Carey Roberts
NYT decrees, women 'better managers' than men
By Carey Roberts
August 3, 2009

In a reprise of Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comments, the New York Times has settled the age-old debate about who makes better office managers. "No Doubts: Women are Better Managers" announces the July 26 headline.

To resolve the galloping debate, the NYT editors summoned Carol Smith, senior vice president for the Elle Group. In case you haven't made the acquaintance, the Elle Group woos new members with the breathless claim it will "enrich your life, pamper your body, nurture your spirit, accelerate your business, and celebrate your soul." Sorry, no men allowed.

Ms. Smith is possessed of an uncanny, indeed unfathomable acumen such that she is able to dispense with the usual accoutrements of objective inquiry, so no need to do an employee survey or commission a national poll. It's what they call a woman's intuition.

Here's Ms. Smith at her most lucid: "In my experience, female bosses tend to be better managers, better advisers, mentors, rational thinkers." Why? Because "Men love to hear themselves talk."

(In my time hanging around the office water cooler, female workers do far more conversing than men. But who am I to doubt Ms. Smith's firm grasp on reality?)

Oh, and women are terrific list-makers. "They will do their to-do list. They will prioritize their to-do list. They will get through their to-do list," Smith compulsively writes.

That's right guys, forget that aspiration of getting an MBA, all you need to do is pull out pencil and paper and start making lists!

"Hands down women are better. There's no contest," Smith zestfully concludes. And lest she come across as a smug know-it-all, "I want less of that self-righteousness," she avers.

I hate to differ with the erudite pronouncements of Ms. Smith, but my experience has been of a different ilk. I well recall a female co-worker who whispered to me in the hallway, "I can't stand working for women!" Her female supervisor micromanaged and publicly berated her for every shortcoming, imagined and real, to the point she had to go to the union with a harassment complaint.

My personal you-won't-believe-this story involved an office where women outnumbered men three to one. My supervisor, a female, had hand-picked all the women. On good-hair days, she would refer to her staff as "my dysfunctional family." On bad days, staff would hole up in their offices, waiting for the storm to blow over. She was eventually forced into retirement by senior management. And yes, she was good at making lists.

What do polls of female employees show?

Three years ago the publishing company Vault did a Gender Issues in the Workplace Survey. The results shocked many: Only 9% of women said they preferred to work for a woman, while three times that number, 28%, preferred a male boss. The majority of respondents had no preference. One woman explained, "Men are generally more decisive, quicker, and focused in their decisions. Women approach work with more emotion than men."

A similar survey by Harper's Bazaar queried 500 English professional women working in finance, media, and healthcare. A majority — 60% — of these high-status women stated their preference for male bosses. Seven out of 10 admitted they would be delighted to see a female colleague fail, and 86% said they would flirt with a male co-worker if it would boost their job prospects.

Maybe the Sisterhood isn't all it's been made out to be.

When men of an earlier era engaged in such unabashed buffoonery, they were derided as chauvinist Neanderthals. So thank goodness we have Carol Smith's screwball humor to relieve the workday tedium for the rest of us.

© Carey Roberts


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Carey Roberts

Carey Roberts is an analyst and commentator on political correctness. His best-known work was an exposé on Marxism and radical feminism... (more)

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