Category Archives: Cheryl’s blog entries

Entries by Cheryl Jensen

Investing in Women: State Farm Insurance

Cheryl offers:  I met a truly interesting man today at First Friday Book Synopsis; his name is Dean Rubsamen. He works for my insurance company, State Farm. Though he’s not my agent, in a manner of speaking, he is. What I learned was my insurance company is changing their ways in order to give women what we want. If you’ve read either the HBR article “The Female Economy” or the book Women Want More both written by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, you’d know there’s a huge emerging opportunity for many businesses to capture the multi-trillion dollar sized female market. Yes, that “t” is correct; it’s not an “m” or a “b”. In the book, the research is clear about what women want and what is missing from today’s offerings in several key areas: food, fitness, beauty, apparel and financial services. We want convenience that saves us time, products that fit our needs, to be treated as intelligent consumers, and we are willing to trade up to get it.  State Farm recognizes this opportunity and is doing something about. In the words of Melanne Vermeer, cofounder and chair of Vital Voices Global Partnership, “Without women’s full participation, no country can prosper, but in order to tap their potential, women need the tools for effective leadership. There is no better investment for our world.” I’ve been with State Farm for years based on their service; now I’m with them because they are innovative.

Hard Work Pays Off for Gen Y

Cheryl offers: I frequently hear people talking about our young generation graduating from college these days. Many times the comments just aren’t generous. My teaching experience at SMU has been just the opposite, so I’m often puzzled by this apparent gap in perceptions. The story coming out of Indiana from the University of Notre Dame to be precise is just another reminder that today’s young people are hard working, smart trailblazers. Katie Washington, will be the first black student to graduate with the honor of being the class valedictorian. She’s a biology major with a minor in Catholic social teaching carrying a perfect 4.0. And I can tell she’s a leader; her comment regarding her honors tell it all. “I am humbled. I am in a mode of gratitude and thanksgiving right now.” Does that sound like someone who feels entitled, is lazy, or lacks a work ethic? Not to me. And if you think this is no big deal, think again. Research tells us this is a monumental accomplishment because being a woman of color “combines the stereotype about race with gender stereotypes to present even greater challenges for women” according to Women and Leadership by Barbara Kellerman and Deborah L. Rhode.  I cannot fathom how much hard work, determination and guts achieving this great honor must have taken this young woman. She’s off to study medicine at Johns Hopkins and some day she’ll likely be a great researcher or physician. I can only hope to live long enough to be the recipient of her good work.

Councilwoman Creates New Rules – no permission required!

Cheryl offers:  Not only is Angela Hunt the youngest person, elected at age 33, to serve on the Dallas City Council, she’s also the first to have a baby while in office.  What’s even more interesting is what she plans to do next. In today’s DMN, she says “I’ll be bringing her (she had a girl) to City Hall.” Whoa! And it’s better still later in the article when she says she plans to work from home a couple days a week. Who did she ask if this was OK? No one as best I can tell and I applaud her for taking charge, being a trailblazer for women who serve later, and for being the kind of leader and role model we need today.  I don’t know if she’s read Womenomics: write your own rules for success by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, but she certainly gets the concepts from the book. As they convey in their book, “Instead of feeling guilty, as we imagine our female predecessors might think about our choices to scale back the work hours, or what our ethnic community or even family might think, we need to understand that most of those people would be awed by what we’ve already accomplished, which is that we’ve earned the ability to decide. And in fact, exercising this ability will help build a world our successors will be thankful for. “No kidding! Angela Hunt has been and is continuing to create new precedents. I suspect the women who follow in that path will be forever grateful for offering them choices they might never have imagined.

General Motors and Bluebonnets

Cheryl offers:  My favorite flowers are blooming now; they are Texas bluebonnets. I’ve always favored them above all other wild flowers. One reason is blue is a fairly uncommon color in flowers, they grow wherever they are planted which is frequently in poor soil, and they endure without a lot of care. When I saw them this past week, I thought of Tom Morris’ book, If Aristotle Ran General Motors. Now if the title didn’t ring a little ironic, Tom’s background might. He was a professor of philosophy for 15 years at Notre Dame who came to believe we cannot solve today’s problems without the wisdom of the ancients.  Tom’s book was written in 1997, long before GM’s current problems were apparent.  The book contains some great advice for corporations based on 4 key values of human excellence: Truth, Beauty, Goodness and Unity.  They are directly co-related to the 4 key dimensions of human experience: intellectual, aesthetic, moral and spiritual. My favorite quote from the book is “The beautiful is as useful as the useful. More so, perhaps.” from Victor Hugo.  Morris does a great job in the book admonishing leaders to make sure they think about the aesthetics of work and business because they are important to people. Where do you feel most relaxed, creative, refreshed and alive? Looking at a beautiful sunrise, sunset, lake or checking out the carpet in your cubicle? Beauty is important to all of us. If only more leaders had appreciated and read this book, maybe GM wouldn’t be in the pickle they are in. For me, bluebonnets are an annual reminder to appreciate the beauty of excellent work, innovative ideas, and the look when someone says “Ah-ha!”

Thanks Caitlin, for a Great Story!

Cheryl offers: There is a reporter at CNN named Caitlin Hagan that I really like. Her latest achievement is today’s story about a surgeon at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. It seems his patient, a young Afghani soldier who had been brought there with a serious head injury, was also quite dangerous to himself and those around him without even knowing it. What they initially thought was shrapnel turned out to be a live bullet that had not detonated.  After multiple tests confirmed the identity of the object, an explosive ordnance disposal team was summoned.  That’s when Major John Bini, who oversees all major trauma cases there, became what Jim Collins defines in his book Good to Great a Level 5 leader.  Bini took all the precautions necessary such as donning body armor under his scrubs, dismissing all non-essential personnel from the premises, removing sources of electricity in the operating room, manually administering the procedures for the operation and when he couldn’t use clamps or a scalpel close to the bullet, he pulled the object out with his hands.  When it was all over, he calmly deflected praise and instead pointed to the soldiers who are in the field as the ones deserving praise. Collins defines a Level 5 leader as someone who “Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”  Dr. Bini saw this as his job because he is the director of the emergency surgery course, nothing more, nothing less. To me, that is greatness, courage, and humility.  Who wouldn’t want to follow that leader?

Do You Have a WOMEN-CENTRIC Home?

Cheryl offers:  My friend Bob Morris recently loaned me the book Women Want More by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, two consultants who are making a mint being experts on what women want and how/where they are willing to spend their money. Did you know the female economy was larger than the estimated GDP of India and China combined over the next 5 years? Well, it is and by a large proportion. One quote seems to sum it up “The rise of the worldwide female economy will challenge assumptions about how companies do research, how they develop products, how they sell merchandise, and how they add services to their value proposition.” 

It seems some homebuilders have followed their advice by designing and building “WOMEN-CENTRIC” homes.  Kim Sliney, a 46-year-old interior designer in Rhode Island turned down 37 houses while looking for a new home; she almost gave up…until she drove past a development advertising WOMEN-CENTRIC homes. What does that mean you ask? Instead of the run of the mill jumble of rooms and space, she purchased a home with killer walk-in closets(sigh), spacious open living areas, and custom details like crown molding, granite countertops, and a gas fireplace – all at no extra cost. What else might it include? The other details a woman might want of course: security system, walk in pantries and “drop zones” for groceries, plus low maintenance. It seems there is a company in Omaha that has been teaching and certifying home builders to be WOMEN-CENTRIC for several years. (Really, in Omaha?) For a measly $10,000 a year, you can also use their logo in your marketing.  Michael and Kate aren’t kidding when they stated the female economy will challenge assumptions. Obviously for anyone looking to expand their business into new markets, innovate, or challenge competition differently, this is one aspect worth looking into. And I want one!