July 6, 2022

You’re the Boss Blog: Do Men Treat Female Business Owners Differently?

She Owns It

Portraits of women entrepreneurs.

Susan Parker.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesSusan Parker.

There are many ways a factory can botch an order of dresses. Susan Parker spent the last month of 2011 dealing with a couple of them. She shared her experiences during the most recent meeting of our business group, and we wandered into a discussion of the challenges faced by women who own businesses, especially those operating in male-dominated industries like the garment business.

Most recently Ms. Parker, who owns Bari Jay, received an order of 600 prom dresses from China that looked beautiful — on the outside. Put one on, however, and “the entire lining would pop open,” she said. At first, Ms. Parker looked into getting the dresses fixed locally. She got an estimate of $12 a dress, plus the cost of new linings. The Chinese factory offered her $5 a dress toward the repairs. Ms. Parker said $5 hardly seemed fair given that the factory was “100 percent” responsible for the mess.

“You wanted 100 percent?” asked a group member, Alexandra Mayzler, who owns Thinking Caps Tutoring.

That was the goal, said Ms. Parker, who eventually got the factory to offer $8 a dress. But then she learned that, because of the severity of the problem, known as seam slippage, no local shops would touch the dresses for fear of completely destroying them.

The Chinese factory then suggested Ms. Parker sell the defective dresses to a discount retailer like T.J. Maxx. But she had customers who needed the dresses — and tight deadlines. “On top of that, I already paid for them, so if I sold them to T.J. Maxx how much am I going to get?” asked Ms. Parker, who told the group that most prom dress factories, including this one, won’t ship until they receive payment. (One member of the business group, Jessica Johnson, was unable to attend this meeting.)

Ms. Mayzler wondered why the factory couldn’t simply ship new dresses to Bari Jay. Ms. Parker responded that the costs, including new material, would be prohibitive. Plus, she would need to find a new buyer for the time-sensitive order.

After spending much of December negotiating with the factory, Ms. Parker said a solution is in sight. The factory has agreed pay the freight to ship the dresses back to China and to repair them without charge. It will cost between $3,000 and $3,600 to ship the fixed dresses back to the United States. Ms. Parker wants the factory to split those charges with Bari Jay. That issue remains unresolved. Ms. Parker will also have to pay duty of about $4,500 for a second time. She plans to submit a duty drawback form for reimbursement, working with a company that will take a percentage of her recovery. “It will probably take me a year, but hopefully I’ll get some, if not all, of it back,” she said.

To prevent further problems, Ms. Parker sent two quality control inspectors to check on the finished dresses, and those in progress. Going forward, the factory will send samples of all linings to Bari Jay for approval. Because the mistake was also costly for the factory, Ms. Parker is confident it will work hard to avoid a repeat.

In December, Ms. Parker also resolved a longstanding conflict with a different factory — this one in Southeast Asia. In early 2011, Bari Jay received a disastrous order of ill-fitting dresses that, Ms. Parker said, “didn’t look anything like they were supposed to look.”

At the time, Ms. Parker had a warm relationship with the factory, which has staff members in New York. The factory, she said, used this friendship to convince her not to cancel the order when it ran late. Although she worried there would be problems from the start, Ms. Parker said the factory promised to “be there for Bari Jay” if anything went wrong.

But the factory offered no help, she said, when the “atrocious” order arrived. Instead, it forcefully demanded full payment. “Every day they were coming down to see me, calling my cell, e-mailing me at night,” she said. “They wouldn’t leave me alone.”

“It’s like this bully tactic,” said a group member, Carissa Reiniger, who owns Silver Lining Limited.

“They wouldn’t do this with other men,” said Ms. Parker. She said she recently became friends with a representative of another factory who told her he had never seen the Southeast Asian factory behave so aggressively with a customer. The factory wouldn’t be pushing so hard, the new friend told her, referring to Ms. Parker and her sister, “if you weren’t girls.”

Eager to get beyond the matter, Ms. Parker agreed to pay the factory 50 percent of its fee — and figure out the rest once she settled with the store that had ordered the dresses (this factory invoiced Bari Jay upon shipment with payment due immediately, an arrangement Ms. Parker said resulted from their previous friendship). Because the factory wasn’t getting everything it wanted, Ms. Parker said, “I felt like I was winning.” But her new friend said that she and her sister were “just rolling over and playing dead.” He assured Ms. Parker that no one would ever pay his factory as much for such a disastrous order.

Once the deal was made and Bari Jay paid, Ms. Parker said the factory asserted it had been short-changed. Then, she said, the haggling began anew. “They think that because you’re a woman, you’re just going to cave at some point,” she said.

Ms. Reiniger agreed. Ms. Mayzler, however, said she did not believe she had faced this particular challenge as a female business owner: “I don’t really see it at all.”

Ms. Parker speculated that Ms. Mayzler’s experience is different because education isn’t a male-dominated industry.

“I was just going to say, we deal with men all the time,” said Ms. Reiniger.

There are a lot of women in education, Ms. Mayzler acknowledged. She added, however, that parents have yelled at her.

“I don’t think Susan and I are talking about speaking,” said Ms. Reiniger. “It’s not verbal — it’s a strategy to get what you want.” Ms. Reiniger added that she hates to “play the woman card” and hesitated even to join this business group because she sees herself as an entrepreneur who happens to be a woman. But she said the reality is that being a woman changes everything.

Ms. Reiniger explained her theory. “These guys can’t totally separate women and business because men have been tuned to see women in a certain way,” she said. “So, when a woman stands up and says, ‘No, I’m not paying for this,’ the guy’s reaction gets emotional.”

“Can I just play devil’s advocate?” asked Ms. Mayzler. She suggested that maybe the issue related to Ms. Parker’s perceptions. Perhaps the pushy factory would behave the same regardless of whether it was dealing with a male or female customer.

“But I know he doesn’t,” said Ms. Parker. “I know a million people who deal with him.” She said Bari Jay, however, will never use the factory again.

We’ll continue this conversation in future posts. In the meantime, let’s hear from female owners — and the men who do business with them. What’s been your experience?

You can follow Adriana Gardella on Twitter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=2654f4423f38f5204faa5761f2576d90

Bucks Blog: All Your Feelings About the Stock Market

Carl Richards

If you’re like me, you couldn’t help but feel a range of emotions this week as the stock market bumped up and down — even if you’re a long-term investor who ought to know better.

The severity of the up-down-up-down pattern really was far out of the ordinary, so it’s no surprise that even those of us who are supposed to preach calm for a living find ourselves a wee bit unnerved.

These reactions shouldn’t be surprising, given the reminder in the classic Carl Richards sketch that illustrates this post. Still, it’s worth putting a name to these feelings and confronting them, which I do with a handful of the most powerful ones in this week’s Your Money column.

Now it’s your turn. You don’t have to put your name on the comments here, so feel free to use yours as an online confession of your most visceral reaction to what went on this week. Here’s hoping you found a good way to contain your rage, disgust, greed and generalized discombobulation.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=83d5612dc2d0c8751d2995bf8e9f52ac

RSA Faces Angry Users After Breach

The company’s admission of the RSA tokens’ vulnerability on Monday was a shock to many customers because it came so long after a hacking attack on RSA in March and one on Lockheed Martin last month. The concern of customers and consultants over the way RSA, a unit of the tech giant EMC, communicated also raises the possibility that many customers will seek alternative solutions to safeguard remote access to their computer networks.

Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup said they planned to replace the tokens as soon as possible. The banks declined to say how many customers would be affected, although SAP said that most of its 50,000 employees used RSA’s tokens and that it was seeking to replace them all.

Defense industry officials said Tuesday that concerns about the tokens had prompted some of the nation’s largest military contractors to accelerate their plans to shift to computer smart cards and other emerging security technology.

The RSA tokens provide security by requiring users to enter a unique number generated by the token each time they connect to their networks.

Competitors eyeing the dominant market share of RSA are offering special deals like $5 rebates per token to customers that are considering a switch.

For now, however, the biggest worry for RSA is how to appease angry customers as well as mollify computer security consultants, who have been increasingly critical of how long it took the company to acknowledge the severity of the problem.

Industry officials said that Lockheed, the nation’s largest military contractor, made the security changes suggested by RSA after its attack in March. They included increased monitoring and addition of another password to its remote log-in process. Yet the hackers still got into Lockheed’s network, prompting security experts to say that the tokens themselves needed to be reprogrammed.

Arthur W. Coviello Jr., RSA’s executive chairman, made the offer in a letter posted on the company’s Web site on Monday. He said RSA was expanding the offer to companies other than military contractors, particularly those focused on protecting intellectual property and their corporate networks. He also said it was suggesting that banks use two additional RSA services to avert fraud in authenticating computer log-ins.

Mr. Coviello said in the letter that characteristics of the attack on RSA “indicated that the perpetrator’s most likely motive” was to steal security information that could be used to obtain military secrets and intellectual property. He said that RSA had worked with military companies to replace their tokens “on an accelerated timetable.”

Michael Gallant, an EMC spokesman, said, “We have not withheld any information that would adversely affect the security of our customers’ systems.”

“We provided very specific recommendations, we provided details of the attack, and we worked closely with customers to strengthen their overall security,” Mr. Gallant said.

The company’s admissions were too little, too late, industry experts said.

“They got pushed really hard by some of their customers, particularly in the financial services sector,” said Gary McGraw, chief technology officer for Cigital, a computer security consulting company based in Washington. “They came around, but they came around late.”

Mr. McGraw said that companies would be wise to replace RSA’s tokens and that some companies — banks, in particular — had done so. Like many people, he criticized RSA for failing to disclose the potential danger of the problem to its customers.

Until Monday, RSA said publicly and privately in meetings with customers that replacements were unnecessary, he said. “They shared their party line that everything is fine — pay no attention to the explosion in the corner,” Mr. McGraw said.

Reporting was contributed by Verne G. Kopytoff, Riva Richmond and Eric Dash.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f50d905b60d22630bec225c2074efce8

BP Tells Shareholders of Efforts to End Rosneft Rift

BP has been in a three-month legal battle with its Russian billionaire partners in its joint venture TNK-BP, who had blocked a potentially lucrative share-swap agreement with Rosneft, the state-controlled oil giant in Russia. BP won a last-minute respite Thursday in its efforts to salvage the Rosneft agreement when the two companies agreed to extend by another month the deadline to complete the deal.

The BP chief executive, Robert W. Dudley, played down the severity of the dispute, saying the company’s relationship with its TNK-BP partners was “noisy” but not “dysfunctional.”

“It’s not personal,” he said. “It’s business.”

“We’ve offered participation in the Arctic, we’ve offered cash, we’ve offered participation in international ventures,” Mr. Dudley told investors at BP’s annual shareholder meeting in London. “But we won’t offer a large amount or significant stake in BP because it’s not in the interest of shareholders.”

BP’s partners in TNK-BP rejected Mr. Dudley’s claims and said “BP has never made a constructive proposal to turn the Rosneft deal over to TNK-BP.”

The Russian partners are “not interested in the selective parts of the deal that BP feels it can give up,” Stan Polovets, a spokesman for the group, said in an e-mailed statement. “Now is the time for sensible proposals from BP to resolve the problems that have been created.”

Mr. Dudley said BP would be “working to bring about a resolution,” adding that “Russia is one of the world’s most important sources of oil and gas as well as a massive market. BP needs to be there. It is part of our strategy.”

BP now has until May 16 to persuade an arbitration tribunal to lift the block or settle with its partners in TNK-BP to allow the Rosneft deal to go ahead. The TNK-BP shareholders oppose the deal because they say it violates their shareholder agreement. BP’s shares fell 0.9 percent on Thursday in London.

BP made clear that it remained committed to TNK-BP and its business in Russia despite recent difficulties there. “Whilst life has not always been easy, TNK-BP has been a successful venture with superior returns,” BP’s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, said.

Some analysts said previously that BP’s options to salvage its Rosneft deal, which is valued at about $7.8 billion, include buying the stake in TNK-BP it does not already own. It could also let TNK-BP strike the agreement with Rosneft instead or sell the stake in TNK-BP, though that is less likely because the Russian venture accounts for about a third of BP’s oil production.

Apart from questions about Russia, BP’s management also faced angry comments from shareholders about how it handled the cleanup of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Julie Tanner, assistant director for social responsibility at Christian Brothers Investment Services, criticized BP’s board for not disclosing enough details about the spill. At one point, a handful of activists protesting BP’s tar sands activities approached the stage and were carried out of the room by security staff.

Outside the Excel convention center in the east of London, about 30 people, including fishermen from the United States, gathered to protest BP’s role in the oil spill. They banged drums and held up banners. Some shareholders were refused entry to the meeting, Mr. Svanberg said, because they appeared to have a plan to disrupt the meeting.

David Jolly contributed reporting from Paris.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/business/global/15bp.html?partner=rss&emc=rss