BBC Dialogues: Working Women, Inequality and The Bernie Sanders Effect

BBC Dialogues: Working Women, Inequality and The Bernie Sanders Effect

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Why are women still struggling to reach parity in the Indian and Silicon Valley jobs market? Why is rock star economist Thomas Piketty predicting that revolution could be the great equalizer? And what explains the unexpected and dramatic rise in popularity of Bernie Sanders in the US election? All this and more was discussed last night on the BBC’s Business Matters.

I joined a lively discussion with BBC host Anu Anand who’s based in Delhi, and Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Listen to the podcast here (Jan 29, 2016)

Here are some highlights from our conversation, (starting at 20:43, edited for length and clarity):

Anu Anand: Alison, you’ve reported from Japan where there’s a real impetus to bring women into the workforce. Any lessons from there?

Alison van Diggelen: Prime Minister Abe has a goal of reaching 30% of women in positions of leadership by 2020. What he’s doing is mandating that large companies reveal their diversity statistics. Someone I interviewed there -Elizabeth Handover – called it a “shaming and blaming” strategy. In other words: release your figures and the shame upon you will incentive you to get more women into positions of power…But as in India, there is a big cultural pressure in Japan for women to stay at home, especially if they’ve had children.

Anu Anand: You’re in the heart of Silicon Valley. Would you say that women have achieved parity in the high tech workforce?

Alison van Diggelen: No, not at all. Women make up only 30% of these tech companies, and then tech jobs within that are only between 12% and 18%. We have a long way to go, but we’re moving in the right direction…

Justin Rowlatt: In India we see very rapid growth, an economy growing at 7%. In a society growing that quickly, surely inequality is less of an issue?

Thomas Piketty: Inequality is an even bigger problem in emerging countries. One important lesson from my historical study of inequality is that it took very big shocks, major shocks – World War I, Wold War II, the Great Depression, the Bolshevik Revolution for the Western elites to accept the kind of social, and fiscal reforms which brought a reduction in inequality and increased economic growth….

The big risk here in India like in other parts of the world, is that extreme inequality tends to lead to sometimes violence, some politicians to try to exploit…that’s why it’s so important to have more transparency about the complex relationship between caste and income and wealth; and address it through adequate reservation systems, adequate social policy…

Anu Anand: Let’s turn to Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues in San Francisco and Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics here in Delhi….Women are bearing the burden of growing inequality?

Jayati Ghosh: The proportion of women who get any kind of income from working (in India) is only about 2%. About 90% of women are working and they’re really engaged in unpaid work. Policies and processes don’t even bother to recognize this work so they don’t do anything to reduce it…for e.g. piped water, which would reduce the burden of going to fetch it. Piketty is right: India is one of the higher inequality countries in the world…the elite in India… holds on to most of the assets, grabs the natural resources, concentrates the wealth and shapes policies to make more of this…This leads to violence.

Anu Anand: Alison, inequality in the US has been growing too. It’s certainly a big point of debate at the moment, especially with the presidential candidates sparring with each other?

Alison van Diggelen: Absolutely, it’s a huge issue here. The inequality is the highest today since the 1930’s. The surprise popularity of Bernie Sanders – who has made inequality and poverty one of his number one issues – he calls it “The Great Moral Issue of our Time”…He came from nowhere – it’s to do with his message resonating that income inequality affects us all. A lot of people thought Hillary Clinton had the Democratic nomination in the bag. Sanders has really grasped on that and he’s riding on inequality and really giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money for this Democratic nomination.

Anu Anand: Do you see a world in which we’re not going to have to talk about inequality? Both india and America are very market driven economies?

Alison van Diggelen: I think inequality is rife here however, two studies in 2015 confirmed that people – both rich and poor alike – still believe in a brighter future. It may be misguided, but there is that aspirational idea and the class system in my experience – especially in Silicon Valley full of inspiring entrepreneurs – is less prevalent than I experienced growing up in Britain, where you’re encouraged to stay in the class you’re born.  For example, when I was offered a place at Cambridge University, my father, a working-class union man from Glasgow asked me: what do you want to go there for? Aren’t the universities in Scotland good enough? There was that “stay in your place” attitude that I broke away from.

Check back soon for a report on online education and its potential to help close the income divide by increasing access to education and tech jobs.

 

BBC Report: Can Womenomics Help Gender Equality?

BBC Report: Can Womenomics Help Gender Equality?

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Japan is facing a double whammy: shrinking population and massive labor shortages. For some experts, the solution is simple: unleash the power of women.

Tonight on the BBC’s World Service, Jon Bithrey, host of Business Matters aired my report from Japan and we discussed the enormous challenges the country faces.

Prime Minister Abe’s government has been taking baby steps in Womenomics with some success, but in the longer term, what more needs done to change deeply entrenched cultural norms? In August, Japan’s government passed legislation mandating that Japanese companies with over 300 employees disclose their diversity statistics and goals in 2016. The Prime Minister’s ambitious target is for 30% of leadership positions in business and government to be filled by women by 2020.

What is Womenomics and why could it become a template for other Asian countries? I went to Tokyo to investigate for the BBC World Service…

Commuters Shinjuku station Tokyo Oct 2015 by Alison van Diggelen.

A version of this report aired on the BBC’s Business Matters on December 31, 2015. Listen to the BBC podcast here

Alison van Diggelen: I’m here in Tokyo to explore the promise of Womenomics, Prime Minister Abe’s plan to increase the country’s GDP by up to 15% by tapping its most underutilized resource. That is: Japanese women.

What exactly is Womenomics?

The term was coined by Kathy Matsui in a Goldman Sachs report outlining the economic potential of closing the gender gap. Japan faces a time bomb of a rapidly shrinking and ageing population; and a low female labor participation rate (although it has increased recently, many female workers work only part-time). This year, Prime Minister Abe, perhaps in desperation, is rebooting Womenomics and has set a 30% leadership goal for women in business and government.

[Atmos: Tokyo Metro announcements, doors closing, and passenger hubbub]

My first stop was the Gender Equality Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I asked Rui Matsukawa who’s Director of the Gender Mainstreaming Division: what’s the promise of Womenomics?

Government buildings Tokyo by Alison van Diggelen for BBC

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Rui Matsukawa: Womenomics’ essence is unleashing the talents of women in quality and quantity and make that help for the prosperous future of Japan. If Japan can change, that’ll be good prospects for the other countries. My conviction is: Japan will change is a very constructive way…where each individual is given the opportunity to fully express his or her own potential.

She points out that diversity is a great source of innovation.

And that’s one of Japan’s biggest challenges today.

Womenomics policy faces an uphill struggle: Japan’s cultural norms, and its male-centered, long and inflexible working hours.

I met with Elizabeth Handover, a Brit who’s lived in Japan for decades. She’s cofounder of the Women’s Leadership Development Center, in Tokyo.

Elizabeth Handover: Japan is struggling right now…some companies are still stuck in a Victorian hierarchy era…It’s that hierarchy that women get trapped in…

Alison van Diggelen: How do you think the PM’s goals will help?

Elizabeth Handover: One thing that’s really powerful in Japan is that companies don’t like to be “shamed and blamed”, so when the appalling statistics come out about how many female managers they’ve got, I think that’ll be a big influence for them to make changes.

I caught up with the former Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten and he shared a global perspective.

[Atmos: breakfast meeting audio]

Chris Patten Tokyo BCC interview Oct 2015, Alison van Diggelen.

Chris Patten: I think it’s a very good idea that a PM should be so determined to increase the number of women in leadership positions. It’s not just a problem in Japan… I think it’s a big issue everywhere.

van Diggelen: What do you think is the PM’s greatest challenge? Do you think it’s a societal cultural shift that needs to happen?

Patten: Some of the changes that he has to cope with are common to other societies as well, but plainly, the main issue in Japan – as elsewhere – is the attitude of men.

Yumiko Murakami OECD Tokyo by Alison van Diggelen for the BBC.

Yumiko Murakami is Head of the Tokyo Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. She cites Akira Matsumoto, the CEO of Calbee, a Japanese snack company, as being a male champion of diversity. She’s hopeful that the mandated release of diversity stats will spur change.

Yumiko Marakami: Japanese society is very a homogeneous society…there is a very strong cultural pressure to follow the herd.

Murakami is concerned about shrinking population and is convinced that Japan’s policy will have global implications.

Yumiko Murakami: Japan is facing this humongous time bomb – companies don’t have enough people to hire, it’s really hurting the bottom line. China is going to face the same future…Korea is exactly the same thing. If we succeed in Japan today, maximizing the talent pool, other countries they are going to get good practice policy lessons.

But some female executives in Japan feel more could be done: like addressing the childcare shortage and changing the existing tax laws, which discourage married women working full time.

[Atmos: Tokyo Metro announcements, doors closing, hubbub]

Elizabeth Hanover Aya Usui by Alison van Diggelen for BBC.

Before leaving Tokyo, I took the Metro to meet with Aya Usui, a senior consultant at Lumina Learning, a leadership training business. She’s expecting her third child and commutes 4 hours a day.

Alison van Diggelen: Are you encouraged by PM Abe’s commitment to Womenomics?

Aya Usui: To tell the truth…not really…

Alison van Diggelen: What would you like to see him do?

Aya Usui: I’d ask him to invest more money and time to develop female leadership because many females have a lot of talent and a lot of potential, but they’re not used enough…they’re killing their possibility…If we can achieve full potential it’s really a wonderful world this world becomes

That’s the promise of Womenomics: a wonderful world where everyone achieves their full potential. The world will be watching in 2016 to see if Prime Minister Abe’s shaming and blaming will work.

***

To learn more about Womenomics and gender equality, listen to the BBC Business Matters Last Podcast of 2015 and check out the Fresh Dialogues Inspiring Women Series.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Handover of Lumina Learning and fellow Scot, Lori Henderson and her team at the British Chamber of Commerce for helping facilitate the interviews in Tokyo.

BBC Report: How will El Nino impact CA drought, water conservation?

BBC Report: How will El Nino impact CA drought, water conservation?

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Anticipation is building that El Nino will bring much needed relief to drought stricken California this winter. But will it end the drought? And how will it impact the Golden State’s impressive drive to conserve water?

In my recent report for the BBC’s Business Matters, I explored the, um, creative ways in which the water conservation message is being spread and how things might change when the deluge arrives.

However you can reach out to consumers in their language, that’s how you do it, so if sex is the way to reach the end user and it achieves a good societal goal, I have no problem, because this is a crisis. Gary Kremen, Chairman Santa Clara Valley Water District

The report aired on the BBC World Service last Thursday (Listen from 16:45 in the podcast). Here’s the original report and a transcript of the program, edited for length and clarity.

Fergus Nicoll: The last month has seen some pretty freaky extremes of weather across the U.S. We reported on the drought in California and the flooding in South Carolina…bursting dams that have been caused by torrential rain in different parts of the state. Well maybe California can expect more of the South Carolina treatment?

I’m going to bring in Alison van Diggelen of Fresh Dialogues for more on this. Set the scene for us…it seems, partially at least, down to El Nino?

Alison van Diggelen: Absolutely. The experts have called it a “Godzilla” El Nino. An enormous one is building in the Pacific right now and experts are predicting record breaking rainfall this winter. As most people probably know, we’re in our fourth year of drought (in California) and things are getting pretty desperate. But people have been pretty good about water conservation…so I wanted to explore how authorities are getting this water conservation message out and how things might change, once the rain does start falling.

I interviewed Elizabeth Dougherty. She’s the founder of Wholly H20, a nonprofit in Oakland that wants to make water conservation, as she calls it, “hip and sexy.” She says it’s not a supply issue but has to do with our relationship with water.

Elizabeth Dougherty Wholly H20 Photo by Alison van DiggelenHere’s the piece:

Ambi: Sound of bucket being put in shower, tap turning on…water running, shower hitting tub

Dougherty: I keep a bucket in the shower…you can use that water to flush the toilet, water your outside plants, give water to your animals….

“Extreme water saver” Dr. Elizabeth Dougherty says her phone has been ringing off the hook with people looking for rainwater harvesting and graywater systems for their homes. Her California non-profit “Wholly H20” aims to make water conservation “hip and sexy.” Dougherty, an anthropologist, wants us to explore our relationship with water.

Ambi: Sound of running water in sink…

Dougherty: The water crisis in California, the world, is not a crisis of supply; it’s a crisis of connection. We are so disconnected from water, we don’t even know where our water comes from, how much we use every day.

And this crisis has produced fertile ground for water and landscape consultants. Water maybe scarce in CA, but it’s boom time for water related “green jobs.”

Dougherty argues that it’s normal to ask: where does my food come from? The energy for my home? So why not ask: where does your water come from? What’s “on tap” in your home?

Dougherty: We want the hipsters in Downtown Oakland to be thinking water conservation: Wow, hey….so where do you get your water?

This Fall, Wholly H2O is partnering with Burning Man artists on community interactive water features; and is launching a series of crowd-funded video shorts to get the message out via social media. Dougherty has Hollywood connections and hopes to get “green” celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow to take part. Is California’s Governor on her list?

Dougherty: (CA Gov) Jerry Brown skips a shower for the day. I’m thrilled, I’m glad. Would I hold him out as one of my hip and sexy people? No I wouldn’t. I’d like to see Batman…how about Michael Keaton? Let’s see you bucket your heat-up water from your shower and dump it in your garden!

Dougherty’s mission to make water conservation hip and sexy has been adopted by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission. Here’s one of their video ads:

SFPUC Video: (Sultry baritone like Barry White, sound of tap running) Conservation can feel, ohhhh, so right. Turn off the faucet while soaking those…oh so dirty…hands. Get some efficient fixtures for your kitchen and bathrooms…screw them on…yeah! Beat the drought. Hetch Hetchy water is too good to waste.

This summer, the commission spent $300,000 on billboard ads with provocative demands like “Go full frontal, upgrade your washer!” and “Nozzle your hose, limit outdoor watering.”

Love them or hate them, the water conservation message is sinking in. In July, Californians reduced their water consumption by over 30% (compared to 2013 levels) in response to a state mandated reduction of 25%. But with dramatic El Nino conditions building in the Pacific and predictions of an unprecedented deluge of rain hitting drought-starved California this winter, will the “save water” mantra evaporate as the first raindrops fall?

Fifty miles south of SF, in Silicon Valley, Gary Kremen, board chairman of Santa Clara Water Valley Water District, is taking nothing for granted.

Kremen: Water districts are conservative. We have to assume it’s not going to happen. We have a comprehensive education enforcement campaign to make sure one raindrop doesn’t cure the drought. The good news is people in Santa Clara Valley are pretty educated, they can hold two thoughts at the same time: we’re in a drought, you have to conserve, and you have to prepare for flash floods.

Wholly H20 shower Photo by Alison van DiggelenWhat does he think of SF’s sexy water conservation efforts?

Kremen: However you can reach out to consumers in their language, that’s how you do it, so if sex is the way to reach the end user and it achieves a good societal goal, I have no problem, because this is a crisis.

And he predicts the crisis could get worse as climate change produces a “new normal.”

Kremen: What climate change could mean to us is more volatility: more floods, more droughts.

I ask Wholly Water’s Dougherty what one thing we all can do to end the water crisis. Her answer is surprising. She’s not pushing low-flow toilets, rain barrels or graywater systems…instead she says:

Dougherty: Go and sit next to a river and not talk, but simply watch the river for half an hour.

For Dougherty, the anthropologist, it’s all about strengthening our connection with water and thinking of that river every time you turn on the tap.

Ambi: sound of tap going on, water hitting sink.

Fergus Nicoll: Very nice piece, Alison. Thank you.

It’s going to be a bit of a culture shock if California goes from drought to heavy rain?

Alison van Diggelen: Yes, it’s going to be a major shocker, but as Gary Kremen from the Water District says, they can’t rely on the El Nino conditions coming. It’s been predicted before and it didn’t materialize, so we may get floods but they’ve got to store that water and make sure that it’s available for future years.

Fergus Nicoll: All options still to be considered. Great to have you with us.

Read more

BBC Letter from Silicon Valley: Tech in the Time of Drought

BBC Dialogues, California Water Official Advises Tech Entrepreneurs: Get your Hands Dirty

Read more from Fresh Dialogues Archives

BBC Dialogues: Steve Jobs Movie – Lisa’s Mother Speaks Out For Single Moms

BBC Dialogues: Steve Jobs Movie – Lisa’s Mother Speaks Out For Single Moms

This week, Steve Jobs, the movie directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin, will be released. How will it impact Jobs’ legacy?

Several Steve Jobs allies say the movie portrays him as cruel and inhumane and tried to stop its production. Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Lisa, his first child, witnessed that cruelty. She was marginalized and neglected by Jobs for many years. Last month, she joined me for an intimate Fresh Dialogues interview to share her perspective.

Despite the hardships she endured, Brennan has enormous respect and even forgiveness for Jobs. She says her memoir’s universal message is about the plight of single women and she’d like to see the business world be more family-friendly.

On September 11, I was interviewed by the BBC about my interview with Brennan, who describes herself like this:
“I’m a modern Mary Magdalenethe truth of who I am was blacked out. Steve fancied himself a Christ figure, but hated women.” Chrisann Brennan
Here’s my conversation with Fergus Nicoll, host of the BBC’s Business Matters. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
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Fergus Nicoll: Whenever a biopic comes out, especially when its subject is not long gone, you better believe there is going to be a noise from those screaming about “Mount Rushmore scale hype” and a counter noise from those complaining that a genius has been traduced. So get ready everybody for Jobs, the Dannie Boyle movie with Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, scheduled for November (US release is Oct 9th).

I’ll toss the ball to Alison, because I know you’ve been talking to somebody with a personal interest in this story – that’s an understatement. Tell us first about expectations for the movie.

van Diggelen: It was shown at the Telluride Film Festival to rave reviews. But I did read a Guardian review that said that you have to be an Apple fan to really enjoy it. So take the reviews with a pinch of salt.

I had the opportunity to interview Chrisann Brennan, Steve Jobs’ first love and the mother of his child Lisa Brennan Jobs…they met in high school in 1972 and they had a very passionate affair. She got pregnant and he denied the paternity and she had a very rough life. He was very miserly about looking after her. She talked to me at length about this very painful time in her life and how he treated her, and yet she does respect him in her way.

Clip airs from Fresh Dialogues interview 

Chrisann Brennan: I was interviewed for five hours, they told me I was the emotional heart of that movie.  I don’t want to judge Steve because he did what he did, it was fabulous… I like the fact that the (movie) spectrum shows we are different people now. We value different things. We will expose these things because we want to have a dialogue in the world about the whole picture…not just the ‘Mount Rushmore picture’ of people who do well.

Alison van Diggelen: So you can contribute that fully faceted perspective?

Chrisann Brennan: Yes, I do feel that.

Alison van Diggelen: You said “I don’t want to paint me as the victim, and Steve as the villain.” Is there an alternate way you’d like to frame it?

Chrisann Brennan: That will continue to evolve. I survived it…I have more than survived it…I survived him…

Alison van Diggelen: And do you feel that is a victory right there?

Chrisann Brennan: I feel it says if you hold onto the truth, it actually starts to amount to something.

Alison van Diggelen: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Chrisann Brennan: Oh, yeah…but I couldn’t have. When I was living with Steve and he was showing me his poetry, I really wish I’d taken it to heart more deeply.

Alison van Diggelen: Was this his Bob Dylan poetry?

Bite in the Apple - Chrisann Brennan and daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs -- Steve Jobs - from book from PR/author

Chrisann Brennan: Mm hmm. When I grew up enough to be an adult and understand that 17-year-old, I felt oh. There’s just so much. If we had a chance to talk now, it’d be great…

Alison van Diggelen: What would you ask him?

Chrisann Brennan: I think I would just express some kind of love…

Alison van Diggelen: You would tell him you loved him?

Chrisann Brennan: In some form…

Alison van Diggelen: That’s beautiful…

One last question: what do you feel was Steve’s greatest legacy?

Chrisann Brennan:  Yes, he made a technological device that freed people up…but mainly the message is to be who you are. Now a lot of people are running around trying to be like Steve Jobs. They miss the point…it is to individuate enough, to understand what you need to go out and do. He was just a fabulous example of it in so many ways.

Fergus Nicoll: Well that seems, Alison, like an amazingly forgiving person… From what I’ve seen of the movie, this is very much part of the story of the movie. There are some explosive scenes related to this. But it’s always difficult…there have been massive tomes about Steve Jobs, some have been less revelatory than some hoped for, but (Jobs is) a man who appears to tower over Silicon Valley, even in his absence?

Alison van Diggelen: He’s absolutely idolized here and around the world, and in fact a documentary just came out here in the United States: Alex Gibney’s documentary Steve Jobs, the Man in the Machine. Chrisann was interviewed for five hours for that and she talks at length about just how cruel he was to her and yet, she is incredibly forgiving. She has respect for what he’s done, his visionary powers, but she does describe herself as “a modern day Mary Magdalene…Steve saw himself as a Christ figure,” that’s what she wrote to me this week.

Mary Magdalene Christ sculpture by Rodin

Fergus Nicoll: That’s a pretty powerful image…I’m always amazed that we expect the visionary leaders in tech, in industry, in politics to be good guys. Why should that be necessary?

Alison van Diggelen: Well, I think that’s the ideal. What concerns me about the idolization, almost canonization of Steve Jobs, is the fact that young people might think of him as the perfect role model…i.e. the more “jerk-like” they are, the better. And I think that’s a very dangerous role model. I think it’s important that people like Chrisann Brennan speak up to show the contradictions in his life. She wants to get out this universal message about the plight of single mothers and how Steve Jobs made her peripheral, almost invisible and it plays into this bigger question of business attitudes to families and what are our values?

Fergus Nicoll: Alison, who’s the equivalent now…And are there woman poised to achieve such dominance in Silicon Valley?

Alison van Diggelen: The first person who comes to mind is Elon Musk…Females that I would cite are Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg.

And of course there’s Bill Gates. He’s probably going to be canonized for the second half of his career as a philanthropist, not a tech guy.

Fergus Nicoll: There’s a parallel there with Jimmy Carter, the most famous ex-president probably because of what he’s done…and Bill Gates has done the same: an extraordinary first career and then this amazing philanthropic career with his wife Malinda and their many campaigns….

Do you buy that Silicon Valley is a counterpoint to Wall Street (making giving money away popular)?

Alison van Diggelen: I’m delighted to hear that the message is getting out about the generosity of people in Silicon Valley. It’s so easy to point fingers and say that the wealth isn’t being shared. It is, but I’d say, probably not enough.

On the question of behavior of CEOs, there is growing transparency, thanks to social media, 24/7 news coverage. CEOs can’t get away with what they used to. Steve Jobs, if he was doing what he did to Chrisann Brennan today – denying paternity and saying 10% of the (male) US population could be the father of this child – he just wouldn’t get away with that today. The evidence would be there.

Fergus Nicoll: Alison, thanks so much for bringing in the interview for us on the Steve Jobs story.

Alison van Diggelen: My pleasure indeed. Thank you.

Steve Jobs’ First Love: Why The Whole Truth Matters

Steve Jobs’ First Love: Why The Whole Truth Matters

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Chrisann Brennan has been described as the “emotional heart” of Alex Gibney’s new film, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. She came to the Fresh Dialogues studio for an intimate conversation about her relationship with Steve Jobs and their child, Lisa Brennan-Jobs. In this video clip, we discuss why, despite being burned by other journalists, she chose to take part in Alex Gibney’s documentary. She also shares her unique perspective on why the whole truth matters. As Andrew Ross Sorkin explores, Steve Jobs can be both hero and villain.

Here’s the transcript of our conversation (edited for length and clarity):

Alison van Diggelen: What are you hoping to achieve by contributing so fully in the documentary (Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine)?

Chrisann Brennan: When they first approached me, they said Alex Gibney did not manipulate content and in the spirit of what I intended, he would uphold that. I’ve had a lot of experience, because of Steve, where people…run on their own agenda…but I found that Alex Gibney did uphold what I said.

Alison van Diggelen: What message are you hoping to get over?

Chrisann Brennan: I don’t want to judge Steve because he did what he did, it was fabulous…but I like the fact that the (movie) spectrum shows we are different people now. We value different things. We will expose these things because we want to have a dialogue in the world about the whole picture…not just the ‘Mount Rushmore picture’ of people who do well.

Alison van Diggelen: So you can contribute that fully faceted perspective?

 Chrisann Brennan: Yes, I do feel that.

Alison van Diggelen: You said “I don’t want to paint me as the victim, and Steve as the villain.” Is there an alternate way you’d like to frame it?

Chrisann Brennan: That will continue to evolve. I survived it…I have more than survived it…I survived him…

Alison van Diggelen: And do you feel that is a victory right there?

Chrisann Brennan: I feel it says if you hold onto the truth, it actually starts to amount to something. This was twisted love…we would have done better if we could have.

Alison van Diggelen: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Chrisann Brennan: Oh, yeah…but I couldn’t have. When I was living with Steve and he was showing me his poetry, I really wish I’d taken it to heart more deeply.

Alison van Diggelen: Was this his Bob Dylan poetry?

Bite in the Apple - Chrisann Brennan and daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs -- Steve Jobs - from book from PR/author

Bite in the Apple – Chrisann Brennan and daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs — Steve Jobs – from book from PR/author

Chrisann Brennan: Mm hmm. When I grew up enough to be an adult and understand that 17-year-old, I felt ohhhh. There’s just so much. If we had a chance to talk now, it’d be great…

Alison van Diggelen: What would you ask him?

Chrisann Brennan: I think I would just express some kind of love…

Alison van Diggelen: You would tell him you loved him?

Chrisann Brennan: In some form…

Alison van Diggelen: That’s beautiful…Now I want to find that passage…(that shows) the side of Steve that is not well known: this goofiness.

Chrisann Brennan: (Reading from her memoir, The Bite in the Apple) Running into the kitchen one day, he took the phone off the hook, pressed the # key and told me he’d just blown up the world! (laughter)

Alison van Diggelen: It’s very powerful…

One last question: what do you feel was Steve’s greatest legacy?

Chrisann Brennan: He showed people how to free themselves up…how to be who they were. Yes, he made a technological device…but mainly the message is to be who you are. Now a lot of people are running around trying to be like Steve Jobs. They miss the point…it is to individuate, to understand what you need to go out and do. He was such a fabulous example of it in so many ways.

Alison van Diggelen: Chrisann Brennan, thank you so much.

***

Read more at Fresh Dialogues about Brennan’s perspective: “I am a modern Mary Magdalene, the truth of who I am was blacked out. Steve fancied himself a Christ figure…” 

Check back soon for more video highlights at Fresh Dialogues:

On the profound gift Steve Jobs gave her when they first met

On their experiments with LSD; and what made him wildly fearful

Oh how he changed from the deeply in love teenager to the ruthless businessman who “lost his humanity.”

On their daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs and how Jobs was “wowed” by her, yet denied paternity for many years

Brennan says the universal message in her book “The Bite In The Apple” is the plight of single mothers and why things need to change

Steve Jobs’ First Love & Her Untold Story

Steve Jobs’ First Love & Her Untold Story

I am a modern Mary Magdalene, the truth of who I am was blacked out. Steve fancied himself a Christ figure, but hated women,  was a delusional contemporary business, religious fundamentalist who spread a culture of reality distortion”, Chrisann Brennan 

Brennan and I recently spent a day together in an intimate conversation about her relationship with Steve Jobs. Her story is the least known part of the Apple saga. I will be sharing video highlights of that remarkable dialogue in the next few days. Meantime, if the name Chrisann Brennan doesn’t ring a bell for you, here’s some background.

Story by Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

Who is Chrisann Brennan?

Brennan was Steve Jobs’ first love. They met at Homestead High School, Cupertino when they were 17; and had a tumultuous relationship through their college years and the early days of Apple. In 1978, Brennan told Jobs she was pregnant.  He initially denied paternity, aggressively and forcefully. Despite going to meet his daughter when she was three days old, and helping Brennan choose the name Lisa, it was only after a DNA test that he finally acknowledged, and helped support his daughter and her mother. For many years, Brennan was forced to wait tables and clean houses to keep a roof over their heads. You may remember that Lisa was the name of one of Apple’s first computer products, though for some time, Steve Jobs maintained that it stood for “Local Integrated Software Architecture.”

During our conversation, Brennan describes how she first met Jobs and he gave her the profound lyrics of a Bob Dylan song; their experiments with LSD; and his biggest fears. After a lifetime of reflection, she shares her insights on why she thinks he changed from the painfully shy and goofy teenager who was deeply in love, to the ruthless businessman who “lost his humanity.” Brennan says that the universal message in her book “The Bite In The Apple” is about the plight of single mothers.

“There are so many women who’ve gone through what I’ve gone through…The bite out of the apple, it’s a blame on the feminine, the collective unconscious that we live in. Who cares about a woman and a child? I felt so guilty…he (Jobs) tapped into people’s weakest, deepest self doubt and played on it…made me invisible,” Chrisann Brennan.

Bite in the Apple - Chrisann Brennan and daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs -- Steve Jobs - from book from PR/author

Bite in the Apple – Chrisann Brennan and daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs — Steve Jobs – from book from PR/author