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New Boss in Town

Category: Andy Marken's blog Published on Monday, 12 March 2012

The Changing Mix of Business Leadership


“Power is like being a lady... if you have to tell people you are, you aren't.”
Margaret Thatcher, “The Iron Lady,” Pathe International (2011)

A year ago, we were late in leaving for the office and noticed a lot of fathers were escorting their kids to the grade school.

Last week, it seemed as though the numbers hadn’t changed much.

With the business community being cautiously optimistic, it made us wonder if we’ll ever get back to the point where mom stays home handling the myriad of family/household activities and dad returns to the grind.

During the recession, men accounted for more than 71 percent of the job losses.

The latest unemployment figures stand at 9.8 percent for men 20 or over and 8 percent for their
female counterparts, with women making up 47 percent of the total labor force.

Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, said that their studies indicate that the man of the house isn’t finding a job as quickly as he hoped and if/when he does, it is for a lower salary.

"Work isn't working very well for men," she noted.

In addition to having more women in the workforce worldwide, we’re seeing a growing number of high-profile women running and influencing companies as well as very active mentoring organizations such as Women 2.0.

Influence Shift

Look at the women of influence:
- Meg Whitman, CEO of HP, of course almost anyone would look good after two men (Mark Hurd who did what the board asked him to do – maximize profits – and Leo Apotheker who did his darndest to push the company over the edge). Meg seems to be the quiet, positive, steady hand the company needs today.
- Virginia Rometty, CEO of IBM, who came up through the ranks of the company, was mentored and groomed by some of the best in the industry.
- Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, O.K., she had a female boss in Anne Mulcahy but that should count as 2-3 points for Xerox, especially since Burns is also African-American.
- Marissa Mayer, head of Google’s local products, where there is a posse of other very smart female executives.
- Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, not only earned about $31 million last year but will possibly be worth $1.6B after the company’s IPO. She puts her personality and presentation skills to good use, not only for Facebook but also for women.
- Carol Bartz former CEO of Autodesk and Yahoo, is one of our favorites because she was a solid executive, often unfairly attacked because despite all of her executive skills just didn’t seem to click in Yahoo.

There is an increasing number of very qualified executives inside and outside the consumer/business technology arena. Some are outstanding, some very good, some good, some just…well, the mix is about like guys.

They’ll repeat Margaret Thatcher’s response, “I wasn't lucky. I deserved it.”

Contrary to what you might think, they haven’t taken over the industry.


Work to be Done – Women – who already have good logical, analytical minds – are a long way from having equal representation in the communications/computing technology industries. However, they are increasingly taking their place in managing these product area programs; and a number of the industry associations and schools are helping them grow into management positions. 

According to a recent McKinsey study, women constitute:
- 40% of the management workforce
- 46.8% of the total workforce
- 42% of MBAs
- 59% of bachelor degrees
- 61% of master degrees
- about 50% of law and medical degrees

Women are crucial to US economic growth. Their participation in the workforce took off in the 1970s.

Today, their productivity accounts for about a quarter of current GDP.

Follow the Money

According to the US Census Bureau, women oversee over 80% of consumer spending --$5 trillion dollars annually.

They also control the purse strings when it comes to disposable income – O.K., all of the control in our home.

As Margaret Thatcher noted, “The cocks may crow, but it's the hen that lays the egg.

You might naturally expect women to take the lead in business, industry and government – sure couldn’t do worse than the guys have – but entrenched company, female mind-sets and behavior are keeping all but the most focused women from advancing.

McKinsey found this is particularly acute when they transition from middle to senior manager.

Give ‘Em an Inch – As women increasingly take their place in business, industry and government, their roles are rapidly moving beyond the traditional 9-5 jobs to program/project management. 

The invisible biases aren’t insurmountable. In fact, the business case for having gender diversity seems to be very compelling.

Firms with a male/female leader balance have a better ROI (return on investment), better return to shareholders and a higher stock price.

They tap into the huge women’s market.

They attract the best talent from the gender-diverse talent pipeline.

Take IBM for example – they have enough track records to “prove” the benefits.

Ms. Rometty spent her whole career at IBM and has shown that diversity is more than window dressing as well as a great way to measure the performance of her then boss – Sam Palmisano.

Actually, IBM has a rich history in this area:
- Hired 25 female college seniors in 1935
- Tapped their first woman VP in 43
- Instituted a three-month family leave policy in 1956
- Initiated the IBM Women Inventors Community for patent filing
- Started early inclusion programs for minorities, disabled, gays
- Has a formal, aggressive mentoring program

They still come up short in comprehensive equal representation; but at least they are aware of the challenge, issues, opportunities.

Thoroughly Mix

Gender diversity is simply good business.

Dip, Recovery – The recession impacted male/female employment; but more of the jobs lost were held by men and many of the rust belt jobs won’t return. With the employment picture picking up, it is still the females who are finding early stages and middle management jobs more rapidly. Industry experts expect women to continue capturing leadership positions. 

Or as Margaret Thatcher said, “Of course, it is the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story.”

Especially in today’s economy, which isn’t going to change any time soon.

Oh sure, guys can say gals are getting the jobs because they have historically been underpaid (boy’s club members whisper they’re worth less).

More Equal Pay – The median hourly pay gap has closed slowly in recent years in the Americas and Europe. Even in many of the skilled professions, women still experience pay discrimination. As women take the lead as the primary breadwinner in the family, the gap should quickly disappear and hopefully, people will be compensated based on their expertise, experience; not their sex. Source – The Guardian

But the truth is women just look better than guys (Oh, knock it off!!!) in very key leadership areas, especially in today’s open business environment!

In fact, in the nationwide Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends survey, about the only area we guys shine is that we’re more decisive… O.K., sorta’, kinda’, maybe.

All the Best – Men and women alike agree that women have the leadership traits that most people expect in their bosses, leaders. Perhaps all they have to do is decide to take command and their reign will begin. 

One-in-five (21%) still said men make the better leaders.

Most (69%) said men and women make equally good leaders.

Despite the educational advances and workforce shift, relatively few women have risen to become corporate leaders.

Business Benefits

But studies by McKiney, Pax Investments, HBR (Harvard Business Review) consistently show that more women in leadership measurably helps companies succeed.

According to Joe Keefe, president of Pax, “When women are at the table, the discussion is richer, the decision-making process is better and the organization is stronger.”

No one expects women to leave the workforce when the economy bounces back because today’s housing values are eroded and retirement accounts are “reduced.”

In addition, only a person running for regional, national office will say wage growth is going to return to “normal”…whatever that is.

Besides, women are tasting the inner/outer rewards of leadership and they … like it!


It’s because they’ve seen the truth in what Margaret Thatcher said, “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it."

It’s about time men allow (no, “assist”) females to become mainstream decision-makers in business, industry, government.

They might make some meaningful contributions that help this and future generations…couldn’t hurt!!!

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