Women In Charge

Discussion
Jun 22, 2011
George Anderson

A study by Babson College’s Center for Women’s Leadership a number of years back said that when it came to business priorities, female CEOs differed from their male counterparts by putting customers and employees first rather than profitability and shareholders.

Today, with more women than ever leading companies, it will be interesting to see if the results they produce are any better or worse than those achieved by men.

Bloomberg News reported that women are behind many new technology companies in areas such as food and fashion “where the female perspective is seen as vital.”

Aileen Lee, a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, told Bloomberg, “Women are driving most of the consumer activity on the Web today. They’re the majority of users on Facebook, on Twitter, on Zynga. That gives websites that figure out how to harness social media early on an advantage because they can grow more quickly.”

Among the retail sites founded by women are One Kings Lane, Plum District and Rent the Runway. Perhaps the most high-profile of the businesses started by women is the flash sales site operator Gilt Groupe, co-founded by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilson.

Ms. Maybank said the secret of success remains in staying true to self. “Often when you think of women in positions of power, they’ve got to be bulldogs,” she told Bloomberg. “I don’t try to appear less feminine. I allow that to be something that helps me and marks who I am, not something that’s a liability.”

Discussion Questions: What is behind the apparent rise in female entrepreneurs? Do you think companies being founded are more likely to succeed because they operate in categories “where the female perspective is seen as vital?”

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16 Comments on "Women In Charge"


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Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Who’s behind it?

God. She’s trying to save us from ourselves.

You can see why just in the language of this discussion piece. “Where the female perspective is seen as vital” is as chauvinistic a phrase as you’ll ever find. After all we don’t want the female perspective too invasive do we? The “where” refers to “food and fashion” – synonyms for “stay in the kitchen” and “arm candy.” Then we have “Stilettos invading start-ups.” Good grief.

For more on this please refer to my article titled “Brogues Batter Businesses!” on where the male perspective is seen as a virus.

Anne Howe
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

The rise of female CEO’s and business owners is encouraging. But any business can benefit from a balancing of both male and female perspectives.

The irony is that many male running businesses don’t see the gender perspective balance as vital. But when the shopper, customer or influencer is female, it’s well worth the effort to include a strong female POV. The ingrained empathy and the ability many women have to think about ways to enhance engagement with the targets is an asset many businesses can and should use as an advantage. There are many paths to better shareholder value. Why NOT use more than just one?

David Livingston
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

The female perspective is always vital but I don’t think it increases or decreases a company’s chance for success. The rise in female entrepreneurs has more to do with more women choosing to opt into business. With such a higher percentage of women now in college versus men, it is inevitable that their numbers increase. As more women choose to head households, they really have no choice but to opt into higher level positions if they want to be financially independent. In the past many women simply chose not to be in management level positions because it was too time consuming and interfered with their lifestyle. As George states “female CEOs differed from their male counterparts by putting customers and employees first rather than profitability and shareholders.” Many investors will not tolerate that kind of philosophy and I’m sure that has discouraged women from being entrepreneurs.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 10 months ago
Didn’t I just read that women now get more college degrees than men? And, even back in the ’60s, women by and large studied for their majors, while we men majored in beer, frisbee and, um, “inhaling.” And that was in the day when “lady doctor” was a term in widespread use, to describe a person who was so unusual. Obviously, and thankfully, times have changed dramatically. Societal changes have been huge, which explains so many more female entrepreneurs. I have a little difficulty buying into the notion that women are on the leading edge of so many things today; anecdotally, I see men and women sharing the leading edge fairly evenly (which is pretty amazing, considering history). And, probably because of all the hassles they’ve had to go through, most women entrepreneurs I’ve known over the years have been tough as nails, grabbing dollars before any thoughts of employees or customers. With more acceptance of women in leadership roles, the need to be so tough may be receding, which is terrific. As that evolves… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Female CEOs differed from their male counterparts by putting customers and employees first rather than profitability and shareholders? Of course! They are smarter.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

The idea that a female leader would put “customers and employees first rather than profitability and shareholders” demeaning. A corporate leader has a fiduciary responsibility to serve the shareholders.

Kris Medford
Guest
Kris Medford
9 years 10 months ago

“In the past many women simply chose not to be in management level positions because it was too time consuming and interfered with their lifestyle.” To imply that free “choice” is the reason for the lack of women in management level positions past or present is absurd.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

It’s simple, yet complex: customers and employees are what drives profits. And women can certainly excel at counting beans, too. Go ladies!!! GO. 😉

David Livingston
Guest
9 years 10 months ago
We learned from the recent Walmart story that women do make up the majority of purchases and a large percentage of overall employees as well. Their perspective is vital to the success of most retailers. Since women make most retail purchases, women [greatly influence] what we watch or read in the media along with what television shows are aired. They have the power to restructure board rooms. Still, no matter how much arm twisting and encouragement retailers offer women, they still choose to remain a minority in management. George’s comment about women not being profit oriented seems to ring true. With men being more profit oriented rather than people oriented, they are more likely to opt into higher paying positions. If money is not an incentive to encourage women to take a bigger role, perhaps we should rethink our approach to getting more women entrepreneurs. Then again as a whole, perhaps women simply don’t want to. One thing I have learned is if people want to do something bad enough, they find a way to… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

“…where the female perspective is seen as vital” ?!?

Hmmm, it’s not every morning I turn on my PC and find myself in 1956…or even 1856. I have to agree with our commentators–both male and female–who find the stereotypes offered up here as borderline parody (not to mention insulting). The secret to success in business doesn’t depend on whether you wear white gloves or boxing gloves, it has to do with having a product that brings value to your customers, and communicating that effectively.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I think anyone male or female who has the right skills and demeanor to deal with employees will do well in any type of business. The gender issue has some advantages built in on both sides but overall, what matters most is a committed, quality person to do the job well.

Roger Saunders
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

A Chinese proverb accurately points out that “Women hold up half the sky.”

The fact of the matter is that females have always been great entrepreneurs. As more and more talented women have entered the public sector, well-educated, driven, innovative, and collaborative, it is only natural that they take their seat at the executive table.

Starting up a company or leading a group of associates doesn’t necessarily mean that life will be easier for the executive or the associates. This takes the discipline to clearly state the vision, drive toward the objectives, be well-financed, and most importantly be dedicated to teaching, leading, and motivating people.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Why are we getting in a debate on the attributes of female vs. male executive leadership skills? Both have to have skill sets that make them candidates for top level positions.

Mark Burr
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Tony Orlando has said it perfectly.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Because the study shows that female leaders tend to put more emphasis upon customer service, I believe that fact alone drives the potential success of those leaders versus their male counterparts.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
9 years 10 months ago

The study cited was done in 2005. I wonder how things have changed since then. In the current environment, any CEO has to consider profits and shareholders as well as customers and employees, as they are all intertwined. It seems to me that a CEO has to balance all these priorities, some of which emerge more important at various times. But they all make a difference in the long run.

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