Women Mean Business

There’s a great article in today’s Globe on what what more women in senior posts can mean for big business.

Several studies have linked greater gender diversity in senior posts with financial success. European firms with the highest proportion of women in power saw their stock value climb by 64 percent over two years, compared with an average of 47 percent, according to a 2007 study by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company. Measured as a percent of revenues, profits at Fortune 500 firms that most aggressively promoted women were 34 percent higher than industry medians, a 2001 Pepperdine University study showed. And, just recently, a French business professor found that the share prices of companies with more female managers declined less than average on the French stock market in 2008.

Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow (gasp! The article was written by a woman!) does a good job of couching this evidence in the fact that correlation doesn’t equal causation (sing it with me, everyone), but I’m still pretty blown away by the figures in these studies.

Some commenters, on the other hand, had a bone to pick with the headline: The female advantage: A new reason for businesses to promote women: it’s more profitable

I should probably just stop reading comments on mainstream news as a general rule, but so far I haven’t:

It’s amazing how it’s OK to be sexist if you’re a woman and OK to be racist if you’re a minority. Complete double standard.

…the simple fact of the matter is that we are living in an age when it is perfectly okay to demonize white males of a certain age.

Oh wait I get it, it’s OK to discriminate as long as it’s against white, hetero males.

Buh? Were we all reading the same article?

Aside from the logical acrobatics it takes to read an article that (I think) really clearly outlines the positive contributions made by upper-level women in business–despite the hurdles they faced just to get there–and decide that article is “demoniz[ing] white males of a certain age,” here’s what really strikes me about comments like this:

At least explicitly, Tuhus-Dubrow’s article mentioned no specifics of race or sexuality. I think we can assume she was talking about white men, given the racial trends in business, but she was also most likely talking about white women as well, or she no doubt would have mentioned the obstacles that women of color face as well. And where did “hetero” come into play? To me, that smacks of just the “tenacious associations between leadership and masculinity” Tuhus-Dubrow mentions. The only way you can read this article as being somehow biased against heterosexual men–at least any more than men in general–is if you play them against queer women. Powerful women as mannish dykes–gee, there’s a new one. (And would that it were true!)

This kind of anxious masculinity cracks me up. What all these commenters fail to see is that if these studies are accurate, when women in business do better, everyone does better. If healthy companies are really the ones with more women promoted to higher positions, why would anyone, man or woman, want to continue working with an unhealthy model?

The comment that really makes me sad, though, is the one that starts here

I am a woman who works in a predominately male field. I have never during my education or professional life been discriminated against. I fail to see the institutional sexism you speak of.

…and still ends up here:

I personally have taken a very solid hit to my career due to my own choice to become a stay at home mom.

How can anyone not see that as the result of institutional sexism? It’s clearly harder to manage just about any full-time position if you’re a stay at home parent. And the vast majority of parents who stay at home are women.

The mind, it boggles.


3 Responses to Women Mean Business

  1. Sita says:

    Do you mind if I use this in class?

  2. pandanose says:

    With proper attribution, I don’t see why not!

  3. Anna says:

    Yes, it indeed boggles…

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