Are Women Executives Incapable of Arrogance?

Young Employees
Young Employees

Oh the gender divide.

How that riles us up.

Recently, the ombudsman for National Public Radio (NPR), Alicia Shepard asked why there were significantly fewer women being used as commentators and experts on NPR.

Although her methods were highly unscientific, she felt she was onto something.

Just by measuring NPR's top shows, she found out that women made up a paltry 26% of all cited sources. Now this isn't just a NPR issue, by far. Look at any news channel or mainstream newspaper (Read a self-analysis of Washington Post's newsroom recently published by their ombudsman). And we're not talking about female anchors or journalists, but industry experts called upon every day for their analysis and commentary on the day's hot topics.

Taking Alice's apprehension a step further, NPR's Brooke Gladstone interviewed NYU Professor Clay Shirky, who famously wrote a blog earlier this year titled, "A Rant About Women" wondering whether there was any one central reason explaining this gender divide. In a candid and expressive interview they discussed--and the irony of a man attempting to answer why there are way fewer women experts wasn't lost on them either--this and more.

An excerpt:

Brooke: You write, "Women aren't just bad at behaving arrogant [and] self-aggrandizing, they are bad at behaving like self-promoting narcissists, anti-social obsessives or …, even a little bit, even temporarily, when it would be in their best interests to do so. Whatever bad things you can say about those behaviors, you can't say they are underrepresented among people who have changed the world." What was the reaction to that?

Clay: "...The reaction that has surprised me most is that any number of people, many of them women, have come forward and said, essentially, women have a different way of getting along in the world, we're more social, we're more nurturing, and so forth. And I have two problems with that attitude. The first is, essentially, that if you flowered up the language a little bit, you could dump that into a Victorian almanac. They don't get to run the company. Maybe someday they can be senior vice-president of marketing, but mostly they're there in this kind of middle layer of management to keep things running."

What does that say for our corporate structures?

More so, what does this analysis tell us about all the companies who spend a lot of money every year on leadership and professional development programs to mentor women into senior roles?

Every year, conducts their Annual Corporate Diversity Survey with nonprofit intern organization INROADS, Inc., where we ask companies to discuss their initiatives targeting minority candidates and women workers. The responses over the years have expanded across departments and in depth, indicating the presence of a level field as far as budget allotment go for these programs.

What then is holding back women from aggressively touting their subject expertise outside their professional and personal spaces?

There is no dearth of women in senior management roles—and according to a report from Bloomberg last week, female CEOs actually may have surpassed their male counterparts in compensation—then why isn't it translating into more vocal women analysts?

Quite aptly, at a recent event hosted by the Better Business Forum, Global CEO of Ogilvy PR Worldwide, Christopher Graves, in answering a question on whether all the recent negative press Goldman Sachs has been receiving will affect the bank's popular 10000 women project (A five-year investment bythe bank aimed at providing 10,000 underserved women around the world with a business and management education), quipped, "Of course, if there were more women in that company, this wouldn’t have happened." Quickly adding, "I am obviously pandering, but it just might be the truth."

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Aman Singh is the Corporate Responsibility Editor at She is a New York University alum and previously wrote for The Wall Street Journal. Her area of work includes corporate diversity practices and sustainability, and how they translate into recruitment and strategic development at Fortune 1000 companies. Connect with her on Twitter @VaultCSR.

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