Updated: Nov 23, 2020
If you look across the vast expanse of executive leadership (the “C-Suite”) in business, religion, education, government, and social institutions one thing stands out, these positions remain populated by old white men (OWM). Only 7.4% of Fortune 500 companies have a women CEO, 30% of college presidents are women, and about 15% of congregations are led by women with far fewer represented at the top. Our legislatures and courts are dominated by men. True dat recent years have seen more inclusion in all these spheres, but for the most part they are still a bunch of OWM. (Aside: In the 1990s after an election that saw a large number of women enter Congress I asked an aide how the influx of women was going. He replied, “Things go pretty well until they start acting like women”.)
It was these OWM that won the revolutionary war, and all the important wars since, bringing us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They also brought us the 1940s and 1950s where the post-world war new order swept across America. (Dad worked, Mom stayed at home and raised the 2.2 kids in this new place called the suburbs filled with this new invention called TV).
We owe a debt of thanks to the OWM, so for my part… “Thanks guys. Appreciate what you’ve done. Now it’s time to move on.” The only problem is they don’t move on. Now why is that a problem?
Because men are simple and women are complicated.
No offense intended to either party. It is just the way it is. Men’s thinking is pretty linear, women think in patterns, men tend to be present-oriented and women think towards the future. The former are competitive and the latter cooperative. (To appreciate the difference search YouTube for Mark Gungor and the difference between the male and the female brain.)
In simpler times male hegemony was suitable. Now that we live in complicated times we need complicated leadership which men (too often) can not provide. To put a finer point on it 4 years ago we put an OWM in the presidency. This OWM had very, very, few of the traditional qualifications to be the president other than the fact that he was an OWM. It would seem that we Americans went out of our way to select the simplest, most unfit OWM we could find just to make sure nobody misses the point.*
In my corner of the world that was healthcare quality there is a saying, “Sunshine is the most effective disinfectant”. Meaning that shining a light on problem areas gives all of us an opportunity to improve. We cannot solve problems we cannot see; either literally or figuratively. The trend towards the inclusion of women in all power elites is happening, slowly but surely. Why wait? Why not accelerate the process?
I urge some think tank, university department, or civic action organization to create the Parity Project. The Parity Project is a boundary spanning clearinghouse of all current initiatives to increase women in leadership. It could be a virtual warehouse for identifying, testing, and promoting evidence-based activities leading to greater inclusion of women in power. The heart of the Parity Project is an uber dashboard showing the percentage of women incumbents in C-Suite positions across all segments of society. Such a dashboard would not directly lead to more women in power but it would give us a common scorecard to measure progress. Change agents need poster children.
America is becoming increasing agreeable to a vision of leadership that is half women. What is needed is a collective consciousness that the process be accelerated and that we are committed to obtaining parity in the next decade.
* God gave us Trump to get rid of a broken and corrupt political order. Then God gave us coronavirus to get rid of Trump.