A set up for failure
After flipping through the headlines today, I was reminded of a lively debate at one of our last Women and Politics Mixers about a trend many of the women at our table were noticing, and reasonably troubled by.
Why is it that we only seem to see women appointed to C-suite (CEOs, COOs, CFOs etc…) executive positions, or to party leadership, when everything is about to crash and burn around them?
While we are just starting to see women take to the driver’s seat (you’ll appreciate this metaphor in just a minute) of some of the largest corporations in North America, it always seems to come on the heels of a drastic downfall; one that these rookie CEOs now have to take full accountability for.
As an automotive enthusiast I was through the moon three months ago to hear that Mary Barra had been appointed CEO of General Motors. She’s the first woman ever to head up a U.S automaker.
And now, she’s leading the cleanup on a disastrous safety failure and recall that has claimed 13 lives to date.
From a point of passion within the auto industry, I could talk at length about the recall itself. As someone who works in public relations I could talk at length about how GM is handling the crisis in the public’s eye. But as a woman what I really want to talk about is why we only get women CEOs when the ship is about to sink.
Do the Boards of these massive companies think that when they see a storm on the horizon, they can mitigate the damage by setting up a woman to take the fall? I can just imagine the narrative in their logic must read something like “If we put a woman in charge at the last minute, the public will only see a floundering female, failing at leadership, not our mistakes.”
The reality is it took the collective effort of every male CEO that preceded her to craft the mess she now sits in.
This blog post about putting women on the ‘glass cliff’ states it perfectly: “the corporations didn’t struggle because they put women in leadership roles. They put women in leadership roles because they were struggling.”
If all we ever get to see is examples of scandal and the results of prior mismanagement when women lead, it re-affirms to the world that women are not capable of being in the executive suite, in the boardroom, or in Parliament.
I by no means can stand by a company that knew about a safety defect and chose to do nothing about it. BUT. Mary. Girl. I want you to know that I’ve got your back. I’ll be standing over here watching you set this mess right, and prove that women in power can be more than corporate scapegoats.