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The upside of trade-offs

In October 2019, Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff declared capitalism was dead in a New York Times op-ed. Earlier in the year, Larry Fink, chairman of BlackRock, caused a seismic stir in a letter to chief executives demanding that companies pursue purpose. In August 2019, CEOs of 181 companies in the Business Roundtable rejected the idea of shareholder primacy in favor of creating value for all stakeholders. Today, increasingly, corporations are being asked, pressured, forced, encouraged, regulated, and coaxed to consider a broader set of stakeholders in their business calculations.

The 2008 financial crisis focused attention on the ways in which corporations have wide-ranging effects on society. Climate change has attuned people to the potentially toxic effects of corporate policies. The global supply chain is more visible than ever before. Consumers are increasingly conscientious about their buying habits.

Further, in the current political environment, people are turning to corporations to pursue social policy agendas that governments cannot or will not pursue. The net effect has been that, more and more often, companies need to consider stakeholders other than the shareholder in developing their strategies and managing their organizations. The challenge for those who want to consider these diverse stakeholders (and the worry for those who think it’s a bad idea) is that each stakeholder comes to the party with different interests and views about what is of value. When these interests aren’t aligned, corporate leaders are required to make trade-offs.

For example, when the capital costs of installing pollution-control filters on a power plant or the operating costs of raising chickens in cage-free environments or the costs of improving conditions for workers in Bangladeshi clothing factories are high, those costs are likely to erode the financial returns of the companies implementing these changes or to prevent firms from undertaking the changes to begin with. Even more than just creating conflicts between stakeholder interests and financial returns, the needs of different stakeholders may be at odds with each other. When Walmart sets low prices, its decision benefits consumers — but those low prices have historically been based on low wages for workers. When consumers win, workers may lose.

Trade-offs at the center of social responsibility

Trade-offs, conflicts, and challenges, however, can be the source of innovation and transformation. Companies can develop explicit and coherent plans for addressing the tensions created by trade-offs. The stories of two large, well-known organizations, Walmart and Nike (as well as Levi Strauss & Co., mentioned below), show the ways that well-known organizations with varied stakeholders manage trade-offs. This is not to glorify or vilify them, but simply to show how frequently interests and agendas can conflict and highlight the kinds of difficult decisions that arise most often in today’s globalized economy. Coping with stakeholder trade-offs forced Nike to come up with less toxic glues and more environmentally friendly materials for its shoes and Walmart to pressure suppliers to change both products and their packaging to reduce waste and the environmental effects of shipping.

The predominant rhetoric today for dealing with these trade-offs is to “make a business case” for action. This is at the heart of the shared value concept that is becoming so popular. There might be ways to reframe actions to be win-win, having benefits for both the shareholder and other stakeholders. But I argue that shared value can take you only so far. Sometimes there’s a win-win. Sometimes creative thinking may lead to an innovative, mutually beneficial solution. There are still other times when a solution is not particularly appealing to any stakeholder, and yet it’s still the best way to go (for the moment). In these cases, there are considerations and strategies that can help business leaders make the best possible decision.

I argue there are four modes of action that companies can adopt to understand these tensions (see “Four modes of action for optimizing trade-offs”). Mode 1 is the starting point: Knowing what the trade-offs are. Actions taken in Mode 2 allow leaders to rethink the trade-offs. Mode 3 actions occur when win-wins are not immediately evident. Companies can seek innovative solutions — new technologies, new processes, new ways of doing business — that allow them to innovate around trade-offs. This is where transformative possibilities emerge.

Companies can seek innovative solutions — new technologies, new processes, new ways of doing business — that allow them to innovate around trade-offs. This is where transformative possibilities emerge.

Mode 4 is the toughest. Sometimes there are just no solutions — even innovative ones — to be had. In Modes 2 and 3, there’s still a way to make the business case (that is, what makes social sense also makes economic sense), at least with creativity, investment, and work. Mode 4 is necessary when the trade-off is somehow intractable, when acting for a stakeholder other than the shareholder might hurt the shareholder, and vice versa. In these cases, companies must find ways to function with the tension rather than do away with it. In the long run, these tensions can generate creative insights.

The key here is not to give up, but instead to find ways to engage stakeholders in productive dialogues and experimentation. These dialogues will not always be smooth. In fact, the most productive ones will likely be filled with conflict, but also filled with possibility.

Stakeholders as a source of innovation

In 1992, a Harper’s magazine article by activist Jeffrey Ballinger highlighted the plight of workers in Nike subcontractor factories in Indonesia. Demonstrators appeared at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona to call attention to the sweatshop conditions at Nike’s factories. By 1997, when a New York Times story brought more attention to the issue, the consumer backlash really grew. This was a crisis for Nike, and, over time, it led to a transformation in its manufacturing practices.

Phil Knight, Nike’s CEO at the time, made a now-famous speech in which he highlighted the trade-off for consumers: Nike shoes would cost at least twice as much if they were manufactured in the United States. But he also announced six new actions that would transform the company’s approach from one in which the supply chain workers were adversaries to one in which they were partners.

Nike committed to improving the health conditions in factories to meet U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, in particular, by innovating in new kinds of water-based glue that would not contain the toxic chemical toluene. It raised the minimum age of workers and allowed monitoring to be done by independent NGOs. Nike also expanded education programs and microenterprise loan programs where it operated and said it would fund university research “to explore issues related to global manufacturing and responsible business practices.”

This plan was the beginning of an innovative — Mode 3 — journey. Nike began developing an important in-house capability for understanding the details of the supply chain and ensuring that standards could be applied even to factories several degrees removed from direct relationships with the company. It used the trade-offs surfaced by its outsourced manufacturing business model as an opportunity to look at how the upstream processes of design, commercialization, and sourcing might have been undermining efforts to improve practices downstream.

Levi’s went through a similar experience in balancing trade-offs. An early mover on factory-compliance initiatives in the 1990s, Levi’s still struggled with worker turnover and absenteeism, a sure sign that work conditions were not desirable. So it launched an initiative called Improving Worker Well-Being. Discovering that there was no one-size-fits-all for the 72 factories and 140,000 participating workers around the world, Levi’s leaders tasked vendors to come up with plans to increase well-being. These vendors found they couldn’t do that until they asked their workers what was going on in their lives.

In Mexico, vendor Apparel International organized peer-led sessions with an NGO, Yo Quiero, Yo Puedo (I Want, I Can), to learn about worker experiences and train supervisors. The vendor made seemingly small changes at work, like providing better fans and water fountains, shaded parking for motorcycles, and microwaves in the break room. Importantly, the NGO sessions helped supervisors communicate more effectively with employees — with more coaching and less shouting. The result: lower absenteeism, lower turnover, and changes in how the staff interact. “It’s a win-win situation, believe me,” said Oscar González Franch, the president of Apparel International.

Let’s be clear: Factory conditions are still poor in many locations. Analysis of the efforts made by Nike and Levi’s shows that there are ways to make things better, and the solutions involve collaborative innovation among all of the stakeholders, many of whom have competing interests: the brands, the suppliers, the suppliers to the suppliers, NGOs concerned with labor practices and environmental impact, consulting and accounting firms that conduct audits, and, of course, governments. For leaders interested in adopting Mode 3 actions, here are a few key concepts.

First, innovation is not possible without deep insights into what the experiences of the stakeholders actually are, not (only) through reports but through on-the-ground fieldwork to get behind the numbers. Sometimes it is unpleasant or stressful to engage with stakeholder representatives who might be enraged about existing conditions. It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that outrage has as its base a compassionate caring for those stakeholders who are affected by the actions of corporations. The outrage can serve as an effective call to action.

Avoid getting trapped in Mode 2. Often there is not an immediate win-win. Building a business case for better worker conditions flies directly in the face of delivering products to consumers at reasonable prices. The demands created by those prices are often used as an excuse by global brands and local vendors not to take action. The conversation needs to hold the business-case logic in a bubble while the innovation process is allowed to unfold. The question of funding should be part of the innovation itself.

One of the most important paths forward is to co-create with the stakeholders. In the end, no company can innovate for stakeholders and get it right. The company must innovate with stakeholders. It’s impossible even to know what the pain points are for different stakeholders, such as factory workers, without consulting them and engaging them. The state of the art is embedded innovation: an innovation process in which the stakeholders are at the center of the inquiry. Nike’s big step forward in addressing factory conditions was when it started working with the factory owners and workers to come up with solutions.

This will require leaders to take an expansive view. You’ll likely need to look more broadly than you think you need to. If Nike had tried to solve the problem of worker conditions in factories by focusing just on the factories, it would never have gotten there. Nike had to rethink design processes, order processes, and global product mixes. The situation also required that headquarters shift its mind-set from compliance to innovation. A key insight: Innovative solutions are unlikely to be narrow, but rather will address the complex systems that create the trade-offs.

Thriving within intractable trade-offs

Customer demands are often the excuse that companies make when avoiding potentially costly efforts to address harm to workers or the environment. The question about whether the customer will pay more to alleviate such harm is a crucial one. It is often the most intractable of the trade-offs. What do we do with the tension created by wanting to sell more products (as any company must) and the costs associated with consumerism, waste, labor standards, and environmental damage? The biggest challenge for leaders today is addressing the conflicts in which people cannot find the win-win and cannot yet innovate around the problem.

Some companies are using sustainability initiatives as holding places for these tensions. The question becomes: How can a company make consumption less damaging or even neutral? It feels impossible. Yet companies are beginning to operate amid the trade-offs in Mode 4 to uncover potential future solutions by running experiments, entering into partnerships with NGOs, working with consortia of other companies facing the same challenges, making long-term research investments with uncertain payoffs, or involving stakeholders such as workers or communities in problem solving.

The takeaway for Mode 4: Even where there are no innovative solutions, companies can learn to thrive within the tensions created by intractable trade-offs. One way is to hold the trade-offs in tension and use them productively to promote organizational resilience. An emerging literature has begun to explore these intractable moments. It suggests that instead of being afraid of paradoxes, organizations can (and should) embrace them. This can be accomplished by keeping the two sides of the trade-off separate: making profits short-term and sustainability projects long-term, addressing trade-offs in some product lines but not others, creating sustainability teams that are authorized to pursue environmental objectives in certain projects separate from the rest of the business, or running experiments with uncertain outcomes to find resolutions to the trade-offs.

In 2005, Walmart CEO Lee Scott announced three goals for the company: to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, to create zero waste, and to sell products that sustain resources and the environment. As part of this initiative, Scott consulted with a number of environmental experts, including major critics of Walmart, in order to identify steps to improve its sustainability. “It wasn’t a matter of telling our story better. We had to create a better story,” said Scott.

Here Walmart’s power over suppliers came in handy. When it wanted to reduce use of water for manufacturing, plastic resin and cardboard for packaging, and fuel for shipping laundry detergent by selling only concentrated versions, the retailer could put the pressure on its suppliers, even major ones like Procter & Gamble, to make the change. Similarly, when environmentalists focused Walmart on the lightbulb — advocating for the company to switch its product line to more energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) — as a win-win, Walmart leaned on General Electric (GE) and other suppliers.

GE was hesitant. It did not want to give up the prime shelf space for its then best-selling product, the standard incandescent bulb. Leaders weren’t sure that CFLs would perform well enough to satisfy consumers’ expectations. But, seeing Walmart’s demands, GE came to understand that the only way to survive the creative destruction of these new technologies was to get out in front of the change. Now 1,300 suppliers (selling 70 percent of the goods Walmart purchases in the U.S.) use Walmart’s Sustainability Index, and 3,000 have registered to use it in the future. The index is a tool that suppliers can use to track the environmental impact of their products from sourcing through to end use.

What can a company do to survive and thrive in the face of intractable tensions among the needs and interests of different stakeholders? Given that they might hit a wall, the most effective companies will break ties in favor of doing something new. If there isn’t agreement about whether there is a business case for action (Mode 2), decide on the side of action. Forward movement may provoke innovative solutions (Mode 3). When solutions aren’t readily apparent, that’s where Mode 4 action comes in.

It’s worth the effort to identify pilots that break the trade-offs. You don’t have to change the whole organization at once. You can use experiments to learn what future solutions might look like. Even those experiments that fail in the lab or the marketplace may be tremendous sources of learning and stepladders to the next experiment. It is precisely the impasses that can provoke the biggest insights. Impasses are uncomfortable, but the discomfort can lead to breakthroughs, experiments, and new ways of thinking.

Facing impasses also takes courage. Organizations naturally fight back on change. Managers with incentives based on the bottom line will object to the perceived moral judgments imposed by corporate social responsibility. Models of authoritative leadership push away ambiguity in favor of clear choices. But what I have found is that the best companies and the best leaders thrive within these tensions.

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UPS CEO: E-commerce over the holidays picked up faster than we thought

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Why Paul Tudor Jones says the markets remind him a lot of early 1999

Paul Tudor Jones, chairman of JUST Capital and chief investment officer of Tudor Investment Corporation, told “Squawk Box” at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the stock market today is reminiscent of the latter stages of the bull market in 1999 that saw a giant surge that ultimately ended with the popping of the dotcom bubble.


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Watch CNBC’s full interview with Carlyle Group co-CEO David Rubenstein

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Chime CEO Chris Britt on teaming up with NBA’s Dallas Mavericks

Chime CEO and co-founder Chris Britt joins CNBC’s “Power Lunch” team to discuss the online banking company, the financial sector and his outlook for the company and the industry. Also, the Dallas Mavericks secured a jersey patch sponsorship with Chime for roughly 3 years. NBA jersey patch sponsorships can currently earn up to $20 million per season.


Fri, Jan 17 20203:02 PM EST

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Using technology to rewire a food business

The Inside the Mind of the CEO interview series explores a wide range of critical decisions faced by chief executives around the world. For more insight, see PwC’s CEO Survey.

Roberto Martínez, CEO of PepsiCo Foods Mexico, is acutely aware that the way people buy snacks and packaged foods is changing rapidly, due to digital transformation in the retail industry. In the spring of 2019, Martínez took over as CEO after more than 20 years at the company. He oversees its food brands, including Quaker, Gatorade, Sabritas (chips, nuts, and similar snacks), and Gamesa (cookies and other baked goods). The beverage division of PepsiCo Mexico is run separately.

Within a month and a half of taking the top job, Martínez announced a US$4 billion investment across four main areas: agriculture, infrastructure, sustainability, and community. A common theme in those investments is digital technology, which Martínez sees as critical to helping the company serve customers more conveniently, efficiently, and profitably.

Strategy+business talked with Martínez about PepsiCo Foods Mexico’s growth prospects, its shift to healthier snacks and beverages, its portfolio of sustainability measures, and how technology improves performance and helps companies tell stories in new ways.

S+B: What are PepsiCo Foods Mexico’s growth prospects?

We see very positive prospects for growth over the next two years. One reason is demographic change. A large number of young people are beginning their working lives, and an ever-greater number of women are obtaining jobs that are better paid. The other reason is the strategic position occupied by Mexico, next to the U.S., the most important market in the world.

S+B: What are the biggest challenges the company faces?

One is keeping pace with the changing needs of the consumer, since that demands agility and speed. There are also important changes in the commercial structure in Mexico, evolving from small grocery stores to supermarkets, due to the ever-increasing number of digital platforms. We understand that urban customers are going to have greater access to digital tools. Nevertheless, we’re also aware that we need to adapt to every type of customer and to the needs of different types of retailers.

S+B: The Mexican government has recently taken steps to address obesity, implementing measures like a tax on sugar and mandating easy-to-understand food labels — something that is already in place in Chile. How has your company responded to those changes?

We’re convinced about the benefits of having transparent, clear, truthful, and useful labeling, supporting consumers with the right information to make their own decisions about what to eat.

S+B: In May 2019, you announced an investment of $4 billion in four aspects of the business: agriculture, infrastructure, sustainability, and community. How will you use those funds?

One billion [dollars] is earmarked for the purchase of raw materials, 90 percent of which will originate from Mexican fields. Another part will go to improve agricultural technology. In fact, in October [2019], we reopened the Sabritas Center for Agricultural Development, which is where we will grow 280,000 tons of potatoes to be used in our products.

Technologies change, but human beings love stories. It doesn’t matter if they’re in 140 characters or a 30-second commercial. We have to communicate with the consumer through those stories.”

Part of the funds will be used to build a factory in Guanajuato. It has been 20 years since we built a factory from scratch in Mexico. This will allow us to increase the total capacity of our system by 12 percent, and we’ll use less energy, since the plant will operate with solar panels. Sustainability is another big objective — we’re investing to reduce our carbon footprint by 30 percent. In fact, we have the second-largest PepsiCo fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles worldwide. Finally, we’ll invest $10 million through the PepsiCo Foundation to help more than 35,000 people living in the most vulnerable communities in Mexico.

S+B: Can you talk more about the company’s sustainability initiatives, particularly in light of climate change?

From 2006 to now, we have reduced our water consumption in Mexico by 50 percent, and we’re continuing that progress by investing in some very modern technologies. One is aeroponics, in which plants basically grow in the air, rather than in the earth. This allows us to consume a mere 10 percent of the amount of water used by traditional agriculture.

We also know that avoiding waste is important, and we have a goal of generating zero waste to landfills. All 15 of our plants are virtually there — 99 percent of the by-products in those plants are either recycled or reused. Similarly, 75 percent of the energy we use in Mexico is from wind. And a plant we’re constructing next year is going to be 100 percent solar powered.

S+B: Technology seems to be a constant theme in your strategy. Can you talk about some specific applications in areas like automation?

It started in the most obvious areas: the plants, where one can use robots to automate processes. But then we started to use automation in less obvious areas, for example, in parts of the controller area, to process invoices and do the monthly closing. We also have a very large sales force, and today we’re automating and digitizing interactions with our customers. That type of automation makes the lives of our people easier so they can be more productive. For all of these technologies, I believe that change is a constant.

You can’t stop the train of change. Instead, I believe that we have to try to understand change, embrace it, and use it to our advantage.

S+B: How can you introduce emerging technologies without people worrying they will lose their jobs?

It’s normal for people to fear the unknown. However, I believe the best way to do it is through clear communication. People need to know that these technologies will bring profit to the company, and that they will also open up new opportunities. In this regard, training is fundamental: Those who are willing to embrace new technology will benefit from the changes.

For instance, in addition to production and accounting, we are automating and digitizing the sales department, providing our team with smartphones that have cloud-based applications, which makes it easier for them to conduct processes. Therefore, they’re more productive.

S+B: How can you find the right people to implement these kinds of technologies?

We have different programs. One is called First Gen, which recruits grant or scholarship holders through digital platforms. These young people stay with the company for a year and a half and perform different tasks, mostly digitally themed, such as producing videos for Instagram. The program has a very high retention rate; of the students that we recruit, 70 percent remain at PepsiCo. We also have a program called Next Gen, which recruits college graduates and gives them more formal technology training.

There is another program that I implemented called the Young Talent Executive Committee. It’s composed of people under 30 who shadow the leadership team. Their role is to help us understand what younger generations are like, what our partners need, and what consumers want, among other things.

S+B: Technological changes also involve challenges, such as vulnerability to cyber-attacks. How are you dealing with this?

We implement the latest systems to protect against cyber-attacks, but our strategy is based on something that is more fundamental for us: training our people to recognize the most common forms of cyber-attack and teaching them how to protect both their personal data and the company’s confidential information. Training and reinforcing these methodologies really helps us significantly reduce our vulnerability.

S+B: Can you talk about how your company is using technology to better connect with consumers?

Technologies change, but human beings love stories. It doesn’t matter if they’re in 140 characters, an Instagram story of five seconds, or a 30-second commercial. We have to be able to communicate with the consumer through those stories. And that’s what we’re doing, through formats like Instagram and YouTube. We just finished making a commercial for Quaker in Latin America. It talks about all of us having a biological age and another age inside us, which has to do with how we take care of ourselves and feed ourselves. That video lasts three minutes — that’s long in today’s world — and more than 80 percent of people look at the entire video. When you tell a powerful story that strikes at people’s hearts, the length is not important — what is important is the story.

S+B: How do you find the balance between automating some functions and still being able to connect with people at a human level?

I believe that we have to use digitization and automation in those applications where they create value. But nothing is going to replace the empathy that we have as human beings and as leaders. Creativity, empathy with another human being, with the consumer — there’s no way that artificial intelligence or a robot can replace that. I believe that a combination of the two is what makes us stronger. Combining the capacity for empathy and [the knowledge of] how to apply those technologies will differentiate leaders of the future.

S+B: What is your main challenge as CEO of PepsiCo Foods Mexico?

The world around us is changing very quickly, and it’s precisely this speed of change that challenges me to keep the company competitive. For me, the challenge is to embrace the changeover to digital technology in order to transform company culture and face this new environment.

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  • Ana Paula Flores leads the editorial team at PwC Mexico and is based in Mexico City. She has worked as an editor for Forbes and other publications that cover business in Mexico.

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Why can’t we talk about periods? | Jen Gunter

“It shouldn’t be an act of feminism to know how your body works,” says gynecologist and author Jen Gunter. In this revelatory talk, she explains how menstrual shame silences and represses — and leads to the spread of harmful misinformation and the mismanagement of pain. Declaring the era of the menstrual taboos over, she delivers a clear, much-needed lesson on the once-mysterious mechanics of the uterus.

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The shock of unemployment may push men into jobs traditionally held by women, study shows

Men who worked in male-dominated occupations and became unemployed were more likely to take jobs in female-dominated industries than men who changed jobs without a gap in their employment, the researchers found.

“One of the biggest takeaways is that economic conditions really matter for whether men go into female-dominated jobs,” said Jill Yavorsky, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who co-wrote the study. Unemployment, she said, “may act as a trigger event that encourages them to consider new alternatives.”

The latest jobs report showed that women outnumbered men among payroll jobs for only the second time, boosted by higher job growth in traditionally female fields such as health care and education. (The figures do not include self-employed workers or farmworkers — men still outnumber women in the total workforce.) Those industries are growing faster than fields dominated by men, such as manufacturing and goods production.

Christine Williams, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin who has researched what happens when men enter professions dominated by women, said she liked the authors’ description of unemployment as a “shock.” “You have to be somehow taken out of your routine. If you’re just sitting there talking to a guidance counselor, it may not jump out at you that you want to work in health care, but we’re in an economy right now where [not everyone] has a lot of options.”

The study, published in the January issue of the journal Social Science Research, examined eight years of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation. It found that among the men who worked in male-dominated industries or those with mixed-gender workforces — and then became unemployed — 19 percent chose to go into female-dominated occupations. Among men who did not experience a job loss, just 12 percent made a similar move.

The study also found that men who went into female-dominated jobs not only became employed again — they also experienced, on average, a 4 percent wage increase and a boost in the “prestige” rating of their occupation, compared with the one they had before they lost their jobs.

Yavorsky cited a couple of possible explanations. One may be that men are willing to take positions stigmatized as “pink-collar” jobs only if they are compensated more highly through pay or status. The other could be that some of the men in the sample who became unemployed were in jobs that paid even less than those dominated by women.

The growth in female-dominated occupations has largely been at the bottom and the top of the wage scale — with jobs such as home health aides on the low end and nurse practitioners on the high end, Yavorsky said. Meanwhile, jobs that have long offered women a path to the middle class are getting hollowed out, with more than 2.1 million administrative support and office support jobs shed since 2000.

Mike Ward, who recently finished a master’s program to become a nurse practitioner after 11 years as an emergency room and intensive care unit nurse, decided to go into nursing after being laid off as an oil field roughneck in 2000, working for a drilling company in the Gulf of Mexico. He bounced around for several years, fueling airplanes, working in a paper mill and doing jobs for an electrical company before finally qualifying for financial aid and getting into school in 2003.

He had long had an interest in medicine — but he said he had to look past stigmas associated with men going into nursing. “I was going from job to job [where] there was an income ceiling I couldn’t break through,” said Ward, 43, who is based in Fort Worth and now makes six figures and serves as vice president of the American Association for Men in Nursing. “My closest friends — they poked at me a little bit, but they’re not laughing anymore.”

Yavorsky is careful to note that “unemployment is not a viable strategy for getting more men to go into female-dominated jobs.” But she said employers may want to rethink how they pay jobs traditionally considered feminine or masculine, such as human resources and finance.

Indeed, a big recession with widespread unemployment happened not that long ago — but had a relatively minor effect on gender-based job segregation, notes Betsey Stevenson, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan who was also an economic adviser in the Obama administration.

“Think about how big the unemployment shock was in 2008, and we didn’t see a big realignment,” Stevenson said. Shifting the gender balance of different jobs will take more of a societal shift, she said.

“I think one of the challenges for men is we need to see more cultural images that reshape our notions of traditionally female jobs as actually being jobs that are more gender-neutral and more consistent with masculinity,” she said.

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New Jersey could soon become the nation’s first state to mandate severance for employees in mass layoffs

“When businesses go bankrupt or close, far too often, workers are given little notice or severance pay. We saw this happen right here in New Jersey last year when Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy,” lawmaker Annette Quijano (D), a primary sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “Employees deserve to be treated fairly, especially when they are forced to leave a job due to circumstances beyond their control.”

The bill, which only applies to employers with 100 or more full- or part-time workers laying off 50 or more people, was approved by the state’s Senate in December. It now goes to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

“We think this bill is a clear message that folks in New Jersey are holding businesses accountable,” said Terrysa Guerra, political director at United For Respect, an advocacy group that has worked with state lawmakers on the bill. She said the organization is exploring working with lawmakers on similar legislation in California, New York and Michigan.

Beth Hink, a former store manager for Payless ShoeSource in New Jersey, said she received only three days of severance following 19 years’ employment after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. Payless did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The retail apocalypse is not going away,” said Hink, who said she is still looking for work. “It’s not going to give [people] another job, and it’s not going to take away that stress, but it might give them a little peace of mind.”

Employment lawyers say the bill could have broad consequences.

For one, it could undercut employers’ ability to require a “release of claims,” or an agreement in exchange for severance pay that employees will not sue, said Alvaro Hasani, an employment attorney with Fisher Phillips. While that has typically been standard, “what’s unclear is whether that can be a continuing practice given the law,” Hasani said. “Under the [bill], the severance is characterized as wages owed, so you can’t bargain” on them, Hasani said.

Maxine Neuhauser, an attorney with Epstein Becker Green in Newark, said nonprofit employers could be in a bind if they suddenly lose out on government grants or funding. “My nonprofit clients are really concerned,” she said. “These are not folks who are being driven into bankruptcy by private equity companies. These are organizations trying to do good work.” Neuhauser said there are also questions about how the bill would interplay with bankruptcy law.

Christina Renna, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, said local business leaders opposed the bill, despite a number of alterations since it was first introduced. “This is an example of a piece of legislation that was a reaction to a really unacceptable situation,” she said. “It’s going to make New Jersey an outlier.”

Yet some employment lawyers say the bill has a chance of getting picked up elsewhere. “A lot of these employee protective laws are gaining traction,” said Neuhauser, pointing to paid sick leave and bans on salary history questions that have spread across several states. “They start to snowball. Do I think a law here has potential for being enacted in another state? My answer would be sure.”

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It’s time for the Iranian regime to talk to America

NOT SINCE the Ashura holiday, which some Shias mark by whipping themselves, had Iran witnessed so much self-flagellation. After three days of covering up the cause of the crash of a Ukrainian airliner near Tehran on January 8th, Iran’s leaders admitted that their own armed forces had mistaken the plane for an incoming cruise missile and shot it down, killing all 176 people on board. Hossein Salami, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said he was sorrier than he had ever been in his life and wished he had died on the plane himself.

Coming from someone else, such remorse might have soothed the public. But this is Iran, where only two months ago the state killed hundreds of protesters. After a pause to berate America for killing Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s most prominent general, on January 3rd, Iranians are furious with their rulers again. Thousands have taken to the streets to challenge the regime’s lies and incompetence. Meanwhile Britain, France and Germany have taken steps that could lead to the reimposition of UN sanctions over Iran’s nuclear activity. The hard men of Tehran face pressure from all sides. They are not responding well.

Start at home, where beneath all the unrest lie broader grievances over a collapsing economy, stagnant politics and unaccountable leaders (see article). The regime seems concerned mostly with self-preservation. Officials promised a transparent investigation of the crash only after incontrovertible evidence of their lies was broadcast. Even so, some are resorting to tired tactics to deflect blame. “We will investigate the extent to which US warmongering caused this event,” said a spokesman for the judiciary, adding that several people have been detained. One is a person whom the authorities say posted a video of the missile hitting the plane.

President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate by Iranian standards, says IRGC leaders should be prosecuted. But more conservative clerics and the Guards, who together wield the real power, are already stifling dissent. General Salami has sent his thugs to club protesters. On January 13th the Council of Guardians, an appointed group of clerics and jurists, disqualified 90 MPs, nearly a third of parliament, from running for re-election next month. Most are moderates. (Imagine Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury expelling all Labour MPs from Parliament. This is normal in Iran.)

So miserable is the situation, and so beaten down are the reformers, that some Iranians are pinning their hopes for change on the IRGC itself. After years of accumulating power, the Guards are in a position to challenge clerical rule and seek a rapprochement with America, or so the thinking goes. But such a volte-face is unlikely—and if the crash shows anything, it is that the IRGC needs to be reined in, not empowered. When he isn’t crushing protests, General Salami vows to continue Iran’s fruitless conflict with America.

The regime is not entirely to blame for the crisis with America. It was complying with the terms of a deal, signed in 2015, which curbed its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief. President Donald Trump pulled America out of it in 2018. Since then, though, Iran has needlessly alienated the deal’s European signatories. This month it lifted all limits on its production of enriched uranium, used to make energy—or a bomb. Britain, France and Germany responded on January 14th by triggering the deal’s dispute mechanism, which could ultimately kill it.

“Let’s replace it with the Trump deal,” says Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, perhaps hoping that Mr Trump would sign something like the current deal, but with his name on it—as he did with the North American Free Trade Agreement. That would be welcome but it is unlikely. For one thing, Iran’s leaders refuse to talk to Mr Trump. For most of the past 40 years they have chosen hostile posturing over constructive engagement. Iran is worse off as a result. Now would be a good time for the clerics to rethink their strategy.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “It’s time for the Iranian regime to talk to America”

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