This story describes a good example of a widespread phenomenon:
Rep. Barbara Lee will be joining the House Democratic leadership team, filling a key void for the caucus after its elections earlier this week left the group without a woman of color in the top ranks.
Lee is expected to fill a new position being created by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to oversee the Steering and Policy Committee, the panel that determines committee assignments for Democrats.
The decision to elevate Lee comes as a group of House Democrats, disappointed by both Lee’s narrow loss in the race for caucus chair earlier this week and that lack of a woman of color in leadership, was planning to ask Pelosi to do just that.
Don’t have a minority in a position of leadership in your organisation? Well, just invent a new position, have a minority fill it, and pretend they are now a leader.
This phenomenon was discussed in yesterday’s podcast with William of Ockham, after he spoke of a highly-competent woman who found herself holding down a position which appeared to have been created just for her. When local content legislation started gaining traction in the various oil patches around the world, organisations ballooned as positions were invented to fill with locals allowing quotas to be met. I knew an Azeri who’d previously worked for BP in Baku who told me his department went from about 5 people to 15 even though its function and workload remained the same. He got out of there pronto.
If a functioning, profitable organisation is told to put more people of X in position Y, they are less likely to replace the Y incumbent with X than create new positions with the Y-label attached and fill them with X. So rather than prominent companies hiring female CEOs, they demonstrated their commitment to diverse leadership by elevating the HR function to director level. Some years back I attended a town hall meeting where the senior management of an oil major took questions from the drones on how they intended to deal with an extended period of low oil prices. The assembled big cheeses were all men, except for the HR representative. In the three hours that followed nobody asked her a single question, because unless there is a headcount reduction in the pipeline nobody cares what HR has to say. But as the session was drawing to a close the HR director seized the microphone and delivered a five minute monologue answering questions nobody asked. One must always justify one’s existence in an organisation.
This is probably why some people are agitating for diversity to be separated from HR into its own function: it will open up another female position in the (shudder) C-suite. A few weeks back, as part of my course, I was asked to read this article regarding the high turnover of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs). It contained this gem of a line:
Let’s start with a simple question: What does a CMO actually do? Surprisingly, there is no clear, widely accepted answer.
In our research we’ve interviewed more than 300 executive recruiters, CEOs, and CMOs; conducted multiple CMO surveys; performed an analysis of 170 CMO job descriptions at large firms; and reviewed over 500 LinkedIn profiles of CMOs. We’ve discovered extreme variations in the responsibilities CMOs are given and in the skills, training, and experience of the people who occupy the role.
The article’s main thrust is that the CMO role is ill-defined and CEOs have no idea what to do with them. So how did we end up here? Well, just ask Nancy Pelosi.