UC Davis Study Finds Good Old Boys Club Holds in Top Businesses

Share:

glass-ceilingby UC Davis News Service

The 400 largest companies headquartered in California, representing almost $3 trillion in shareholder value, still resemble a “boys’ club” with women filling fewer than 10 percent of top executive jobs, a University of California, Davis, study has found.

The Graduate School of Management’s eighth annual UC Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders — a yearly benchmark for the Golden State’s lack of progress in promoting women business leaders — paints a dismal picture for women in leadership during fiscal year 2011-2012. Some of the best known among these top companies, or the California 400, have no women leaders.

The survey is the only one of its kind to focus on gender equity in the boardrooms and executive suites of corporate California.
This year, for the first time, the survey also looked at ethnicity among the 85 Fortune 1000 companies in California, and only one company in this subset of businesses had an ethnic woman as the CEO. Furthermore, only 13 had any ethnic women directors.

“To compete in today’s global marketplace, successful companies need leaders from a variety of backgrounds, skills and experience to make critical strategic and operations decisions, but the lack of women in these California public companies is anything but forward-thinking,” said Steven C. Currall, dean of the UC Davis Graduate School of
Management. “There are many talented, highly qualified women for these top leadership positions, yet every year we see the same figures and little improvement.”

The survey featured one statistical bright spot: The percentage of women directors year-to-year jumped a half percent, the highest annual increase in four years. For the past few years, the figure climbed only 0.2 percent annually.

“This is a slight increase, but not nearly what we should be seeing,” Currall said. “We challenge the business community in California to improve on its past. Women, by far, make the most purchasing decisions in certain industries, for example, and they are nearly 50 percent of the U.S. workforce. So, it’s vital that we have that diversity of thought and experience in the leadership of these companies. More and more research is showing that having more women in top management and on boards actually improves company performance.”

Among the key findings of the study:

  • There is only one woman for every nine men among directors and highest-paid executives.
  • Only 13 of the 400 largest companies have a woman CEO.
  • No company has an all-female (nor gender-balanced) board and management team.
  • Almost half (44.8 percent) of California’s companies have no women directors; 34 percent have only one woman director.
  • Among counties with at least 20 companies, San Francisco County has the greatest percentage of women directors (16 percent), and Orange County has the least (8.7 percent). Alameda County has the most highest-paid women executives in the study.
  • By industry, firms in the semiconductor and software industries and those located in the Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County) tended to include fewer women on the board and in highest-paid executive positions. Firms in the consumer goods sector had the highest average percentage of women directors and highest-paid executives.
  • Of the best-known companies in California — Apple, Google, Intel, Cisco, Visa, eBay, DIRECTV, Yahoo!, and PG&E — none of their highest-paid executives at fiscal year-end were women.
  • The Silicon Valley companies — representing nearly half the shareholder value of the companies on the list — showed the worst record for percentage of women executives, consistent with past years of the study. Only 6.6 percent of their highest-paid executives are women.

The study looked at the five highest-paid executives for each company, also called “named executive officers,” as reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The study examined filing data available as of Oct. 1, 2012. The 400 companies were selected based on market capitalization.

For figures on ethnicity, study authors used a database that tracks Fortune 1000 companies nationwide and other sources, including company websites and SEC filings.

The company with the best gender balance in this year’s survey was San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma, Inc. The home furnishings and cookware company reported that women held nearly 47 percent of their highest-paid executive and board director seats.

“Williams-Sonoma, Inc. is proud to be a leader in diversity and consider this to be at the core of our business practices. We work to create an environment that attracts great talent, and we seek to motivate, inspire and recognize high performance among all
employees,” says Laura Alber, president and chief executive officer, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

Williams-Sonoma was ranked ninth in last year’s study, with 31 percent of its executive and board member seats filled by women, and it has been in the top 25 companies in the list three years consecutively.

The highest ranking company two consecutive years previously, bebe stores inc., dropped to second place in the latest study while maintaining 40 percent women in its top positions.

UC Davis partnered with Watermark, a Bay Area-based nonprofit that offers programs for executive women, to complete the study.

“Companies today know they need to increase innovation,” said Marilyn Nagel, CEO of Watermark. “They need talent on top that is tuned into customer needs. They need directors and executives who are strong, capable, qualified leaders in every sense.

“However, while so many are bemoaning the lack of these qualities in candidates for their top positions — they are overlooking the women right in front of them who can deliver all of these qualities in spades,” Nagel added.

To download a full copy of the study, including industry-by-industry and county-by-county statistics, visit http://www.gsm.ucdavis.edu/census.

Share:

About The Author

Related posts

27 thoughts on “UC Davis Study Finds Good Old Boys Club Holds in Top Businesses”

  1. SouthofDavis

    I’m not going to say that there is not a “Good Old Boys Club” kids who have a “Good Old Boy” Dad that plays golf at the SFGC, eats lunch at the PU Club and spends two weeks in July at the Grove every year have things easier than the rest of us.

    Unlike Japan where there really is a “glass ceiling” (I just read an interesting article about Japanese businessmen “adopting” the men who marry their daughters since it is still unacceptable to have a woman run a family business) we don’t have a “glass ceiling” here in the US we just have most (but not all) women put a priority on raising a family over business.

    I was dating a HBS grad about 10 years ago when a Harvard study came out that showed that only about a third of the woman that got Harvard MBAs in the 80’s vs. about 98% for guys (close to 99% when you didn’t count the few guys that died) were still working full time. Just because there are more men doing something does not mean that a “glass ceiling” is stopping the woman (as anyone that goes to a lot of automotive events can tell you).

    Most people know that a lot of business leaders (and Supreme Court justices) come from Ivy League schools, but I’m surprised how many people don’t know that it was not until the 70’s when the Ivy League schools decided to let “the little ladies” in. My female cousin who never had kids and is still working full time (and spends more time outside the US than at home as CEO of a multinational company) was one of the first 10 woman to get a MBA from one of the Ivy League schools in the 70’s.

    My nephew is starting to decide what “back up schools” he will apply to (if he can’t get in to Cal or Stanford) and he said that pretty much every school in California has more men than woman (aka a “great ratio” if you are a 16 year old boy). When many older CEOs today went to college the ratio at a lot of schools was closer to 90% men 10% woman.

    We never have studies that complain about good old boys or glass ceiling that stops woman being welders or mechanics and no one seems to complain that 99.9% of the people on the wood boat or vintage race car forums on line are male since people seem OK that men and woman are different and that more men want to be welders, mechanics or spend long hours and thousands of dollars to restore an old Chris Craft or Lotus that probably should have gone to a junk yard.

    In my entire life I have never met or even heard of a single woman with kids who “didn’t have to work” that continued to work full time (without any break) while their kids were growing up, while almost all the guys that didn’t have to work kept working full time.

  2. Frankly

    [i]pretty much every school in California has more men than woman (aka a “great ratio” if you are a 16 year old boy). [/i]

    I think you meant that every school in California has more women than men. And, I think this growing underrepresentation of men in high learning is evidence that gender discrimination is occurring in education in general. It is a big problem given little attention by the PC-correct media.

    I have a lot to say about this topic.

    Having worked in the private-sector rat race for most of my career, having experience working with and for more female employees than male employees, I absolutely know that there is a gender difference with respect to ambition and pursuits of work-life balance. And, those difference, in my experience, account for 90% of the underrepresentation of women in C-suite executive positions.

    Frankly, comparing a man to a woman pursuing a career leading to a senior-level management position, all things being equal with respect to education, professional experience and capability, there is a much higher probability that the woman will decide to drop out of that pursuit at some point in her career. She may drop out to have and raise children. She may drop out in support of her husband’s professional pursuits. However, she may also drop out because she does not have the same value system as the man.

    These days the top executive positions require a career path that requires living in foreign countries. They require 12 hour workdays and often 24×7 availability and engagement. Global market competition is brutal. Men tend to be more at ease with it… actually being energized by the us-versus-them work culture and maintaining a strong motivation to win at all costs. Women tend to have stronger affiliation needs and skills and they are more attracted to a more cooperative and less combative work environment. Frankly, I see very capable women make conscience career decisions to change career paths after having experienced the high-testosterone executive work culture of hyper competition. I also know of many women that thrive in this environment no different than men; but they are the minority.

    I guess my point here is that I get quite agitated with this continuing template that men – primarily white men – are a club that prevents others in protected victims groups from joining. This complaint generally comes from people without much experience in the domains they complain about. The simple fact is that executive-level business is a hostile work environment because of competition. Only the strong survive. If you blink or pause; if you question your commitment; if you show any signs of insecurity; if you file harassment claims… they will chew you up and spit you out. The process of vetting top talent at the c-suite executive level is brutal. The rewards are commensurate. It has to be this way for private-sector companies to succeed and grow in a global market place where there are thousands of other companies trying to grab away market share.

    Capable women are going to be more often turned-off by this type of work culture and will pursue careers more likely to provide a stronger culture of cooperation and affiliation. In most large companies, a department or division-head not ambitious to climb the corporate ladder can make her own work culture better suiting her interests. And, I think there is always the potential that women business leaders can transform whole industries into being more cooperative and less brutally competitive… thus making the c-suite executive positions a better fit for women in general.

  3. Frankly

    In thinking about this current white-male bashing that seems to be gaining steam as liberals feel more embolden to speak their minds as a result of their political achievements, I think there is a corresponding responsibility for others to call them on the level of bias hypocrisy. Statistics are not evidence of bias; they are evidence of difference. Despite all the egalitarian hand-wringing, there are biological differences that exist and will likely always exist. There are also social differences… and these will transform over time.

    Note the following about business… the only true bias is to gravitate toward the things that make money. If white males dominate executive positions, then it is likely that white males have a better track record for making money. However, there is no general conspiracy to prevent non-white male from competing to help make money. The ONLY material issue I see is the principle of individual “confidence”. I think in our society it is likely that white males may be more confident in their pursuits. They don’t have as many adverse professional relationship experiences and career crucibles were they questioned if they fit in or if their career path is a good fit. The challenge for a society that wants to see more gender and other diversity in business senior management positions is to develop confidence in people that enables them to effectively compete for the limited supply of positions.

    The frustration I see from those complaining about under-representation is that the people in these positions of power do not extend a hand and lower the bar so that those lacking complete confidence and competitive readiness can join them. It does not work that way. If you want to take a space at the top of the economic pyramid, then you have to learn how to compete at that level and win. That is a bottom-up challenge, not a top-down requirement.

  4. SouthofDavis

    Jeff wrote:

    > I think you meant that every school in California
    > has more women than men.

    That is what I meant, it was not long ago that I read that the freshman class at UCD was 57% woman and many predict that if trends continue UCD will soon be 60% women (UCLA is already almost to a 60/40 Female/Male split).

    > However, there is no general conspiracy to prevent
    > non-white male from competing to help make money.

    Whenever anyone brings up the “pay gap” I’ll ask them “do white men like to make money”, they will answer “yes”, then I’ll ask them “do you think that most white males would like to make 20% more money” and they will answer “yes”. I’ll then point out that if white men could find women to do the “same jobs” they are paying men to do for 20% less they would fire the men and hire the women to make 20% more profit.

  5. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]Whenever anyone brings up the “pay gap” I’ll ask them “do white men like to make money”, they will answer “yes”, then I’ll ask them “do you think that most white males would like to make 20% more money” and they will answer “yes”. I’ll then point out that if white men could find women to do the “same jobs” they are paying men to do for 20% less they would fire the men and hire the women to make 20% more profit.[/quote]

    I think that comment misses the problem – which if I understand it is not the women are paid less for the same job – though I believe that has happened. It is that women are not promoted as highly.

    There used to be a variety of excuses for this from maternity leave to other things, but my guess is most of those explanations or rationalizations have exhausted themselves because more women work through child bearing and more men take paternity leave.

  6. Frankly

    [i]There used to be a variety of excuses for this from maternity leave to other things, but my guess is most of those explanations or rationalizations have exhausted themselves because more women work through child bearing and more men take paternity leave.[/i]

    Stats please. I think the numbers are de minimis. I know very few men working up the corporate ladder in private industry that take paternity leave unless you are talking about low-worker productivity Europe or lower work-ethic public-sector employment.

    [i]It is that women are not promoted as highly.[/i]

    Again that misses the point and reality by a mile.

    From a public-sector, unionized, Marxist, socialist, liberal, egalitarian viewpoint (not saying that you have/are all these things) it makes sense that you would think this way.

    Let me just ask the rhetorical questions to help you get it… why are there so fewer male nurses?

    Answer: fewer men pursue that career path.

  7. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > more men take paternity leave.

    Two in a million is “more” than one in a million so I’m not going to say David is wrong, but other than a tenured professor, someone protected by a rock solid union, or a guy not on the career ladder that wants some time off less than one in a million men will ever take “paternity leave” since it will kill any chance of career advancement and for the rest of your life most people will think you are some kind of pathetic slacker.

    I would be surprised to find even a singe male CEO of an American firm with more than 10 people that ever took “paternity” leave…

  8. Frankly

    In the companies I have worked for and know about, that guy in the side office competing for the corner office, if taking paternity leave, would return to discover another employee in the corner office. And if the guy in the corner office takes paternity leave, he would likely return to find projects awry with cost overruns and missed deadlines… problems his workplace peers would only be too happy to leverage in the competitive pursuit of higher paying, more stressful, jobs.

  9. Frankly

    Hey jrberg, I read the article. What is the point you are making?

    I do know that the number of male nurses has been increasing… but not at any alarming rate. It was 3% in 1980 and 6.6% today. Men are still significantly under-represented in the nursing profession.

    My point to David was that the under-representation of men or women in specific careers and/or roles is largely explained by their choice of career and career path selected and not gender discrimination.

  10. Don Shor

    I am curious about this statistic:
    [i]”Almost half (44.8 percent) of California’s companies have no women directors;
    34 percent have only one woman director.”[/i]
    It seems harder to rationalize this than the CEO or higher-level executive positions.

  11. Frankly

    Don: [i]I assume we are talking about directors, as in the board of directors and not the “director” position which is the VP or AVP equivalent for non-profit executive management positions.[/i]

    If that is the case, then I agree it is more interesting. I have nine board members, and two of them are women. I used to have seven board members with three women, but one resigned due to conflicts and the two that I added happened to be men. I have at least one member that will probably retire this next year. I plan to work hard to try and replace him with a woman. Honestly though, it is difficult. My two woman board members are the most often absent from meetings and functions. One is a divorced mother of two active daughters. The other is married without children, but always on the go in her professional and personal life. Her husband has health problems that often prevent her from attending meetings requiring travel.

    I absolutely believe that it is in a company’s best interest to have a gender-diverse board of directors. I don’t know why there are not more woman board members… other than maybe similar to the challenges I face finding qualified people that have the time to give. Depending on their corporate bylaws, most Boards elect their members. I think the old boys sitting around the table would be happier to have more female peers to work with.

    In divorces, the courts tend to default to the mother having superior custody. I wonder how much that contributes to female under-representation in director and executive officer positions.

  12. Frankly

    Apparently under-representation of women on boards is an issue in many other countries… even liberal Europe.

    However, I find little meaningful analysis of the causes other than the standard left bash about the good ol’ boys network, and gender discrimination. I know three terrific and qualified women that I would love to have as board members, but all three have turned me down saying they are too busy. Out of all the men I can think of (four at this point) that I would recruit for board member positions, I would expect each of them to say yes. I don’t know this for a fact because I have not asked them, but it is my estimate that they would be motivated and find the time.

    My thinking, for my situation at least, gets back to a previous point I made about the difference I experienced in the workplace between the career path and work-life balance decisions with men and women. Do women better value free time, or do they have more task obligations in their personal lives? I am certainly not generalizing here because I know plenty of women that are as ambitious and as competitive and as capable as any man for moving up to the highest rungs of the organization. However, statistically, I think these factors might be playing a part in the differences we see.

    In any case, a deep and honest analysis of the root causes of these differences is warranted before jumping into the gender discrimination template. Does anyone know of any?

    I would really like to read a professional woman’s perspective on this topic. If there is something I should be doing differently to attract woman board members, I am all ears. Would I be wasting time trying to grow a more gender-diverse board lacking the magic to create a 26-hour day or an eight day week?

  13. J.R.

    [url]said Steven C. Currall, dean of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. “There are many talented, highly qualified women for these top leadership positions, yet every year we see the same figures and little improvement.”[/url]

    He is absolutely right. I couldn’t agree more.

    A good place to start would be if he resigned so a talented woman could take his place.

  14. medwoman

    [quote]In my entire life I have never met or even heard of a single woman with kids who “didn’t have to work” that continued to work full time (without any break) while their kids were growing up, while almost all the guys that didn’t have to work kept working full time.
    [/quote]

    I think that this may be part of the problem with the discussion. Perhaps you are not aware of the work patterns of female physicians ( I am assuming that we would be considered “professionals”). Many of my partners do not “have to work”, have children, and yet maintain full time schedules throughout their careers. Could part of the problem be a lack of awareness that women do, in fact, make this choice ? If one assumes that women will choose to work less, could this not be a factor in making the decision to promote a man preferentially ?

    [quote]I would really like to read a professional woman’s perspective on this topic. [/quote]

    I will be happy to share my perspective.
    30 years ago when I got my MD, there were many fewer women than men in medicine. The “glass ceiling” was clearly apparent and it was still acceptable for men to openly express their opinion that women should not be doctors, were not emotionally, physically, or intellectually equipped for the rigors of medical practice. Women were frequently discriminated against in terms of advancement and referrals. We compensated by working harder and being “better” than our male counterparts. Eventually our increasing numbers allowed us to start achieving positions of leadership and in some specialties, such as obstetrics and gynecology, even predominance. However, my personal mentors have all been women, and I have personally mentored primarily women. I think that this was very much true also with the men when I first started. It was the rare male physician who took a personal interest in developing the career of the women under him. The men did adhere to the “old boy network” largely reinforced by such pursuits as playing golf or fly fishing together. It was not until there became a critical number of women who chose to engage in other types of activities such as book clubs or attending plays together that we truly began to help one another achieve leadership postions. If you are truly looking to build a program that is attractive to women, I would concentrate on building a strong network of women with mentoring skills and an interest in developing the skills of the women at their level and beneath them just as has always existed for men.

  15. David M. Greenwald

    “Apparently under-representation of women on boards is an issue in many other countries… even liberal Europe.”

    Gender equity issues are not endemic to the US alone.

  16. David M. Greenwald

    “In the companies I have worked for and know about, that guy in the side office competing for the corner office, if taking paternity leave, would return to discover another employee in the corner office. “

    I’m sure you view this as a strength, but perhaps it limits the talent and worldview of the people who take on these careers.

    I’m perfectly willing to believe that the structure is not necessarily anti-woman. A woman who plays the game is probably perfectly acceptable to the structure. But that doesn’t make the structure healthy.

  17. SouthofDavis

    I wrote:

    > In my entire life I have never met or even heard of a single woman
    > with kids who “didn’t have to work” that continued to work full time
    > (without any break) while their kids were growing up, while almost
    > all the guys that didn’t have to work kept working full time.

    Then Medwoman wrote:

    > I think that this may be part of the problem with the discussion.
    > Perhaps you are not aware of the work patterns of female physicians
    > (I am assuming that we would be considered “professionals”). Many
    > of my partners do not “have to work”, have children, and yet maintain
    > full time schedules throughout their careers.

    I know that many woman work throughout their careers. By “didn’t have to work” I mean that they don’t need the money and are not spending anything they make since they have so much other income. Can you say that “many” of your partners could stop working without a change in their lifestyle? Do “many” of them with young kids have ~$6 million in government bonds or a nice 50 unit apartment building owned free and clear? When most men inherit $10 million they keep working while most woman stop.

    > The men did adhere to the “old boy network” largely reinforced by
    > such pursuits as playing golf or fly fishing together.

    Let’s not forget that most MEN don’t play golf or fly fish and are on the outside of this “old boy network”. For men like myself that does not play golf, fly fish “or” watch (or care about) football, basketball and baseball we have a harder time in the corporate world (and is probably part of the reason that I work for myself).

  18. Frankly

    [i]I’m perfectly willing to believe that the structure is not necessarily anti-woman. A woman who plays the game is probably perfectly acceptable to the structure. But that doesn’t make the structure healthy. [/i]

    Women have to learn to work within that structure and/or humans must evolve so that men are more like sea horses if we want to see those stats change. Expecting private business to change its structure to accommodate biological gender differences and/or to force-compensate so more women will choose a CEO career path, is a recipe for continued economic decline in industrial and enterprising US. You can’t ramp down competition to make it easier for others to get promoted.

    In the mid 1980’s I was an IT director for a large commercial correspondence bank (meaning no customers came in…we were a bank for banks) in Sacramento. The executive management team was primarily white men in their 50s and 60s. Men had to wear button-down dress shirts and ties, women dresses, or dress suits with rules for the hem, etc.

    One of my best employees at the time was a young married woman. I was grooming her for promotion. I fully expected to work for her one day. She got pregnant. She took six weeks off to have the baby. She came back to work and I could tell she was having a very hard time being away from her child. She eventually asked me if she could work part-time. The company culture was such that there were absolutely no part-time employees. I had to fight with management and HR to get it approved. This woman had to do the work of an almost full-time employee so that she did not get targeted by other employees constantly on the look for fairness issues (one of the things I REALLY dislike about employee behavior… I wish they would all just mind their own damn business!), and the senior managers that wanted to see her stumble so they could stop the part-time gig.

    She continued to work part time while having another child. She eventually quit to work somewhere else. Later in my career I started my own consulting company and hired her as a private contractor to do some part time work. Her husband was a real estate developer and they had money, but she was bored as her children were older and in grade school. At some point I asked her if she had any regrets about her career. I told her that I thought she could have been CEO. She surprised me saying that the only thing she regretted is that she worked at all while her children were young. The time she missed was irreplaceable and it was only her college brain-washing, the woman’s movement and the expectations of her mother (a tenured professor) and her girlfriends (many that remained unmarried and/or childless) that caused her to keep working.

    My wife didn’t attend a university. She did earn an Associates degree over time. Her life goal was to be a wife and mother and to work part time. She has been an office manager for most of her career. However, I have no doubt that she could have been a CEO. She is very intelligent and capable. However, if she had been ambitious that way, I think there is a larger probability that we would not be celebrating our 30th anniversary this March. Maybe we would have worked things out well enough, but I have quite a few friends that divorced over the conflicts of family and two ambitious pursuits of high-power careers.

    Then there is that scenario where the husband becomes the sea horse. He stays home and raises the kids while the wife aggressively pursues her career. Every couple I know that had this arrangement ended up divorced. My analysis of the cause is the following: the wife/mother that demanded that arrangement eventually lost respect for and interest in her husband… while the husband grew more resentful of his wife.

    That is the problem with stats lacking any robust analysis of root cause. Stats are cold, but family and personal relationships are critical social issues and so are matters of the heart. My guess is that the under-representation of women in senior management positions is evidence that there are more well-grounded and happy wives and mothers out there. Maybe the woman’s movement should start measuring average female happiness and content-ness instead of continually pursing this stat-driven gender power grab.

  19. medwoman

    [quote]Can you say that “many” of your partners could stop working without a change in their lifestyle?[/quote]

    I think that the red herring in this question is your choice of the phrase “without a change in their lifestyle”.
    Whether one regrets not spending enough time with one’s young children, or whether one regrets not advancing further in one’s career, regret is a very common human condition and I am not sure that we have any definitive indication that women “regret” their life choices any more than men do. As for lifestyle, I presume that you are narrowly defining this as economic. For some of us, this is not the defining criteria in our decision making. What may be “plenty” for some, may not be satisfactory for others. Likewise, many of us prize the contribution that we make to the lives of our patient’s and to the health and wellness of our society as highly as we do the dollar amount we make. So if you consider all “lifestyle” variables, I would also answer the question affirmatively.

    To answer both you and the points raised by JB, yes, I can honestly say that. Since we have gone largely anecdotal, I will share a few stories from my experience.
    1) My immediate supervisor is married and has been with the same partner who is fully employed with a good income ( and therefore does not “need” the money) and she and her husband have successfully raised two children
    ( their desired family) while she worked full time. She has risen to the role of chief of a 70 member department and since she is a personal friend of mine, I think I would know if she were dissatisfied.
    2) Five of my partners are the principle money earners in their families, work what would be considered full time and have what Jeff somewhat comically, but I think perhaps also somewhat derisively calls “seahorse husbands”.
    None of these women are looking to change their situation and apparently neither are their partners since they are all in at least 10 year relationships, most over 20 years.
    3) At least 5 of the members of my department are in two physician relationships with essentially equal division of
    work and home responsibilities including children of varying ages in the home.
    4) There are three of us that through either death or divorce are raising our children as single parents with variable degrees of familial and/ or social support.

    I can only speak directly for myself. I find my divorce regrettable, but it cannot be blamed on our two physician career track, but rather on the fact that I made a severe error in judgement and chose to believe what I was told rather than what in retrospect should have been an obvious incompatibility in world views. For starters, I believed in fidelity, he did not despite protestations to the contrary. What I do not find regrettable is that I chose to pursue both a very demanding career and the very demanding role of mother. My children, after various serious health and other issues, both seem to be on very positive tracks and we have warm and caring relations all around. My only regret is my choice of spouse.
    Can any of you regardless of your life choices say that you have no regrets or would not choose to spend any of your previous time differently if given a “do over” ? I think that it is a little silly to choose isolated anecdotes, especially those of people we have merely spoken to, and somehow generalize that to what is the best choice for others and more particularly what is the best choice for a society.
    It would seem to me that the society that is likely to be the most free and productive would be that in which any position is open to the most qualified candidate regardless of gender, race, religion or any other biologic or arbitrary characteristic.

  20. medwoman

    One other comment. When the question of “would you do it all again” comes up in conversation with my male and female colleagues with regard to our career choices, there does not seem to be a gender differentiation between those saying they would choose the same career and those who say that they would not. I, unequivocally, would do it all again in a heart beat. Many of both my male and female colleagues are less certain or express a more nuanced view.

    Interestingly enough. When the question is raised about whether or not we would again choose to have children, the group also does not seem to breakdown by gender, but rather tends to depend more on the age of the children. While we seem to be universally firm in our belief that we love our children unconditionally, whether or not we would chose to have children again seems to depend more on whether or not the child is in a “cute or easy” stage or whether they have reached, but not yet grown past their teens !

  21. Frankly

    [i]Can any of you regardless of your life choices say that you have no regrets or would not choose to spend any of your previous time differently if given a “do over” ?[/i]

    Yes.

    I just asked my wife and she said “yes” too.

    I have been told I am lucky that I found the right woman to marry. I tend to bristle a bit at that, because it under-states the work we have had to do to keep it together, and the choices we have made to honor the partnership and our kids over our own individual selfish desires. For example, we had less money than my two-professional career couple friends because I accepted my wife’s desire to work part time to have more time with our children. But, I agree that luck certainly plays a part. Infidelity and the response to it from married couples with kids pisses me off… but let’s not get into that.

    [i]It would seem to me that the society that is likely to be the most free and productive would be that in which any position is open to the most qualified candidate regardless of gender, race, religion or any other biologic or arbitrary characteristic.[/i]

    I think that is way over simplification and it negates factoring complex human sexuality, biology and social pressures. I am often flabbergasted by this duality of argument from my left-leaning friends that tend to wear their heart on their sleeve… that we should ignore these basic human traits and pressures and just focus on the cold, hard data. You folks break hearts on a regular basis with this approach by creating a narrower box of social acceptance. Just ask the college-degree-less stay-at-home mother how she feels attending the cocktail parties of her college professor husband’s coworkers. These egalitarian impulses are destructive because people are all different with different needs and desires. Freedom does not derive from rules and pressure to make all the statistics match; it comes from the ability for each individual to pursue their own happiness… and society to accept people for who they are and what they choose to do with their lives. The ONLY statistic we should be focusing on is the level of individual happiness. Then we should analyze the root cause for lower than acceptable happiness and work on policy that helps more people achieve it.

    If woman are pursuing jobs and careers that they are blocked from achieving, that would be one problem. If they are not pursuing certain jobs for personal reasons, or because those jobs and careers do not satisfy their wants and needs… that is a completely different situation… and it is likely NOT a problem worth discussing.

  22. medwoman

    [quote]Can any of you regardless of your life choices say that you have no regrets or would not choose to spend any of your previous time differently if given a “do over” ?

    Yes.

    I just asked my wife and she said “yes” too. [/quote]

    I think you chose to respond to my question more narrowly than I had intended. The context also included the issue of lifestyle, not just career or partner. For instance, is there anyone who does not regret not developing some talent or interest, such as learning to play an instrument, or taking up sky diving, or some other pursuit in order to advance one’s career or spend time on something else that we now value less ? My point was that there are many different trade offs, sources of satisfaction and regret in life. I do not know anyone who feels that there life has been perfect in every way. Perhaps you two are the exception, but I would be very surprised.

    “If woman are pursuing jobs and careers that they are blocked from achieving, that would be one problem. If they are not pursuing certain jobs for personal reasons, or because those jobs and careers do not satisfy their wants and needs… that is a completely different situation… and it is likely NOT a problem worth discussing.”

    I would agree, and yet I feel that my example fully illustrated how as recently as 30 years ago, and I would say in terms of equal pay and advancement, still today both situations pertain, not just one or the other, and that is what makes this worth continued discussion. Do you doubt that there was discrimination against women in medicine 30 years ago, and that the situation has gradually improved, or do you simply not believe that is the case ?

    [quote]These egalitarian impulses are destructive because people are all different with different needs and desires. Freedom does not derive from rules and pressure to make all the statistics match; it comes from the ability for each individual to pursue their own happiness… and society to accept people for who they are and what they choose to do with their lives. [/quote]

    I could not agree more with the second half of your statement. The first sentence I believe that you have completely backwards. It is only with an egalitarian mind set that each individual can be judged on the basis of their unique capacities instead of prejudging them as more likely to display one set of traits or another based on their gender, race, ethnicity, or whatever, that will provide the ability for each individual to have an equal capacity to pursue their individual dream fully. Example of a not so distant battle within our department. It has been more and more common for our patient’s to request to see a female physician since they tend to believe that women will automatically understand a woman’s concerns more. And yet, I know for a fact that within the field of Ob/Gyn their are empathic, warm, caring and technically excellent males just as there are females who share those traits. There are also members of the profession of both genders who are obviously cold, uncaring technicians who while competent are obviously in it for the money and are most concerned with billing as much as possible and getting out the door on time. In our administrative team, with both males and females on differing sides of the should we hire females preferentially issue, I was one who stood firmly on the side of non gender discriminatory hiring practices. This is not about the numbers, or about some arbitrary idea of what traits are likely to be present by gender, or about a leftist or right wing philosophy. It is about considering the unique attributes that each individual brings to the group and to their patients. What could be more fair and equitable than judging each individual separately and individually ?

  23. Frankly

    Medwoman, I appreciate your contributions to this topic. It is helping me understand another perspective.

    [i] I do not know anyone who feels that there life has been perfect in every way. Perhaps you two are the exception, but I would be very surprised.[/i]

    Perfection is undefinable in a span of a life. So, it is also unachievable. I never look back except to help me understand so I can grow and develop. I don’t have real regrets, because regrets are a waste of time. What I would regret is poor decision making capability resulting from emotional baggage from all the past decisions and events that I might regret. Moving on from life’s crucibles and occurrences is not just something we should do periodically; it is everything we should do… all the time. A regret is largely an emotional response, and in some respects I think it is a cop-out to letting go and moving on. I think people prone to regret are likely to be more apt to manufacture new regrets.

    My adoptive father and I were driving together one day many years ago. We were discussing the breakup he was having with a dear friend. The breakup was the result of my younger half-brother and his dear friend’s daughter getting pregnant and planning a marriage. I didn’t understand why he would be in so much conflict and be so upset. In explaining his reasoning he went back to his poor childhood: Boys Home, foster homes, abuse, etc.. I told him that I thought he remembered his past too vividly and it was impacting his present and future in unhealthy ways. He agreed… but then he said that he was unable to change it. Now that would be something I would regret… not being able to let go and move on to change my behavior even as I knew it was hurting me and hurting others I cared about. My dad is a big bundle of old and new regrets. But, he is a loving and caring person. Go figure?

    For me, feeling is subordinate to thinking and reason. Emotions can be destructive… in fact; decisions made from an emotional basis are generally destructive. There should be a three-step process: I feel, then I understand why I feel, then I make a decision with that understanding without also denying the potential consequences.

    One of the female conflicts I witness on a regular basis is this emotional tug between career and personal life. I would prefer we stop measuring statistical gender differences, and start focusing on individual happiness as the primary measure.

    It is not 30 years ago. We have significantly progressed in our civil rights march to the point that TRUE discrimination is de minimis. It has reached a point where we are wasting time focusing on the same debate… the same regrets. It is time to let go and move on. Pursuing individual happiness without harming others is the most noble and valuable pursuit, IMO. Let’s just focus on that.

  24. SouthofDavis

    Jeff wrote:

    > It is not 30 years ago. We have significantly
    > progressed in our civil rights march to the
    > point that TRUE discrimination is de minimis.

    I appreciate all the great posts from Jeff and medwoman and hope that in the end we can all admit that as Jeff points out there still is “some” TRUE sex discrimination out there that we should work to end, but we need to stop fanning the flames with stories that assume that if a police force has more men than woman it must be due to some secret plot by the “good old boys” to keep women down.

  25. medwoman

    Jeff

    [quote]For me, feeling is subordinate to thinking and reason. Emotions can be destructive… in fact; decisions made from an emotional basis are generally destructive.[/quote]

    I agree that emotions can be destructive. So can “thinking and reason” without fully understanding the consequences of ones supposedly logical actions in light of the fact that humans are not Vulcans and that emotions are as much a part of our being as is the ability to reason. We are diminished if we do not fully accept both sides of our nature.

    I think that we are all in agreement that there is “some” racism and sexism still in existence. I doubt very much that we would agree on how much still exists and what role these prejudices play in our society. I think it is very easy for those who have had the advantages of always being in the dominant group to not understand and to minimize these effects on those in the minority. I also think it is easier to over state the other sides position or to falsely attribute positions that are not in fact held in order to ignore the validity of their points since it is often uncomfortable to challenge our own ways of thinking and seeing the world. However, the world is always changing. Whether we are changing with it, or resisting change every step of the way is our own choice to make. And I agree, we are constantly making that choice, not every year or every decade, but with every choice we make in our day to day lives.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for