The fire crackles and spits, warming up the cottage. As our boys build Lego castles on the floor, I surf the Web to find out what latest economic developments are shaking up the world. The turmoil in the markets seems so far from my everyday life, but its impact hits directly home as we watch our assets bounce up and down like a yo-yo. Watching as fortunes disappear tends to worry even the most cautious of people.
I can’t believe how many possible solutions are being thrown at the markets. The British government announces it will buy up shares in the country’s banks, asking for firm commitments that support lending to small businesses and home buyers. Other European countries announce they will work together to guarantee bank debt, and the U.S. announces its plan to buy up bad debt. The economists seem to be trying everything they can to stop this market meltdown, but the problem is more than an economic one. At this point, trust in the entire economic system needs to be restored. And trust isn’t something that can be achieved overnight.
When I was 11 years old, my family lost our farm to a bank foreclosure because housing prices fell and interest rates skyrocketed. I’ve always had a strong sense of how powerful the banks can be, and I’ve always had a slight fear of them. Now, as I watch the U.S. feds bail out the banks (the same institutions that encouraged people to mortgage themselves to the hilt), my hope is that the governments get more involved, take ownership, force the banks to extend credit to small businesses, and become more accountable for their actions. That is the only solution that will restore trust in the banking system.
As I read about women who have excelled at what they do (page 18), I’m reassured. The business world is filled with smart, tenacious women. It’s a far different place from the world of the Great Depression, the worst and longest economic collapse in the history of the industrial world. From the stock market crash in 1929 until the worst point in 1933, more than one-quarter of Americans were unemployed. But today, with women in the workforce, with increased innovation and globalization, there are more opportunities to fall back on than ever before. There is also much more government intervention than there was in 1929. The issue is the same for a lot of people. Do I move forward, building my company in my usual optimistic manner? Or do I slow down, and proceed with caution? I wish I had the choice, but alas, every fibre in me is programmed to “fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run.” (Kipling)
I welcomed our new VP of Advertising, Colleen McNarry-Wilson last week, and I have a feeling she’ll do a much better job than I did in her role. She is already inspiring our team to be the best they can be. It is hard giving over the reins, and it will take me some time to get accustomed to not picking up the phone and asking clients to advertise with us. I have formed some great relationships over the years, but now I will have time to develop those relationships, to listen to what our customers need, and to build Women’s Post into a media company that fulfills all those needs.
Sarah Thomson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.