Thursday, April 3, 2014

Feelin' Sorry for the Ladies

Guest post from Tom Bentley, board director at Rambus, Nanometrics and Cortina, former investment banker, and one who loves to stir it up!

In reaction to the "Ban Bossy" campaign write up in the WSJ:

Sheryl Sandberg must be their worst nightmare.  It's hard enough meeting the expectations for a Superwoman, having a wonderfully successful career, raising a passel of great kids, attending all the extra-curricular events that have blossomed in recent years, managing a wonderful home, and looking your best every day (how much time do you think Sheryl spends getting ready in the morning, compared to Mark Zuckerberg?).  Now they have Sheryl telling them that they're losers if they don't behave exactly as she tells them to.

This gets to pass for science these days: "Over the past 30 years," she (Joyce Benenson, a psychologist) writes, "I have come to believe that boys and girls differ in some of their basic interests and accordingly behave in different ways".  Who knew!?  The good news for women is that the world is moving their way, collaboration is becoming a far more powerful tool for success than competition.  The great success of American business results in substantial part from an evolution of management towards a more collaborative, less hierarchical style – flatter organizations and more empowerment at the group level.  Social media is the phenomenon driving the tech world these days.  Leading business schools have all moved towards group learning and team projects, and away from the traditional individualized classroom teaching.  We could look at this as the feminization of the economy, but then we have Sheryl telling us that girls need to become boys.

Not only has internal hierarchy been breaking down, but businesses behave much less like silos, now depending on lengthy and complex supply chains, collaboration with partners in all sorts of areas, great inventions coming from widely dispersed teams rather than the Einstein in the closet, etc.  Over the years, I watched the traditional autocratic tech founder/CEO's pass from the scene, to be replaced by professional managers whose ability to draw on the talents of the people under them was the overarching key to success.  Women should be rejoicing at this evolution, until Sheryl tells them to stop being afraid of being bossy, and to "lean in" until people get sick of them being so obnoxious.

Disclaimer: I am a victim of my own reality, my daughter is a psychologist, a field dominated by women.  She's married to an econ major who teaches math and coaches men's basketball, i.e., all male.  They have a great life, and I assume that my daughter has no idea who Sheryl Sandberg is.

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