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Vivek Shah: Society ‘isn’t an equal playing field'

·3-min read

These days, debates over inequality are front and center just about everywhere.

From rallies held by President Donald Trump, to the debates between Democratic presidential candidates — and even a recent acceptance speech given at the Oscars — everyone has something to say about equality and opportunity.

And in a newly released interview, the chief executive at a fast-growing internet information and services company made an urgent call for leaders to address the issue.

“It's not an equal playing field,” said Vivek Shah, who runs J2 Global, which owns sites that include Mashable, IGN, and PCMag.

He made the remarks during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

“It's just a fact, right? And everyone might be running the same race, but we have all very different starting points,” he added.

“I think every leader needs to understand that,” Shah said. “Looking for ways in which for those where the starting points are dissimilar, how do you make it an equal race? How do you ensure that?”

“That's a vitally important thing for anybody to be thinking about and use any platform they have to address the issues,” he stated.

J2 Global makes over a billion in annual revenue, and has made more than 180 acquisitions since its founding in 1995. Before his current position, Shah served as CEO at Ziff Davis, and in senior administrative roles at Time Inc.

Last year, he ranked tenth on the Equilar-New York Times list of the highest paid CEOs, bringing in an annual compensation of about $45 million.

Debate rages over inequality

The U.S. economy is in the midst of its longest expansion ever, but questions remain about whether the success has yielded broad-based prosperity.

The benefits of that growth have begun to spread to low-wage workers, whose pay is growing faster than those at the top for the first time in at least 20 years; However, median household wealth remains below pre-recession levels.

President Donald Trump recently dubbed U.S. economic performance under his tenure the “blue-collar boom,” citing a low unemployment rate and strong wage growth. However, prominent critics of the president, like former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and economist Joseph Stiglitz, have accused Trump of exaggerating the gains for middle- and low-income Americans.

J2 Global CEO Vivek Shah appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.
J2 Global CEO Vivek Shah appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.

Shah declined to comment on politics, but said an uneven playing field requires leaders across society to see from the perspective of others.

“Empathy is an incredibly important characteristic of any leader,” he says.

Plus, he credited American democracy for offering opportunity for individuals from different backgrounds.

“I love that we have a political system like we do where you've got candidates from all realms who can run.”

In a ranking of countries by the social mobility they provide citizens, published last month by the World Economic Forum, the United States came in at #27, behind France (#12), Canada (#14), and the United Kingdom (#21).

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