thrift store mysticism

I treat thrift store shopping as a mystical experience, as a spiritual discipline.

Being somewhat of a mystic, and a massive optimist (see my post “curvilinear optimism“), I tend to believe that the Universe (or the Divine if you prefer) provides what we need to accomplish our missions in life as we need it (or immediately before).

Today I went to Goodwill and found four perfectly-fitting ladies’ business suits. All match my design ethic of “obvious femininity”—i.e., they are not simply men’s styles adapted for women. All have skirts, because, as readers of this blog know, I refuse to wear pants. All were well-made and extremely inexpensive.

The occasion is timely: I’m preparing to meet regularly with potential investors in the startup I contract with, representing the technical side of the company (I currently serve indirectly as that company’s R&D leader). Therefore I need managerial-level business attire, and a lot of it.

My optimistic, mystical self interpreted this Goodwill shopping haul as a “sign” that I’m “ready” for the business responsibility coming my way.

Asserting the Feminine

I stressed above the “obvious femininity” of the outfits. Feminism in the 1970’s and 1980’s urged women in corporate America to “act more like men”. That ethic led to women’s suit designs that really just mimicked masculine designs. (Shoulder pads, anyone?).

But diminishing the feminine to advance in the business world only marginalizes femininity in general—and makes many women simply unhappy. The truth is, while gender definitely moves on a spectrum at individual resolution, as a whole we can argue that women differ from men. We can argue further that that difference can (and should) add just as much value to the corporate world as masculine traits do.

So I for one will only wear business attire that screams “feminine”. I will not mimic a man. And I’ve taken a hit in corporate America for doing so… but I don’t give a shit because I know women are the future of business (but that’s a whole different topic).

Part of this practice goes back to my early days of living as a woman, where I learned quickly that to be called “she” I had to wear extremely feminine attire. In other words, I had to donate all my t-shirts to Goodwill and stop wearing pants. Now that my face has been surgically modified, my voice is higher in pitch, and my hair is longer I no longer experience this issue. But my memory proves long…

Strange Effects

The corporation I hold majority shares in gives 10% of its income to secular charities. Goodwill Industries of San Diego receives most of it, and the cash donations are made through local stores. As a result, the staff of the North County Goodwill stores have come to know me, resulting in two unexpected effects:

First, recognizing that my personal style is almost entirely constructed from thrift store finds, they now seek my opinion on displays, which I am thrilled to give. It’s nice to be seen as a style authority!

Second, the women working in these stores have become familiar with the kinds of items I typically look for, so when I enter a store I can now find these women first-thing and ask for recommendations based on their knowledge of what has recently been placed on the racks. But they don’t just try to accommodate my style, they suggest their own ideas. This proves fun for everyone involved.

The money the business gives created this situation, but the fact that I’m simply nice to everybody nurtures it along.

See Also

curvilinear optimism

constant self-reinvention: my profound habit for creating success

Video of speech I gave at a Toastmasters meeting about my primary method for obtaining success:

why I transferred ownership of Gender Punk 360 and Axis Evil to a corporation I hold majority stake in

Today I transferred ownership of Gender Punk 360 and Axis Evil to a corporation I hold majority stake in. Here’s why:

I founded Whole-Systems Enterprises, Inc., the corporation, late last year to provide legal structure for my efforts to elevate the lives of transgender people through business enterprise. Axis Evil and Gender Punk 360 operate as enterprises that support the same goal, so I thought it best to roll these brands under the same corporate umbrella.

Now that Axis Evil and Gender Punk 360 generate (a currently small) income, the work faces tax liability. The new tax law in the United States (which I don’t approve of) offers reduced tax rates for corporations compared with individuals, so I retain more of the income to roll back into scaling up these efforts. Moreover, corporations may write off expenses while individuals cannot.

go to a damn tailor!

Let’s face it, transgender women often experience a difficult time finding clothes that fit perfectly. (But then, doesn’t every woman?!?). For example, my particular problems are:

  • I usually need plus-sized blouses to enable fit around my chest and shoulders, but then the blouses generally appear unflatteringly wide around my waist.
  • While I usually buy dresses that flair to diminish my lack of hips, I’ve at least one dress with too much “definition” in the fabric such that actual hips need to fill the space for it to look right.
  • At least one of my dresses expected a larger breast size than I possess.

 

To solve all three cases I’ll regularly hire a tailor rather than waste my time looking for perfection at the item’s point of initial sale.



This of course requires some experience (and common sense) to know what can be altered to suit your needs. I can’t tell you how to gain this experience except through taking risks and making mistakes (I generally buy at Goodwill so I’m only out a few bucks if the item can’t be altered to meet my requirements). Your tailor will describe to you why a request will or will not be achievable and you will learn from those discussions.

You may not even know what needs to be accomplished to improve a (mostly fitting) outfit. But your tailor will employ their experience to gain the best result for your body.

Here is the most important thing a transwoman must look for when seeking a tailor:

Are they trans-friendly? If you have a penile bulge under your panties it might show while they are working with you to specify the correct fit. They must be cool with that possibility!

But money talks—and therefore I’ve experienced no problems.

I also recommend tipping your tailor. Not sure if that’s customary, but I do it anyway.

The most important thing I want to impress upon you:  A good tailor will make a mediocre outfit stunning on you! Found this vital in my business life.

I interviewed my tailor, Karla Vega of Vista, California, for tips on how to find a good one. Here is what she told me:

Know the difference between a “seamstress” and “tailor”. Seamstresses make dresses from scratch, tailors alter and repair clothes.

Tailoring works successfully when you begin with clothes that are too big rather than too small, for obvious reasons. So buy one size up if you anticipate the need for tailoring of an item. I asked if certain parts of an item, such as a dress, proved more challenging then others to alter, and she said no. My experience confirms this as she has successfully altered the bust areas, hips, or the waist of the items I bring her as required.

Learn your body type, e.g. “pear”, so you increase your shopping prowess.

Understand that knowing how to sew does not make you a tailor. The warned of clothing swap meets where an amateur sets up an alteration table for the event and sells “tailoring” services. Her advice is too look for someone who makes tailoring their business. I asked about places like Nordstrom that offer tailoring services and she said they are just fine.

Thermo Fisher: ten years at an uncommonly fabulous company

Many laid-off employees trash their former employer. But my decade at Thermo Fisher stands as one of the richest experiences of my life, despite significant challenges along the way. So I want to remind current Thermo Fisher employees and leadership what they can take pride in:

Exceptional Handling of my On-the-Job Gender Change

I joined the company at the Austin site as “Daniel Edmund Williams” and left from the Carlsbad site as “Emily Marie Williams”. No easy feat.

The (public) transition took place one year into my tenure at the Carlsbad site. My colleagues there embraced my chosen identity completely. Sure there were a few initial hiccups in name and pronoun use, but those faded quickly. No one fussed about the bathrooms or showers.

Yes, a few folks were uncomfortable at first. I took them to lunch. I turned the other cheek. They came around.

Thermo Fisher employees and leadership can therefore take pride in their openness.

HR

Thermo Fisher’s HR department knows what they did for me, along with the challenges I faced. These stories are of course not for public consumption.

I thank them for all their tremendous support. I thank them for all the collaborative problem-solving and for delivering substantial grace.

Thermo Fisher employees and leadership can therefore take pride in their Human Resources Department.

Learned to “Manage Up”

Working at a large corporation for a decade usually means reporting to multiple bosses. Most managed exceptionally well, a few struggled. One was downright abusive. Immersed in this environment, I became skilled at collaborative problem-solving and team-centered idea promotion, skills I’m extremely thankful for.

I also learned how to stand up to the abusive boss—proudly setting an example for my less experienced colleagues.

Company employees and leadership can therefore (mostly) take pride in their management.

Learned to Manage (Down)

An intern reported to me one summer, allowing me to develop my talents at management. While no one specifically coached me on management skills during this period, the many good (and a few bad) management examples set around me directed my compass.

Acquired Technical Skills and Sharpened my Business Acumen

Immediately following my layoff last July I founded Whole-Systems Enterprises, Inc. Employing all the data science skills I learned at Thermo Fisher, we are developing and optimizing day-trading algorithms. We are also selling bioinformatics and data science consulting services. My experience at Thermo Fisher made this possible.

Thermo Fisher employees and leadership can therefore take pride in their technical development.

Why Am I Saying All This?

This blog, and the book I’m writing based on it, covers transgender issues. Employment is a major transgender issue, not just during the public act of transition but encompassing the whole life experience of work. I wanted to celebrate an organization that is getting it right.

The whole proves greater than the sum of its parts.

living fabulously off of society’s exhaust (part 1)

I’m exploring the concept of “living off of society’s exhaust”. What do I mean by this? Still working that out.

Our society produces two exhaust streams: Waste and information. Both involve entropy. Information can be further (sort of) divided into data and system state. Here I envision data being something like a Twitter feed and system state being for example the micro-differentials in a market that create price speculation opportunities.

I’m looking for ways to draw upon all of this for cash flow.

Will keep you posted.

started this blog on 14 March 2017

Although there are posts with earlier dates contained herein, this particular blog was started on 14 March 2017. I only mention this for record keeping. Prior content comes from my badassdatascience.com site, my axisevil.com site, or my personal notes.

 

HRC Corporate Equality Index correlates with Fortune’s 50 most admired companies

The Human Right’s Campaign, one of America’s largest civil rights groups, scores companies in its yearly Corporate Equality Index (CEI) according to their treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees [1]. The companies automatically evaluated are the Fortune 1000 and American Lawyer’s top 200. Additionally, any sufficiently large private sector organization can request inclusion in the CEI [2].

Similarly, Fortune Magazine publishes an annual list of 50 of the world’s most admired companies [3]. Companies are rated by financial health, stock performance, leadership effectiveness, customer sentiment, scandals, and social responsibility.

I became curious whether CEI scores correlate with membership in Fortune’s most admired list, so I matched the two datasets and analyzed the outcome. The results (below) are striking. Code implementing the calculations, with the source data, is attached.

Results

Plotting the CEI score distributions by whether a company was included in Fortune’s list produced:

From this difference in distributions it is clear that the status of being “most admired” correlates with a high CEI score, though there are a few outliers. In the distribution on the left, we see that over 50% of the companies in Fortune’s list held the top CEI score of 100, whereas only 25% of the companies not contained in Fortune’s held the top score. The median score for the most admired group was 100 while for the companies not included in Fortune’s list it is about 80. Over 80% of the most admired companies scored 90 or above. The variance is much wider for the companies not included on the list. Statistical analysis comparing the two groups, detailed below, confirms the correlation.



While correlation does not imply causality, this analysis suggests two things: First, the type of leadership necessary to achieve a high CEI score is the same type of leadership that leads to inclusion in Fortune’s most admired companies group. Second, any company aspiring to membership in the most admired group might consider developing its CEI score.

There is one possible source of bias, but I don’t expect that it is large: “Social responsibility” is used in Fortune’s rankings, which may include CEI scores (I don’t know). However, Fortune’s emphasis on financial health and stock price probably trumps any contribution that the CEI would generate alone. Furthermore, in the CEI score distribution for the most admired companies, there are outliers containing extremely low scores. This suggests that the CEI played little if any role in the selection of most admired companies.

Method

I manually copied and pasted the company names and scores from the CEI online database [1]. Then I cleaned up the results to create a manageable CSV file. Similarly, I copied and pasted the Fortune 50 most admired company list [3] into another CSV file. After that, I matched the two datasets by hand. Perhaps I could have performed the match algorithmically, but I would have had to worry about different representations of company names between the two datasets, e.g. “3M Co.” vs. “3M”. There was only 50 cases so the manual match did not take long.

Two cases in Fortune’s list had to be excluded, BMW and Singapore Airlines, because they were not included in the CEI, possibly because they are based outside the USA. In the case of two other non-US companies in Fortune’s list, Toyota and Volkswagen, I matched to Toyota Motor Sales USA and Volkswagen Group of America, respectively.

Finally, I plotted the CEI score distributions shown above and performed the statistical analysis reported below using the attached Python code.

Statistical Analysis

The extreme difference in variance between the two groups makes it impossible to compare medians using a non-parametric test, and the distribution of the CEI scores does not lend itself to a clean regression analysis. Therefore I built the following contingency table from the data:

The p-value for this table obtained from Fisher’s exact test is 4.53e-08, indicating that the proportions are significantly different.

References

  1. http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/corporate-equality-index
  2. http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/corporate-equality-index-what-businesses-are-rated-and-how-to-participate
  3. http://fortune.com/worlds-most-admired-companies/

Code and Data

HRC_Fortune_data_and_code