Gene Marks’ Forbes article, “Why Most Women Will Never Become CEO” is having the impact that might have been intended: a lot of buzz, discontent, agreement, the whole shebang.
I enjoyed the article, much in the way I would enjoy a reality TV show – with distraction, humor, a grain (or two) of salt, and the knowledge that what I am seeing has some semblance of someone’s reality. The article enraged quite a few while it struck a chord of truth with others. It was provocative, I guess, but nothing I haven’t heard before… It was a one-sided article, written from a guy who, I think, was maybe trying to be provocative or trying to have a point of view. I am just not sure what his point was. So, I will look at it from my perspective instead of trying to guess what point he was trying to make.
While I was not one of the people who had a big emotional reaction, I did feel the need to talk about one thing he mentions, that I think holds a lot of truth: “Yes, women have advanced a great deal in the business world. Unfortunately, the business world hasn’t advanced along with them”.
Having studied women who hold board of director positions (the highest form of leadership in business, putting that glass ceiling even higher than the C-suite, as in the article) in public technology and life sciences businesses, I am, of course, always interested in reading about this subject. Mark’s comments about the business world not changing (I read “business world” to equate to the policies, procedures, decision-makers, influencers) was quite accurate in many cases. And those antiquated practices will have implications not just to women, but also in attracting talent from the younger generation… but that’s a different blog post.
While Mark’s article was full of sweeping generalizations and sometimes sad-but-true insights, I think we need to look at the bigger picture. And it is a big picture, so how about we look at one slice: let’s take a step back and not just focus on the C-suite; as one of the comments pointed out – not everyone wants to be a CEO. As women, we know that positional power may be good, but there is power in the person as well; thereby enabling anyone to have an impact. When it comes to women in the workforce, and I can only talk to the technology-intensive industries, what they need is to be ENABLED, not to be empowered by these decision-makers that Mr. Marks talks about in his article. Stinky, silly boys who Mark seems to think will be the only leaders of our future (sorry, Mr. Marks, you are wrong) don’t have all the power in the current and future talent pool.
So, about that talent pool…
So, about that talent pool… we have a problem in the technology-intensive industries. Many of us know it. Some of us talk about it. Some try to be sensitive while others like to pick fights. Whatever, the facts are the facts. And, according to NCWIT (National Center for Women in Technology) the facts are as follows: 56% of the professional workforce is women, yet women only hold 25% of jobs in technology. Mmm, that’s an awful lot of capable, educated, and experienced talent NOT working in an industry that plays such an important role in the way we live, the way business is conducted, and way societies and governments are sustained, built (or destroyed)…
What does all this mean?
So, what does all this mean? Marks’ point that business hasn’t quite kept up with the changing workforce demographics has truth to it. And, probably, even before women hit the workforce, our educational system, at least in the US, could use a bit of a review. What is being done in education and in business to attract ALL smart, creative, and capable people to technology? What is being done to attract, acquire, and develop that talent? Women have HUGE buying power and even more influence over how money is spent. Shouldn’t they also be represented in positions that create the products and services being purchased and consumed? Practices are antiquated – most do not meet the contextual needs of this dynamic workforce, and just as important, of the customers and other stakeholders that workforce needs to serve. It’s also true that most still view the issues of the lack of women in power (looking at the sad number of women in the CEO positions and on boards) and in technology overall as a cause to support, with no sustainable impact, and not as a business problem that needs to be invested in and solved.