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Laurene Powell Jobs Discusses Funding Social Innovation Projects

Stanford Professor Thomas Byers recently persuaded Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of the late Steve Jobs, to appear with him on stage at Stanford University. He interviewed her about her life and her ideas for providing better compensation for entrepreneurs working to produce meaningful innovations in conservation and education.

Mrs. Jobs chairs Emerson Collective, an organization based in Palo Alto, California that she founded. It describes its mission as “shaking up the status quo, one entrepreneur at a time.”

Although she rarely speaks in public, during her appearance at Stanford she discussed her career and her role as a social innovator and philanthropist. Forbes estimates that she has become the sixth most wealthy woman, with a personal fortune estimated at $19.7 billion. Mrs. Jobs founded College Track, an organization designed to assist low income teens in preparing to attend college. She maintains a keen interest in several issues, including helping women overcome career barriers, assisting social innovators earn better returns and reforming immigration.

Towards the close of her appearance, she agreed to respond to questions from students in the audience. When asked to describer obstacles she encountered during her career, she noted that for a four year period after graduating from college she worked as a salesperson and trader for Goldman Sachs. She worked in a predominantly male environment, but as someone who grew up with three brothers, admitted she was used to being around men even though there “were plenty of terrible things that were said on the trading floor.”

When asked whether low rates of compensation might incline entrepreneurs to avoid working for the public good, she explained that she believes major corporations and venture capital firms could help fund their efforts by donating a portion of their profits to social entrepreneurs. Her comments appeared in Forbes recently.

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