An open letter to Warren Buffet and Bill Gates

It has been said in many research reports that the way to improve the lot of the world is to educate women.  “Sure” I have heard in response, “because those models assume what women will do AFTER they have been educated.”  Yes, they have fewer children, are more capable of combating illness and disease in their homes and communities, and yes they feel empowered to become leaders in their immediate locales.  But lest we forget the lessons of Iraq and much of the Middle East as it became awash in fundamentalism (or our own country for that matter), women can be bloody PhD’s and get persecuted for their “education”.  That makes them very capable, don’t you think?

I do believe the formal, scientific and humanistic education of women is essential.  Do not get me wrong.  But there must be attention paid to what happens after said educations.  In the U.S. I know many educated women, highly educated in fact.  They are capable, responsible, funny women on the whole.  Several have blazed their own paths in areas not traditionally run by women.  But there are still power games, sexism, and established ways of doing things that prevent many of these women from getting their best done.  Hence the proposal for Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, two good friends who pride themselves on being practical, innovative people.

Consider that one of the criticisms of the U.S. is that it has slipped quite a bit in how well educated, literate, and scientifically able it’s people are on the whole.  Consider that innovation in products is a lament.  Any anthropologist with a brain in her head can tell you to go to the source of problems, and ask what the people directly involved think and do.  So Mr. Buffet and Mr. Gates- form a think tank.   Hire my friend Carolyn who has worked for IBM research her whole life and is tired of that wage slave arena.   She is very smart, disciplined, and experienced at being a creative problem-solver.  Hire Jennifer, an experienced anthropologist who moved across the country because her job and her husband’s could not be reconciled (she had to give up hers).  She is a practical, innovative, smart woman who is underutilized.  Hire me, who did PhD work in cognitive/educational psychology and is off the academia ladder.  Hire more women in their 40’s looking for transitions, those educated women in engineering, anthropology, psychology, education and the like, those very capable women who are underutilized in their ability to improve the lot of the world.  Go ahead and write the mission statement, and let them shape it.  Have them meet in a physical space on a quarterly basis, and produce white papers on topics of everyday objects, how to green and innovate, and frame problems in the best ways to think about them.  Save money on other regular meetings by- here’s Mr. Gates investment- meeting virtually the rest of the time.  The real innovation for women is respecting their complex family lives.  Many are either caring for aging parents, their own children, or have extended lives into their communities that require actual physical presence most of the time.  Let them do their job as a group for 3-5 years.  Then look at what they have produced.  Kill the project if you don’t find it useful, tweak and extend it if you do.  Oh, and pay them living wages as employees of the think tank.  You will, I am betting, find this project more worthwhile than you ever anticipated.  Funding for research in the U.S. is at a low point, and this project could spawn others.  Take a chance gentlemen.  What have you got to lose?