business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story yesterday about a new survey done by MSNBC and Elle magazine suggesting that some stereotypes about the inability of women to be leaders remain a real factor in 21st century America. In a survey of more than 60,000 people, 41 percent of male respondents said men are more likely to be good leaders, and 33 percent of women agreed. Three out of four women who expressed a preference said they would rather work for a man than a woman. About 33 percent of men and women would rather work for a man, while about 13 percent would prefer working for a woman, with the remainder saying they had no preference.

And, when asked who would be more likely to lead effectively, males were preferred by more than a 2-1 margin by both men and women — even though women got high marks for being problem solvers and providing more supportive work environments. Furthermore, 71 percent of female bosses said they have to work harder and be smarter than men to achieve the same level of success.

And here’s the really amazing part of the report. Asked to use words to describe women, respondents chose adjectives like "moody," "bitchy," "gossipy" and "emotional." The most popular term for woman, used 347 times, was "catty." Sounds like stereotyping to me…and it is precisely the kind of stereotyping that we’re allowing to start when our children are young and impressionable.

MNB user David Livingston wrote:

It’s kind of hard to change human nature. If women prefer to work for men, then that's just the way it is. You have to look at the bright side of all of this. You wrote 41 of men and 33% of women said men are more likely to be effective leaders. Looks to me like that opinion is in the minority. So score one for the ladies. Adjectives like "moody," "bitchy," "gossipy", "catty" and "emotional can be taken two ways. I can tell you it certainly describes some of the women who work for me but I don't see it as a negative. Maybe to be an effective female leader one needs to be "bitchy" or "catty."

When you multiply two negatives you get a positive. You mentioned something about sales meetings at questionable venues. Well I have been to sales meetings at questionable venues/strip clubs organized by a beer company. I didn't really care to go but you might be surprised to know that these meetings were set up by women, it was women who led the charge the club, it was women executives who paid the tab. Sure "bitchy" or "catty" might describe some of these women but they used their attributes, negative or not, to muscle their way to some high level positions. They way I see it, any woman who complains about discrimination, bias, or blames ole boy networks for their lack of success, justifiable or not, shows a complete lack of class.

Your pal Hillary Clinton is a good example. I don't really care for her but she did not complain her way to becoming a senator…

Our pal? You gotta be kidding.

We would be surprised if there are many women out there who would agree that “bitchy” or “catty” can be construed as being positive personal characteristics. Maybe where you live and work, but not in most of 21st century America.

And we also reject the notion that you can’t change human nature. It may be hard, but not impossible. And if more people accepted the notion that it is impossible, then women wouldn’t be voting and black people would be using separate water fountains.

We mentioned yesterday that we have a 12-year-old daughter who is in the 7th grade. Ironically, yesterday we received an email from her middle school announcing separate events for boys and girls in her school. The girls are invited to a “Sweet Dreams Pajama Party,” and the typeface for their invitation is in pink. The boys get to go to a “Texas Hold’em Hoe Down” poker party, and the typeface is all in brown. Essentially, the girls are expected to hang out in their pajamas and play nicely, while the boys are encouraged to be competitive gamblers. Sound like gender stereotyping?

Given a choice, our daughter might pick poker over a pajama party. But it doesn’t really matter, because this is all about choice, about not slotting boys and girls into gender-specific roles. If we do it when they are 12 and 13, how can we expect them to transcend stereotypes when they are 22 and 23, or 32 and 33?

The good news is that not everyone is living in the 1950s.

One MNB user wrote yesterday about the report that "younger workers 18 to 29 appeared to have a higher preference for female chiefs than those 30 and up, possibly pointing to a generational change."

That statement definitely applies well to me. I'm a 26 year old male and am currently working for my third major CPG company. Over the course of my relatively short career, most of the best managers/senior leaders that I've worked with have been women and based on this experience, I definitely have a preference toward a female boss than a male. Hopefully this is a sign that a more progressive attitude toward the corporate landscape is forthcoming.

And another MNB user wrote:

I have only been in the work force for a short amount of time but I have had the opportunity to work for both men and women. I so far have had much better experiences with my women supervisors. They work much harder and care much more about the well being of their employees. It is truly sad to hear that women and men both agree 2 - 1 that men would be more likely to lead effectively. I do agree that a biases like this one will take a long time to overcome but it would sure help if women would band together to prove our effectiveness not only as leaders but in the work place in general.


Once again, we refer you to the excellent work being done by the Network of Executive Women (NEW).

We wrote yesterday about speculation that Germany-based discount retailer Lidl was considering opening stores in the US, and commented:

Y’know, just once we’d like to write one of these international expansion stories and have it be about a major US supermarket company – other than Wal-Mart – bringing its brand of retailing to the global community.

Instead, it always seems to be about foreign companies coming here to open stores, or acquire chains. We have no problem with that – it is, after all, a flat world that encourages investment back and forth – but it says something negative about US ingenuity that all the investment seems to be one way.

And, by the way, we didn’t make a big deal of it yesterday, but…if and when Pathmark is swallowed up by A&P, that will make for one more US chain that is owned by a foreign company (Tengelmann of Germany).

MNB user Glen Terbeek wrote:

As a first step, I would like to see U S supermarket execs at least study retailing in other countries. There is so much to be learned in Europe, Japan and other countries; not only from supermarkets, but from street markets, specialty food stores and even restaurants and other formats.

The U S may have invented the supermarket industry, but in many cases, the retailers in other countries have improved it. And they have gone past efficiency improvements and focused on effectiveness as well. Prepared foods, private label, logistics, use of technology, consumer direct, and creative formats all come to mind. This effectiveness advantage may very well be the reason that Tesco, Lidl, and others have the confidence to invest in our already saturated U S market.

In my many years of attending international conferences like CIES in various parts of the world, I was always amazed at how few U S supermarkets were participating. Was it that the airfare was too expensive? Or was the U S supermarket industry just too busy self inspecting themselves?

MNB user Jack Ericsson wrote:

I look at it from the glass is half full perspective- it is a vote of confidence in American capitalism. That, and 300 Million people. Add in an almost frictionless, effective, and mostly efficient distribution system that allows product to go from production, to store, and to homes in a matter of days. For all of its faults- and we certainly document them daily on this website- it is truly amazing when you look at how 300 Million people can get just about anything they want every day.

Choose the country that you want to expand into: China, India, Japan, the EU, Russia, Mexico, or Latin America. All have opportunities, but all come with issues.

Another MNB user wrote:

Quite possibly this is the best country(democracy) to operate a business within, and the us retailers don't want to operate in other environments.

Just a thought.

Another MNB user chimed in:

Perhaps if American retailers were providing what these foreign chains are planning to bring to the American public, there wouldn't seem to be the opportunity for those foreign chains in the USA…

Yet another MNB user wrote:

When will everyone wake up. The foreign takeover of the American landscape is the result of our becoming a second-rate "empire." Our health care system, our education standards, our economy (the dollar), the auto industry....the food industry. We are leaders no longer. We have lost the commitment to integrity and hard work, the moral high ground, and the respect of the world.

Await the Renaissance, for behold we teetering on the Dark Ages.

And another member of the MNB community wrote:

The trend of foreign ownership, "free trade", currency manipulation by foreign governments, manufacturing decline, deficit spending, negative savings rates, etc do not bode well for our future as Americans.

It would be nice if Washington and the citizenry would wake up to these growing problems before they become insurmountable.

I am concerned that the America my kids raise their children in, will be a very different America than the one I grew up in. Potentially no longer the global Super Power, lower relative influence in world affairs, and quite possible a lower standard of living (based on work hours, this trend has already begun).

America's focus on the short term, without regard to long term issues, demands and needs will be our collective downfall.

How many companies do you consult with or cover that actually work a 3 to 5 year plan versus reacting to daily challenges? Very few I would imagine.

What a shame.

All these emails got us thinking about the new and deeply cynical Randy Newman song, “A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country.” It only is available online, but some of the lyrics go like this:

Just a few words in defense of our country.
Whose time at the top
Could be coming to an end.
Now we don’t want their love.
And respect at this point is pretty much out of the question.
But in times like these
We sure could use a friend…

The end of an empire is messy at best
And this empire is ending
Like all the rest.
Like the Spanish Armada adrift on the sea
We’re adrift in the land of the brave
And the home of the free.
Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.
KC's View: