When Yahoo announced the appointment of Marissa Mayers as their new CEO, news outfits generally handled the story in one of three ways: This was a typical CEO appointment – nothing special other than Mayers taking on an almost impossible task. This was a typical appointment in which they mentioned her pregnancy, but as secondary item. Thirdly, the lede was her pregnancy and the business aspects were of secondary importance.
However, I was appalled to read the articles that handled her pregnancy as The Big Story. While the pregnancy may be important to the business decision, it is hardly the most important part. She’s as well qualified as anyone despite considerably less experience than many male candidates. She hasn’t done anything yet so it is impossible to tell how well she’ll do, but bully for her if she wants to try. I hope she does turn things around. She deserves major props if she does.
For years, women have rightfully worked to install women in positions of corporate power. However, along with this power comes the reality that when women or men reach those heights, they are expected to perform regardless of the challenges in their personal lives or gender. Perhaps not a fair thing, but an aspect to the jobs nevertheless.
Titanic Runs Into Giant Glass Cliff, Was It Really There?
As I pondered the nature of these views, I began to read stories about the notion of a glass cliff on which women are disproportionally recruited to helm lost causes. Several things troubled me about this notion.
Yahoo is a sinking ship, probably beyond hope. Mayers must save the Titanic as it’s stern rises into the air and slips slowly under the waves. This is a setup to fail, regardless of gender.
Plus a woman, as well as an even longer string of men, have captained the ship before and couldn’t right the leaky tub. Carol Bartz was fired, messily, because she couldn’t save the company. But to be fair, male CEOs are subject to messy firings all the time so I’m not sure I see the gender distinction here. They didn’t set her up; she took on a lost cause and, well, lost.
I’m also not sure Mayers is any more walking over a glass cliff than a male CEO in the same position. Personally, I think anyone who would take on the losing job of trying to save the floundering company is a bit daft, male or female. Yet, I know of no male CEO with the luxury of pre-blaming a gender bias for a failure that will probably happen anyway.
BTW, no one put the pen in Mayer’s hand and a gun to her head (if you’ll excuse the imagery) to accept the job. If there is a glass cliff Mayer, not the Yahoo board, put her on the precipice. She knows full well what she’s getting into. If not, she REALLY isn’t qualified.
This isn’t simply a Yahoo issue either. Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, came into a company that was recoverable and in relatively good, though dented, shape. She made a string of bad decisions that resulted in a smoking hole from which the company still hasn’t recovered. HP fired her and should have. This wasn’t a female failure, it was a failure. There was no cliff involved except the one she built for herself.
Fiorina went on to run for Senate in CA – against a woman, Barbara Boxer. She lost partly because of Boxer’s long and relatively popular service. But she also ran one of the weirdest political campaigns ever. Who can forget “Carlyfornia”, demon sheep, and goofy cracks about Boxer’s hair? In a female vs. female race, there is no argument that a man or a glass cliff had anything to do with it. She failed on her own merits, or rather, mistakes…womo a womo.
Mitt Romney in Pearls?
Fiorina isn’t the only female CEO cum failed politician. Meg Whitman voluntarily stepped down as eBay CEO. At the time, the prevailing opinion was that she performed wonderfully when the company essentially had no real competition, but when things heated up she too made some questionable decisions. Speculation suggests she saw the end coming and jumped ship before getting the ax. That’s not unusual CEO behavior. A male CEO now runs the company and struggles to turn it around yet no one wonders if he’s on a glass cliff.
Whitman went on to run for CA governor losing to Jerry Brown. She too ran a poor campaign, often refusing to talk to or ejecting media at campaign stops. She also toted some heavy personal baggage including an incident of abusing and not paying a maid and shoving an eBay employee. Slap Meg’s sensible pantsuit and famous string of pearls on Mitt Romney and you have a Republican transvestite. Whitman built her own campaign of her own free will and acted poorly on her own. Like Mitt, she was perfectly capable of ruining things on her own, just as maleman Mitt does – no cliff involved.
Women are severely disadvantaged in many areas. And anyone with a sense of fairness should aid them in gaining what is rightfully theirs. However, many women have a disturbing tendency to blame men for every disadvantage.
It’s perfectly acceptable for some women to remark on the stupidity and incompetence of men while eviscerating men who complain about it. They complain about poor gender stereotypes in the media while cheering and laughing about men being portrayed almost 100% of the time as idiots on TV and commercials, but grouse, rightfully, about the same treatment of women. The list of slights is long and often ignored.
Inequality going either way is wrong. You can’t have it both ways, especially not by advancing specious theories that are hard to support. Let’s, men and women, work together to address the inequalities. As they say, “united we stand, divided we fall”.
And there’s no better way to divide than to blame each other for everything.
Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks! More than politics, more than pop culture & humor