The partners of Simon Associates Management Consultants are committed to helping young entrepreneurs, and particularly women entrepreneurs, take their ideas and turn them into successful business ventures. As part of our effort, in 2018 we started the Simon Initiative for Entrepreneurship through the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Washington University in St Louis.
Photo courtesy of Jake Pollock/NY Times
In soccer. In football. In basketball. Now in ski patrols. More and more, women today are breaking barriers and smashing glass ceilings in fields that traditionally have been men-only, not just in sports but across all disciplines: business, politics, medicine, law, tech...the list goes on.
Which causes me to ask the question: Is one of the reasons women are finally making strides in male-controlled fields and changing the status quo the fact that men themselves are changing too? The February 11, 2021 New York Times article, "A Surge of Women in Ski Patrols, Once Nearly All Men," speaks to this point. It describes how "as the number of women in ski patrols has increased, so has acceptance that the service, a network of volunteer and professional organizations nationwide dominated by men for decades, is finally catching up to the times."
Photo courtesy of Julio Cortez/Associated Press
In the NFL, women are finally breaking through
In the February 4th issue of The New York Times, there was an article entitled, “These Women Were N.F.L. ‘Firsts.’ They’re Eager for Company.” It discusses the many “firsts” in the NFL from team CEO (Amy Trask of the Oakland Raiders) to coaches (Maral Javadifar, an assistant strength and conditioning coach, and Lori Locust, a defensive-line assistant, both for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) to referee (Sarah Thomas who officiated Sunday’s Super Bowl) to the front office (Callie Brownson, chief of staff for the Cleveland Browns). And yet for all the shattering of glass ceilings, these groundbreaking women long for the day that being females in previously male-only roles in the NFL will be no big deal. Said Amy Task, who in 1997 became the Oakland Raiders chief executive and the first woman of that rank in the NFL, “What is really going to excite me is when this is no longer aberrational or when this is no longer something that’s noteworthy.”
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
Last week there was big news concerning the NFL’s Super Bowl. Sarah Thomas — the first woman to officiate a major college football game, the first to officiate a bowl game, the first to officiate in a Big Ten stadium, the first full-time female official in NFL history and the first to officiate an NFL playoff game — has been named to the referee crew for the 2021 Super Bowl, having officiated NFL games since 2015. Talk about a glass ceiling being smashed! This puts a woman squarely in the arena of what has traditionally been a men-only sport.
As Thomas told Steve Wyche of NFL NFL Total Access, “If you grade out at the top of your game, and that’s what I want to do, every game I want to be at the top of my game, if that puts me #1 to work a Super Bowl, I want to earn it and I want to be there.”
Thomas has definitely earned it and definitely deserves to be there. For women officials everywhere, it’s about time!
The October 26, 2020 New York Times article entitled “Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic, With ‘Nothing Off-Limits,’” does not offer an encouraging outlook for higher education. The article says that every institution, large and small, is being forced to initiate budget cuts to close widening gaps in financial shortfalls. Why? Less students, less fees, less meal and dormitory dollars, and more expenses, accelerating a trend that was already in the making!
Public institutions increasingly forced to do more with less, driving up the price
Combine The Times article with one from Astra Taylor in the October 30, 2020 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education where she writes, “Unfortunately, recent decades have been particularly hard on America’s fragile system of public higher education: State funding has been slashed, student debt has skyrocketed, and the for-profit college sector exploded. Higher education has become an ever-more costly commodity.” This article also presents a very bleak outlook for higher ed as it is currently constructed.
Recently there was an interesting article in The New York Times entitled, “The Pandemic Depression Is Over. The Pandemic Recession Has Just Begun.” So where does this leave us? It is safe to say that this is not the first time there has been major economic and social disruption in the history of this republic.
After WWII, we went from over-employment of women (during the war effort) to under-employment of this demographic group when returning veterans took back important jobs held by women. But those jobs (75-80 years ago) for the most part do not exist today as we move into the 4th industrial revolution. Over this time frame, we have moved from a heavy manufacturing economy to a technology and service industries economy.
A new economy requires new thinking and new agility
I have been around for a long time. Made some noticeably big decisions that have made some investors and myself a lot of money. But I have also made a lot of mistakes. Fortunately, not enough to sink the ship. And luckily some of them have turned out to be valuable lessons. So when someone asked me to write about those mistakes, I told them that I could literally write a book because I have made dozens of them…some big, some bad, and eventually, either repairable, avoidable or important lessons learned.
But I am not writing a book so let us focus on two of my mistakes that have been valuable. They fall into two categories: the first goes under analytics. And the second is almost directly opposite: intuition. Eventually, these two mistakes have allowed me to build healthy businesses, both for my clients and myself.
Like it or not, the future of remote work is upon us. All of us need to become more facile at communicating electronically and doing it wisely. In your own business, this might mean you need to prepare a new way of communicating. And, you can't wing it the way you might have done with in-person meetings. Agendas are necessary, and you need to understand new ways of engaging people virtually. But, there have always been meetings. So why the need to change now? Why are new tools even more important today than ever before?
At Simon Associates Management Consultants (SAMC), we help organizations innovate and change. And as Blue Ocean Strategists®, it is critical that we understand where the world is today and where it is trending for tomorrow. We know that the rate of change is accelerating year after year. Coupled with this is the wrinkle of COVID-19 and how we deal with this pandemic.
But for me, personally, I don’t want to talk about the big mega trends. I want to talk about my world. How I am affected by this crisis. What I see as trends from my corner. Perhaps you have adapted or adopted some of these new trends for yourself. Take a look and perhaps comment or give me something from your perspective.
These are chaotic times. And we are in crisis mode. And while there are significant problems, there are also great opportunities. We can re-create our companies and ourselves for the future. No doubt it’s going to be very different. The challenge, however, is that people are uncomfortable when there’s no certainty. What I am suggesting is that this is the time for us to begin to use new tools and to see how we can adapt ourselves, our companies, our staff and our customers in innovative ways.