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Leora Tanenbaum: Do women make better bosses?

Leora Tanenbaum: Do women make better bosses?

August 4, 2009

From Leora Tanenbaum — author of Slut!, Catfight and the forthcoming Head Over Heels (Spring 2010) — comes this piece from the New York Times, in response to the question of whether women make better bosses than men:

Yes, countless female managers are great at making lists and sure, lots of men love to hear the sound of their own voices — endlessly. But none of this behavior matters if it’s accompanied with a denial of the continued existence of sexism in the workplace.

Consider: Women are routinely undervalued and assumed to lack competence. Successful men don’t have to worry about when and if to become parents; successful women do. Men earn more and are promoted more.

Troublingly, many individual women who make it to senior management refuse to acknowledge these very real conditions. They position themselves as uniquely and unusually qualified, implicitly belittling other women in a move to prove their own superiority.

Upon becoming president and C.E.O. of Hewlett-Packard in 1999, Carly Fiorina immediately distanced herself from her corporate sisters. Fiorina announced that “there is not a glass ceiling…. My gender is interesting but really not the subject of the story here.” Whether or not Fiorina was a superior CEO because she was a woman is certainly debatable — she was forced out in 2005 — and she was succeeded by another woman, Patricia Dunn, who was accused of spying on the company’s board members.

The best managers, female or male, are those who admit that the corporate structure favors men and who recognize their responsibility to help others follow in their footsteps.

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