Much is being made lately, yet again, about gender problems within corporate America. “Gender problems” is a euphemism for what is claimed to be inequitable treatment of women in the workplace.
I’m not sure what is driving this current flurry of concern, but it’s not the fact that things have gotten worse for women – women’s employment is currently at the highest levels in decades. So, something else is at work here. The WSJ recently published the article, “Snapping Corporate America’s Gender Problem.” Their lead item in the article cites a woman “global director” at a Fortune 500 company who was giving the keynote address at a conference and was approached by a man who asked her where the restrooms were. Is that a crime? I have certainly asked a goodly number of men, over the years, for directions to the washrooms. No one appeared to take any offense at all. But, the interpretation here was that the man misperceived the woman as “part of the hotel staff.” How would he know that – and, for that matter, how would she know that that is what he thought? I would have assumed that the man just needed to know where the “facilities” were and thought nothing more of it. Which probably gives us some clue as to why there’s a “gender problem” in the workplace. That problem is described as “lack of gender diversity” with women “comprising just 10% of top management positions across S&P 1500 companies in 2018.” This statistic is characterized as being “less than the prior” year, but no data concerning the meaning of “less” is given. So, let’s examine the particulars of women who are or are not able to rise to upper management, by retracing the actions of women over the past two years. During those years, a large number of women (who, assumedly, were on their way up in the ranks) have been particularly intent upon making complaints against the men that they work for, citing “sexual harassment.” We’ve discussed the ramifications of these actions in prior posts. And, to do a quick re-cap: As a result of a casual remark having the potential for being misinterpreted as harassment, men in upper-level management positions have realized that it is absolutely necessary to their careers and their livelihoods that they eschew any un-chaperoned, one-on-one contact with women. Thus, men occupying the positions who would be the ones recommending women to opportunities for advancement have ceased traveling alone with women on business trips (including refusing to fly on the same airplane with a fellow co-worker who is a woman) as well as ceasing the practice to be in an office alone with a woman, dining out for business purposes – and, so on. In other words, men have drawn back from participating in the mentoring of women, if that should include being alone with a woman at any time. In light of the new frenzy to claim sexual harassment, this sounds like a good decision. One, therefore, would not be surprised by the fact that women might have lost the opportunity to rise to the upper ranks in U.S. corporations. It’s just possible that when women learn to behave as professionals in the workplace then they will be treated as such. I’ve been constantly reminded by our CEO clients, who are men, that women make far more “sexual advancements” and use far more “suggestive language” than do the men that they’ve observed. The WSJ ends the piece by citing – again without supporting data – that “gender diversity leads to more attractive returns, too.” They are apparently relying solely on the so-called data generated using Russell 3000 “data.” FTSE Russell is a British firm that provides stock market indices and data services using “capitualization-weighted stock market index” of the 3000 largest “and most liquid” U.S. stocks. Beware of the fine print: weighting practices are good only in the eye of the beholder. At any rate, this group has determined that “geneder-diverse executive teams exhibited better performance, were more highly valued and had lower risk profiles.” To date, with the track records of recent, past CEOs who were women and were subsequently dismissed – not because they were women but because they couldn’t do a credible job – I’m still waiting for actual evidence that women, to date, who rise through the ranks to the upper levels, are actually a better benefit than men to the companies that they represent.