Friday, December 29, 2006


This rather long piece from the New York Times, December 17th, is an important article that looks at modern philanthropy, what motivates people like Bill Gates' and Warren Buffett's generosity, our feelings about their generosity, and what the American government provides to the world in foreign aid. I found this article thought-provoking and well worth ready. Hopefully you will too.

What is a human life worth? You may not want to put a price tag on a it. But if we really had to, most of us would agree that the value of a human life would be in the millions. Consistent with the foundations of our democracy and our frequently professed belief in the inherent dignity of human beings, we would also agree that all humans are created equal, at least to the extent of denying that differences of sex, ethnicity, nationality and place of residence change the value of a human life.

With Christmas approaching, and Americans writing checks to their favorite charities, it�s a good time to ask how these two beliefs � that a human life, if it can be priced at all, is worth millions, and that the factors I have mentioned do not alter the value of a human life � square with our actions. Perhaps this year such questions lurk beneath the surface of more family discussions than usual, for it has been an extraordinary year for philanthropy, especially philanthropy to fight global poverty.

For Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, the ideal of valuing all human life equally began to jar against reality some years ago, when he read an article about diseases in the developing world and came across the statistic that half a million children die every year from rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children. He had never heard of rotavirus. �How could I never have heard of something that kills half a million children every year?� he asked himself. He then learned that in developing countries, millions of children die from diseases that have been eliminated, or virtually eliminated, in the United States. That shocked him because he assumed that, if there are vaccines and treatments that could save lives, governments would be doing everything possible to get them to the people who need them. As Gates told a meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva last year, he and his wife, Melinda, �couldn�t escape the brutal conclusion that � in our world today � some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not.� They said to themselves, �This can�t be true.� But they knew it was.

Gates�s speech to the World Health Assembly concluded on an optimistic note, looking forward to the next decade when �people will finally accept that the death of a child in the developing world is just as tragic as the death of a child in the developed world.� That belief in the equal value of all human life is also prominent on the Web site of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where under Our Values we read: �All lives � no matter where they are being led � have equal value.�

We are very far from acting in accordance with that belief. In the same world in which more than a billion people live at a level of affluence never previously known, roughly a billion other people struggle to survive on the purchasing power equivalent of less than one U.S. dollar per day. Most of the world�s poorest people are undernourished, lack access to safe drinking water or even the most basic health services and cannot send their children to school. According to Unicef, more than 10 million children die every year � about 30,000 per day � from avoidable, poverty-related causes.

Last June the investor Warren Buffett took a significant step toward reducing those deaths when he pledged $31 billion to the Gates Foundation, and another $6 billion to other charitable foundations. Buffett�s pledge, set alongside the nearly $30 billion given by Bill and Melinda Gates to their foundation, has made it clear that the first decade of the 21st century is a new �golden age of philanthropy.� On an inflation-adjusted basis, Buffett has pledged to give more than double the lifetime total given away by two of the philanthropic giants of the past, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, put together. Bill and Melinda Gates�s gifts are not far behind.

Gates�s and Buffett�s donations will now be put to work primarily to reduce poverty, disease and premature death in the developing world. According to the Global Forum for Health Research, less than 10 percent of the world�s health research budget is spent on combating conditions that account for 90 percent of the global burden of disease. In the past, diseases that affect only the poor have been of no commercial interest to pharmaceutical manufacturers, because the poor cannot afford to buy their products. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), heavily supported by the Gates Foundation, seeks to change this by guaranteeing to purchase millions of doses of vaccines, when they are developed, that can prevent diseases like malaria. GAVI has also assisted developing countries to immunize more people with existing vaccines: 99 million additional children have been reached to date. By doing this, GAVI claims to have already averted nearly 1.7 million future deaths.

Philanthropy on this scale raises many ethical questions: Why are the people who are giving doing so? Does it do any good? Should we praise them for giving so much or criticize them for not giving still more? Is it troubling that such momentous decisions are made by a few extremely wealthy individuals? And how do our judgments about them reflect on our own way of living?

Let�s start with the question of motives. The rich must � or so some of us with less money like to assume � suffer sleepless nights because of their ruthlessness in squeezing out competitors, firing workers, shutting down plants or whatever else they have to do to acquire their wealth. When wealthy people give away money, we can always say that they are doing it to ease their consciences or generate favorable publicity. It has been suggested � by, for example, David Kirkpatrick, a senior editor at Fortune magazine � that Bill Gates�s turn to philanthropy was linked to the antitrust problems Microsoft had in the U.S. and the European Union. Was Gates, consciously or subconsciously, trying to improve his own image and that of his company?

This kind of sniping tells us more about the attackers than the attacked. Giving away large sums, rather than spending the money on corporate advertising or developing new products, is not a sensible strategy for increasing personal wealth. When we read that someone has given away a lot of their money, or time, to help others, it challenges us to think about our own behavior. Should we be following their example, in our own modest way? But if the rich just give their money away to improve their image, or to make up for past misdeeds � misdeeds quite unlike any we have committed, of course � then, conveniently, what they are doing has no relevance to what we ought to do.

A famous story is told about Thomas Hobbes, the 17th-century English philosopher, who argued that we all act in our own interests. On seeing him give alms to a beggar, a cleric asked Hobbes if he would have done this if Christ had not commanded us to do so. Yes, Hobbes replied, he was in pain to see the miserable condition of the old man, and his gift, by providing the man with some relief from that misery, also eased Hobbes�s pain. That reply reconciles Hobbes�s charity with his egoistic theory of human motivation, but at the cost of emptying egoism of much of its bite. If egoists suffer when they see a stranger in distress, they are capable of being as charitable as any altruist.

Followers of the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant would disagree. They think an act has moral worth only if it is done out of a sense of duty. Doing something merely because you enjoy doing it, or enjoy seeing its consequences, they say, has no moral worth, because if you happened not to enjoy doing it, then you wouldn�t do it, and you are not responsible for your likes and dislikes, whereas you are responsible for your obedience to the demands of duty.

Perhaps some philanthropists are motivated by their sense of duty. Apart from the equal value of all human life, the other �simple value� that lies at the core of the work of the Gates Foundation, according to its Web site, is �To whom much has been given, much is expected.� That suggests the view that those who have great wealth have a duty to use it for a larger purpose than their own interests. But while such questions of motive may be relevant to our assessment of Gates�s or Buffett�s character, they pale into insignificance when we consider the effect of what Gates and Buffett are doing. The parents whose children could die from rotavirus care more about getting the help that will save their children�s lives than about the motivations of those who make that possible.

Interestingly, neither Gates nor Buffett seems motivated by the possibility of being rewarded in heaven for his good deeds on earth. Gates told a Time interviewer, �There�s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning� than going to church. Put them together with Andrew Carnegie, famous for his freethinking, and three of the four greatest American philanthropists have been atheists or agnostics. (The exception is John D. Rockefeller.) In a country in which 96 percent of the population say they believe in a supreme being, that�s a striking fact. It means that in one sense, Gates and Buffett are probably less self-interested in their charity than someone like Mother Teresa, who as a pious Roman Catholic believed in reward and punishment in the afterlife.

More important than questions about motives are questions about whether there is an obligation for the rich to give, and if so, how much they should give. A few years ago, an African-American cabdriver taking me to the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington asked me if I worked at the bank. I told him I did not but was speaking at a conference on development and aid. He then assumed that I was an economist, but when I said no, my training was in philosophy, he asked me if I thought the U.S. should give foreign aid. When I answered affirmatively, he replied that the government shouldn�t tax people in order to give their money to others. That, he thought, was robbery. When I asked if he believed that the rich should voluntarily donate some of what they earn to the poor, he said that if someone had worked for his money, he wasn�t going to tell him what to do with it.

At that point we reached our destination. Had the journey continued, I might have tried to persuade him that people can earn large amounts only when they live under favorable social circumstances, and that they don�t create those circumstances by themselves. I could have quoted Warren Buffett�s acknowledgment that society is responsible for much of his wealth. �If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru,� he said, �you�ll find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil.� The Nobel Prize-winning economist and social scientist Herbert Simon estimated that �social capital� is responsible for at least 90 percent of what people earn in wealthy societies like those of the United States or northwestern Europe. By social capital Simon meant not only natural resources but, more important, the technology and organizational skills in the community, and the presence of good government. These are the foundation on which the rich can begin their work. �On moral grounds,� Simon added, �we could argue for a flat income tax of 90 percent.� Simon was not, of course, advocating so steep a rate of tax, for he was well aware of disincentive effects. But his estimate does undermine the argument that the rich are entitled to keep their wealth because it is all a result of their hard work. If Simon is right, that is true of at most 10 percent of it.

In any case, even if we were to grant that people deserve every dollar they earn, that doesn�t answer the question of what they should do with it. We might say that they have a right to spend it on lavish parties, private jets and luxury yachts, or, for that matter, to flush it down the toilet. But we could still think that for them to do these things while others die from easily preventable diseases is wrong. In an article I wrote more than three decades ago, at the time of a humanitarian emergency in what is now Bangladesh, I used the example of walking by a shallow pond and seeing a small child who has fallen in and appears to be in danger of drowning. Even though we did nothing to cause the child to fall into the pond, almost everyone agrees that if we can save the child at minimal inconvenience or trouble to ourselves, we ought to do so. Anything else would be callous, indecent and, in a word, wrong. The fact that in rescuing the child we may, for example, ruin a new pair of shoes is not a good reason for allowing the child to drown. Similarly if for the cost of a pair of shoes we can contribute to a health program in a developing country that stands a good chance of saving the life of a child, we ought to do so.

Perhaps, though, our obligation to help the poor is even stronger than this example implies, for we are less innocent than the passer-by who did nothing to cause the child to fall into the pond. Thomas Pogge, a philosopher at Columbia University, has argued that at least some of our affluence comes at the expense of the poor. He bases this claim not simply on the usual critique of the barriers that Europe and the United States maintain against agricultural imports from developing countries but also on less familiar aspects of our trade with developing countries. For example, he points out that international corporations are willing to make deals to buy natural resources from any government, no matter how it has come to power. This provides a huge financial incentive for groups to try to overthrow the existing government. Successful rebels are rewarded by being able to sell off the nation�s oil, minerals or timber.

In their dealings with corrupt dictators in developing countries, Pogge asserts, international corporations are morally no better than someone who knowingly buys stolen goods � with the difference that the international legal and political order recognizes the corporations, not as criminals in possession of stolen goods but as the legal owners of the goods they have bought. This situation is, of course, beneficial for the industrial nations, because it enables us to obtain the raw materials we need to maintain our prosperity, but it is a disaster for resource-rich developing countries, turning the wealth that should benefit them into a curse that leads to a cycle of coups, civil wars and corruption and is of little benefit to the people as a whole.

In this light, our obligation to the poor is not just one of providing assistance to strangers but one of compensation for harms that we have caused and are still causing them. It might be argued that we do not owe the poor compensation, because our affluence actually benefits them. Living luxuriously, it is said, provides employment, and so wealth trickles down, helping the poor more effectively than aid does. But the rich in industrialized nations buy virtually nothing that is made by the very poor. During the past 20 years of economic globalization, although expanding trade has helped lift many of the world�s poor out of poverty, it has failed to benefit the poorest 10 percent of the world�s population. Some of the extremely poor, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, have nothing to sell that rich people want, while others lack the infrastructure to get their goods to market. If they can get their crops to a port, European and U.S. subsidies often mean that they cannot sell them, despite � as for example in the case of West African cotton growers who compete with vastly larger and richer U.S. cotton producers � having a lower production cost than the subsidized producers in the rich nations.

The remedy to these problems, it might reasonably be suggested, should come from the state, not from private philanthropy. When aid comes through the government, everyone who earns above the tax-free threshold contributes something, with more collected from those with greater ability to pay. Much as we may applaud what Gates and Buffett are doing, we can also be troubled by a system that leaves the fate of hundreds of millions of people hanging on the decisions of two or three private citizens. But the amount of foreign development aid given by the U.S. government is, at 22 cents for every $100 the nation earns, about the same, as a percentage of gross national income, as Portugal gives and about half that of the U.K. Worse still, much of it is directed where it best suits U.S. strategic interests � Iraq is now by far the largest recipient of U.S. development aid, and Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Afghanistan all rank in the Top 10. Less than a quarter of official U.S. development aid � barely a nickel in every $100 of our G.N.I. � goes to the world�s poorest nations.

Adding private philanthropy to U.S. government aid improves this picture, because Americans privately give more per capita to international philanthropic causes than the citizens of almost any other nation. Even when private donations are included, however, countries like Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands give three or four times as much foreign aid, in proportion to the size of their economies, as the U.S. gives � with a much larger percentage going to the poorest nations. At least as things now stand, the case for philanthropic efforts to relieve global poverty is not susceptible to the argument that the government has taken care of the problem. And even if official U.S. aid were better-directed and comparable, relative to our gross domestic product, with that of the most generous nations, there would still be a role for private philanthropy. Unconstrained by diplomatic considerations or the desire to swing votes at the United Nations, private donors can more easily avoid dealing with corrupt or wasteful governments. They can go directly into the field, working with local villages and grass-roots organizations.

Nor are philanthropists beholden to lobbyists. As The New York Times reported recently, billions of dollars of U.S. aid is tied to domestic goods. Wheat for Africa must be grown in America, although aid experts say this often depresses local African markets, reducing the incentive for farmers there to produce more. In a decision that surely costs lives, hundreds of millions of condoms intended to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa and around the world must be manufactured in the U.S., although they cost twice as much as similar products made in Asia.

In other ways, too, private philanthropists are free to venture where governments fear to tread. Through a foundation named for his wife, Susan Thompson Buffett, Warren Buffett has supported reproductive rights, including family planning and pro-choice organizations. In another unusual initiative, he has pledged $50 million for the International Atomic Energy Agency�s plan to establish a �fuel bank� to supply nuclear-reactor fuel to countries that meet their nuclear-nonproliferation commitments. The idea, which has been talked about for many years, is widely agreed to be a useful step toward discouraging countries from building their own facilities for producing nuclear fuel, which could then be diverted to weapons production. It is, Buffett said, �an investment in a safer world.� Though it is something that governments could and should be doing, no government had taken the first step.

Aid has always had its critics. Carefully planned and intelligently directed private philanthropy may be the best answer to the claim that aid doesn�t work. Of course, as in any large-scale human enterprise, some aid can be ineffective. But provided that aid isn�t actually counterproductive, even relatively inefficient assistance is likely to do more to advance human wellbeing than luxury spending by the wealthy.

The rich, then, should give. But how much should they give? Gates may have given away nearly $30 billion, but that still leaves him sitting at the top of the Forbes list of the richest Americans, with $53 billion. His 66,000-square-foot high-tech lakeside estate near Seattle is reportedly worth more than $100 million. Property taxes are about $1 million. Among his possessions is the Leicester Codex, the only handwritten book by Leonardo da Vinci still in private hands, for which he paid $30.8 million in 1994. Has Bill Gates done enough? More pointedly, you might ask: if he really believes that all lives have equal value, what is he doing living in such an expensive house and owning a Leonardo Codex? Are there no more lives that could be saved by living more modestly and adding the money thus saved to the amount he has already given?

Yet we should recognize that, if judged by the proportion of his wealth that he has given away, Gates compares very well with most of the other people on the Forbes 400 list, including his former colleague and Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. Allen, who left the company in 1983, has given, over his lifetime, more than $800 million to philanthropic causes. That is far more than nearly any of us will ever be able to give. But Forbes lists Allen as the fifth-richest American, with a net worth of $16 billion. He owns the Seattle Seahawks, the Portland Trailblazers, a 413-foot oceangoing yacht that carries two helicopters and a 60-foot submarine. He has given only about 5 percent of his total wealth.

Is there a line of moral adequacy that falls between the 5 percent that Allen has given away and the roughly 35 percent that Gates has donated? Few people have set a personal example that would allow them to tell Gates that he has not given enough, but one who could is Zell Kravinsky. A few years ago, when he was in his mid-40s, Kravinsky gave almost all of his $45 million real estate fortune to health-related charities, retaining only his modest family home in Jenkintown, near Philadelphia, and enough to meet his family�s ordinary expenses. After learning that thousands of people with failing kidneys die each year while waiting for a transplant, he contacted a Philadelphia hospital and donated one of his kidneys to a complete stranger.

After reading about Kravinsky in The New Yorker, I invited him to speak to my classes at Princeton. He comes across as anguished by the failure of others to see the simple logic that lies behind his altruism. Kravinsky has a mathematical mind � a talent that obviously helped him in deciding what investments would prove profitable � and he says that the chances of dying as a result of donating a kidney are about 1 in 4,000. For him this implies that to withhold a kidney from someone who would otherwise die means valuing one�s own life at 4,000 times that of a stranger, a ratio Kravinsky considers �obscene.�

What marks Kravinsky from the rest of us is that he takes the equal value of all human life as a guide to life, not just as a nice piece of rhetoric. He acknowledges that some people think he is crazy, and even his wife says she believes that he goes too far. One of her arguments against the kidney donation was that one of their children may one day need a kidney, and Zell could be the only compatible donor. Kravinsky�s love for his children is, as far as I can tell, as strong as that of any normal parent. Such attachments are part of our nature, no doubt the product of our evolution as mammals who give birth to children, who for an unusually long time require our assistance in order to survive. But that does not, in Kravinsky�s view, justify our placing a value on the lives of our children that is thousands of times greater than the value we place on the lives of the children of strangers. Asked if he would allow his child to die if it would enable a thousand children to live, Kravinsky said yes. Indeed, he has said he would permit his child to die even if this enabled only two other children to live. Nevertheless, to appease his wife, he recently went back into real estate, made some money and bought the family a larger home. But he still remains committed to giving away as much as possible, subject only to keeping his domestic life reasonably tranquil.

Buffett says he believes in giving his children �enough so they feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.� That means, in his judgment, �a few hundred thousand� each. In absolute terms, that is far more than most Americans are able to leave their children and, by Kravinsky�s standard, certainly too much. (Kravinsky says that the hard part is not giving away the first $45 million but the last $10,000, when you have to live so cheaply that you can�t function in the business world.) But even if Buffett left each of his three children a million dollars each, he would still have given away more than 99.99 percent of his wealth. When someone does that much � especially in a society in which the norm is to leave most of your wealth to your children � it is better to praise them than to cavil about the extra few hundred thousand dollars they might have given.

Philosophers like Liam Murphy of New York University and my colleague Kwame Anthony Appiah at Princeton contend that our obligations are limited to carrying our fair share of the burden of relieving global poverty. They would have us calculate how much would be required to ensure that the world�s poorest people have a chance at a decent life, and then divide this sum among the affluent. That would give us each an amount to donate, and having given that, we would have fulfilled our obligations to the poor.

What might that fair amount be? One way of calculating it would be to take as our target, at least for the next nine years, the Millennium Development Goals, set by the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. On that occasion, the largest gathering of world leaders in history jointly pledged to meet, by 2015, a list of goals that include:

Reducing by half the proportion of the world�s people in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than the purchasing-power equivalent of one U.S. dollar per day).

Reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Ensuring that children everywhere are able to take a full course of primary schooling.

Ending sex disparity in education.

Reducing by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under 5.

Reducing by three-quarters the rate of maternal mortality.

Halting and beginning to reverse the spread of H.I.V./AIDS and halting and beginning to reduce the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

Reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

Last year a United Nations task force, led by the Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, estimated the annual cost of meeting these goals to be $121 billion in 2006, rising to $189 billion by 2015. When we take account of existing official development aid promises, the additional amount needed each year to meet the goals is only $48 billion for 2006 and $74 billion for 2015.

Now let�s look at the incomes of America�s rich and superrich, and ask how much they could reasonably give. The task is made easier by statistics recently provided by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, economists at the Acole Normale Suparieure, Paris-Jourdan, and the University of California, Berkeley, respectively, based on U.S. tax data for 2004. Their figures are for pretax income, excluding income from capital gains, which for the very rich are nearly always substantial. For simplicity I have rounded the figures, generally downward. Note too that the numbers refer to �tax units,� that is, in many cases, families rather than individuals.

Piketty and Saez�s top bracket comprises 0.01 percent of U.S. taxpayers. There are 14,400 of them, earning an average of $12,775,000, with total earnings of $184 billion. The minimum annual income in this group is more than $5 million, so it seems reasonable to suppose that they could, without much hardship, give away a third of their annual income, an average of $4.3 million each, for a total of around $61 billion. That would still leave each of them with an annual income of at least $3.3 million.

Next comes the rest of the top 0.1 percent (excluding the category just described, as I shall do henceforth). There are 129,600 in this group, with an average income of just over $2 million and a minimum income of $1.1 million. If they were each to give a quarter of their income, that would yield about $65 billion, and leave each of them with at least $846,000 annually.

The top 0.5 percent consists of 575,900 taxpayers, with an average income of $623,000 and a minimum of $407,000. If they were to give one-fifth of their income, they would still have at least $325,000 each, and they would be giving a total of $72 billion.

Coming down to the level of those in the top 1 percent, we find 719,900 taxpayers with an average income of $327,000 and a minimum of $276,000. They could comfortably afford to give 15 percent of their income. That would yield $35 billion and leave them with at least $234,000.

Finally, the remainder of the nation�s top 10 percent earn at least $92,000 annually, with an average of $132,000. There are nearly 13 million in this group. If they gave the traditional tithe � 10 percent of their income, or an average of $13,200 each � this would yield about $171 billion and leave them a minimum of $83,000.

You could spend a long time debating whether the fractions of income I have suggested for donation constitute the fairest possible scheme. Perhaps the sliding scale should be steeper, so that the superrich give more and the merely comfortable give less. And it could be extended beyond the Top 10 percent of American families, so that everyone able to afford more than the basic necessities of life gives something, even if it is as little as 1 percent. Be that as it may, the remarkable thing about these calculations is that a scale of donations that is unlikely to impose significant hardship on anyone yields a total of $404 billion � from just 10 percent of American families.

Obviously, the rich in other nations should share the burden of relieving global poverty. The U.S. is responsible for 36 percent of the gross domestic product of all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations. Arguably, because the U.S. is richer than all other major nations, and its wealth is more unevenly distributed than wealth in almost any other industrialized country, the rich in the U.S. should contribute more than 36 percent of total global donations. So somewhat more than 36 percent of all aid to relieve global poverty should come from the U.S. For simplicity, let�s take half as a fair share for the U.S. On that basis, extending the scheme I have suggested worldwide would provide $808 billion annually for development aid. That�s more than six times what the task force chaired by Sachs estimated would be required for 2006 in order to be on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and more than 16 times the shortfall between that sum and existing official development aid commitments.

If we are obliged to do no more than our fair share of eliminating global poverty, the burden will not be great. But is that really all we ought to do? Since we all agree that fairness is a good thing, and none of us like doing more because others don�t pull their weight, the fair-share view is attractive. In the end, however, I think we should reject it. Let�s return to the drowning child in the shallow pond. Imagine it is not 1 small child who has fallen in, but 50 children. We are among 50 adults, unrelated to the children, picnicking on the lawn around the pond. We can easily wade into the pond and rescue the children, and the fact that we would find it cold and unpleasant sloshing around in the knee-deep muddy water is no justification for failing to do so. The �fair share� theorists would say that if we each rescue one child, all the children will be saved, and so none of us have an obligation to save more than one. But what if half the picnickers prefer staying clean and dry to rescuing any children at all? Is it acceptable if the rest of us stop after we have rescued just one child, knowing that we have done our fair share, but that half the children will drown? We might justifiably be furious with those who are not doing their fair share, but our anger with them is not a reason for letting the children die. In terms of praise and blame, we are clearly right to condemn, in the strongest terms, those who do nothing. In contrast, we may withhold such condemnation from those who stop when they have done their fair share. Even so, they have let children drown when they could easily have saved them, and that is wrong.

Similarly, in the real world, it should be seen as a serious moral failure when those with ample income do not do their fair share toward relieving global poverty. It isn�t so easy, however, to decide on the proper approach to take to those who limit their contribution to their fair share when they could easily do more and when, because others are not playing their part, a further donation would assist many in desperate need. In the privacy of our own judgment, we should believe that it is wrong not to do more. But whether we should actually criticize people who are doing their fair share, but no more than that, depends on the psychological impact that such criticism will have on them, and on others. This in turn may depend on social practices. If the majority are doing little or nothing, setting a standard higher than the fair-share level may seem so demanding that it discourages people who are willing to make an equitable contribution from doing even that. So it may be best to refrain from criticizing those who achieve the fair-share level. In moving our society�s standards forward, we may have to progress one step at a time.

For more than 30 years, I�ve been reading, writing and teaching about the ethical issue posed by the juxtaposition, on our planet, of great abundance and life-threatening poverty. Yet it was not until, in preparing this article, I calculated how much America�s Top 10 percent of income earners actually make that I fully understood how easy it would be for the world�s rich to eliminate, or virtually eliminate, global poverty. (It has actually become much easier over the last 30 years, as the rich have grown significantly richer.) I found the result astonishing. I double-checked the figures and asked a research assistant to check them as well. But they were right. Measured against our capacity, the Millennium Development Goals are indecently, shockingly modest. If we fail to achieve them � as on present indications we well might � we have no excuses. The target we should be setting for ourselves is not halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, and without enough to eat, but ensuring that no one, or virtually no one, needs to live in such degrading conditions. That is a worthy goal, and it is well within our reach.

Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp professor of bioethics at the Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He is the author of many books, including most recently �The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.�

Thursday, December 07, 2006

An Amazing Article By Camille Smith

Camille Smith is a member of the Global Women's Leadership Network (GWLN) as well as a personal coach. She recently presented the following speech that is not only inspirational, but also provides some serious food for thought. I hope you will find it as interesting -- and important -- as I did. Unfortunately, the graphs and pictures would not transport to my blog, but text, at least, is intact. I also discovered that I couldn't easily realign some of the columns so the speech is not in perfect condition, but I think you can still get the jist of the importance of the information she offers us.


· Women are the greatest untapped natural resource on the planet… (Inspire yourself — watch a 30-second video of this resource at

· A world view that limits women’s participation limits the contribution both women and men can and must make to the world as global citizens.

· Women’s leadership is not about women replacing men. De-valuing one-half of the world’s population has been done and it’s failed. It’s time for authentic partnerships between men and women.

· If an organization doesn’t value the contribution of women as leaders, what other talents and contributions are they leaving untapped and unrealized? When women can authentically show up in organizational work cultures, so will men, even those who set the very rules that currently exclude women.

· Companies with a significant number of women in the upper ranks demonstrate excellent financial and organizational success. Why are women still not welcome at the leadership table? Paradigm blindness.

· Merely having a diverse workforce or women leaders isn’t sufficient. People need to learn how to work together and the leader is responsible for making that happen.

Note: This paper was presented at the 2nd Annual Conference of the South Bay Organizational Development Network ( ) held at Sun Microsystems, 9/2006. Slides are available at Work In Progress Coaching, and

Good afternoon. I have a hunch that you, the Human Resource and Organizational Development professionals, know a good deal about how having women as leaders opens the door to everyone’s talent. Please share what you see by finishing this statement: Women’s leadership opens the door to everyone’s talent because … “…they embrace diversity … look for partnerships … focus on both relationships and results … they collaborate … seek to include …” Keep these in mind as we explore what’s wanted and needed in the realm of leadership in today’s global economy.

In the short time we have together, my three goals are to stimulate new thinking, yours and mine, to share a tool that could support your commitment to effectively develop people, and to encourage you to act boldly on your commitment.

In a global, professional context, women’s leadership is not only about women. It is about what’s needed for humanity to sustain itself at all levels: family, communal, organizational and cultural. In an organizational context, it is about the having the capacity to include, appreciate and learn from different views, ways of thinking and being, value sets, and problem solving and decision making approaches offered by everyone.

Women don’t have leadership all figured out. What they do have is a perspective — a perspective which, if it were present and valued, would benefit the organization in its quest for success and sustainability — a sustainability that now requires leaders with a world view that is in synch with, not at odds with, what’s possible for the world.

The paradigm of command-and-control, force and domination, power over another, might-makes-right may have never really worked. On today’s diverse, global stage, it is clearly bankrupt.

If an organization can’t open the door to women who want leadership roles, it has cut itself off from one-half of the talent and potential in the world. If leaders in organizations turn a blind eye to women’s contribution, what other contributions are they not seeing? Valuing women’s contribution opens our eyes to see the possibility in others who have also been historically unseen and under valued, and that opens the door to everyone’s talents being recognized, developed and rewarded.

If you leave this session remembering only one thing, it is this: A world view that limits women’s participation limits the contribution both women and men can and must make to the world as global citizens.

For some of you, it may seem a big leap from women’s leadership to global citizenship. I assure you, it isn’t. In my work with the Global Women's Leadership Network (Santa Clara University) I’ve met women from around the world who are in action resolving local inequities — they are ending domestic violence, securing land ownership for women, transforming a country’s educational system. When I ask them why they are doing this, they say how it will benefit their neighbors and the children of their communities and that it has the possibility to benefit men, women and children around the world they will never meet. They are inventing themselves as global citizens.

It’s time for organizational leadership to be seen in a larger-than-business context, in a context called organization as a global citizen.

Just how flat is the world today?

Thomas Friedman poetically captured the new world view in the title of his book, The World is Flat. U.S. organizations aren’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. They aren’t even in the U.S. anymore. They are of the globe and must now be for the globe, as well.

In the not-too-distant-past, thinking globally occurred to me as a bumper sticker phenomenon — something I could consider until the light changed and the concept drove out of sight. Today, global thinking permeates my day. The information highway circumvents the world, skipping wirelessly over mountains and deserts, magically connecting me with distant people and cultures via blogs, emails, and cell-phone videos.

We are beginning to understand at the individual level that we are profoundly connected to other individuals on the planet and that our social and economic well-being is interdependent and interconnected. It’s time for us at the organizational level to understand our connection and be responsible for how others are touched by our global reach.

We have a local address and we live and work in a global conversation. Workforces are culturally diverse, multi-generational, mobile and virtual. Eastern Indians sit next to Polish immigrants next to California natives of Japanese heritage. We see a health epidemic in Kenya or an outsourcing offer from India and know it will impact communities and economies locally and worldwide. We see philanthropists sharing financial resources, from the millions of dollars donated by Bill and Melinda Gates to eradicate AIDS to the hundreds of pennies raised by children selling lemonade to buy books for a school library in Venezuela. We watch social entrepreneurs, without infrastructure or funding, educate orphans at Indian train stations, return sight to the poor by removing cataracts, bring electricity, clean water and cottage industries— and hope — to their communities. See: New Heroes, DVD,

The opportunity knocking on every organization’s door, especially the multinational corporations, is to proactively create opportunities to be connected, to engage with others we have historically not seen and form partnerships that transform us as individuals and our organizations. To create this shift, we need global leaders who think from the whole, who encourage diversity of perspective and who understand that talent and commitment are not gender-based, but are human-based.

Global Leader Organizational Competencies

So what are the organizational competences of a global leader? Marian Stetson-Rodriguez, president of Charis Intercultural Training Corporation ( ) shared this list of competences with me. She adapted them from Global Leadership, authored by Marshall Goldsmith, Warren Bennis and others. Marian and her Charis team, train leaders in cultural intelligence, so they are more effective in doing business with other cultures and can leverage the diverse strengths of global workforces.

Global Leader Organizational Competencies

1.Thinks Globally
2.Anticipates Opportunity
3.Creates Shared Vision
4.Develops, Empowers People
5.Appreciates Cultural Diversity
6.Builds Teamwork, Partnerships
7.Embraces, Leads Change
8.Shows Technological Savvy
9.Encourages Constructive Challenge
10.Ensures Customer Satisfaction
11.Achieves Competitive Advantage
12.Demonstrates Personal Mastery
13.Shares Leadership
14.Lives Values, Demonstrates Integrity

If you add this list to the list generated earlier, you’ll begin to see that women tend to bring with them ways of thinking and being that result and express themselves in these competencies.

Just in case some of you may be wondering, I am not advocating that women summarily replace men. As Jim Collins (author, Good to Great) emphasizes, great organizations have the right people in the right role at the right time.

Distinguishing qualities of women leaders

In 2005, Caliper Corporation found four qualities that distinguished women leaders:
1.Women are more persuasive then male counterparts.
2.Learning from adversity, women carry on with an “I’ll show you” attitude.
3.Women demonstrate an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem-solving and decision-making.
4.Women leaders are more likely to ignore rules and take risks.

(Any surprises?) Caliper found male leaders started from their own point of view, were not as willing to interact with others, and tended to force their view on others and to convince others through the strength of position. Women took in information from all sides. They were able to bring others into their point of view or alter theirs depending on information uncovered.

Women’s leadership is to a corporation as corner is to … igloo

If I say What’s the world coming to? , it is likely you would hear a poor-me tone in my voice. I want to challenge our thinking by asking a different question: Who am I, coming to the world?

We humans operate as if the world we see is the world everyone sees. This is an unconscious, inherited assumption. As French author Anais Nin eloquently stated: We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.

I think organizations suffer from “leadership blindness” — they literally can’t see women as leaders. Why? Because of the unexamined assumptions the current leaders and followers are looking through.

What unexamined assumptions are shaping your personal view of women as leaders? What views and values does your organization espouse and what views and values are tacit, deeply held and running the show, shaping policies, promotions and opportunities? What will it take for your organization to see that the possibility of “women’s leadership” is missing? Can “corner” show up for someone who only knows igloo?

Consider that each human being is comprised of a set of conversations influenced by our culture, heritage, race, gender, successes, failures, doubts, etc. These conversations tell us what we know, believe, like/don’t like, agree/disagree with, etc. These conversations filter what we experience and how we react and respond to the world.

Like elevator music in the background, we don’t pay attention to these conversations. We should. They tell us the right actions to take and the wrong actions to avoid. Of course, these actions are a perfect match to our world view. (This isn’t bad; it’s the design of human being.) If we want to alter our results, from a few women leaders to an abundance of them, alter the conversation what tells us what action to take that produce the results.

Let’s look at the conversations organizations have historically been listening to in the area of workforce diversity.

What is diversity from a global perspective?

Ten years ago, Thomas and Ely wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review called Making differences matter: A new paradigm for managing diversity. They distinguished the paradigms that have shaped our organizational views of what to do with diversity. Notice how the conversation has shifted over time.

Discrimination & Fairness1970’s Access & Legitimacy1980’sLearning & Effectiveness1990’s

Theme ·Assimilation ·Differentiation ·Integration

What the paradigm would say ·We are all the same·We accept and celebrate differences ·We value and internalize our differences. We are on same team with our differences, not despite them.

Focus ·Equal opportunity ·Compliance with EEO ·Train others to respect cultural differences ·Place people where their different demographic characteristics match customers’ demographics Promotes equal opportunity ·Incorporate diverse perspectives into main work of organization

Success ·Promotes ‘fair’ treatment ·Increases demographic diversity ·Career development for women, people of color ·More managerial opportunities for people of color, women ·Organizational learning, growth

Limitation ·Emphasizes that differences do not count ·Relevant debates misinterpreted· Idealized assimilation, conformism; subvert difference, prefer harmony ·Emphasizes role of cultural differences without seeing how they affect work being done· Pigeon-hole staff ·No learning from differences ·Employees feel exploited ·To be revealed)

Now, ten years later, I would label the emerging paradigm “Learning & Effectiveness as a Global Citizen.” The paradigm would say, “We commit to being responsible global citizens in partnerships with others, for the benefit of all.”

Evidence, tendencies and strengths

As I wrote this talk, I was struck by the large amount of evidence that said women are effective corporate leaders. Sidebar: While I will share some of what I found, I have a disclaimer regarding the evidence. Evidence is gathered to prove or disprove a point. It usually has a right/wrong aspect to it. It is not my intention to make someone or something wrong. My intention is to distinguish something as “missing” and to articulate what would be possible if it were present and to have you see that possibility for your organization.

While gathering evidence should not be discarded, another way to go is to take a stand for women as leaders and act from that commitment, not waiting for any more evidence.

As you see these statistics, notice the conversation that jumps up in you. If it says, “See, I knew women were better!! Those guys really messed up!!”, don’t believe it and stop thinking. Stay open and see what is at play so that your next actions can be in line with your conscious commitments, not a replay of the past.

Professor Michael Kimmel's Harvard Business Review article in the early 90's (What Men Want) reported that 25% of men wanted work/life balance. In 2003, Catalyst asked men and women in corporations to agree or disagree with this statement: “I find it difficult to balance the demands of my work with the demands of my personal life.” In the Financial Services sector, the percent agreeing was 58% women, 56% men. In the participants who were law graduates, 68% women agreed, 66% men agreed. The dissatisfaction is shared. Are you surprised? I was.

Do you suppose this dissatisfaction is not being voiced, or that the people to whom it is being said can’t hear it or won’t deal with it because it doesn’t fit the current paradigm? Catalyst found that the paradox is that men feel reduced work arrangements are not socially acceptable for them, yet women who work part-time believe their career prospects are diminished because men to do not utilize [work hour] flexibility. It’s a catch-22.

An expert in Unmasking the Gender Effect™, Bonita Banducci offers the following chart that distinguishes tendencies of men and women. She emphasizes that while men tend to be individualistic in their views and approach, some men are more relational in the way they operate. Likewise, while women tend to be relational in their views and approach, some women are more individualistic. Each person has some of both. It’s like being right- or left-handed — we have a preference and strength.


Emphasizing Status, Independence RELATIONSHIPS Emphasizing Connection, Interdependence
Giving Information Only As Needed INFORMATION Sharing Information
Doing One Thing At A Time ACTIVITY / TIME Doing Many Things At Once
Step-thinking, Linear, Compartmentalize THINKING PATTERN Web-thinking, Organic, System, Integrate

Bonita wisely cautions us to not use this information to draw conclusions and put people in a box. Rather, to use these interpretations as a place from which to listen to each other and to better understand different perceptions. In this way, we can consciously bring the appropriate view or strength to a situation and create the best solution or response.

Making the business case for gender diversity

Scottsdale National Gender Institute ( compiled statistics from variety of organizations on the results of companies with more women in upper management and leadership roles.

·Better financial results. In a study of 353 Fortune 500 companies, those with the most women in top leadership had the following financial results when compared to companies with men in top leadership roles: 35% higher Return On Equity, 34% higher Total Shareholder Return. (Source: Catalyst, 2004. )

·Improved access to growing segment of workforce. The number of women-owned employer firms grew 37% between 1997 and 2002 -- four times the growth of all employer firms. (Source: Center for Women’s business research, 2003. )

·Improved market share. Women are responsible for 83% of all consumer purchases. Add purchasing officers who are women and it is an American women’s economy that accounts for over one-half of the Gross Domestic Product.

·Better management. Of 425 high-level executives studied, female managers rated higher than male counterparts in 42 of 52 skills measured. (Hagberg Consulting Group, )

What’s being called out here is the difference in results when women are in leadership roles. Consider that the reason these results are showing up is due to the how women work, the way they work with and through others. It is how women see the world —from the whole, connected, interdependent — that gives them particular ways to act — collaborate, listening openly — that opens the door for others to produce great results.

The data seems compelling, doesn’t it? If women leaders produce as good as or better results, why isn’t there a rush from corporations to open the doors to women as corporate leaders? And if the doors are open, why aren’t women rushing in? What’s going on?

Compelling data isn’t enough

What’s going on is this: The prevailing corporate culture and paradigm historically designed by men, with rules of engagement that match men’s view of the world (compartmentalize, linear thinking, compete to beat, etc.) does not allow for women’s way of working (interdependence, connection, integration, web-thinking) to show up as a viable “how” to get work done.

Any paradigm survives by allowing what agrees with it and negating what doesn’t. What fits is rewarded and praised: working 65++ hours per week, no break in employment, guarding information, win-lose deals. What doesn’t is discouraged: flexible work hours, taking breaks from employment, openly sharing information, win-win deals.

The current paradigm which promotes exclusion, entitlement, and power over another is out of synch with what businesses and the world need for sustainability. It’s also out of synch with how women prefer to get work done, with inclusion, egalitarianism, and empowerment. The current paradigm is not wrong, it is bankrupt.

There are thousands of male leaders who recognize that the “kill or be killed” approach to business no longer works (and perhaps never did). Likewise, some women who’ve been successful in the prevailing corporate paradigm have done so without selling their souls. Shifting the paradigm to include women and their style of leadership will empower men, as well.

It is “how” the work gets done that is the competitive advantage in producing the results cited above (and hundreds like them), and it is the “how” that women operate from that can not be seen or appreciated — it doesn’t fit with the rules of the prevailing culture of corporate business, historically designed by men, with rules of engagement that match men’s view of the world (compartmentalize, linear thinking, compete to beat, etc.). Likewise, it can be difficult for women to see, understand and appreciate “how” men get work done. A major aspect of how we get work done, both as individuals and as organizations, can be revealed by exploring values.

As I coach women and men executives, committed to improving their individual and team results and their level of satisfaction while producing results, we dismantle the myths and interferences that reduce performance and create breakthroughs in thinking. This process must occur with the individual before it occurs at the organizational level. The most effective way to create organizational change is to have the leader have her or his own breakthrough in thinking first.

Values and performance

Our values — what is important to us — provide motivation, direction, and the fuel for our performance. While we know we have values, it’s been my experience in working with thousands of people that we don’t have access to them in a way that lets alter our performance. That’s because our personal prevailing paradigm — our habits of thinking and action — blocks access to them. That’s also why trying to change results by forcing ourselves to behave differently doesn’t work well or for long. What is effective is revealing the invisible habits of thinking and action that constrict performance and reawakening conscious choice.

Take a look at the picture. As you move from bottom to top, from values to competence/results (top), notice how the layers get smaller. Our hidden, automatic, unconscious habits restrict results. The habits of thinking form the proverbial box that everyone’s trying to “think outside of”. (I am caught in one of my habits right now. It’s taking me much longer to get this paper written than planned because I have to say it perfectly. Too many re-writes.) To expand performance (top), remove unwanted habits.

How does this relate to women’s leadership?

Organizations have habits of thinking and action with formal and informal structures that keep those habits going: policies, procedures, reporting structures, roles, recruiting practices, deciding who goes to the company retreat or golf outing, and on and on. If the organization has been very successful (GM, ATT, Ford, Guinness), those habits are even more entrenched. “It’s just how we do it around here.” If a VP must rise through the ranks and have no gaps in employment (and a 3 handicap wouldn’t hurt), then a woman who takes a leave of absence to raise a child (and prefers scrabble) is not seen as VP material. I am guessing that you have examples of how these corporate habits restrict the result called: women leaders.

In a collaborative survey conducted by Catalyst, The National Foundation for Women Business Owners, the Committee of 200 and Salomon Smith Barney, women cited the following reasons for their exodus from corporate America:

· Their contributions were not recognized or valued
· They were not taken seriously
· They felt isolated as one of few women or minorities
· They were excluded from informal networks
· They were excluded from training opportunities
· They faced inhospitable corporate cultures

PNA, Inc., ( ) surveyed 600 women and men at the Director level and above regarding their values. Approximately 60% were from the U.S., 35% from Europe and 5% from Australia and New Zealand. In comparing data, no differences were found between the U.S. and other countries regarding values. Women gave less importance to Power/Authority, more importance to Service/Generosity and the same importance to Achievement/Success. Female executives preferred more collegiate environments and were as motivated by achievement as males.

By revealing what an individual means by “power is less important to me” than other values, often reveals why women exit the corporate workforce, taking their knowledge and expertise home or into their own businesses.

Another way to see the impact of how power traditionally occurs in organizations designed by men shows up as an unwillingness of women to get involved in the power game requiring the use of one’s title as clout or leverage. This is a learned response, not inherent to women, but taught by “the way it is” in most corporations. The culture that rewards a “power over” approach has women opt out of corporations and with them goes their contribution, knowledge, and ways of managing and leading.

A client story may help to illustrate the point.

Situation: I worked with a VP of IT in an A+ rated insurance company to create a more productive environment for herself and her team of eight men, some from non-US cultures. More productive meant reducing misunderstandings, having better coordination of code handoffs (they had adequate procedures, but sometimes execution was poor), and increasing the rate at which projects were completed. To the leader, more productivity also meant individuals would initiate more solutions, rather than wait for her to say “do this.”

Solution: The exploration of values revealed those which were important to each person and the team, as a whole, and those that were not. Immediately our dialogue focused on the value “power/authority” (feeling in control and able to make things happen). The leader rated it not important at all and added her avoidance of using her authority which to her meant pulling rank on others and saying “do it because I said so” and the team’s interpretation (paraphrased) along the lines of “why wouldn’t you use your title? Isn’t that what a leader is supposed to do?”

Once the hidden assumptions (the Krazy® Glue of paradigms) were revealed inside a commitment to be more productive and reduce misunderstandings, the men saw that their view of “power over” (domination and force) was different from the woman leader’s “power with” (collaboration and cooperation). Focus could then be turned from criticizing the “how” to achieving the desired results. (By the way, the leader was selected by CIO magazine as one of the top IT leaders that year.)

The leader of an organization must insist that the people learn how to work together effectively. The insistence comes in the form of modeling the way, putting money in the budget for training and development and being willing to hear when they aren’t working well together. Only when the leader is willing to hear when team work is missing can authentic teamwork be present.

It’s not only about gender; it’s about diversity of thinking

Remember, this conversation is about organizations having environments where everyone’s talents are released, recognized and rewarded. Where people aren’t hired or promoted because they fit a compliance checkbox (female, white, black, Asian), but because their strengths, skills, knowledge, ways of thinking and commitments are the best fit for the role.

Another client story illustrates the importance of finding the best person-to-role match which takes into account how (there’s that word again!) a role is to be executed by the manager and the “how I like to work” preferences of the person in the role.

Situation: A product manager at an international publishing house was not achieving expected results. He worked extra hours, plus weekends and still wasn’t successful. His manager, a woman, committed to both results and retaining a talented employee, asked the question: What’s preventing his success?

Solution: Data from RoleScript™ (a web-based, 360-degree tool) revealed key differences in expectations of how the role was to be performed. The manager expected the role to be accomplished without direct reports and by “getting work done through others” (collaboration built not by title, but by aligned goals). The role holder explicitly agreed with the expectation, however, his habits of thinking and action showed a low preference and a lack of comfort in building relationships. He acknowledged he didn’t have the skills nor the commitment to build relationships at the level required. He was moved to a role that better suited his strengths.

When people value others for their different world views and perspectives, diversity will no longer be about gender or race or culture but about learning how to be effective. Then diversity will no longer be an obligation, but an opportunity and be a true competitive advantage.

Where to start

There’s nothing wrong. There is a new paradigm to create. It begins with your commitment. If you are looking for one, try this one on: Creating the possibility of your organization as a global citizen. Standing there, you’ll see what to do…

•Create the possibility of women as leaders (Now what does your talent pool look like?)
•Examine prevailing paradigm — tell the truth about what it will/won’t allow for, then create a paradigm that excites everyone and ignites their contribution
•Redefine leadership as a possibility, not a membership into an exclusive club
•Redefine diversity as different ways of thinking and acting
•Create a culture of accountability that honors people
•Design metrics that measure possibility and innovation, not compliance
•Embrace failure as the route to learning
•Have compassion for yourself and others as you bring humanity to work

Leadership from the whole and for the whole

As organizational leaders see themselves and invent their organizations as global citizens, I see the possibility that they will naturally be caretakers of the world’s resources — land, water, air and people. I see the possibility of leaders, thinking from the whole, taking actions and producing results that will sustain their one business and our one world.

My colleague, Linda Alepin, reminds me about two games: one that is finite, one that is infinite. The goal of the finite game is to play until a winner and loser are declared and then to stop. The goal of the infinite game is to have the opportunity to continue to play.

I see you, the HR and OD professionals, as the stewards of the people’s well-being who are playing the game called global leadership. How healthy and alive our leaders are will determine whether the game we all get to play is finite or infinite.

When women lead from their authentic, whole selves, I predict that the door to everyone’s talents will fling wide open ushering in a new possibility of understanding, profitability, innovation, freedom and justice for our communities, our organizations and our countries.
Thank you for your commitment to opening that door.

About the author

Camille Smith teaches managers and leaders to increase performance and satisfaction for themselves and their teams. Her expertise with RoleScript™, a methodology that pinpoints the exact demand of any management, staff or professional role, allows organizations to create the best person-to-role match resulting in increased productivity and employee satisfaction. She dedicates herself to designing and delivering conversations that dramatically shift what’s possible, is an adjunct professor in the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, and serves as a founder of the Global Women's Leadership Network, Camille lives with her family in Aptos, California, where she writes poetry and learns from the ocean. Please read more of her commitments and approach at

Saturday, November 11, 2006

One: The Campaign To Make Poverty History, is an inspiring and important site for those who care about the inhabitants of our Mother Earth. The site was designed to bring awareness about poverty and AIDS in Africa and has been very influential in bringing positive and hopeful change.

Two days ago I received an e-mail telling about an extraordinary feat that is occurring: three runners from three countries are attempting the impossible – running 4,000 miles across the Sahara Desert to raise awareness for the 1.2 billion people around the world who don’t have access to clean water. They will run 50 miles a day - for approximately 90 days - an amazing feat of human will and endurance.
Charlie Engle (USA), Ray Zahab (Canada), and Kevin Lin (Taiwan) - are undertaking a quest that no human being has ever fulfilled. The link to follow these men's progress is at

If this remarkable feat moves or inspires you, you might consider making a donation to

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Organic Myth

This is the cover story from BUSINESS WEEK ONLINE OCTOBER 16, 2006, written by Diane Brady. For any readers concerned about the quality of our meats, food, water and more, this article will shed some light on the issues facing organics today. As the big agrobusiness corporations are stepping into the booming "organics" market, the level of quality is suffering. Equally troubling, the small family farms that are conscientious in producing healthy foods, and who have survived by offering organic foods, are being pushed out by the big corporations. This is a serious political situation, one that troubles me greatly. This is why I'm posting this article.

Pastoral ideals are getting trampled as organic food goes mass market

Next time you're in the supermarket, stop and take a look at Stonyfield Farm yogurt. With its contented cow and green fields, the yellow container evokes a bucolic existence, telegraphing what we've come to expect from organic food: pure, pesticide-free, locally produced ingredients grown on a small family farm.

So it may come as a surprise that Stonyfield's organic farm is long gone. Its main facility is a state-of-the-art industrial plant just off the airport strip in Londonderry, N.H., where it handles milk from other farms. And consider this: Sometime soon a portion of the milk used to make that organic yogurt may be taken from a chemical-free cow in New Zealand, powdered, and then shipped to the U.S. True, Stonyfield still cleaves to its organic heritage. For Chairman and CEO Gary Hirshberg, though, shipping milk powder 9,000 miles across the planet is the price you pay to conquer the supermarket dairy aisle. "It would be great to get all of our food within a 10-mile radius of our house," he says. "But once you're in organic, you have to source globally."

Hirshberg's dilemma is that of the entire organic food business. Just as mainstream consumers are growing hungry for untainted food that also nourishes their social conscience, it is getting harder and harder to find organic ingredients. There simply aren't enough organic cows in the U.S., never mind the organic grain to feed them, to go around. Nor are there sufficient organic strawberries, sugar, or apple pulp -- some of the other ingredients that go into the world's best-selling organic yogurt.

Now companies from Wal-Mart (WMT ) to General Mills (GIS ) to Kellogg (K ) are wading into the organic game, attracted by fat margins that old-fashioned food purveyors can only dream of. What was once a cottage industry of family farms has become Big Business, with all that that implies, including pressure from Wall Street to scale up and boost profits. Hirshberg himself is under the gun because he has sold an 85% stake in Stonyfield to the French food giant Groupe Danone. To retain management control, he has to keep Stonyfield growing at double-digit rates. Yet faced with a supply crunch, he has drastically cut the percentage of organic products in his line. He also has scaled back annual sales growth, from almost 40% to 20%. "They're all mad at me," he says.

As food companies scramble to find enough organically grown ingredients, they are inevitably forsaking the pastoral ethos that has defined the organic lifestyle. For some companies, it means keeping thousands of organic cows on industrial-scale feedlots. For others, the scarcity of organic ingredients means looking as far afield as China, Sierra Leone, and Brazil -- places where standards may be hard to enforce, workers' wages and living conditions are a worry, and, say critics, increased farmland sometimes comes at a cost to the environment.

Everyone agrees on the basic definition of organic: food grown without the assistance of man-made chemicals. Four years ago, under pressure from critics fretting that the term "organic" was being misused, the U.S. Agriculture Dept. issued rules. To be certified as organic, companies must eschew most pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineering, and radiation. But for purists, the philosophy also requires farmers to treat their people and livestock with respect and, ideally, to sell small batches of what they produce locally so as to avoid burning fossil fuels to transport them. The USDA rules don't fully address these concerns.

Hence the organic paradox: The movement's adherents have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, but success has imperiled their ideals. It simply isn't clear that organic food production can be replicated on a mass scale. For Hirshberg, who set out to "change the way Kraft (KFT ), Monsanto (MON ), and everybody else does business," the movement is shedding its innocence. "Organic is growing up."

Certainly, life has changed since 1983, when Hirshberg teamed up with a back-to-the-land advocate named Samuel Kaymen to sell small batches of full-fat plain organic yogurt. Kaymen had founded Stonyfield Farm to feed his six kids and, as he puts it, "escape the dominant culture." Hirshberg, then 29, had been devoted to the environment for years, stung by memories of technicolor dyes streaming downriver from his father's New Hampshire shoe factories. He wrote a book on how to build water-pumping windmills and, between 1979 and 1983, ran the New Alchemy Institute, an alternative-living research center on Cape Cod. He was a believer.

But producing yogurt amid the rudimentary conditions of the original Stonyfield Farm was a recipe for nightmares, not nirvana. Meg, an organic farmer who married Hirshberg in 1986, remembers the farm as cold and crowded, with a road so perilous that suppliers often refused to come up. "I call it the bad old days," she says. Adds her mother, Doris Cadoux, who propped up the business for years: "Every time Gary would come to me for money, Meg would call to say 'Mama, don't do it."'

Farming without insecticides, fertilizers, and other aids is tough. Laborers often weed the fields by hand. Farmers control pests with everything from sticky flypaper to aphid-munching ladybugs. Manure and soil fertility must be carefully managed. Sick animals may take longer to get well without a quick hit of antibiotics, although they're likely to be healthier in the first place. Moreover, the yield per acre or per animal often goes down, at least initially. Estimates for the decline from switching to organic corn range up to 20%.

Organic farmers say they can ultimately exceed the yields of conventional rivals through smarter soil management. But some believe organic farming, if it is to stay true to its principles, would require vastly more land and resources than is currently being used. Asks Alex Avery, a research director at the Hudson Institute think tank: "How much Bambi habitat do you want to plow down?"

For a sense of why Big Business and organics often don't mix, it helps to visit Jack and Anne Lazor of Butterworks Farm. The duo have been producing organic yogurt in northeastern Vermont since 1975. Their 45 milking cows are raised from birth and have names like Peaches and Moonlight. All of the food for the cows -- and most of what the Lazors eat, too -- comes from the farm, and Anne keeps their charges healthy with a mix of homeopathic medicines and nutritional supplements. Butterworks produces a tiny 9,000 quarts of yogurt a week, and no one can pressure them to make more. Says Jack: "I'd be happiest to sell everything within 10 miles of here."

But the Lazors also embody an ideal that's almost impossible for other food producers to fulfill. For one thing, they have enough land to let their modest-sized herd graze for food. Many of the country's 9 million-plus dairy cows (of which fewer than 150,000 are organic) are on farms that will never have access to that kind of pasture. After all, a cow can only walk so far when it has to come back to be milked two or three times a day.

When consumers shell out premiums of 50% or more to buy organic, they are voting for the Butterworks ethic. They believe humans should be prudent custodians not only of their own health but also of the land and animals that share it. They prefer food produced through fair wages and family farms, not poor workers and agribusiness. They are responding to tales of caged chickens and confined cows that never touch a blade of grass; talk of men losing fertility and girls becoming women at age nine because of extra hormones in food. They read about pesticides seeping into the food supply and genetically modified crops creeping across the landscape.

For Big Food, consumers' love affair with everything organic has seemed like a gift from the gods. Food is generally a commoditized, sluggish business, especially in basic supermarket staples. Sales of organic groceries, on the other hand, have been surging by up to 20% in recent years. Organic milk is so profitable -- with wholesale prices more than double that of conventional milk -- that Lyle "Spud" Edwards of Westfield, Vt., was able to halve his herd, to 25 cows, this summer and still make a living, despite a 15% drop in yields since switching to organic four years ago. "There's a lot more paperwork, but it's worth it," says Edwards, who supplies milk to Stonyfield.

The food industry got a boost four years ago when the USDA issued its organic standards. The "USDA Organic" label now appears on scores of products, from chicken breasts to breakfast cereal. And you know a tipping point is at hand when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. enters the game. The retailer pledged this year to become a center of affordable "organics for everyone" and has started by doubling its organic offerings at 374 stores nationwide. "Everyone wants a piece of the pie," says George L. Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, the country's largest organic farm co- operative. "Kraft and Wal-Mart are part of the community now, and we have to get used to it."

The corporate giants have turned a fringe food category into a $14 billion business. They have brought wider distribution and marketing dollars. They have imposed better quality controls on a sector once associated with bug-infested, battered produce rotting in crates at hippie co-ops. Organic products now account for 2.5% of all grocery spending (if additive-free "natural" foods are included, the share jumps to about 10%). And demand could soar if prices come down.

But success has brought home the problems of trying to feed the masses in an industry where supplies can be volatile. Everyone from Wal-Mart to Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST ) is feeling the pinch. Earlier this year, Earthbound Farm, a California producer of organic salads, fruit, and vegetables owned by Natural Selection Foods, cut off its sliced-apple product to Costco because supply dried up -- even though Earthbound looked as far afield as New Zealand. "The concept of running out of apples is foreign to these people," says Earthbound co-founder Myra Goodman, whose company recalled bagged spinach in the wake of the recent E. coli outbreak. "When you're sourcing conventional produce, it's a matter of the best product at the best price."

Inconsistency is a hallmark of organic food. Variations in animal diet, local conditions, and preparation make food taste different from batch to batch. But that's anathema to a modern food giant. Heinz, for one, had a lot of trouble locating herbs and spices for its organic ketchup. "We're a global company that has to deliver consistent standards," says Kristen Clark, a group vice-president for marketing. The volatile supply also forced Heinz to put dried or fresh organic herbs in its organic Classico pasta sauce because it wasn't able to find the more convenient quick-frozen variety. Even Wal-Mart, master of the modern food supply chain, is humbled by the realities of going organic. As spokesperson Gail Lavielle says: "You can't negotiate prices in a market like that."

While Americans may love the idea of natural food, they have come to rely on the perks of agribusiness. Since the widespread use of synthetic pesticides began, around the time of World War II, food producers have reaped remarkable gains. Apples stay red and juicy for weeks. The average harvested acre of farmland yields 200% more wheat than it did 70 years ago. Over the past two decades chickens have grown 25% bigger in less time and on less food. At the same time, the average cow produces 60% more milk, thanks to innovations in breeding, nutrition, and synthetic hormones.

It's also worth remembering how inexpensive food is these days. Americans shell out about 10% of their disposable income on food, about half what they spent in the first part of the 20th century. Producing a budget-priced cornucopia of organic food won't be easy.

Gary Hirshberg's quest for organic milk. Dairy producers estimate that demand for organic milk is at least twice the current available supply. To quench this thirst, the U.S. would have to more than double the number of organic cows -- those that eat only organic food -- to 280,000 over the next five years. That's a challenge, since the number of dairy farms has shrunk to 60,000, from 334,000 in 1980, according to the National Milk Producers Federation. And almost half the milk produced in the U.S. comes from farms with more than 500 cows, something organic advocates rarely support.

What to do? If you're Hirshberg, you weigh the pros and cons of importing organic milk powder from New Zealand. Stonyfield already gets strawberries from China, apple puree from Turkey, blueberries from Canada, and bananas from Ecuador. It's the only way to keep the business growing. Besides, Hirshberg argues, supporting a family farmer in Madagascar or reducing chemical use in Costa Rica is just as important as doing the same at home.

Perhaps, but doing so risks a consumer backlash, especially when the organic food is from China. So far there is little evidence that crops from there are tainted or fraudulently labeled. Any food that bears the USDA Organic label has to be accredited by an independent certifier. But tests are few and far between. Moreover, many consumers don't trust food from a country that continues to manufacture DDT and tolerates fakes in other industries. Similar questions are being asked about much of the developing world. Ronnie Cummins, national director of the nonprofit Organic Consumers Assn., claims organic farms may contribute to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, although conventional farming remains the proven culprit.

Imported organics are a constant concern for food companies and supermarkets. It's certainly on Steve Pimentel's mind. "Someone is going to do something wrong," says Costco's assistant general merchandise manager. "We want to make sure it's not us." To avoid nasty surprises, Costco makes sure its own certifiers check that standards are met in China for the organic peanuts and produce it imports. Over at Stonyfield, Hirshberg's sister, Nancy, who is vice-president of natural resources, was so worried about buying strawberries in northeastern China that she ordered a social audit to check worker conditions. "If I didn't have to buy from there," she says, "I wouldn't."

For many companies, the preferred option is staying home and adopting the industrial scale of agribusiness. Naturally, giant factory farms make purists recoil. Is an organic label appropriate for eggs produced in sheds housing more than 100,000 hens that rarely see the light of day? Can a chicken that's debeaked or allowed minimal access to the outdoors be deemed organic? Would consumers be willing to pay twice as much for organic milk if they thought the cows producing it spent most of their outdoor lives in confined dirt lots?

Absolutely not, say critics such as Mark Kastel, director of the Organic Integrity Project at the Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy group promoting small family farms. "Organic consumers think they're supporting a different kind of ethic," says Kastel, who last spring released a high-profile report card labeling 11 producers as ethically challenged.

Kastel's report card included Horizon Organic Dairy, the No. 1 organic milk brand in the U.S., and Aurora Organic Dairy, which makes private-label products for the likes of Costco and Safeway Inc. Both dairies deny they are ethically challenged. But the two do operate massive corporate farms. Horizon has 8,000 cows in the Idaho desert. There, the animals consume such feed as corn, barley, hay, and soybeans, as well as some grass from pastureland. The company is currently reconfiguring its facility to allow more grazing opportunities. And none of this breaks USDA rules. The agency simply says animals must have "access to pasture." How much is not spelled out. "It doesn't say [livestock] have to be out there, happy and feeding, 18 hours a day," says Barbara C. Robinson, who oversees the USDA's National Organic Program.

But what gets people like Kastel fuming is the fact that big dairy farms produce tons of pollution in the form of manure and methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide -- gases blamed for warming the planet. Referring to Horizon's Idaho farm, he adds: "This area is in perpetual drought. You need to pump water constantly to grow pasture. That's not organic."

Aurora and Horizon argue their operations are true to the organic spirit and that big farms help bring organic food to the masses. Joe E. Scalzo, president and CEO of Horizon's owner, WhiteWave, which is owned by Dean Foods Co., says: "You need the 12-cow farms in Vermont -- and the 4,000 milking cows in Idaho." Adds Clark Driftmier, a spokesman for Aurora, which manages 8,400 dairy cows on two farms in Colorado and Texas: "We're in a contentious period with organics right now."

At the USDA, Robinson is grappling with the same imponderables. In her mind the controversy is more about scale than animal treatment. "The real issue is a fear of large corporations," she says. Robinson expects the USDA to tighten pasture rules in the coming months in hopes of moving closer to the spirit of the organic philosophy. "As programs go," she says, "this is just a toddler. New issues keep coming up."

Few people seem more hemmed in by the contradictions than Gary Hirshberg. Perhaps more than anyone, he has acted as the industry's philosopher king, lobbying governments, proselytizing consumers, helping farmers switch to organic, and giving 10% of profits to environmental causes. Yet he sold most of Stonyfield Farm to a $17 billion French corporation.

He did so partly to let his original investors cash out, partly to bring organic food to the masses. But inevitably, as Stonyfield has morphed from local outfit to national brand, some of the original tenets have fallen by the wayside. Once Danone bought a stake, Stonyfield founder Samuel Kaymen moved on. "I never felt comfortable with the scale or dealing with people so far away," he recalls, although he says Hirshberg has so far managed to uphold the company's original principles.

The hard part may be continuing to do so with Danone looking over his shoulder. Hirshberg retains board control but says his "autonomy and independence and employment are contingent on delivering minimum growth and profitability." Danone Chairman and CEO Franck Riboud expresses admiration for the man he considers to be Danone's organic guru, but adds: "Gary respects that I have to answer to shareholders."

The compromises that Hirshberg is willing to make say a lot about where the organic business is headed. "Our kids don't have time for us to sit on our high horses and say we're not going to do this because it's not ecologically perfect," says Hirshberg. "The only way to influence the powerful forces in this industry is to become a powerful force." And he's willing to do that, even if it means playing by a new set of rules.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


This article was sent to me recently. I think it is relevant in many respects. Mao Tse Tung said, "Women Hold Up Half the Sky." Women are the greatest untapped resource in the world. We are not screaming out to be "bra burning" feminists. We are asking that men and women work alongside one another as equals for the greater good of everyone. The V.Q.

By Roz Shepherd

I have heard Stephen Lewis speak several times, in person, on the radio and on videos. Each time, he inspires me to feel real rage at the injustices done to women and children. My ancient rage comes again to the surface. The rage I felt each time I worked in Africa with the street children, with the women. The rage I have felt throughout my life as a woman, when I have been disrespected and intimidated and devalued as a woman by men, even by other women. The rage I felt as a little girl when I was spanked again and again by a big strong man, or encouraged to wear cute little dresses and make- up. It all seemed like a huge conspiracy to keep me from being who I really was, and from accomplishing all that I was capable of.

In Africa the injustices were strangling, and I cried again and again. And often the rage spurred me on, to form an NGO, raise funds, build program after program to ‘save’ lives, change lives, etc. etc. But it was never enough, and it did little to affect a global conspiracy against the well-being of women and children.

In ancient times women in some cultures wielded power – spiritual power. It frightened the men to the point where they constantly tried to destroy the women. The witch hunts were only one example. Sometimes men were wise enough to recognize the importance and value of Woman’s spiritual power to heal, to resolve, to elevate, to bring love and harmony.

Now is the time, women of the world. We all know we have enormous spiritual power. We have felt it, seen it, we know it. It is familiar, it is amazing, and it is the only thing that will turn around the destruction happening now – the wars, ecological holocaust, genocides, AIDS, starvation, and most importantly, the torture of children.

I don’t need to explain to you what I mean by spiritual power. It has nothing to do with what religion you believe in, or what church you attend. It has nothing to do with groups, or culture, or race. It has to do with calling on your own inner wisdom. And the deep knowing that comes with being a mother, birthing a child, being in touch with the loving energy of the Universe, and the loving energy of Truth. It has to do with standing firm, speaking clearly with all the wisdom of all the generations of woman-hood. Having the courage to take control of your life, and saying “No” to anything that harms children, or that takes from you the right to live in safety. And it means standing strong to support all our sisters, all the other women who are holding bright lights for us to follow. And equality is not just a nice platitude. It doesn’t mean that women want to be the same as men, or take on the same tasks as men. It means that women have the right to have all the strengths and talents that are inherent in being female – and those are beyond measure! The reason they are beyond measure is because there is a component which is beyond this world – the spiritual component. We can understand the longings of the heart, the connection to the soul, and the depth of loving kindness. We can transform hate into love. We can transform sorrow into joy. We can heal the sick, and comfort the grieving. We do it every day, and we need to call on these gifts to overcome the hatred and destruction now happening.

Stephen Lewis is calling us into action. Enough is enough, and we have suffered too much at the hands of those who worship money and status and sex. Women can transform the world. Let’s get on with the job.

The first step is to get in touch with the deepest wisdom that resides deep in your heart and soul. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, and call on the loving energy with which you were born. Ask for guidance to know your next step in bringing the children into this safe, loving place. Ask what role you can play in creating a world of safety for women and children. Ask that each daily step, each moment-to-moment decision be based from this place . You will be called on to draw on your greatest well of courage, strength, grief, and joy. You will find new sources of energy. You will know that you are where you are meant to be in each moment, and that you have the power to change the world because it is all based on Truth, your own truth. You will find yourself turning away from the rules and impositions of the old ways, and you will find yourself creating new pathways for yourself and those around you. You will find that you have untold strengths and knowledge, based on humility, but with a power beyond measure. You will no longer listen to the small voices of politics, commerce, dogma, or even education and television. You will know that the ways of control used by the systems of government and the systems of the military have no bearing on your path for the well-being of the Earth. It is time for the women to call on this power, this ancient power that can bring forward what we are all dreaming of.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


This is an article written by Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the UN. I thought it was marvellously candid. He is correct; the UN has every reason to be envious of how the World's Cup brings people everywhere together, aware of each other's countries, and the skills of the players no matter where they come from! P.R.

Published: 2006/06/07

You may wonder what a secretary-general of the United Nations is doing
writing about football. But, in fact, the World Cup makes us, at the UN, green with

As the pinnacle of the only truly global game, played in every country by
every race and religion, it is one of the few phenomena as universal as the
United Nations.

You could even say it's more universal. Fifa has 207 members. We have only
191. But there are far better reasons to be envious.

First, the World Cup is an event in which everybody knows where their team
stands, and what it did to get there. They know who scored and how and at what
minute. They know who missed the open goal and who saved the penalty. I wish
we had more of that sort of competition in the family of nations.

Countries openly vying for the best standing in the table of respect for
human rights, and trying to outdo one another in child survival rates or enrolment
in secondary education.

We would like to see states parading their performance for all the world to
see, governments being held accountable for what actions led them to that

Secondly, the World Cup is an event which everybody on the planet loves
talking about - dissecting what their team did right and what it could have done
differently - not to mention the other side's team.

People sit in caf├ęs anywhere, from Buenos Aires to Beijing, debating the
finer points of games endlessly, revealing an intimate knowledge not only of their
own national teams, but of many of the others, too, and expressing themselves
on the subject with as much clarity as passion.

Normally tongue-tied teenagers suddenly become eloquent, confident and
dazzlingly analytical experts.

I wish we had more of that sort of conversation in the world at large.

Citizens consumed by the topic of how their country could do better on the
Human Development Index or in reducing the number of carbon emissions or new HIV
Thirdly, the World Cup is an event which takes place on a level-playing
field, where every country has a chance to participate on equal terms. Only two
things matter in this game: talent and team-work.

I wish we had more levellers like that in the global arena - free and fair
exchanges without the interference of subsidies, barriers or tariffs; Every
country getting a real chance to field its strengths on the world stage.

Fourthly, the World Cup is an event which illustrates the benefits of
cross-pollination between peoples and countries. More and more national teams now
welcome coaches from other countries, who bring new ways of thinking and playing.

The same goes for the increasing number of players who, between World Cups,
represent clubs away from home. They inject new qualities into their new team,
grow from the experience and are able to contribute even more to their home
side when they return.

In the process, they often become heroes in their adopted countries - helping
to open hearts and broaden minds. I wish it were equally plain for all to see
that human migration in general can create triple wins - for migrants, for
their countries of origin, and for the societies that receive them.

Migrants not only build better lives for themselves and their families, but
are also agents of development - economic, social and cultural - in the
countries they go to work in and in the homelands they inspire through new ideas and
know-how when they return.

For any country, playing in the World Cup is a matter of profound national
pride. For countries qualifying for the first time, such as my native Ghana,
it is a badge of honour. For those who are doing so after years of adversity,
such as Angola, it provides a sense of national renewal.

And for those who are currently riven by conflict, like Cote d'Ivoire, but
whose World Cup team is a unique and powerful symbol of national unity, it
inspires nothing less than the hope of national rebirth.

Which brings me to what is perhaps most enviable for all of us in the United
Nations: the World Cup is an event in which we actually see goals being

I'm not talking only about the goals a country scores. I also mean the most
important goal of all - being there, part of the family of nations and peoples,
celebrating our common humanity.

I'll try to remember this when Ghana plays Italy on 12 June. Of course, I
can't promise I'll succeed.