Does Carol Bartz disprove or confirm the glass ceiling theory?

February 19, 2009
Carol Bartz

Carol Bartz

The appointment of Carol Bartz replacing Larry Page as head of Yahoo has provided leadership headlines. Do the stories confirm the view that despite her success, prejudices against female executives still remain widely intact?

An article by the Economist on the appointment of Carol Bartz [January 17th 2009] prompted one irate reader to object of the double standards applied to male and female executives. The Economist painted a picture of someone driven by insecurities of early maternal bereavement who developed excessive discipline and who rejected notions of work life balance. For good measure the article added that at 60, she was “strikingly old” to lead an internet company.

A sympathetic and informative piece in Forbes by Carol Hymowitz

outlined evidence of her leadership capabilities at her previous role at Autodesk and makes the point that Bartz is one of

.. still just 23 woman at the helm of the nation’s 1,000 largest companies. Besides Bartz, only Paula Roseput Reynolds has been at the helm of two public companies–AGL and Safeco.

Hymowitz contrasts this with the frequency with which ousted male CEOs are hired into other big leadership roles. Her story continued:

[Bartz] was CEO at Autodesk for 14 years, much longer than most chief executives, whose median tenure is just five years, [where she] quickly imposed a more traditional management structure, with schedules for product launches and regular performance reviews. While doing this, she also coped with breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with just days after joining Autodesk Afraid to tell anyone that she had a “female disease,” she took off just a month from work after having a radical mastectomy, instead of the prescribed six to eight weeks.

During the dot-com boom of the late 1990s when Autodesk, many of her employees were suddenly being wooed to dot-com start-ups with the promise that they’d become millionaires. She convinced her best talent to stay put but also realized the Internet was radically altering business–and Autodesk had to adapt and learn to use the network to design, manufacture and market products differently.
As a business leader, Bartz also is known as someone who doesn’t hold grudges and is willing to change her mind. At one point, she fired Carl Bass, the company’s technical wizard at the time, over strategic disagreements. She quickly realized this was a mistake, hired him back a few months later and eventually named him her successor.
Bartz admitted she wasn’t ready to retire when she handed over the CEO spot to Bass in May 2006. “I cried my eyes out,” she said in an interview then. But she also knew Bass was getting offers elsewhere and she concluded that stepping aside was the right thing to do instead of spending years grooming another successor. “It’s very good to leave a job when you still love it,” she said at the time.

What do you think?

I know that female leaders in the business world have not been given the same sort of publicity as their male counterparts. I scan the papers regularly to add examples to my meagre collection. Carol Hymowitz argues that the glass ceiling is still pretty much intact. That is to say, the lack of case examples reflects a deficit of women in top executive roles. It’s an old argument. Is Hymowitz right that it is still salient? What do you think?


I’m not supposed to tell you this … but how to get a job with Yahoo

May 14, 2007

buzz_amazon.jpgIt’s a secret. But one thought leader who is called Mark Hughes has leaked the secret. You can find it in his book buzzmarketing. So I’m doing the same thing to show you how to get a job with Yahoo.

First: Buzzmarketing

Mark Hughes knows a bit about buzzmarketing. How to get people talking about you, yes you (well actually, about Mark, but all in good time, it does apply to you and to getting that job you are dreaming of.)

To get people talking about you, you create a buzz. People start to talk about you. Eventually people start coming back at you. Mark Hughes tells the story of the little town of Halfway in Oragon. Using his approach he got everyone talking, after he persuaded the town it would be a great idea to earn some free publicity. The idea was put in place. The town renamed itself The web-publicity worked its magic, (or so Mark tells us).

Later, he pulled together his experience in buzzmarketing, and came up with six ways to get people talking about your idea, and therefore about you.

The secret of secrets

Now I’m going to leak the secret. It’s not even sneaky, because I’ve done it in a win-win way (I hope). I’ve added to the buzz about Mark Hughes as a leader we deserve, and maybe tested out if it attracts some folk to Leaders we Deserve. Get it? The secret is to give away a secret. That’s how the web works. To them that give away, shall it be given.

So what’s the secret of getting a job at Yahoo?

You buzz them. Someone I know was going to write a blog called jobless but hopeful. He tried the idea out on people. Like me. He also did other buzzy things like organizing campus visits for other jobless students. (I hope he comments about this). So what happens. The employers come on Campus. And guess who gets the most job offers? Yes, ‘employed and still hopeful’

Another student who is also a PhD in something on the hard side of quantum physics taught me about buzzmarketing. Which is why I’m writing this post. I understand he’s inviting Yahoo on to Campus, and after that Mark Hughes. (Sorry, Mark Hughes, buzz marketer not the Football manager).

He’s a really cool buzzy guy for a PhD. Maybe he’s figured out how to become employed. Maybe with Yahoo. Then, to load the bases, he tells everyone to turn up in business dress. I ask you? What’s the chances Yahoo don’t rate formal dress? I think he’ll be up there but not frocked up in business gear. That’s another secret for getting a job with Yahoo.