Paul Smith's Articles for Spotlight Magazine

Talking Point: "Cracks in the Glass Ceiling?"

That men and women live in different cultures is underlined by the titles of bestsellers like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" (John Gray) or "Why Men Can't Iron, and Why Women Can't Read Maps" (Allan Pease). Whether we believe that male-female cultures are primarily the result of pre-programmed biology or environmental conditioning, it is indisputable that women live in a man's world.

The August issue of Fortune Magazine featured "The 25 Most Powerful People in Business in the U.S." 1. Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway), 2. Bill Gates (Microsoft), 3. Lee Scott (Wal-Mart)... and all the way to number 19. where finally a woman, Carly Fiorina (Hewlett-Packard) makes an appearance. Globally the situation is even worse -- Fortune's list of the 25 most powerful business leaders outside the U.S. contains not a single woman!

During the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s some women were claiming "To succeed in a man's world it's necessary to be twice as good, fortunately this is not difficult." Thirty years later experience shows this attitude to be gravely mistaken - the senior management echelons of virtually all corporations, including governments are massively male dominated. We even have a special phrase to describe the invisible barriers erected by men to stop the advancement of women: "glass ceiling".

It seems that many men are still blind to the intellectual and commercial potential of half the population. The jock strap (Sportbandage zum Schutz der männlichen Genitalien) was invented in 1874, the jog bra in... 1977! By 1996 U.S. annual sales of sportsbras were topping 42 million units. According to Tom Peters 65% of car-buying decisions are made by women, but only 7% of car salesMEN are salesWOMEN. Have you wondered why women are smarter than men? The bell-shaped distribution for I.Q. is more tightly concentrated for women, less tightly concentrated for men. Which implies that more men are "geniuses“ ... and far more are idiots!

Should women just wait patiently wait for a few enlightened men to democratize their institutions? A 1990's U.S. Army slogan read "Some of our best men,... are women", but how many women officers are in the U.S. army? and who ever heard of a female general?

If we do business with Japan or China, we consider ourselves wise to familiarise ourselves with the culture, mentality and behaviour of our Asian partners. Similarly, female culture is as foreign to men as Asia is to Europe -- "He... simply wants the transaction to take place. She's interested in creating a relationship. Men focus on separation... getting away from authority/family/whatever. Women focus on connection. Men focus on self. Women focus on others." (Carol Gilligan - In a Different Voice).

There are a few cracks in the glass ceiling but unfortunately, business is still a man’s game. Women who understand and play by those rules will eventually be able to change them.

Helga & Paul Smith

Spotlight Magazine 10/03

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