Check this out. The Washington Post has an uber-interesting article, Fixing the Economy is Women’s Work, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman on the role women could have played in preventing the magnitude of catastrophe we are currently seeing with the economy:
Accounting giant Ernst & Young pulled out charts and graphs at a recent power lunch in Washington with female lawmakers to argue a provocative bottom line: Companies with more women in senior management roles make more money. The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine sweepingly predicts the “death of macho.” Economists at Davos this year speculated that the presence of more women on Wall Street might have averted the downturn. Adding to this debate is the fact that the laid-off victims of this recession are overwhelmingly men.
The above sounds promising, but the part down below is kind of where I went, “Huh?”
Pepperdine found that the Fortune 500 firms with the best records of putting women at the top were 18 to 69 percent more profitable than the median companies in their industries.
I don’t know…I think 18-69 percent more profitability is such a wide margin that it doesn’t really demonstrate the effectiveness of women as leaders in business rather than men. Perhaps the numbers work when you take a closer look at the study and it’s variables…but from an outsider’s look, it doesn’t really clinch it for me, although the minimum of 18% more profitability at a consistent rate is doubtlessly very impressive.
To add to the above-cited study, they talk about another study illustrating the differences between how men and women handle money:
According to a 30-year study of fund managers released last month by the National Council for Research on Women, female investors and professional money managers used more measured strategies. They didn’t take huge risks, but they also didn’t lose big. Their returns were consistent. Men took larger risks and wound up with results that varied more widely. A study by the French Fund association found that funds managed by women had more consistent results over one-year, three-year and five-year measurements. Female-managed funds weren’t usually top performers, but they were never at the bottom.
And then there’s this:
Scott Page, an economist at the University of Michigan, uses mathematical models to demonstrate that a diverse group will solve a complicated business problem better than a homogeneous group. In fact, diversity is even more important than expertise. In other words, a bunch of white male brainiacs won’t usually reach the best conclusions.
This is all very well and good, very promising for the future of working women. But, as we all know, women, particularly those with growing children, have many burdens to bear. As such,
[p]rofessional women have been leaving the workplace in droves, and we need to stop the brain drain. Recent studies show that almost a third of professional women opt out at some point in their careers and, strikingly, that MBAs are more likely than lawyers or doctors to choose to stay home with their children.
When I read the above, my eyebrows rose a little, because I was thinking, “But, they’ve got kids, and their families are their priorities.” And then I was reminded why exactly women with MBAs tend to bail from the world of business: the lack of flexibility in business culture in accommodating the needs of working women with families:
[W]e can’t afford to have women take themselves out of the running for top slots. And the only way to prevent that is changing the workplace to allow us the freedom to fit in our personal lives.
Luckily, that freedom makes economic sense, too. That’s why companies such as Wal-Mart, Capital One, Best Buy, Sun Microsystems and Sara Lee, to name just a few, say they have glimpsed the future of work and have decided it’s an extremely manageable place. They’ve discovered that allowing people to work the way they want — from home; at night; from the sidelines of the soccer field — actually increases productivity. Best Buy found that changing the work rules boosted productivity by an average of 40 percent.
This was an interesting read, and if business culture takes a turn to be more accommodating of the needs of women, without making us feel like a) they’re doing us a huge favor and so b) we should feel guilty for such magnanimous and unreasonable accommodations, then it sounds like a promising leap forward for women who want to contribute to the good of society while not sacrificing their families in the process. On the other hand, it could just be that the men want us to do all the work, and this is their way of buttering us up! (Only teasing, gents. Relax.)