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Mehroz Baig
Mehroz Baig is a Butler-Koshland Fellow at The Commonwealth Club of California, apprenticing with the Club's CEO in non-profit leadership. She had previously been at CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS and the County of Sonoma's Economic Development Board and Workforce Investment Board. Mehroz is a graduate of Wellesley College and has dual master's degrees in journalism and international affairs from Columbia University.

Entries by Mehroz Baig

The Path to Safer Guns

(29) Comments | Posted July 25, 2014 | 10:31 AM

When cars first became available, air bags and seat belts weren't part of standard production. During the early 1900s, safety -- both for drivers and pedestrians -- became an issue as mechanical and structural failures in cars and reckless driving caused more and more accidents. These problems prompted...

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When War Destroys Identity

(0) Comments | Posted May 12, 2014 | 11:43 AM

Conflict causes disruption and destruction of many sorts, including that of a people's identity. That can be especially true with armed conflict where cultural sites and monuments are at greater risk of being damaged, intentionally or otherwise. UNESCO, the education and cultural division of the United Nations, has

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Medicine and Self-Discovery: Part II of a Q&A With Dr. Victoria Sweet

(0) Comments | Posted April 21, 2014 | 7:25 PM

Taking care of ourselves, both physically and mentally, is extremely important if we are to function at an optimal level. The effects of over-working, extreme exhaustion, and sleep deprivation can be irritating at best, and devastating at worst. Arianna Huffington addresses our need-for-speed culture and counters with the importance of...

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A Physician's Take on the Affordable Care Act

(0) Comments | Posted April 15, 2014 | 7:47 PM

Dr. Victoria Sweet was a physician for 20 years at San Francisco's Laguna Honda hospital, the last almshouse of the country. She spent time with complicated patients while getting her Ph.D. in history. The focus of her study was a 12th century mystic and medical practitioner, Hildegard of Bingen, whose...

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Cultivating Internal Leadership

(0) Comments | Posted March 31, 2014 | 8:36 AM

"The real thing leaders do is create environments that drive performance. Leaders engage and enable people," said Mary Fontaine of Hay Group, a global strategic consulting firm, in an article in Businessweek. There is no doubt that leadership within any organization is important, and to make a company exceptional it's not simply about having capable leaders at the helm of a group but effective ones. The problem that many companies run into is finding that leadership -- the kind that works with a given company culture but is forward-thinking enough to move the company in a positive direction.

Many HR managers and company executives agree that growing that type of talent from within a company is fruitful. Many companies put a lot of money and resources toward cultivating that talent in different ways. Whether that's through programs that fund education for employees, such as those at General Electric and United Technologies Corporation, or providing accelerator-type experiences to foster growth, such as at Proctor & Gamble, or creating an intricate employee experience like at Zappos, the focus is on providing the type of environment that will increase employee retention and be engaging enough to cultivate leadership.

The calculations make this type of investment worthwhile. Josh Bersin, a principal at Deloitte, outlines in an article the costs of high employee turnover, including the hard costs of finding replacements and training them, and the soft costs of cultural impact and overall reduced morale that results from high turnover. He further notes that employees are appreciating assets to any organization: "The longer we stay with an organization the more productive we get -- we learn the systems, we learn the products, and we learn how to work together," he writes. That results in more value added for the organization and a higher sense of being valued for the employee.

The concept of being appreciated and adding value through one's work is very important to employees. Beth Carvin, CEO of Nobscot Corporation, a human resources consulting firm that specializes in employee retention, noted in a phone interview that mobility within a company and a sense of being appreciated is very important, especially for younger employees. She added that most employees become frustrated when they don't have an understanding of a career path at their organization.

"It's interesting, " she said, "because some companies have a lot of opportunity but it hasn't been communicated to employees." She went on to add, "If employees don't feel valued, it might, in combination with other things, drive people out the door." That's why investment in employees is important. And it's not simply an investment at higher levels of the management chain, but at all levels to cultivate the energy and loyalty that excellent leadership requires. Gap, Inc.'s recent move to increase the minimum wage wasn't a moral decision but a strategic one: Gap's management saw this as one way of investing in employees that would result in higher morale and productivity.

However, identifying leaders from within and providing them with the tools and training needed to be successful is easier said than done. David Roth wrote about his experience in trying to cultivate internal leadership at his start-up. He talks about the importance of clear communication and understanding his employees' perspectives as crucial to moving the process forward. Of course, the environment within a startup is much different from an already established company, and Roth subsequently wrote about not only cultivating leaders internally but also finding the right people from the outside to join in.

Ultimately, it's about identifying those who understand what the company is about and where it wants to go, and who fit well within the organization. Once those people are part of the organization, the task then becomes one of investing in them so they can help make the company successful. Take a listen to the clip above on the importance of cultivating internal leadership, which includes Melissa Daimler, head of organizational effectiveness and learning at Twitter; Todd Carlisle, director of staffing at Google; and Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of the Collaboration Technology Group at Cisco Systems. They spoke at the Commonwealth Club about attracting and retaining top talent.

How do you think companies can invest in employees? Share your thoughts...

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How Inequality Affects Our Existence

(1) Comments | Posted March 24, 2014 | 12:57 PM

What makes sophisticated empires fall? That's the question that one team of scientists backed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center tackled in their report, which modeled human interaction with nature to determine what circumstances are constant in the rise and fall of empires over the course of history....

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Mentors and Sponsors: Why We Need Both

(0) Comments | Posted March 18, 2014 | 1:19 PM

Mentorship is about helping you make the right decisions and offering advice; sponsorship is about knowing your work and being able to vouch for you in the workplace, said Noni Allwood, vice president and senior fellow at The Center for Talent and Innovation. She joined a panel at...

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Slam Poetry: A History

(0) Comments | Posted March 12, 2014 | 2:55 PM

When the Commonwealth Club's Inforum division hosted a town hall meeting to discuss race relations in the Bay Area, the lineup of speakers included various performances by Bay Area poets. Using words, voice intonations and sheer emotion, the poets delivered verse that examined issues of race, poverty, gun...

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There's "No Such Thing as a California Economy"

(0) Comments | Posted March 6, 2014 | 1:46 PM

"San Jose and San Francisco are the two metropolitan areas that have recaptured their peak in employment since 2008. That's not true of any other metropolitan area in this state," said Dr. John Silvia, Chief Economist for Wells Fargo.

Silvia was speaking on a panel at The Commonwealth Club of California, looking at how California's economy is faring. The panel, moderated by the Wall Street Journal's Scott Thurm, also included Dr. Michael Boskin, professor of economics at Stanford University, and Ann Winblad, co-founder and managing director of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

Silvia pointed out that in his perspective, there's no such thing as a California economy because there are vast differences in economic growth, recovery and the labor force based on metropolitan areas. The kind of success that San Francisco and San Jose have seen is not reflective of the rest of the state. According to a report by the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy, the Bay Area grew at a rate of 4.1 percent in 2011, compared to 0.1 percent for the Sacramento region and -0.7 percent in the San Joaquin Valley region. The United States grew at a rate of 1.8 percent during the same period.

It is interesting to note that the size of California's economy and its impact make it an important part of the nation's economy. And in many cases, experts look to see what is happening in California to determine what direction the nation might take. However, in looking at this comparison, there is also recognition of the fact that California is inherently different: Its geography, concentration of technology and political leadership may not make it the most translatable example.

What Silvia is pointing out, however, is that those differences apply internally within California as well. The Bay Area may have the technological concentration that is allowing its economic growth but the same cannot be said of every corner of the Golden State. Preliminary numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in December 2013, the San Francisco metropolitan area had an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent. Neighboring Oakland metropolitan area had a rate of unemployment at 6.3 percent. Some of the highest unemployment rates were elsewhere in the state: El Centro faced a 22.5 percent unemployment rate; the Madera-Chowchilla metropolitan area had a 14.2 percent unemployment rate. And the Yuba City metropolitan area had a 13.6 percent unemployment rate.

The differences in economic conditions are being felt on the ground, and there have been people critical of how the state is responding, especially in areas farther away from Sacramento. Supervisors in the far north province of Siskiyou County demonstrated their concerns through a vote of secession. This was followed by a vote of secession by supervisors in Modoc County. Venture capitalist, Tim Draper is even proposing splitting California into six states, arguing that Californians would be better represented with more localized government.

Silvia, Boskin and Winblad also talked about immigration and how a comprehensive immigration bill might address issues faced by employers and employees within the context of California's economic needs. Watch the video above to hear what they had to say and share your thoughts...

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Raising the Minimum Wage Is Only One Part of Boosting the Economy

(0) Comments | Posted March 4, 2014 | 1:10 PM

"No one who works full-time should have to raise their children in poverty," Senator Barbara Boxer said. She was talking about raising the minimum wage during a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California. In addition to citing the moral reason the federal minimum wage deserves a second...

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Perpetuating Inequality in the Workplace

(4) Comments | Posted February 12, 2014 | 11:05 AM

The job market has been tough for most people, and even more so for African-Americans, who have consistently had higher unemployment rates than their counterparts. The cause is a combination of a strained economy and systemic differences among certain populations. Nancy DiTomaso, a professor at Rutgers Business School,...

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Job Hunting in College: Expectations Vs. Reality

(0) Comments | Posted January 23, 2014 | 2:42 PM

"I really enjoyed my time at Oberlin and I felt like I was learning, but I wasn't progressing towards a job at the end of graduation," said Ned Lindau, a 2011 graduate from Oberlin College in Ohio. He noted that his liberal arts education focused on students exploring subjects that...

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Saving the World With Science

(2) Comments | Posted January 22, 2014 | 3:21 PM

As someone who's taken a fair share of science classes, I know that it can be difficult to tie the daily homework assignments of configuring compounds in chemistry or calculating velocity in physics to a broader world perspective. But that's precisely what science does: It allows us to understand how...

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Our Nuclear Dilemma

(1) Comments | Posted January 15, 2014 | 10:29 AM

"It's hard to imagine fallible human beings creating machines that are infallible," Eric Schlosser said in reference to nuclear weapons. Schlosser is an investigative journalist and author of Fast Food Nation and, most recently, Command and Control, which examines nuclear risk. "Nuclear weapons are highly complicated machines and...

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A Poetic Tribute to Gingerbread Houses

(0) Comments | Posted December 24, 2013 | 12:42 PM

Ginger, molasses, sugar and flour,
Add some butter and eggs and maybe an hour.
Baking time and cooling aside,
You'll have all the ingredients for a mighty sight.

Walls, doors, shingles and beams,
Made with frosting and gumdrops and candy canes, it seems.
From a...

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Women in the Workforce: What Changes Have We Made?

(0) Comments | Posted December 19, 2013 | 10:24 AM

You'd think things have changed since 1970, but you would be surprised at how much remains the same, according to data from the Census Bureau. The Bureau compiled an infographic (included below text) examining data on women in the workforce, and though some of the numbers show that...

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What's Your Slavery Footprint? There's an App for That

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2013 | 11:24 AM

We may not see forced labor explicitly in our day-to-day lives, but that illusion hides the reality that an estimated 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor globally, according to data from the International Labor Organization (ILO). Of the 20.9 million people exploited globally, 18.7 million, or...

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Giving Tuesday: The Individual's Impact in the Giving Equation

(0) Comments | Posted December 3, 2013 | 1:43 PM

Philanthropy, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "the practice of giving money and time to help make life better for other people." The altruistic notion of helping others has been part of fundraising efforts for as long as they've existed; people contribute funds to organizations that they support....

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Black Friday: The Animal Instinct of Consumerism

(1) Comments | Posted November 26, 2013 | 2:21 PM

Though we might spend Thanksgiving day cooking, eating, and generally being grateful for the blessings in our lives, for some, it's a day to fuel up for what's coming next: Black Friday. Every year, thousands flock to retail stores to get their hands on a fantastic deal. The lines between...

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Torture in U.S. Custody: Why It Will Happen Again If We Don't Address It Now

(2) Comments | Posted November 19, 2013 | 11:33 AM

"Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture." That's the finding after a two-year investigation by a high-level panel that examined detainee treatment by the United States during the war on terror, in...

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