Monday, May 7, 2012

Former GE Head Jack Welch Explains to Women Why They Cannot be Corporate Executives

And Conservative WP Columnist Jennifer Rubin Rushes to Applaud

Jack Welch was an extremely tough boss at GE, even if his personal ethics left were a little short (he engaged in a romantic relationship with a person writing a story about him in a major business magazine).  For Mr. Welch, his success was all about his own capabilities, in his mind he did it all himself, no help from anyone.  And so like almost every other successful person he now feels the need to condescend to give advice to those who would emulate his success.

So speaking at a conference for women, Mr. Welch told them all they had to do to succeed was to devote full time to their jobs.  That stuff about bias in the work place against women, doesn’t exist.

On Wednesday, Mr. Welch and his wife and writing partner, Suzy Welch, told a gathering of women executives from a range of industries that, in matters of career track, it is results and performance that chart the way. Programs promoting diversity, mentorships and affinity groups may or may not be good, but they are not how women get ahead. "Over deliver," Mr. Welch advised. "Performance is it!"

 Yes that’s right, he is against any programs that would help women overcome decades of bias and prejudice, and he quotes unnamed women who don’t want that.

The realm of the "soft stuff" may not be Mr. Welch's favored zone. During his remarks, he referred to human resources as "the H.R. teams that are out there, most of them for birthdays and picnics." He mentioned a women's forum inside GE that he says attracted 500 participants. "The best of the women would come to me and say, 'I don't want to be in a special group. I'm not in the victim's unit. I'm a star. I want to be compared with the best of your best.'"

And then he addressed the audience: "Stop lying about it. It's true. Great women get upset about getting into the victim's unit."

And of course the Washington Post’s current favorite Conservative (because she is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Romney campaign) Jennifer Rubin has to weigh in with the Conservative take.

Let’s focus on what Welch was saying. He wasn’t saying workplaces should not accommodate women. He wasn’t saying women shouldn’t be allowed choices. He was saying that if you want to get to the tippy-top of the corporate ladder, which few can attain, you’ll have to devote yourself entirely (or nearly so) to your job.

And in the fantasy world that Ms. Rubin lives in there is no bias against women, they are doing terrific.

It’s not because businesses are cruel or discriminatory. To the contrary, the workforce is now made up of almost 50 percent women. And women are well represented in high-paying professions.

But in the real world statistics, those tricky things beyond the understanding or acceptance of most Conservatives because of the known liberal bias of facts and data tell a different story.

Of the Fortune 500 companies, only 3% have a female CEO today. Female board membership is similarly spare. A survey of 60 major companies by McKinsey shows women occupying 53% of entry-level positions, 40% of manager positions, and only 19% of C-suite jobs.

But to Ms. Rubin, that is "well represented in high paying professions".  Maybe she means they are well represented in the clerical positions in otherwise high paying professions.

Gosh, what could explain this lack of women at the top of companies?  Well it could be this.

  1. Women are simply not as smart as men.  No, as anyone who has been in an environment with women knows, they are smarter, they work harder and they are more dedicated.  The fact that women are way underrepresented in senior executive position is not because of lack of qualifications.
No that doesn't seem right.  So maybe it is this.

  1. Women are being discriminated against.  This seems to be the only answer that fits the facts.  No this is not the blatant discrimination of the past, it is the mainly unconscious discrimination that men have that does not permit them to consider women as equals in the work place.

As for that hard work thing, take a look at the amount of time most CEO’s spend on the job.  It ain’t much.  They get huge amounts of vacations.  They serve on boards of other companies and that service requires a large amount of time.  An unscientific observation here is that CEO’s probably work about half to three quarters of the year on actual CEO business for their companies. 

But maybe there is hope for women to achieve the CEO positions in large companies.  Maybe in the next decade the number of women CEO’s will double.  Fantastic, that will mean that 6% of the Fortune 500 companies have a woman CEO.  Great progress that would be, and women, you have people like Jack Welch with his 19th century view of the world to thank. 

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