TIME Davos

This Is Why There Aren’t More Women at Davos

General Motors CEO Mary Barra attends the Automotive World Congress on Jan. 14, 2015 in Detroit.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra attends the Automotive World Congress on Jan. 14, 2015 in Detroit. Paul Warner—Getty Images

This year only 17% of Davos participants are women. That number doesn’t reflect how bad gender diversity in global leadership really is

As the world’s most formidable leaders prepare to gather at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, the event’s glaring lack of gender diversity has once again been brought to the public’s attention. Of the 2,500 participants, only 17% of Davos’ participants will be women.

Learn more about what to expect in Davos from Fortune’s video team:

That number may seem low—but it’s up from last year’s 15%.

Despite the criticism, Davos gender breakdown is merely a reflection of a global reality. CEOs like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and General Motors Mary Barra get a lot of press, but they’re outliers. The vast majority of the world’s largest companies are led by men: In Fortune‘s Global 500, only 3.4% of companies have female chief executives.

It’s slightly—only slightly—better in politics. Women make up 6% of all heads of state and 8% of all heads of government.

And, of course, women are famously underrepresented in the boardroom. Only 11% of board seats at the world’s largest and best-known companies are occupied by women.

But targeting Davos misses the point. Yes, the fact that the organization (which bills itself as “committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation”) doesn’t go above and beyond to engage more women is an issue. But it’s not the crux of the problem.

Consider this: Last year, the World Economic Forum did make a concerted effort to recruit more women to its annual meeting. It created a gender quota system, requiring large corporations to bring one woman for every four men who attend Davos. The quota won’t do much, though, if women aren’t crowding companies’ corner offices. As Barri Rafferty, CEO of Ketchum North America, pointed out in an interview with Fortune’s Caroline Fairchild, “If your company is going to send five people, they are going to look at their C-Suite people, which likely has fewer women.”

So really, who’s to blame for the lack of women at Davos: The World Economic Forum or the corporations themselves?

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME Autos

General Motors Open to Working With Google on Self-Driving Cars

‘We’d certainly be open to having a discussion with them,’ Jon Lauckner said in an interview at the Detroit auto show

‘We’d certainly be open to having a discussion with them,’ Jon Lauckner said in an interview at the Detroit auto show.

General Motors is open to working with Google on developing self-driving car technology, the chief technology officer for the U.S. automaker said on Monday.

“I’m not in charge of deciding what we will and won’t do, but I’d say we’d certainly be open to having a discussion with them,” Jon Lauckner said in an interview at the Detroit auto show.

Lauckner made his comments two days before the head of Google’s self-driving car project, Chris Urmson, is scheduled to speak at a conference held annually in conjunction with the auto show. Urmson is expected to announce his company’s plans to seek partnerships within the auto industry.

‘We’d certainly be open to having a discussion with them,’ Jon Lauckner said in an interview at the Detroit auto show.

General Motors is open to working with Google on developing self-driving car technology, the chief technology officer for the U.S. automaker said on Monday.

“I’m not in charge of deciding what we will and won’t do, but I’d say we’d certainly be open to having a discussion with them,” Jon Lauckner said in an interview at the Detroit auto show.

Lauckner made his comments two days before the head of Google’s self-driving car project, Chris Urmson, is scheduled to speak at a conference held annually in conjunction with the auto show. Urmson is expected to announce his company’s plans to seek partnerships within the auto industry.

Self-driving cars have been a hot topic for both companies in recent months. GM CEO Mary Barra made headlines in the fall when she said that some GM cars would have limited driverless tech, such as the ability to detect pedestrians, by 2017. She also announced that GM would be part of the team building 120 miles of so-called “autonomous” highway — roads with sensors that enable communication between cars — around Detroit.

And Google’s driverless car ambitions are well-known. Just last month, the Silicon Valley giantunveiled the first fully-functioning prototype of a driverless car. This model doesn’t really look like any car you’ve seen on the road, and certainly doesn’t look like something GM would produce — it looks more like something you’d see in a 1960s science fiction movie.

Combining these two perspectives and histories — GM’s ability to make cars that people actually want to buy with Google’s ability to innovate and push the technology envelope — could make a lot of sense in terms of ushering in the future of autonomous cars. Just how an arrangement might work, though, is a question.

“You have to figure out how would something like that actually work,” Lauckner said. “Would it be something where it would be an opportunity to work together in a joint development agreement?”

—Reuters contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Autos

CEO Mary Barra Vows to Get Over GM’s Recall Crisis

The New York Times 2014 DealBook Conference
General Motors CEO Mary Barra speaks onstage during The New York Times DealBook Conference at One World Trade Center on Dec. 11, 2014 in New York City. Thos Robinson — Getty Images

She wants to focus on growing sales in the U.S. and China

Battled hardened General Motors chief executive Mary Barra pledged on Thursday to move past last year’s recall fiasco, which saw millions of small cars with defective ignition switches recalled.

“It was clearly a tragedy, and it was deeply troubling,” Barra told reporters this week as she unveiled new plans for 2015, according to the New York Times.

Barra says the company aims to expand its sales in the U.S. and China this year and is sharpening its sights on European markets.

“We have many launches this year, and we are going into them to win, not just to compete,” she said.

Read more at NYT

TIME Auto

GM is Bringing Shopping and Hotel Reservations to Your Car

General Motors logo is shown at the General Motors Technical Center.
General Motors logo is shown at the General Motors Technical Center. Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

Now OnStar can get you a cheaper cruller

Your car is already the way you get where you’re going. Soon, it will make sure you’ll have something to do when you get there.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show, starting today in Las Vegas, General Motors will debut a few big additions to its OnStar services. The new feature, called “AtYourService,” will be able to hook drivers up with retailers, providing them with general information and sometimes deals and coupons.

It will also be able to make hotel reservations — which could come in useful if you’re on one of those road trips without a specific itinerary and you’re looking for a place to rest your head on relatively short notice.

Initial retail partners for the AtYourService include Dunkin’ Donuts and Priceline.com. RetailMeNot and Entertainment Book will be providing the coupons, and Amazon’s Audible.com will be providing audio book content. A new feature sure to please people who drive into unfamiliar cities with any frequency will be parking information provided by Parkopedia.

GM and other auto makers are all tinkering with ways to make their vehicles more “connected,” a range of features that has led to some experimentation among manufacturers as they angle to offer the right mix of real-time data often found on smartphones. Connected car services of all kinds have become standard on many new cars and trucks, according to Edmunds.com. Some of the features GM is touting, such as the parking information, have been featured in offerings by BMW and other auto makers.

Among the other OnStar features that will also be rolled out this summer — driver feedback.

Customers will be able to sign up for a service that tells them how they’re driving. If its good enough, users could be eligible for discounts through Progressive Insurance.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Michigan

General Motors to Debut Detroit’s First Shipping Container Home

Shipping Container Homestead
An unusual home takes shape inside General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Detroit, intended to be part of a movement to rebuild the city’s economy and deteriorating, disappearing housing stock. Carlos Osorio—AP

The city emerging from bankruptcy has roughly 40,000 vacant homes waiting to be demolished

(DETROIT) — An unusual home taking shape inside General Motors’ sprawling Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant is intended to be part of a movement to rebuild the city’s economy and deteriorating, disappearing housing stock.

Skilled-trades workers, taking breaks from their tasks at the factory that produces the electric Chevrolet Volt and other vehicles, dart in and out to do door, window and wall installation and framing, as well as electrical and plumbing work. Meanwhile, a nonprofit urban farming group is preparing property a few miles away that will welcome the project, what’s believed to be the city’s first occupied shipping container homestead.

Come spring, the house-in-progress will be delivered to Detroit’s North End neighborhood and secured on a foundation where a blighted home once stood. After finishing touches and final inspections, the 40-foot-long former container will feature 320 square feet of living space with two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen, and will serve as home base for a university-student caretakers of a neighborhood farm and agricultural research activities.

One shipping container home won’t turn around Detroit’s housing woes. The city emerging from bankruptcy has roughly 40,000 vacant homes waiting to be demolished. But it’s a start and, organizers hope, a model to lure and keep residents as Detroit removes blight and recovers from bankruptcy.

Shipping containers converted into living or working spaces are common in some other cities. For instance, in Salt Lake City’s rundown warehouse district, a nonprofit group last year converted them into “micro-retail” spaces. A Seattle-based company designs and builds houses out of reclaimed containers.

Containers have been modified for both basic and luxury living elsewhere. But Tyson Gersh of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is unaware of another project involving a major manufacturer and nonprofit designed to serve many socio-economic needs through what he calls “social innovation.”

Organizers hope the container project can lure millennials who don’t want their grandfather’s bungalow yet also provide predominantly poor, longtime residents with a low-cost housing alternative.

“Finding a place where both those communities can find common ground is beautiful,” said Gersh, president and co-founder of the group that operates a farm and owns property in the North End, where blight and vacancy are common, but so are signs of residential and commercial renewal. “It’s scalable, works for everyone and it’s also not going to ruin the environment. It’s easier to maintain and can repurpose existing materials.”

Gersh said reusing the containers and other components has environmental benefits but points out that people working solely toward that end “are doing it from a position of privilege,” and that’s “not what Detroit is.”

For its part, the automaker met with Gersh and others from the farming group a couple years ago, and the container home idea immediately resonated. GM spokesman David Darovitz said it fits with the company’s goals of reducing landfill waste while boosting reuse and recycling of materials. For instance, the home’s front door had been discarded by the plant and was salvaged on its way to the landfill.

“I loved the creative idea of taking and reusing an old shipping container and giving new life,” Darovitz said. “It can be used as a model for a bigger idea that’s structurally sound.”

Both GM and the nonprofit see the potential to grow the idea and are exploring ways to continue. But first they must finish a process that’s faced many challenges, including the long wait for the existing home on the lot to default into tax auction and finding a functional sewer line.

Another roadblock to building more storage container homes is figuring out how to price them. Now, Darovitz said, there is nothing to assess them against, since neighboring lots often are blighted or vacant.

Still, those involved aren’t deterred and view the effort as a microcosm of the kind needed to rejuvenate Detroit. They take inspiration from how city, state and federal officials forged deals with financial institutions and lassoed philanthropic organizations to save pensions and city-owned artwork and get through bankruptcy.

“That is Detroit — that’s what’s happening,” Gersh said. “It takes a village to make a functional city.”

 

TIME Companies

GM CEO Won’t Receive Women’s Award Amid Protests

GM CEO Mary Barra Addresses Detroit Economic Club
General Motors Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra address the Detroit Economic Club October 28, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. Barra announced that GM will be investing $540 million in its plants in Michigan. $240 million of that will be invested in the company's Warren Transmission Plant, allowing them to produce the transmissions for the next-generation Chevrolet Volt in Michigan, as opposed to in Mexico. Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

The museum said it was not presenting Mary Barra with the award “at this time”

The National Women’s History Museum has agreed not to bestow an award on General Motors CEO Mary Barra amid objections over the company’s delayed recall of vehicles with a faulty ignition switch.

Barra was slated to receive the museum’s Katharine Graham Living Legacy Award at a ceremony next Monday in Washington, D.C., but GM said late Wednesday that she was no longer going, the Detroit News reports.

The museum said it was not presenting the award “at this time.”

Activists and family members of people hurt or killed in accidents involving the faulty ignitions voiced opposition to the award this week. “We believe that Barra should focus on GM’s remaining safety problems before traveling around the country to accept awards,” Peter Flaherty, the president of the National Legal Policy Center, wrote in a letter to the museum.

The faulty ignition-switch has been linked to 32 deaths and led the automaker to recall 2.59 million vehicles in February.

TIME Autos

GM Will Pay You $25 to Get Your Faulty Ignition Switch Fixed

As some 1 million vehicles with defect remain on the road

The automaker announced Tuesday it will offer a $25 gift card to car owners who have a faulty ignition switch repaired, as some 1 million vehicles with the defect are thought to remain on the road.

Just 1.26 million, or 53%, of the 2.6 million GM cars recalled earlier this year have been repaired, the New York Times reports, leaving many people continuing to drive or travel in cars that can suddenly turn off or suffer from disabled steering, brakes and air bags. The defect has been linked to at least 30 deaths.

Drivers whose cars are fixed in November have a choice of $25 cards to Amazon, AMC Theaters, Applebee’s, Bass Pro Shops, Red Robin, Starbucks or Walmart.

[NYT]

TIME Autos

Death Toll Linked to GM Ignition Switch Defect Rises to 29

GM Hearing
Family members of people killed due to a faulty ignition switch watch a House hearing on April 1, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call / Getty Images

Two new death claims approved by compensation program

The number of deaths linked to a faulty ignition switch in General Motors vehicles rose to 29 on Monday, according to a new report, after two new death claims were approved by the program that will compensate victims and their families.

The fund has received more than 1,500 claims since its establishment on Aug. 1, including 184 submissions for death claims, Reuters reports. All 29 deaths, and another 27 injuries, have been determined to be eligible for compensation so far, finds the report released by the office of Kenneth Feinberg, who is heading the compensation effort.

GM launched the fund amid withering criticism for its failure to address the defect after several employees within the company noted the problem at least 11 years before any action was taken to resolve it.

[Reuters]

MONEY Tech

Why Apple is Not a Tech Company

hand pulling iPhone box off shelf
Maxim Shemetov—Reuters

Peter Thiel argues that buying Apple means betting against innovation.

As the founder of PayPal, and the one of the first external investors in Facebook, it’s hard to argue that Peter Thiel doesn’t understand innovation or technology companies. But in his new book, Zero to One, Thiel takes somewhat of a radical approach to these concepts, drawing a line in the sand that may irk many traditional tech firms, as well as their investors.

Despite being both the largest and most well-known firm in The Valley, Thiel’s personal opinion is that Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 3.1133% isn’t much of an innovator these days: Just a few years ago, Apple’s stock was a bet on new technology — today, it’s a bet against it (at least according to Thiel).

In a recent phone interview, Thiel told me why he doesn’t consider firms like Apple, and most of the members of the Nasdaq 100, to be technology companies, and what that might mean for their investors.

An odd transformation

Thiel has somewhat of a problem with the concept of a “tech firm” — or at least, what people generally define one to be. In Thiel’s mind, true technology companies are firms leveraged to innovation — to new business models designed to shake up the status quo. Plenty of firms begin their life as a tech company, but those that find success often become something quite different.

“A whole bunch of the Nasdaq 100 stocks are bets against innovation … it’s a long list. [There’s] a very short list of companies where you’re actually betting on innovation … Most of [the members of the Nasdaq 100] just throw off huge cash flows, and the risk is actually that there’s some innovation ….These companies are always described as ‘tech stocks’ because they were tech stocks … at some point in the past, but [today] they’re bets against technology.”

Although most still consider Apple, Oracle, and Microsoft to be technology firms, few hold the same opinion of General Motors. Yet according to Thiel, it’s all relative — simply a matter of timing and perspective.

“GM was a tech stock in the 1920s — it was still sort of a tech stock in the 1950s. [But] by the 1980s, you invested in GM as a bet against German and Japanese innovation. You said, ‘I’m long GM because Germany and Japan are never going to build cars that are that good.’ At some point, a lot of these tech stocks become weirdly changed to being bets against technology … [Of course] the companies can never say that, because their internal narrative and their external story is [based] so much around how they were historically innovative.”

Know what you’re buying

Admittedly, General Motor’s transformation from technology firm to incumbent took decades, but Thiel believes the shift is often far more straight-forward: Simply look for the founder to depart. With Apple, the change occurred just over three years ago, with the passing of Steve Jobs that thrust Tim Cook into the spotlight.

Thiel is a fan of Cook’s management skills (“I think Tim Cook has done a very good job in an impossible position to try to fill Steve Jobs’ shoes,” he told me) but believes the Apple story is fundamentally different with him at the helm: Once, people bought stock in Apple because it was creating revolutionary new products — today, it’s all about the cash flow.

“No one is investing in Apple because they think it will create new products. People are investing in Apple because it’s generating massive cash flows, and the bet is that the cash flows will go on [for] somewhat longer than people think … that the rest of the world will not innovate; will not succeed in closing the gap.”

While plenty of investors may disagree with Thiel (the new Apple Watch, for one, gives investors something to look forward to) it’s indisputable that Apple is generating billions of dollars of cash, largely on the back of one product: the iPhone. Apple generated $10.3 billion in cash flow alone last quarter — enough to acquire many members of the S&P 500 outright. The iPhone brings in more than half of Apple’s revenue, and likely the bulk of its profits.

Not a bad investment

But even if Apple’s best work is behind it, it doesn’t make it a bad investment. In fact, Thiel believes Apple could be an excellent stock — so long as the iPhone cash-cow continues to deliver.

“Apple [will keep] generating massive cash flows so long as nothing much changes — as long as it maintains a certain brand lead, a certain premium on the iPhone. [If so,] it will generate huge cash flows [for many years] … the risk is that other people will catch up.”

That risk could come from rival handsets. Competitors like Xiaomi and OnePlus have attracted a fair amount of attention recently for their quality handsets, which they sell at a fraction of what Apple charges for the iPhone. Or it could come from advanced wearables — watches and other gadgets designed to replace the traditional smartphone. It may come from a radical reinvention of the handset — something like Project Ara, that shakes the current smartphone business model to its core.

Of course, it may not come at all — or if it does come, not for many, many years. In which case, the cash flows should continue, and Apple should reward its shareholders.

“Maybe there’s not much innovation happening. Maybe people overestimate innovation … but I think it is very helpful to try to get the framing right and understand, ‘OK, I’m betting against technology here.'”

MONEY Ask the Expert

What To Do When Your Pension Is Frozen

140605_AskExpert_illo
Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: My company froze our pensions last year. I am 53. Can I take the money out and invest it myself? – Tim Shields, New York

A: You’re in the same boat as many private sector workers today. Hundreds of companies have frozen their pensions in the past decade in order to shed the cost of providing guaranteed lifetime income to retirees. The trend accelerated after the recession—more than 40% of the Fortune 1000 companies now have frozen pensions, according to one study.

Your employer can’t take away the benefits you’ve earned. But if you’re currently covered by a pension, also known as a defined benefit plan, your pension benefit will no longer increase. This trend leaves older workers like you vulnerable, especially if you have long tenure, says Bonnie Kirchner, a certified financial planner and president of Sea Change Financial Education. That’s because pensions are back-loaded, reaching their peak value in your last years before retirement. You’re losing what would have been a large income stream in retirement, so you’ll need to figure out different saving and investing strategies.

Whether you can take the money out and invest it yourself depends on your plan’s rules, says Kirchner, who also wrote Who Can You Trust With Your Money? You should contact your human resources department to find out the specifics.

Chances are, your employer will want you to take that pension money as a lump sum, says Kirchner. Many pensions are underfunded, and companies must make up any underfunded liabilities with additional contributions to their plans. “Your corporation may be very happy to get rid of that liability from their balance sheet,” says Kirchner.

In fact, more companies are doing so. In a move known as “de-risking,” companies are offering settlement payouts to employees, thereby moving the pension obligation off their books. Three out of four employers with pension plans said they are—or are in the process of—unloading pensions obligations, according to a report by Towers Watson and Institutional Investors Forum.

To do so, your company may offer to pay you a lump sum in place of a monthly pension payment, or it may replace your pension by buying an equivalent annuity from an insurance company. Motorola recently did both, buying annuities from Prudential Insurance to cover its current pensions and offering lump sum buyouts to plan participants. General Motors and Verizon replaced their pension obligations with annuities in 2012.

For most people, taking an annuity that guarantees an income stream for life is a far better option than a lump sum payout. “It protects you against running out of money,” says Kirchner. An exception might be if you are in poor health and need to tap those assets sooner. (If you do take a lump sum, be sure to roll it over into an IRA—otherwise you could incur penalties and income taxes.)

Granted, investing a lump sum does offer the potential for higher returns, so it may be a better fit for those who want to manage their own money. Still, few investors are capable of outperforming the market, as studies have repeatedly shown. And today a guaranteed stream of income is something that is highly sought after by retirees, says Kirchner, so think twice about rejecting an annuity.

Do you have a personal finance question for our experts? Write to AskTheExpert@moneymail.com.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser