Staying on the topic of diversity, I found this interesting:
At the start of 2019, four of America’s top defense companies will be led by women.
On Thursday, the chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman, Wes Bush, announced that he was stepping down and would be succeeded by Kathy Warden, Northrop’s current president and chief operating officer who has been with the company since 2008.
As CEO, she will join three other high profile women leading the U.S. defense industry: Marillyn Hewson, the CEO of Lockheed Martin; Phebe Novakovic, the CEO of General Dynamics; and Leanne Caret, the CEO of Boeing Defense, Space, and Security.
CIA Director Gina Haspel has appointed another woman to the top level of the agency, naming Cynthia “Didi” Rapp as deputy director for analysis, essentially the top analyst in the CIA. The appointment means that the top three directorates of the agency, for operations, analysis and science and technology are now all headed by women.
What this shows is that women are increasingly being promoted to head high-profile organisations with large budgets and lots of employees. This is hardly surprising: campaigns to increase gender diversity among top management of companies have been ongoing since at least the mid-’90s. Since the early ’00s, countries have been slowly adopting mandatory quotas for women on boards, and the EU is pushing for 40%. I understand no country has yet set quotas for women in senior management positions, but with the UK passing a law requiring companies to report on the gender pay gap it’s probably only a matter of time. (Incidentally, the British government’s guidance booklet is called Gender pay gap: creating a narrative, apparently without irony.) Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Australian government also imposes gender equality reporting requirements on private companies.
One of the things researchers have found resulting from board gender quotas is that there really aren’t many women around with the background and experience to cover all the slots. This means women tend to sit on more boards than their male counterparts, spreading themselves thinly, a point which reader Ken makes in the comments beneath this post. This is also why positions such as HR director were created, making a lot of women suddenly qualified for a board seat. At the beginning this was understandable as there were fewer women in the workplace, but twenty years on the problem remains. Norway insists on 40% women serving on boards which, according to a podcast I listened to between Christina Hoff Sommers and Jordan Peterson, has led to them bringing in American women to make up the numbers. Germany doesn’t have gender quotas, but they still face the same problem:
In Germany a shortage of qualified women led to a surge of foreigners onto supervisory boards (there is as yet no quota for management boards). That could be problematic, says Bernhard Stehfest from the Federation of German Industries, because foreigners are less familiar with the firms or German regulations.
The reason there are so few women to go around despite their filling the majority of graduate places is because, as we’ve known all along, most women choose not to sacrifice marriage, children, and a more balanced life to fight their way to the top of a major organisation. Even if super-intelligent women are pouring out of the engineering and business schools in record numbers, those putting in the hours and effort to make it to executive management are still low. And as Jordan Peterson is fond of pointing out, when Norway cleared the obstacles to women having high-flying careers in STEM fields, they found even more chose not to compared with women in more male-dominated societies. In other words, as societies get more equal in terms of gender, women tend to make choices more associated with female traits, i.e. not going into senior management in traditionally male-dominated fields. My observation is that some of the most competent female engineers I’ve met came from patriarchal societies such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, and Turkey where they’re given no free passes.
So given there is an in-built shortage of suitably qualified and experienced women choosing to go into senior management in large organisations, governments are imposing quotas, and gender diversity campaigns are increasing their demands, what is going to happen? Well, that’s obvious. Those organisations with the household name and the money are going to snap up the women who are available, which is precisely what we’re seeing with the defence contractors and the CIA. In addition, these companies will put in the money and effort to recruit the top female graduates, meaning they have a steady stream coming through into upper management even as most quit their career paths to raise a family.
The problem with gender equality initiatives is not that incompetent women may end up running large organisations (for every incompetent woman I can show you ten incompetent men), it’s that once the large, wealthy organisations have snaffled up all the competent women how do the smaller, less wealthy companies manage without reducing standards? My guess is if a company has a low enough public profile it can get away with ignoring calls for greater gender diversity, or fudging it somehow. But there will be companies caught in the middle, too high-profile to ignore gender diversity issues but not big enough to attract what few competent women stick around to take senior management positions. They’ll be faced with no choice but to promote women who are less competent than the men around them, the results of which will be as predictable as they are inevitable.
All of this reinforces my theory that we’re going to see more women employed in large organisations with lots of employees, while men head for smaller companies where gender diversity is not a priority. A possible subject for my dissertation is to look at whether women get promoted into senior management only once a firm has reached a certain size in terms of employees and market capitalisation, and once it has a certain public profile.