I have been reading books related to women and leadership for an upcoming graduate class (bibliography posted below). The state of boardroom play is a reiteration of what we probably already know: women are still being passed over or withheld from leadership positions in business. There are well-known and understood reasons for this lack of achievement. Reasons well known and understood by anyone of middle-income or below who is moderately educated (this leaves out the current Republican nominee for President, but more on that later).
First, women’s professional careers suffer with marriage (men’s do not) because women remain responsible for a majority of child care and domestic duties.
Second, women tend to take off time from their careers to have children (for various lengths of time) and find that their employer or profession is no longer interested in women’s capabilities, only in their possibly divided attention from the job towards her family (an interest that men do not face) or their possible lack (atrophy) of qualifications.
Finally, women are stereotyped as not being able to lead, or are considered more relationally motivated than decision motivated (and heaven help her if she is just plain determined and motivated…she will be considered a bitch).
There really is nothing new in the books I have been reading that isn’t already known or stated by other researchers. Any stereotype, or any concerns about a woman’s relationship/procreative status or leadership abilities, are simply bogus! Now, go tell that to the men occupying a corner office on Wall Street and see how fast you are met with laughter and escorted out the front doors.
The stereotyping and discriminatory practices are unfair and detrimental to women, and every effort should be taken to contradict and countermand these practices in order to create a level field of opportunity for everyone (do I need to mention those men in the corner offices are white?).
My concern is that all the women and leadership literature, all giving very valid, interesting, and sometimes enraging points, continue to measure and define professional success in ideals pronounced by the patriarchal business establishment long ago. Every researcher wants to know why there are not more women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Excuse me, but what if I do not want to be a CEO? I have every intention of being extremely successful in my career, but the opportunity to schmooze with Donald Trump on a regular basis is not my idea of success.
My professional life has very little to do (directly) with Wall Street. By measuring women’s success on terms established by men, advocating, dispelling, or flagrantly calling bullshit on gendered nonsense by the likes of Romney & Co., Inc., renders the point moot. Get a different measurement, please. Time to take a poststructuralist feminist stand and trouble notions of gender and success, redefining them in a manner that has only a gentle nod toward the Wall Street corner office.
If you’re wondering why I feel this reconceptualization of success is necessary, it’s because I am tired of Wall Street cronies. They have bankrupted our economy twice (with numerous recessions in-between) through greedy practices, all the while holding a belief that they know what is best for everyone. And I am not talking just about best for everyone’s retirement portfolio. I mean in all situations, all the time, for everyone. Why? Because Wall Street cronies are largely arrogant. With that, I now return to the subject of the Republican nominee for President of the United States, Mitt Romney.
I have listened to Mitt speak/debate throughout the party nomination process, and now must listen to him speak and debate against President Obama until November. (Oh, goodie!!! I hope I have enough wine to make it through the experience. When I awake post-election, I hope I will be able to chalk the feeling up to a hangover and not the realization that my country will be run by a bullying, bigoted frat boy.)
My opinion of Mr. Romney is that he just does not get it. And, what is worse, I believe he will never get it. And the reason he will never get it is because Wall Street culture does not get it and has no desire to change the fact that it does not get it.
Let me see if I can be more clear….
Romney has no relation to reality by virtue of the Wall Street business culture upon which he boasts success, and upon which he has built is economic campaign. Take a looksie at corporate culture:
- Lack of women in decision-making and leadership positions
- Lack of cultural, ethnic, gender, sexual diversity in the top offices giving corporate culture a distorted and discriminatory view of the structure of society as a whole
- Inflated CEO salaries compared to lower-level posts (lower-level posts most likely to be occupied by women and minorities)
- Corporate tendency to only concentrate on the bottom line meaning that they only want to know how women and minorities will be profitable to them…period
- Wall Street is an Old Boys Network that sees humor, camaraderie, and strength in a way perceived as crude, aggressive, competitive, and intimidating to women and minorities
- Corporate culture is likely to operate on stereotypes creating an “Us versus Them” dichotomy where the “other” is perceived as a distrusted outsider not worth their time, an operational attitude buoyed through flagrant displays of tokenism to convince onlookers, whistleblowers, judges, and legislatures how “fair” they are (“I have a good relationship with the blacks.” – Donald Trump, 2011; “Our blacks are better than their blacks.” – Ann Coulter, 2011)
- Corporate culture’s ultimate aim is to squash the competition…bankrupt them, or buy and dispose of them while reaping the profits (only to be shared amongst their friends)
All of these points are Wall Street’s way of withholding opportunities for advancement…withholding opportunities for success. Needless to say, I am not impressed by Romney’s record at Bain Capital. It gives me the creeps. Corporate culture is not a formula for leading my democratic republic which boasts a constitution that guarantees everyone the opportunity to pursue happiness.
Excuse me, I need a glass of wine.
Eagly, A. H. and Carli, L. L. (2007). Through the labyrinth: the truth about how women become leaders. Mass: Harvard Business School Press.
Kellerman, B. and Rhode, D. (Eds.) (2007). Women and leadership: the state of play and strategies for change. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.
Valian, V. (1999). Why so slow?: the advancement of women. Mass: MIT Press.
If you want sources for the Donald Trump and Ann Coulter quotes, I suggest YouTube. The comments were truly outrageous and widely reported.