There's a new trend sweeping the world's most influential corporations: Women CEOs. With the appointment of Meg Whitman to HP's top position and Virginia Rometty at IBM's helm, there's a new sheriff in town boys and she's here to stay. Women make up a paltry 3% of the Fortune 500's top spots but that trend will change in the days to come. At this moment, there's a record number of women in CEO positions but the true number is still very low. 12% of Fortune 500 companies report no women occupy Board of Director seats. Change is slow but it's happening.
But what's responsible for this paradigm shift?
The Old Guard
Could it be that the Old Guard and Men-Only boardrooms are becoming outdated? Could a more progressive, a more educated and a more culturally diverse population be the cause? Yes, and yes. We're living in a time that has taught us to appreciate someone's accomplishments and skills regardless of gender. No, it isn't perfect but we're moving out the Old Guard and clearing those smoke-filled rooms one step at a time and making room for the intelligent, the creative and the accomplished--be they male or female.
The "Good Old Boy" circles still exist and will for some time. But, thank goodness for progress. I, myself, have been victimized by the Old Guard and Good Old Boy circles and am ready for change. No, I don't think a female-dominated corporate landscape will be the ultimate answer either. But, I do think that "fairer sex" may refer to something other than looks. It may refer to a broader sense of fair play, fair dealings and fair treatment of employees.
Crime and Corruption
I, for one, believe that female-dominated leadership will result in a less corporate corruption and shady undertakings. Why? You'd have to read my latest entry in the Zero Day area to find out all the details but I'll spoil it for you here. Women commit fewer crimes. A lot fewer.
In 2009, men accounted for 93% of the country's prison population.
You might believe that crime, especially white collar crime, is one of opportunity and having more women in power will result in more women committing those crimes. I seriously doubt it but only time will tell.
For example, do you think there could have been a Bernice Madoff? How about a Bernadette Ebbers? A Kathy Lay? Would Madam President Hillary Clinton have committed adultery in the White House? I say, "No" on all counts.
Criminal, immoral and corrupt behavior just doesn't run through women's minds like it does men's. I could be very naive on this point but the statistics just don't lie. Of course, I realize that women can commit crimes. I know they can lie. I'm aware that they can be as evil as any man. I have no blindness where those things are concerned but I do believe those women are in the minority and they typically do not rise to positions of power.
- Gracia C. Martore of Gannett Co.
- Denise M. Morrison of Campbell Soup
- Deanna Mulligan of Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
- Debra Reed of Sempra Energy
- Beth Mooney of KeyCorp
- Lynn Elsenhans of Sunoco
- Ursula Burns of Xerox
- Ellen Kullman of DuPont
- Laura Sen of BJ’s Wholesale Club
- Angela Braly of WellPoint
- Carol Meyrowitz of The TJX Companies
- Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo
- Irene Rosenfeld of Kraft Foods
- Patricia A. Woertz of Archer Daniels Midland Co.
- Andrea Jung of Avon Products
- Margaret “Meg” Whitman of Hewlett-Packard
- Virginia “Ginni” Rometty of IBM Corp
- Heather Bresch of Mylan Inc.
Yes, there are women who people want to throw stones at for their dealings in the corporate world and perhaps deservedly so. Carly Fiorina (HP) and Carol Bartz (Yahoo!) are two of the ones that come to mind. In their defense, both women took over companies that were in trouble and were expected to work miracles. When they didn't, they were ousted like yesterday's news. Unfair? Maybe, but that's life in the corporate world. If women want equality in the boardroom, they will have to learn to take equality on every level.
Although to me, it's hard to judge accurately when women make up 50% of the human population but only 3% of the CEO population. The CEO seat is a hot one indeed. It's a launch pad. It's like being a college football coach. When your team wins, everyone loves you. When your team loses, you get fired.
Changing the Tides
It's not going to be easy but it's getting easier for women to climb the corporate ladder. More women in powerful positions means equal pay for women, fair treatment for everyone and perhaps a kinder, gentler corporate world in which we can all thrive. I hope so. I hope the women of the world, my daughter included, won't see men as the enemy and won't feel the need to overcompensate for past inequalities. Don't be angry. Don't hold grudges. No one expects perfection. No one wants you to be a man. We want you to be you: A successful CEO.
But, the tides take time to change. Just today in New Zealand, Alasdair Thompson, CEO of the Employers' and Manufacturers' Association, was fired because of comments he made regarding women in the workplace. He stated that women were paid less because they have to take care of children and they take more sick leave due to menstruation.
Instead of looking at the past, I want my daughter and other women to look at their new role models: Meg Whitman, Virginia Rometty, Lynn Elsenhans and other successful, influential women who are laying the stones upon which many women will tread. I want the women of this country (and of this world) to look to these women and say, "See? See, what's possible when you hire the right person for the job."