Here are a few of the inflexible rules of power.
1. If you have power, you want to keep it.
2. I f you have to pass it on, you give it to your peers.
3. You’d just as soon keep insiders in and outsiders out.
The business section of the Sunday New York Times led with a special report about executive pay that found CEOs of major corporations get paid enormous sums of money. The average total compensation during 2009 for CEOs of 200 large public companies listed by the Times was $9.525 million.
Whether they earn the money is a question that only the boards and, to a far lesser degree, the shareholders of the companies in question can answer. The worst compensated CEO, who made a mere $100K, also received no stock options, no stock awards and doesn’t even have a pension. Poor guy – Warren Buffet is nearing retirement age, and he’ll have to fend for himself.
Few of us would argue that folks such as Buffet, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates aren’t entitled to their vast fortunes. They created great companies and products that have benefited all Americans (except, of course, Windows Vista ).
But what about the rest of ‘em – those cunning, remorselessly self-promoting silver-haired scoundrels in their bespoke suits, black limos and now logo-less corporate jets? Are those guys worth having around?
But what do you mean, guys? This is 2010, not 1970. Surely some of the preening peacocks in the corner office have been replaced by women! This is America, where gender equality is taken for granted, is it not?
My informal gender survey of the Gang of 200, based solely on first names, yielded 197 men and three women.
Why so few?
Female under-representation may be a consequence of the hyper-macho cult/culture of American CEOs. It’s a tough, ruthless, predatory world out there, so you need your own ruthless predator to compete! When you’re eyeball to eyeball, you need to take down the other guy! You need to be a vicious hitter, someone who enjoys contact and isn’t afraid to shed a little blood! Can you go mano-a-mano with Jack Walsh, Larry Ellison or Don Trump? If not, don’t even apply.
That’s the culture of Wall Street and the trading floor-and we saw how well that worked when the world financial system nearly collapsed because of the risk-addicted junkies who ran it. And given the absence of female CEOs in large corporations, that may be the mindset of the board members who select CEOs.
It may be, as a friend suggested, that women are often content to stay in positions that are just below that of CEO because they don’t think that the stress and scrutiny that accompanies the top job is worth it. If so, that’s because they’ve been inculcated with the myth of the heroic CEO, and have unconsciously bought into its boys-only premise.
Speaking for myself, I’d like to see those silver-haired rich guys exiled en masse to the golf courses of the world, and replaced by a new breed of CEOs – thoughtful, cooperative, community-minded, and dedicated to the long-term health of their companies and of our nation. There are quite a few such leaders right here in Colorado Springs, both men and women, and it’s hard to understand why their peers in major companies aren’t more visible.
I guess that’s just another sign of how backward we are … imagine, women running things! Next thing you know, they’ll get the vote …
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