotiate so that I go get what I want versus what they will give. Also, there’s a big difference between negotiating and what we do, which is take anything we can for peace in the larger culture of some women. 

00:48:52 Michele Goodwin:

I like how you phrase that because women take what they’re going to get for peace because they don’t want to be disruptive. That’s a good point. Help women understand why it is that they make some of the decisions. 

00:49:04 Sandra Finley:

These are very different things and we can get really good at this. We can get really, really good at this and when we do we’re going to find out that we walk away from the table with more of the wealth that the table had to offer, which by the way is, particularly when we’re talking about government our wealth. When we talk about corporations whose products that we support are our wealth. So we are going to our wealth in order to determine what parts of it we’ll be pulling to our own use. We are not taught how to negotiate. We must learn that. 

The sisters here on this broadcast have negotiated like demons for men’s wealth and corporate wealth. There is nowhere you don’t take that same skill to the table for your own wealth and then maybe just this one other thing. The idea of what I am worth in the world is something that needs to be revisited totally. I am not fungible. There is no replacement for me. Not even my children are me. And I know what that is and I know what it is I am bringing and the years that I have to offer on the world. Then it is entirely my power to determine what it is that I will put my hand to and put my time to and my heart to and how that experience will be. 

So if I were in a situation that does not suit me then the situation is not deserving of me. I make plans to lead. 

00:50:28 Rachel Payne:

In my field you definitely have to be prepared to negotiate. What a number of studies have shown is that women do get penalized when they negotiate hard for their own compensation. In fact, when women fight for their value generally they get penalized. So there are a variety of strategies for doing it. One is to depersonalize it. I like to use benchmarking data. So VCs report salary data. There are databases you can use to pull objective third party data, which of course if the majority of the sector is male then those benchmarks are going to help you generally in you negotiation because it’ll probably be a lot more than what you would have had otherwise. So try and get outside data to validate your position and to bolster it so it’s not about you. It’s just about this is what the market value for this role is and I deserve at least that. 

That’s more of a tactical approach. It’s not the beautiful vision that Sandra outlined but it’s something that is useful to know when you’re going into something like this. I also think talking to people who have the kind of role that you want and that you aspire to helping shape the way that you understand the value that you bring to the table so that when you talk about it you don’t just express that you want this compensation. You express that you are the single best person for this role and if they want you in that role they better pay you what you’re worth. 

So it’s a way of explaining how you bring a unique value that will really move that business or drive innovation, whatever it is. Then I think also just having a sense of passion about something isn’t reason enough to take a lower wage. I think that’s probably what I hear most from women, especially women entrepreneurs. Well, I love this so much I would do it for free so I’ll just take whatever they give me. For me, it’s mind boggling because if you love it so much and you’re so passionate and you have this unique approach that you bring to the table then you should be paid even more because your commitment level is so much higher and your ability to execute is so much better. 

So I would say flip that whole paradigm in your head. You’re not lucky to be at the table. They’re lucky to have you and if you bring passion and commitment then they should be paying you more because you’re going to work on this even in your spare time because you’ll always be thinking about it if it’s something you’re really passionate about. 

00:53:02 Jennifer Justice:

To add to that, those are tactical approaches and those are great. I always say do your research. See what those benchmarks are. But back to women often have a hard time negotiating for themselves…even Beyonce has Sasha Fierce when she gets out on stage that we all learned about because we might not think…we can’t bring that bravado when it’s faced in our face. So what I always tell all of my female clients is to think about that thing that you love so much. So I think I take my kids, Jack and Nico. I’m like that’s who I am negotiating for. I’m not negotiating for Jennifer Justice. I’m negotiating for them. I’m negotiating for their future. I will do things that are illegal to protection them. So if you do it and you have that passion and know that it’s an affront to you on the salary is a bit of an affront to them because every day I’m walking out the door or into another room nowadays to do work is that it’s time taken away from them and so if you channel that and it gives you that ability and kind of that bravado to ask for the things that you might feel that you might back down on or I don’t want to…I want to keep the peace as Sandra said. 

So to do those things and that helps you do that. Then the other thing is I always say to always ask for 20 percent more. So always ask for 20 percent more because that’s that compounding interest, compounding your value and your salary over the years. If they say they can’t then I think you’re free to ask questions like, okay, when could I get this? What are the other things that I can get? Because it’s not just your salary, right? As Rachel said, there are options. There’s some equity. There’s prerequisites, maybe there’s childcare. Maybe there’s other things. Ultimately, if you have to take that job now and they’ve said no to you on everything you also still have instinct, right. If your instinct is like this is probably not the right place for me but I need the job and I’m going to take it right now and you’re already now on your way to the next job and thinking about where and moving toward the next place as Sandra has said. 

00:55:26 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

Michele, I started out an orphan born in 1956, lived in an orphanage for two years. Then went into a foster family. It was a catholic orphanage and there weren’t that many African American families who were catholic in Cleveland. So they had to relax a little bit the whole notion that I could only be adopted by somebody that was of a catholic religion. So they allowed my parents to take me in and then I didn’t start off with a silver spoon by any stretch of the imagination. I was finally adopted at age seven. Was very fortunate that I went through…had a couple of people in my family who were very strongly supportive and at least encouraged me to pursue the things that I was interested in. I think my dad, more than anybody else basically wanted me…he would always say God bless the child who has her own. He was the one that really inculcated into me the notion that it was important to have financial independence so that no matter how my life turned out that I would be able to take care of myself and be able to take care of any children that I had. I think that was an unusual upbringing to have that my father was the one who really encouraged me to be financially independent and to pursue a career. 

00:57:05 Michele Goodwin:

Well, I want to add a factoid in here before we move to the very last part of our time together today because you’re talking about building wealth. There’s a broad level and spectrum of the conversation when we think about how women have been impacted in an economy that spans this nation’s history. We could talk about it just focusing on COVID, and we can look at how women have been hit across the board during COVID with some women being hit far worse than others who are just trying to get on the ladder. But I recently just got a ding from a colleague in Boston who just wrote that in Boston the median wealth for a white family is nearly 250 thousand dollars. For a Black family it is eight dollars. The median wealth of a Dominican family, lots of Dominicans in the Boston area, is zero dollars. I mean for a lot of folks that’s just hard to imagine. You just think the numbers must be wrong. They must be missing some zeros there and adding some twos and threes and fours and fives. But in Boston the median wealth for a white family is nearly 250 thousand dollars. For a Black family it’s eight dollars. The median wealth for a Dominican family is zero dollars. 

So the point behind the conversation of women leading and a woman’s economy and so many households are women led or women shared. Then these are real issues that impact people’s lives. So we get to this point in our show where we ask people about silver linings and how do we think about a silver lining in light of information that’s like that. So let me start with you first, Sandra. What’s the silver lining in these times? Is it a new White House? Is it that there will be government shift? Is it that we’re having conversations like this with platforms like this, where we can lift up the voices of women and push out these issues? What are you seeing as silver linings?

00:59:10 Sandra Finley:

A couple of things. I’m very excited about the new White House. We worked for it. Black women delivered the vote that created this opportunity. They know it, we know it, and we’re pleased with what is becoming the outcome of it. Now, this is the work that we want this White House to do. We have elected them to be in service to us. We have, to your point about the gaps in wealth. We cannot have wealth when we just have jobs. We must have assets. We must own stuff, and so we want this White House to help us own our own communities, own our own businesses, own our own fortunes, and that is, by the way, the thing all the way from back to slavery. The last thing to give up, the idea that we could own stuff. We must own things. When you do things that you own make money for you and your situation is different. Just that. 

01:00:06 Michele Goodwin:

There you go. JJ, what’s the silver lining that you see ahead?

01:00:12 Jennifer Justice:

Look, I think again the White House but I think the silver lining is even though with COVID women went back, women are tired of it. We’re acknowledging that it’s our power and our worth can no longer be diminished. Our reproductive health, our well-th is important and I think that as a group we are acknowledging that and acknowledging our different voices and that we have to use our collective voices and help other women’s voices rise up. I really don’t think we’re going backwards. I think we became complacent for a while but I just see that it’s on the collective conscious of many people now, and I think that this has just highlighted that we cannot go back any longer. 

01:01:12 Michele Goodwin: 

Thank you so much for that. Rachel? 

01:01:13 Rachel Payne:

In addition to the very exciting incoming administration, I would say that this has been a great reset. 2020 has questioned everything, our institutional structures. It has laid bare the structural deficiencies in our institutions. For me, the silver lining is there are some things that don’t need to be rebuilt. Let’s build anew and let’s build from a woman’s perspective because it is more holistic and it is integrated and if we do it right it is intersectional. I think there’s a way to look at how we invest in our institutions and generate the economic opportunities of the future doing so from a place of fairness and equity and justice. 

Protestors at the 2020 March on Washington in Washington, D.C., August 2020 (@Phil_Lewis_ / Twitter)

This is where we don’t have to shore up the failing rules and structures that were originally designed to disservice a large majority of the population. Let’s keep in mind just because something has fallen away and is no longer structurally sound doesn’t mean it’s our job to fix it. We’ve been fixing people’s messes for a very long time. Let’s go out with a clean slate and build fresh and build with an entirely different vision in mind. 

01:02:26 Michele Goodwin:

So Patricia, tell us what you see as the silver lining in these times. 

01:02:33 Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman:

I think I see more women who have been energized to come together and work together in ways that we have not seen before. Energized to come together in incredible diversity. That has been empowering to see that and to feel the kindred sisterhood that is coming out of that. You see more women starting businesses even in the midst of a pandemic, starting businesses. Women are problem solvers and so they’re starting businesses around the problems that they see and how do we monetize that and make a go of that. But they were also starting businesses at record rates even before the pandemic struck. 

I see more women engaged in the political process. Way more women engaged in the political process than before and wining those seats. Some of them are, for example, in Illinois, Lauren Underwood, a seat that had traditionally been a Republican-held seat she won it and retained that seat despite this round having a challenger that had billions of dollars and funded his campaign largely. But because she ran on a message that said, I want to take care of the people and my district, and she did the reach out and meeting with people and talking to people and did the work of the campaign. She re-won her seat again. 

But we see more and more of that happening across the nation. I think that’s a good thing. I think that the more women that are in elected offices, not just about who’s at the head of the ticket, although that’s important, too. But just the fact that you see just a groundswell of women that are now in the public sphere and running for office and attaining and gaining those positions. Those are the silver linings that I see. 

01:04:48 Michele Goodwin:

Guests and listeners, that’s it for today’s episode of “On The Issues with Michele Goodwin.” I want to thank my guests, Sandra Finley, Dr. Patricia Jones Blessman, Jennifer Justice, and Rachel Payne for joining us and being part of this critical and insightful conversation. To our listeners, I thank you for tuning in for the full story. We hope you join us again for our next episode where we will be reporting, rebelling and telling like it is with special guests tackling issues related to an extremely relevant issue: How does the U.S. rebuild global relationships?

We’ll be joined by Penelope Andrews, David Kay, Gregory Schaffer, and Lyric Thompson. It will be an episode you will not want to miss. For more information on what we discussed today, including issues of domestic violence and sexual violence and where and how you might be able to get help for yourself, a loved one, a friend, or anybody else that you want to share this information with then please head to Msmagazine.com. 

If you believe, as we do, that women’s voices matter, that equality for all persons cannot be delayed and that rebuilding America, being unbought and unbossed and reclaiming our time are important then be sure to visit us at Apple Podcasts. Look for us at Msmagazine.com for new content and special episode updates. Rate and subscribe to “On The Issues with Michele Goodwin” and Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Google Podcast and Stitcher. Let us know what you think about our show and support independent feminist media. 

This has been your host Michele Goodwin reporting, rebelling, and telling it like it is. “On The Issues with Michele Goodwin” is a Ms. Magazine joint production. Kathy Spillar and Michele Goodwin are our executive producers. Our producers for this episode are Maddy Pontz, Roxy Szal, and Mariah Lindsey. The creative vision behind our work includes art and design by Brandy Phipps, editing by Will Alvarez and Marsha Allen, and music by Chris J. Lee. Stephanie Wilner provides executive assistance.