Massive Talent Shortage or Just Shortsighted

“If you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I’m gonna get that gun of mine, and I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot! And don’t think I can’t do it.” – Doralee, “Nine to Five,” 20th Century Fox, 1980

According to a recent report by Oxford Economics that spelled out the what companies should seek out in their executives in the years ahead, the key attributes are: digital knowledge and agile thinking as well as interpersonal and communication skills. People should have been excited when Yahoo! snagged Marissa Mayer as their CEO. She certainly has all of those attributes. So why all the bluster? Oh yeah, she’s female and OMG she’s pregnant! Over half of the world’s population can do that. It’s called procreation.  Better them than us! We doubt if the next generation of Mayer will drain her talents or make her any less decisive (O.K., some Googlites said autocratic). Gee, maybe there is a gender bias. A guy wears hoodies, flip-flops and another wears black turtle necks and jeans. They’re creative. A gal does that and she’s a slob, doesn’t care how she looks, so how can you respect her? Eddie looked at a female boss and said, “Lady, you’re gonna *hate* it, here.”

Female Tech Leaders
Since the beginning, there have been a lot of female notables starting with Lady Lovelace who developed the first computer program for Babbage’s analytical engine.

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, USNR – Then there was Rear Admiral Grace Hopper who developed the compiler programming language (and a lot more programming firsts) and who popularized debugging when a moth was removed from a system, hence debugging.

Sally Kristen Ride, Ph.D., First American Woman in Space – How about Sally Ride, the first female astronaut in space. A pretty smart engineer (think you have to be to land that job), you can say she shot right by the glass ceiling for women.

The industry has its share of seasoned pros running organization’s today.

Virginia Marie “Ginni” Rometty, President and CEO of IBM – Virginia Rommety runs one of the most diverse and far-reaching companies in the industry … IBM. She’s a little atypical compared to today’s crop of female execs because she literally grew up in IBM. And because the company tended to encourage all of their employees, they kept giving her more than she could handle and she handled it.

Meg Whitman president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard – Another highly visible female is HP’s Meg Whitman. Unlike those mentioned earlier, she doesn’t come with a strong engineering background but she did quite well in helping grow eBay before leaving for semi-retirement. Yes, that retirement included a run for California’s governorship (lost, but she used her own money in the race). Running for Congress at the same time was a lady she replaced at HP- two “guys” in between – Carly Fiorina. Honestly, we rooted for her at first but she just didn’t understand, didn’t want to understand the “HP Way.” To Meg’s credit, she’s given the company what it so desperately needed – quiet confidence. Will she be able to fend off the barbarians before they tear the company apart? You sorta’, kinda’ hope so.

Alice Chang, CEO of CyberLink – A lady you may not have heard too much about is Alice Chang, CEO of Taiwan’s CyberLink (software firm), who runs a tight ship and is deeply involved in the firm’s OEM and end-user sales. Trying to determine what will be designed and available six to nine months from now when technology and devices are changing so rapidly is…interesting! She’s more typical (she’s gotta’ hate the way we said that) of the Pacific Basin and Southeast Asia where qualified women are more readily accepted as engineers, managers and CEOs.

Marissa Ann Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo! – Skipping a lot of very strong, very solid women who have made significant contributions, we’re back to Marissa Mayer who (once removed) replaced a very strong lady with a solid engineering background, Carol Bartz. We respect Ms. Bartz and had high hopes of her being able to bring Yahoo! back to its earlier glory, but her personality just didn’t sit well with the folks she worked with (and if Googlites thought Ms. Mayer was autocratic!) and what worked Autodesk just didn’t fly at Yahoo! We can envision her quoting Violet and saying, “I know just where to *stick* it.” Ms Mayer knows her way around the Web industry (and where the bodies are buried). And given some working room with the customers and employees (the folks who count, not the board), her company could put serious hurt on Zuck. After all, she dresses better, she’s smarter, she has a talent for design (discerning customers care about design), she’s visible and outgoing; and now, she could do something Zuck will never do…play the mommy card! She won’t, but … she could.

Fortune 500 Leaders
Less than 15 of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs, and that may not be equitable. It will probably never be 50-50, but the winds of change are circling the globe. Ernst & Young recently noted that there is a huge flood of female talent coming through the educational systems in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and other countries outside of the US and EU (European Union). They’ll be prepared to handle the highest level of business jobs in the years ahead.

According to the last Zenger Folkman/Harvard Business Review study, women rated higher than men in nearly every leadership effectiveness category. O.K., everything except strategic perspective. But when you’re in a swamp up to your you know what in alligators, it’s sometimes tough to remember that your job was to drain the swamp. But in today’s ever-changing marketplace, we don’t think any CEO, any manager, feels their job is safe; and when they’ve arrived, that they can simply sit back with their feet up on the desk. Frankly, most CEOs we know border on being paranoid on seeing what’s over the horizon and achieving their next big goal. It’s what makes them good bosses. Things are changing rapidly and with the way organizations have to rethink their global strategies, business models and organizational structure, you have to wonder if we can afford to have a real or unrealized bias for half of the world’s population (actually, less than half are men).

The challenge was exhibited again this year at the Davos World Economic Forum where world business/government leaders come together to figure out how to lift the economy out of its “slump.”  Now remember, these are supposed to be Nuevo smart folks:
- 80 percent of the attendees were male
- 1 to 0 females were on every panel
- 1 of 6 co-chairs of the event was female
- At one CEO lunch there was one female boss and everyone exchanged business cards … she didn’t get one

We’ve still got “a little” work to do for equality and are at a point in time when change is of the essence. Ironically, emerging markets – BRIC and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) seem to be more intent on recruiting, hiring, retaining top talent regardless of gender. Of course, when more than half of the college graduates and half the workforce are female, there may be times when the best man for the top job is a woman. Violet made her point when she said, “There is no need to get sarcastic!”

About the author:
Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. Unable to hold a regular 9-5 job, he has been a marketing and communications consultant for more than ...


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