Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gender and Prominence

Two things came together for me several weeks ago about gender and prominence.

One, I got asked by a former intern who is a grad student at University of Michigan if I could recommend a speaker on international development to him. He and his colleagues had already lined up Joseph Stiglitz, Guy Pfefferman, Allan Meltzer, and Stan Fischer--and he wanted my help in rounding out the group with someone with a critical view of the international financial institutions, preferably a woman. And even though the students had managed to line up a male foursome--an impressive male foursome at that--I had a hard time coming up with more than two. Nancy Birdsall and Jessica Einhorn were the only women I could come up with who had the kind of stature I felt the other panel members had. And as I thought about it, it bothered me that I could think of other possible panelists, but they were all male.

The Slate article also asked "Why aren't there more female CEOs?" a couple of days after my intern's query, and just yesterday, the New York Times covered the dearth of female bosses. The articles do a much better job of exploring the whys and wheretofores than I can, but it's a lot more disquieting to be asked to come up with options yourself, and discover that you can't do it. That's when you can't just blame the board members of the companies for not being imaginative or inclusive enough. Damn, damn, damn ...

P.S. I suggested both Nancy and Jessica to my intern, and added Manish Bapna to the list feeling that I wasn't giving him enough wiggle room given that people's schedules are so booked. After all, I was as interested in injecting more diversity--any dimension of diversity!--into his august panel as he was.

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