Friday, June 25, 2010

Second Acts: Women in Business (and Politics)

Many people felt that having a woman on the Republican ticket for the 2008 presidential race would help the party. And I know many felt that Sarah Palin was a bonus to the party – at least initially. For me, McCain’s choice of Palin as the vice-presidential candidate had the opposite effect.

I’m not afraid to say it. I am not a Sarah Palin fan.

As a woman who advocates for other women to succeed I feel badly saying this, but I view Sarah Palin as setting women back about thirty years. I really want to see a woman elected as President or Vice-President of the United States – but not at any cost. (In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I am a registered independent with republican tendencies, but I don’t vote along party lines.)

The first female President should be intelligent, articulate, decisive, and not afraid to take risks. She will undoubtedly need to endure never-ending scrutiny with ease (including scrutiny about topics like their hairstyles and children – topics her male colleagues don’t have to put up with). She should be an exceptional leader.

Most of all, our first female President or VP should be the right female President or VP.

That’s why I am so excited to see strong effective female business leaders winning their primaries in California. Meg Whitman, former CEO of ebay, not only won the Republican race for Governor, she won by a landslide. Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, won the Republican nomination for the Senate race, also with a very healthy lead.

These are women who have broken through the glass ceiling in Corporate America. These are women who are resilient.

My optimism about these women stems not so much from their political views. I fully expect them to take strong positions that not everyone will agree with. My optimism stems from the fact that they are terrific role models.

Could it be that Corporate America is the right training ground for women in politics? Could one of these two women be the right choice? What do you think?


Dave E said...

I don't think is so much a question of whether a woman is the right choice or not but more a case of; Is running a government and therefore by extension, this big business called the USA the same as running an actual commercial business?

Whilst it would be logical to think that they are so similar that a transition should be easy, I suspect that the truth is very different.

Companies think in terms of profits and loss. Employee welfare, whilst important is not the driving force (except maybe at zappos!). In fact employee welfare is almost a by product of the companies operation.

Government on the other hand is in many ways the conscience of society in which we live. It acts as a moderator and a guardian for those less fortunate that ourselves.
That's a big step away from the cut and thrust of a successful company.

With all that in mind I am not sure that corporate America is the right training ground for anyone in politics since there's so much more to it than just making a profit.

I'm also highly suspicious of any relationship between business and government. In my opinion they should not even be in the same room, never mind in bed together. Using corporate USA as a breeding ground for politicians would only further undermine any apparent separation.

As for Sarah Palin. Had McCain and she won and them something happen to McCain, SHE (of jumbled sentences and confusing messages) would have been president. Personally I would rather have Reagan back (knowing now that he had Alzheimer's).

Disclaimer. I don't trust any politician of any party. They all remind me too much of Grima Wormtongue (a apt name) in The Lord of the Rings.

Colette said...

Dave E -- you raise a great point. But consider this -- perhaps the government SHOULD think more like a business when it comes to budgets and perhaps businesses SHOULD think more like the government when it comes to social responsibility. Perhaps some cross-over would do us a world of good. Perhaps...

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your blog today. I like blogs because I am not a facebooker due to the fact that I loathe yet another time-sucking obligatory techno-function that does not produce nearly as much ROI as the hype purports. Having said that, I enjoy lots of intellectually-stimulating reading and therefore feel that your blog was nary a disappointment. The title "When Fridays Were Fridays" for sure caught my eye as today is a Friday and the first Friday I have taken off from the corporate treadmill to do absolutely nothing in what seems like forever. I have to shyly admit that I'm not much of a political person although I do attempt to stay abreast of the hot topics and especially the issues that interest and affect my daily work life. I will make the statement that I am excited to see women that have experienced success in corporate America landing political positions. The reason for this is because, unlike Dave E's comments, I do believe that running a corporation in a successful manner is a great foundation and super experience for running our country and not because making money is or should be our greatest goal. I believe a successful business person accomplishes much more in life than making profits. What I have come to learn about business is that providing a quality service or product to people who benefit from it is the main goal and you've got to possess special skills to realize it takes putting together an exceptional team to make that happen. America's product is freedom and her services are human enlightenment and empowerment. Let's certainly get a woman (or a man for that matter) in the White House who knows how to do the hard work that is required to lead us out of this recessional mess where we can all get back to work and make America stronger than our strongest corporations. As far as my Friday goes, the good thing is I still have Saturday to relax!

Dave E said...

The thing is that a business makes a profit by selling something to entities (people, other businesses, other countries) outside of itself.
Businesses don't pay high wages to their employees because they want to but because they have to. OK, I know not all businesses are like that but many are.
The role of government is to provide benefits to what are essentially its employees (us).
The model is different so the approach needs to be different and I am just not sure that someone coming in with a business background would make the necessary adjustment to they way they operated.

Colette said...

Anonymous - Welcome!

Dave E - You make some very fair points. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Anonymous said...

I do think Dave E has some interesting views as well but I'm not sold on their reality. As we have learned from the BP situation, business and government are in the same room together, whether we like it or not. That's the environment we have been legislated into. Just as an example, although BP has been highly criticized for several snafoos during the process, they certainly have not shirked responsibility whereas the current administration is always looking to cast blame and then being dilatory with a mitigation plan that should have already been in place. What a missed opportunity for America to step up and show greatness, yet again. I use BP as an example but what I'm really saying is that America needs a better model in government to respond faster esp. in times of crisis. Doesn't it bother anyone other than me that the multitude of expensive legislative acts (designed to protect all citizens' welfare) aren't in actuality doing a bit of good to cure the ailments they are created to prevent? It's incendiary to me. What we need is a "More Perfect Constitution."

SteveB said...

Taking the shorter arguments first: the Sarah Palin phenomenon had/has its positives and negatives - pluses: she raised the profile of women in politics and a pro-life stand not typical for her gender; negatives - she clearly was not and is not qualified to be our president. Her gun is loaded and the safety is off!

Business leadership as the route to political leadership for women - maybe as it seems that women coming up through the political ranks to leadership are rare. But I don't feel that business leadership necessarily qualifies anybody, regardless of gender, for the most senior roles in government. Please someone educate me on who was the last to do so: President? Governor? Senator? (more than 1 term) I agree with DaveE: these are very different business models. In business there are many fewer constituencies to satisfy.

However,a BIG however, many of the those in the echelons below the chief executive are sourced (and recycled) from business: the cabinet officers, the chief advisers, and those immediately below them. These are the real planners, operators and interpreters of policy in the administration of the government. And that, I think, is a good and necessary thing. To the extent they succeed, so does the administration, and vice versa. And we certainly have seen ample evidence of both.

Colette said...

Nothing like politics to get an audience going! It really is going to be interesting to see whether these women get elected, and if so -- how well they do.

One Womans Eye said...

Hey Collette,

Great blog! I am not afraid to say it either. I am not a Sarah Palin fan. I agree with your comment about her setting women back 30 years.

With that I am happy when I see strong, smart, competent women running for office. Whether I agree with their political slant or not I want the first woman who sits in the office of President or Vice President to be one I can respect.

As for Corporate America being the training ground, I think that all depends on what one does with that experience.

Colette said...

One Woman's Eye, thanks for weighing in. Yes, it will be very interesting to watch this story evolve.