You are the busy vice-president of a large corporation. A student asks to interview you for a class assignment. Do you make time?
Of course I will. I’m going to pretend this is a female student who’s asking how to be a woman and successful in a business.
I have no fucking idea.
I can Google “how many women are vice presidents?” but that just gets me American government hits, specifically the history of Geraldine Ferraro:
Ferraro, the first woman and the first Italian-American to run on a major party national ticket, was Walter Mondale’s vice presidential running mate in 1984 on the Democratic Party ticket.
She earned a reputation for speaking her mind on the issues of the day, sometimes generating controversy for her outspoken opinions.
The 1984 presidential campaign against popular incumbent President Ronald Reagan showed that Ferraro could be comfortable in the men’s world of national politics — at the time there were few women in Congress.
Thanks, Google. Interesting, but not what I was wanting. I’ll rephrase the question. “How many women are vice presidents of companies?”
I find an article at the National Bureau of Economic Research – all American, and looks to be a decade out of date:
In 1980, the Fortune 100 featured no women executives, while in 2001, 11 percent were women.
Not that out of date after all. Since 2009, not much in the way of improvement:
although women make up over half of America’s labor force, as of 2009, only 12 Fortune 500 companies and 25 Fortune 1000 companies have women CEOs or presidents.
There’s a 2011 Financial Post article listing the top 100 powerful Canadian women, though, and I’ve likely heard of none of them. Oh wait; Margaret Atwood is on the list as a “revered author” so that’s one. We read A Handmaid’s Tale for our banned book club. Not an executive, though. The list has more than just business people on it.
Do women get a short shrift in business because of the baby-making business many women are also into and the time required to devote to upbringing? Do we have different aspirations for what it means to be successful in a workplace? Are we reluctant to take the risks men might take to get ahead in their places of business? Is it a glass ceiling situation?
Last week, Forbes posted an article supporting the need for women to have mentors. In a lot of cases men are the only ones they can really turn to for good advice on how to get ahead.
The thing that I like most about this group of men (and a handful more, some who did not want to be mentioned) is that when we speak, they don’t sit there and tell me how wonderful I am. They give credit where credit is due, but more importantly, they challenge me, they make me want to be better. They give me constructive criticism, push me to think outside the box, and share their insights. In sum, these men offer me more than I could ever get from a single mentor.
Okay, so that’d be something to tell the student at least. Network the shit out of your workplace and find the people who you can trust to be honest with you and who genuinely want to help you get ahead. The ones that will encourage you forward, not discourage you into wanting to quit. (Or harass the life out of you — that’s a post all on its own, I’m sure.)
Confessional: I’d never make it as a boss or manager. My go-to tends to be cruel criticism and disgust. I’m thinking back to attempts to train helpers for my job and having totally the wrong approach for helping them get the point of the work, which was to do it quickly, efficiently, and with few errors. But, I’ve since learned that efficiency to the level I possess (a little braggy, sorry) is not something teachable. You either have it, or you don’t. A lot of people don’t and I find it a super huge headache when it comes to getting a job done well to deal with these people who don’t approach the work with the same ambition and drive that I do. It’s painful and aggravating to watch people do it in a way that’s not MY WAY. I almost want to pull the carts away and do them “properly”. (I’m aware this is a problem.)
My job is one in a field dominated by women, predominantly. Libraries are mostly women. A few guys work there as librarians or pages but it might be 3% of the total number of people employed in the system. If that. But we have a male Director for our library. His second in command is a woman, though.
I wouldn’t want her job. Calling myself a minion is pretty much the truth. I don’t want to be the one in charge. I don’t want the stress. The money isn’t worth it. I’d rather be happy and go home feeling relaxed than be stuck in meetings and conferences and have to hear about how people aren’t getting along, or force people to give up on work habits 20 years in the making. I don’t want the hassle.
I guess that’s be the next thing to tell the student. You have to be a special kind of person to want that kind of work. Be willing to be ruthless if that’s what it takes to get to the goal, whatever that goal might be. Nice gets you only so far. You’re not there to be liked. You’re there to revolutionize the place and make it more successful and productive.
That’s my thoughts on it, anyway.
I didn’t like this question.