Pitch the Bitch
On June 7, 2008 Hillary Clinton conceded defeat as the Democratic nominee for president. In her concession speech she stated that although, "we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it." She was of course referring to the Glass Ceiling Effect, an important concept in many feminist frameworks.
If you’re not familiar with it, it basically means that women encounter invisible barriers when moving up the ranks in their profession. Once they move up to a certain point on the corporate ladder, they find they’re not able to move any higher due to external barriers such as discrimination, sexism and the like. Certainly there is some legitimacy to this phenomenon, but the question begs, how much?
When it comes to big business, venture and making millions, Forbes.com has a large database of statistics and the who’s who of the financial world. In their 2009 Special Report Top 100 CEO Compensation, they listed 99 of 100 highest compensated CEO’s as men. There was only one woman among them, and she was ranked at number 28. In another Forbes’ Special Report of the World’s Billionaires, of 150 billionaires only 11 were comprised of women.
Out of those 11, 10 were billionaires from inheritance. Only one female billionaire was self-made and she had her husband as her partner. Of the rest of the billionaires, 50 males were from inherited wealth and 92 were self-made. Ninety-two men were self-made billionaires compared to 1 female. Is this the result of the glass ceiling effect? Many would say yes. I say let’s follow some less obvious possibilities. It would be nice to have an external source to blame but the reality is that women are their own worst enemies.
It’s a perfect storm of variables that factor into women’s lack of success in the big bad world of business. And when I speak of success, I’m talking millions and billions of dollars here…the big leagues. These variables are largely ignored by the academia and the women’s movement. If there’s going to be a change, awareness of all impediments to women’s power and success should be realized.
Of course sexual harassment happens, as does discrimination and sexism. But there are other factors women have not explored or addressed yet and that is how their own behavior impedes their own success other women’s success in the world of business. Two examples of not-so-talked-about variables include female intrasexual competition and women’s low risk-taking behavior. These behaviors need to be factored in and adjusted if women are going to compete with the big boys for the millions.
I don’t think we will disagree when I make the claim that women worry. Of course we do. It is by design of course to keep the people we care about safe. Thus, because of women’s tendency to worry we do not take the same sorts of risks that men do. It’s really not in our best interests. Over the course of the last hundred years our environment has changed drastically. Now that women are entering the public sphere we are sharing it with people who have been doing business for thousands of years… of course the people I am referring to are men.
First we have to come to terms that the business world is a culture created by men. I’m not saying that it won’t change, it might over time, but in the meantime if we want a piece of the action we are going to have to behave accordingly. A recent study by Paola Sapienza et al. concluded that women are more risk averse than men, and that the differences in financial risk between men and women are affected by the presence of testosterone or lack-there-of.
Female MBA students who were tested for and exhibited higher than normal levels of testosterone were more likely to choose riskier careers in finance. Evolutionary psychologists agree that women take fewer risks than men and men are rewarded more favorably with risk-taking than are women. Okay, so testosterone affects how likely one is to take risks. That makes sense doesn’t it?
But there are women who take risks. Women do invest their money and resources in the world of finance. What happens when they do? I decided to pursue this matter on a grass-roots level, and I spoke with a few brokers with their condition of anonymity. This is what they told me. There is a general rule in the business world when seeking out investors. The rule is, “don’t pitch the bitch.” I asked, why? These brokers stated they did not exclude women’s money because they are women per se, but because they get too many phone calls from worried female investors. “Women need constant hand-holding,” is how one broker viewed doing business with women, “and I just don’t have the patience or time.” I was told that unlike male investors, women who do take on risky investments need constant reassurance “hand holding.”
These behaviors are largely unpopular with brokers and the investment world. I then asked, “what about men? Don’t male investors worry and bother you?” They told me they find it just as annoying and will drop these types of clients whether male or female. The brokers agreed that almost all of the women that they have done business with have given them grief with too many phone calls and excessive worrying while their male counterparts didn’t bother them nearly as much.
So worrying is annoying and perhaps not helpful when trying to get ahead by high margins. But, I think there is a worse much more damaging characteristic that women possess. When I think of one word to sum it up, I am at a loss so I’m going to begin with the following adjectives: catty, petty, jealous, spiteful, vindictive, anal-retentive, and competitive. Perhaps, I left a few out.
But ladies, let’s face it. We are nasty to each other and will often more than not impede another woman from rising rather than helping. I’m not saying there are no exceptions. But what I am saying is that generally speaking women are jealous, nasty bitches toward other women. Sorry if that’s not politically correct, but it happens to be the truth. Men already know this about us… and deep down, so do we. Don’t we?
Of course in evolutionary theory, there appears to be a reasonable explanation to women’s competitive spirit toward each other. It’s called female intrasexual competition and has become a beneficial adaptation that women have evolved. Ingo, Mize and Pratarelli explain it here:
“To understand why female intrasexual competition is a beneficial adaptation in mate selection, one must first understand the adaptive nature of the sexual division of labor in the EEA. Anthropology tells us males hunted for meat and protected the group from predation so that females were safe to gather food while bearing and raising children who would ensure the future survival of the species. While this characterization might not appeal to a majority of contemporary feminists who would prefer a more equal division of labor, it is important to note that these behaviors co-evolved as a function of survival.
If an adaptation increases a species’ ability to survive and reproduce, it is passed on to future generations. Because the sexual division of labor practiced by early humans met those criteria, it has perpetuated itself through the genes that express those traits in the X and Y-chromosomes. Female intrasexual competition was a necessity in an environment where survival depended on superior mate selection that led to increased food acquisition for females whose parental investment was far greater than that of males’.
Despite the modern human environment, it continues today, on an unconscious instinctual level (Pinker, 2002; Pratarelli, 2003). These motivational instruction sets exist as brain circuits passed on generation-to-generation, much like the ability to breathe or the capacity to acquire symbolic language is passed on one generation to the next. In order to acquire superior mates while maintaining the highest degree of personal safety, females evolved an indirect way of aggressing toward one another.
“One way women can compete without risking their safety or compromising their lives is through acts that ostracize, stigmatize, and otherwise exclude others [female competitors] from social interaction” (Campbell, 2004, p. 3). Gossip and backstabbing are two common acts practiced by women to effectively eliminate a rival. By casting doubt on the fidelity of rivals, women are able to increase their own chances of acquiring what they believe is a superior long-term mate (Vandermassen, 2005). Prior intimate knowledge of one’s competitor also serves to validate the claims one makes against a rival.”
Knowledge is power and this sort of information does not have to be deterministic in nature. Instead, our awareness of this behavior can be dealt with on a cognitive level. Just because we evolved this way doesn’t mean we cannot change. If we as women cannot get along and help each other then why do we deserve to get ahead? Why do we deserve to have power? Men cooperate… they have the Old Boys Club. Why can’t we?