Chick Magnets

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.

This too:

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.


19 thoughts on “Chick Magnets

  1. At the consultancy I work for we have many bright, ambitious women who have the talent to progress far. Every single one I have spoken to outside the work environment about their life plans (which over my near decade at the company is a large number) has confessed that they would much rather take an easier job/ raise kids instead but feel they would be letting the sisterhood down if they did so. This is even true of the single women in their 20s. This will only get worse as more “equality” measures are rolled out. There will be a lot more misery in our future unless we reverse course.

  2. Causation will still be a problem with your idea. We might imagine that companies that might decide to go public (IPO) may choose to hire female directors well before the actual decision. I suppose you could look at the concept of media saliency – eg how much media coverage there on a company, sector, country etc. Still tough. Admittedly a lot of crap gets published in this field.

  3. Causation will still be a problem with your idea.

    Of course, it’s near-impossible to prove causation. But it would be interesting to see at what point in a firm’s development women start turning up in the upper echelons nonetheless.

  4. That “letting the sisterhood down” thing is window dressing – on the evidence of my own eyes I see women managers / professionals who qualify, move up and cash in for family +kids while maintaining the least work>most reward relationship with their previous commitment to a career – and often they insist that their status rather then their actual competence dictates their remuneration.

    Working around these people is a monumental PITA.

    There are also those few (but growing) number of people who think that their gender alone qualifies them for senior positions and even inoculates them from criticism – which is an even more irritating PITA.

  5. Race based affirmative action in South Africa has already done this, with white males flocking to small consultancy companies who then sell their necessary services to the large companies or the state, without affecting quotas

  6. As with what Gunker says above and what we discussed on our inaudible podcast, the likely outcome of this for those mid-sized companies that are in the tricky space between too small to be noticed and big enough to buy up the talent will be that they create bullshit positions and outsource many of the decisions to consultancies and freelancers, hence avoiding the awkward headcount problem.

    Great news for mercenaries like me!

    Doubles all round!

  7. But it would be interesting to see at what point in a firm’s development women start turning up in the upper echelons nonetheless.

    Corporate lifecycle stuff, surely? Mature firms are more likely to attract female employees on the grounds that they’re not about to go in the short term. That is, if marriage is a proxy for financial security, then the perceived stability of an employer is a proxy for marriage. Once women join the firm, they probably less likely to leave, showing higher levels of commitment to that firm*. The perceived level of commitment, with length of service as a proxy, means they’re going to get promoted at a higher rate, particularly if women as a group are relatively new entrants. It’ll settle down over time, anyway, absent other factors.

    It just depends on how long the firm has to survive before becoming perceived as mature and stable. FTSE 100 firms are highly visible. And by definition, are mature.

    Best guess? Something like twenty years. Interesting to note the (multiple) changes in society in the sixties/seventies, then female executives becoming a thing by the late nineties and early 2000s, and the process accelerating to now.

    * Nothing to stop individual firms getting completely the wrong end of the stick here, and misinterpreting this.

  8. Companies should ignore this quota/ratio nonsense and appoint on ability/merit.
    If pressed, the deal is that the male appointees will claim to identify as women, for the purpose of intrusive prodnose quota thresholds.
    Added benefit is that those female execs who have earned their position by their ability retain respect for it, and are not grouped in with all the other quota passengers.

  9. And so we find that, as with a lot of other regulation, “gender equality” is nothing hut a collusion of large corporate incumbents against competition from the smaller guys.

  10. Our small company (around 25 FTEs—of which 4 are female (but 2 part-time)) has 40% women on the Board (2 of 5). But this is partly because we are a web software development firm—most developers do not want to be in meetings or, actually, to really take decisions about the company as a whole (only the technologies that affect their job, etc.).

    Those who are on the Board (of either sex) tend to be the strategic thinkers, and those who understand (and have worked throughout) the whole business, not just their small part of it. Of the developers who have been appointed to the board, both have resigned relatively quickly.

    So, I think that (to some extent) are firms move more towards the technical and software, you may see a natural increase in women on boards because most techies are not interested.


  11. TomO has touched on the crux of the matter when he said “they insist that their status rather then their actual competence dictates their remuneration”.

    With so few women around willing to sacrifice family etc., they will be able to command much higher salaries than a man for basically just turning up. Their competence is irrelevant as long as they are board members. If given the top spot they are likely to bring the company into receivership or worse. Think Hewlett Packard – once a byword for reliable and quality printers but under the female CEO, Carly Fiorina, appointed a while ago is now … not in the running. She wrecked the company. She now has presidential ambitions and wants to run America as the first female president. Alison Saunders, the head of the CPS in the UK with her anti male bias has made a marvellous contribution to something or another. Then there is Elizabeth Holmes, of Theranos fame, lauded to the heavens as a role model for the type of woman that started off a biotechnology company and her personal billionaire status was basically a fraud from the get go and put the lives of people at risk. Is she in jail? What do you think? There are others that follow a similar reverse Midas touch where everything they touch turns to crap.

    There is THIS from Australia, eloquently argued and persuasively debated from a woman.

    You go Grrrrrrrrrrls. Let’s send a regiment of women infantry to Afghanistan and see what happens to them once the boots hit the ground. It will have to be the men that bail them out and rescue them from slavery and being raped by their captors. I would prefer to see the women actually conscripted in the way men are but you can’t have everything.

  12. “TomO has touched on the crux of the matter when he said “they insist that their status rather then their actual competence dictates their remuneration”.”

    Obviously just anectglotal, but that’s not my experience; I’ve found that my previous five boses (all female) have earned less than me.

    Of course, they think they don’t but they are too frit to work on a day rate so don’t realise that a day rate multiplied by 220ish working days doesn’t necessarily result in the top rate marginal tax rate that they pay.

    /posted from an overseas business trip with the family

  13. Tim you must have a rather unusual sort of academic who will be grading your dissertation; views dissimilar to those of the grader are rarely well received. The best way to get a good mark is to agree with their prejudices, most of academe is left wing and politically correct.

  14. The best way to get a good mark is to agree with their prejudices, most of academe is left wing and politically correct.

    An exceptionally welcome advantage of my school is they do not seem to have succumbed to the left-wing, PC rot that infests most universities.

  15. As Tim the Coder suggests, mid-sized firms just need to take advantage of the tranny madness and declare that the required % of staff/execs identity as women, even if they do not present as such.

    Interesting that the German biz establishment doesn’t like the importation of foreign female execs. It doesn’t seem so bothered about importing low skilled blokes from Rapeystan.

  16. To be somewhat fair, Marillyn Hewson only got the job at Lockheed because the man who was next in line to get it, after it had already been announced, couldn’t keep his dick in his pants long enough. The third-hand story I got on how that went down, pardon the expression, was pathetically sordid…not that there’s anything wrong with that of course. 😉

  17. To be somewhat fair, Marillyn Hewson only got the job at Lockheed because the man who was next in line to get it, after it had already been announced, couldn’t keep his dick in his pants long enough.


  18. I look at all this as a function of technology and culture interacting with biology. Once upon a time, a significant number of women died during childbirth. You go out into the old graveyards here in the western US, and you’ll find that there are a lot of family plots where the patriarch of the family has buried multiple wives, all of whom died from childbirth or complications thereof. And, the ages of the young women remain about the same, throughout.

    Now, you project back, and consider the social effect of that: One, women were usually younger than their husbands, and two, there was literally no sense in educating a young woman–You invest in putting her through college or an apprenticeship, she’s probably never going to offer society a return, since her most likely fate is death in childbirth. So… That’s the primary reason women had the status they did, and the privileges they got simply for being women. Birkenhead Drill, and all that… “Son, you have to do what you can to keep the child happy… She’s likely to die giving you sons and daughters… You’ll only have her for a little while…”

    Now, since Ignace Semmelweiss? Death in childbirth has gone down, and society has still not really adapted to that massive change in circumstance. In either direction.

    The hard fact of biology is that a woman’s fertility is effectively only something that lasts ten-twenty years. If we had lifespans of 200 years or so, then maybe you could “do it all” in that time frame. In the “three score and ten” we’re actually achieving? LOL… Ain’t happenin’, Elaine. You want a family, you have biological limits you’re going to run up against. Especially with the relatively rigid social structure we have–I could see more women making it into the upper executive ranks, were it feasible to have group marriages where the executive sub-contracted reproductive duties off on a younger, more motherly female, but the odds are against that: What does she have to offer her male peer and that younger woman? In all likelihood, he’ll just cut out the third wheel, and take the younger woman as wife.

    The fundamental problem with a lot of the dysfunction we see vis-a-vis male-female relations these days is that niggling little fact that we only have the few years we do for a lifespan; women want more, now that they’re not mostly dying young, and we have yet to adapt to that fact, across the broad span of society. Maybe we will, but I’m not holding my breath–It’s going to take generations for this change to be digested, and we still aren’t seeing much real change. You’ll know that the whole thing is starting to reach equilibrium about the time you observe that women aren’t getting any sort of special consideration when they break the law; when the average sentence for female-on-male pedophilia is the same as that for male-on-female, then you’ll know that things have started to adjust, right along with the numbers for who gets custody of the kids in divorces.

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