Executive Edge

A working girl disconnect beneath the glass ceiling

Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com
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Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.


Do the women in your firm feel they're getting a fair shake? Chances are they do, even though most women believe gender discrimination remains a problem in the workplace. The disconnect may demonstrate the power of personal experience versus the stubbornness of general perceptions.

A Pew Research Center report finds that 60 percent of millennial women—aged 18 to 32—believe men earn more than women for the same work. A majority also believe it's easier for men to get executive positions. But only 15 percent said they'd been discriminated against at work because of gender, and few reported witnessing discrimination at their own workplaces. At Fortune 500 firms, women hold 16.9 percent of board seats and 14.6 percent of executive positions.


"The funny thing about the wage gap being smaller for younger people is that it always raises the optimism that young people are the future and maybe as they age the wage gap will continue to be narrow. And we keep being disappointed by this."—Philip Cohen, sociology professor at the University of Maryland at College Park

Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard
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Whitman sings of the PC body electric


The age of desktop computers is not over? You're kidding, right?

Well, that's what Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman said, and after presiding over a 90 percent share gain this year she's got to be taken seriously. Whitman argues that desktops are still attractive to businesses. Of course, Whitman has to hope HP's desktops keep selling, as the firm has no smartphone and trails competitors in tablets. Whitman said HP is working on a combination laptop/tablet as it struggles to close the gap with competitors like Apple.


"HP is coming back and it's coming back strong."—Whitman

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Hedging bets on hedge funds


Hedge fund investors can leave you scratching your head. Overall, these funds have had a lackluster year, gaining about 12 percent versus the S&P 500's 27 percent, yet new money keeps flooding in. Investments under management for the $2.7 trillion industry grew by $360 billion this year.

So why are investors still betting on hedge funds? Some industry experts cite a change in attitudes, with investors now focusing on long-term dependability, not stupendous gains. The funds are also offering more variations tailored to institutional investors, which now account for 66 percent of assets, the highest ever.


"Pre-2008, investors thought of them—and hedge funds marketed themselves—as a source of additional returns. Now, they are not seen just being for humungous, 20 per cent-plus returns, but for smaller, stable returns over many years."—Amy Bensted, head of hedge funds at Preqin

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Real estate 2014


If you're hoping for another shot at those record low mortgage rates, don't hold your breath. Barring a huge surprise, there's not much chance we'll see 3.5 percent mortgage rates anytime soon—certainly not in 2014. That's just one prediction from CNBC's real estate reporter Diana Olick, who expects rates to drift higher as the Federal Reserve gets out of the bond-buying business. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans have gone up about a percentage point in the past year, to around 4.5 percent.

Other predictions: home sales will continue to rebound, partly because rising prices have lifted millions of underwater borrowers above water, freeing them to sell; prices will rise, but not at this year's 12 percent pace; rents will continue to rise, and investors will continue to be players.


"Despite the return of home sales, renter nation should continue throughout 2014, as younger Americans and first time home buyers are still left out of the recovery."—Olick

By Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com

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