American Capitalism is Broken and Cindy Gallop Knows How to Fix It
I've known of Cindy Gallop, the outspoken founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, since I watched her TED talk from the audience in 2009. I remember sitting there in complete awe of her. She was brazen, confident, unapologetic. She wore leather pants and talked about having sex with younger men, which led to her idea to launch a network where young men (and women) could get a more realistic and healthy depiction of sex. I thought she was the coolest human being in the universe. So, when I received a message from Cindy later that year in response to a rant I posted on YouTube (now private...sorry), I almost fell off of my chair. Ever since then, we've been friends and champions of one another's work.
Today, I'm even more thrilled to have her as a guest on our podcast, Anatomy of a Strategy, because since we met, she's become the beacon of courage for so many women in the marketing and advertising world (as well as entrepreneurs). Her talks at the 3% Conference are shared far and wide and used by many (including me) as daily affirmations:
"I'm not crazy." "I deserve better." "Things need to change and I have the power to change them." "I won't let him steal my ideas any longer." "I don't have to take the mansplaining." etc etc
The f%^k this sh%t audacity in her approach is so much more empowering than the LeanIn movement ever was for most of us. We leaned in and got harassed, hit on, told we were "too much," and penalized. Some of us learned to play dirty to get around it, some of us laid low and did 10x the work and hoped they would receive recognition (sometimes it happened, mostly it didn't) and some of us said "f%^k this sh%t" and left to find greener pastures (there aren't many).
We leaned in and got harassed, hit on, told we were "too much," and penalized.
I appreciate everything that Cindy says and does and, beyond her brazen, unapologetic confidence, she has a gargantuan amount of perseverance to boot.
But what she promotes isn't just about women or people of color. What she promotes is good for everyone. Several news articles and discussions of late have got me thinking that what Cindy has been saying for the longest time is innately tied to all of the things that seem to be incredibly broken in America (I'm Canadian, but am directly affected and see it seeping into my own country):
One particular news item that stands out is Chris Hughes' (co-founder of Facebook) in-depth Op-Ed in the New York Times with the title It’s Time to Break Up Facebook. In the article, he writes, "In the past 20 years, more than 75 percent of American industries, from airlines to pharmaceuticals, have experienced increased concentration, and the average size of public companies has tripled. The results are a decline in entrepreneurship, stalled productivity growth, and higher prices and fewer choices for consumers." In a follow-up interview with Kara Swisher on the Recode Decode podcast, Hughes talks about how the current state of American capitalism is focused on domination and growth at the expense of everything else. This is not Adam Smith's capitalism, it's something else.
I believe that something else is what happens when you concentrate wealth and power and control with one group of people. Now, before anyone goes all #NotAllMen on me, I agree that not all men fit into the category of this toxic behavior. I'm married to a man who doesn't fit that description, Chris Hughes is a white male (although he's gay), and I've both worked with and enjoyed friendships with men who don't fit that bill. I'd even say that the MAJORITY of men don't fit that bill. But these aren't the men that generally gain power or build Facebooks. They don't because they stop to consider balancing growth with human consequences. Instead of saying, "Let's do that and worry about the consequences later," then say, "Wait. Before we do that, let's take stock of the negative implications of what we're doing"
Does success mean that you have to dominate? Does it have to mean 'endless' growth?
I've heard these men say these things. These are men like Brian Chesky of AirBnB, Ben Silbermann of Pinterest, Stewart Butterfield of Slack, and the list goes on. They've all built fantastic companies without having to sacrifice human lives along the way. Maybe they won't ever be the size of Facebook or Microsoft or Google, but why does that even matter? Does success mean that you have to dominate? Does it mean endless growth? Or does success mean that you build something that matters and that you can retire comfortably someday?
I don't want to generalize or stereotype, but I do think that there is something in mostwomen that values the latter. To me, success means that I get to a point where I can go on a vacation or relax on a weekend without feeling like I'm not doing enough. It means that I have enough that I can get off of the hamster-wheel of survival and start thinking about how I can give back and help others off of the hamster-wheel. Success, for me, is creating a company that values diversity and helps grow the careers of future leaders, and where I can help fellow entrepreneurs get a leg up as well. When I got to the point with Truly where I could pay myself enough to be able to become a SheEO Activator, I felt like I had achieved a level of success.
And I'm not alone. As Cindy says in our conversation:
"The reason I say to women, "I want you to make an absolute Godd*&m f&*king sh&t ton of money," is because when we all do that, then we can fund other women. We can support other women. We can help other women, we can donate to other women."
It's true. I witness it all of the time. The more successful women get, the more they give back. And this isn't an "I have too many billions, so I'm opening a charity," thing, it's an "I did better in my business this year than I expected, so I'm going to reinvest that money into people who don't already get all of the money."
And if you think that this is what already happens, you'd be wrong. Dana Kanze's TED Talk titled The real reason female entrepreneurs get less funding is based on rigorous studies into why women in the US start 38 percent of the businesses but only get 2 percent of the funding. What she found was that the bias against women is real, even down to the types of questions women are asked. While men are asked questions about the potential of the business, women tend to be asked questions about the risks of the business. Not only is this bias damaging to the women seeking growth capital, but it's damaging to the investors.
Study upon study has been published that shows that diversity (or even just women-led) in organizational leadership improves the bottom line. I'm not going to go into why, but suffice it to say that our perception of who makes for a great leader or entrepreneur is screwed up and it's very much tied to the worship of domination and endless growth. Capitalism isn't supposed to be a zero-sum game. It's supposed to create broader prosperity.
I know I've gotten way off track with this, but I do see what Cindy is talking about being intrinsically tied to what Chris Hughes is getting at and what Dana Kanze uncovered.
I'm not sure how we got to the place where domination and winner-takes-all thinking became the justified, celebrated and preferred outcome of building a business, but as Cindy says, the way we fix all of this is by diversifying leadership. It's the only way that capitalism will work for everyone...when everyone has the (real, not perceived) opportunity to lead.
Listen to the full conversation here: