Women Executives Who Don’t Support Other Women

The business world is still led by men, I get it. Women haven’t made nearly the progress that we expected in the 1970’s, but when women DO hold leadership positions, why wouldn’t women executives help other women? It’s 2018 – this can’t still be a thing, can it?

I spent many years calling on automotive and auto aftermarket companies that were male dominated. Most of my customers were in the Sales & Marketing divisions, and I had a front-row seat to the boys club that was the auto industry.

In the good ol’ boys network, there are “buddy” relationships that are long-lasting. These guys hang out at work, socialize after work, support each other’s ideas and projects and even follow each other from company to company. It’s tough to rise through a company without a “champion” and that’s the role they played for each other. It’s not fair and we need to work to change this, but I even kind of understand some men’s reluctance to mentor a woman today because they’re afraid of the way in which the relationship might be perceived. But why wouldn’t women support other women in a similar fashion?

The age-old stereotype of the Queen Bee has to be dead, doesn’t it?  Please tell me that the notion that there is only ONE seat at the table for a woman is not still valid. The majority of my employees were women and I can’t recall an instance when we didn’t root for each other and cooperate to get the best result for the client. Members of NAWBO, the Women President’s Organization (and similar groups) are surrounded by support. Many of my customers were women and although many were friendly and supportive with each other, there were few women in executive roles that could influence policy, impact company politics or really champion other women to advance within the company.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had occasion to chat with some younger women who are just starting out in auto-aftermarket companies, and its almost unbelievable that the things I experienced years ago are still happening. I’m not talking about the #metoo or #neveragain movements (although it would serve these guys well to keep their heads down and hope the spotlight stays on actors and politicians. Turn that light on the auto industry from back-in-the-day and watch the number of male executives decrease dramatically….) I’m talking about the general attitude that women are less competent, belong in “support” roles and don’t deserve corporate attention.

These attitudes are not limited to the auto or aftermarket industries of course – I’m just picking on them today. Many of the aftermarket company executives are still mostly male, with the occasional female HR executive.  A perfect position to affect change, yes? It’s ironic that in one example given by the women I spoke to, the lone female exec (in HR) didn’t want to publicly support a project proposed by a group of women employees because she didn’t want to be seen as part of a “women’s revolt”. Seriously.

Mary Barra at GM has been a great example of how company culture and business results improve when a woman is at the helm of a company – in an industry created by and historically led by men. Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook has been extremely influential in supporting women in male-dominated Silicon Valley. The list of successful top female executives is growing — but slowly.  We need more women in top leadership positions, and one way to get them there is for women in those positions to pave the way and make sure women get the opportunities they deserve.

What she said:

Madeline Albright