Zero Plus 335
Women Of Vigilance Poised To Fight
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York
City, August 13--I always believed that once women penetrate the
male-dominated halls of Corporate America in droves, that our economy will
enter a new era--the Era of Economic Vigilance.
It seems the recent rash of corporate
bloodletting in major U.S. companies is opening a vein of opportunity that
women might be able to nurse back to health.
The key to this healing of faith and
confidence in American financial institutions is being cut by programs
such as the one the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern
University recently conducted for 'women only' on how to be a corporate
Corporate directors are allegedly
outsiders who represent a watchdog vigil over a company, bringing to it
fresh viewpoints and eagle eyes to check the honesty and integrity of the
company, as well as to help it focus on its primary mission.
Women have historically been excluded
from the elite "director's club." Only 11 percent of the
Fortune 1000 directors are women, according to Catalyst, a 40-year-old
non-profit organization founded by Felice Schwartz to expand women's role
Felice Swartz -
Woodrow Wilson Fellow and Author and Founder of Catalyst
The Northwestern "directors
course" was jammed with attendees, oversold, and symbolic of the thirst
women have to fill hundreds of empty director seats men have abandoned as
the shame of neglect falls on the former male-dominated "watchdog"
director's role. Another reason for the exodus of men
from the director's seat is the liability that goes with the job.
Directors can be sued for negligence, just as the CEO and other officers
of the corporation.
Victoria H. Medvec, a Kellogg
management professor and founder of the school's Center for Executive
Women, launched the program a year ago before the major scandals of Enron,
WorldCom and ImClone were headlines. The timing couldn't be
better for change, she says. "Women offer a tremendous
untapped resource pool," she said. "I think it's fascinating
when I hear people say they can't fill board positions."
It has been said that "timing is
everything" in life. It also appears "destiny" is favoring the
women in these financially Terroristic times. Women have been
the major watchdogs in the uncovering a variety of mismanaged missions,
and have exposed the weak underbelly of fat corporate abuse, as well as
federal and governmental mismanagement.
Watkins, Enron Accountant
Examples of the pit-bull watchdog attitude
of Women of Vigilance include Sherron Watkins, who blew the whistle at
Enron, setting into motion one of the great shams of financial misuse and
monetary Terrorism that caused many to lose their life savings.
In the government sector, Coleen Rowley, an FBI agent, opened up a
festering wound within the FBI and disclosed how botched counterterrorism
work may have weakened America's defenses. Cynthia
Cooper made WorldCom confess to $3.8 billion worth of accounting fraud
and, across the sea, the former European Commission chief accountant,
Martha Andreasen, challenged the European Union's accounting system.
These and many more women have risen to the
surface in a time of Financial Terrorism to represent a new breed of
Sentinel's of Vigilance--women who have chosen no longer to sit back and
surrender to the Complacency male-dominated companies historically impose
on the "weaker sex."
Critics to this viewpoint may be quick to
shove Martha Stewart to the forefront, claiming she is a woman and just as
"bad as a man" when it comes to secreting her money transactions from the
public. Or, perhaps to Hillary Clinton for not giving back the
donation she received from ImClone's CEO. Or, dredging up the
past, resurrect Leona Helmsley for her tax evasion conviction.
No one is arguing that women aren't
liable to the pressures of corporate or financial manipulation.
Some even argue that powerful women to survive in a man's world, assume
the "male thinking," and reject their women's intuition, their maternal
senses which tend to be far more global than self serving when measured
My viewpoint skews toward the
Years ago, when I was leading a
major marketing charge across America as the head of marketing for a
company that grew into the leader in its industry, generating over $50
billion-a-year in gross real estate product sales, I positioned women as
the leading force of that revolution.
At the time, the early 70's,
women comprised a small percentage of the total full-time sales force in
real estate. I believe women were far better at sales, and far
more efficient. Women, for the most part, managed the money in most
households--the budgeting of expenses--as well as assumed massive domestic
chores in addition. Their sense of time management and
"getting the job done" far exceeded that of a man's, I believed.
All our advertising commercials
featured a woman in front of a man. We collective spent over
$200 million-a-year in television and print advertising, subtly showing
the power of a woman as a leader. Our recruiting also focused
on women, and our ranks of sales associates swelled to over 50 percent
women, while the industry lagged far behind, registering in the teens.
Timing was critical. The
women's rights revolution was under way. Women were scrambling for
position, burning bras on the extremes and in the quiet of their own self
evaluations, realizing the need to acquire financial independence, or at
least parity, with their husbands.
Our company, Century 21 International Real
Estate, knocked the socks off the competitor's for market share. We
grew in eight years from a zero-based organization to over 7,500
franchised offices and 100,000 salespeople, half of which were women.
Our sales grew astronomically, reaching over 11 percent of all residential
sales, a $500 billion industry. I believe the meteoric rise
had something to do with offering women a career, and recognizing their
value as economic managers.
I also worked with a unique woman, Brook
Carey. She joined our company after being appointed by then
Governor Jerry Brown, the first woman warden of a State Prison.
Brook was innovative, articulate, unafraid to speak her mind, and while
she suffered from a lack of support from other women executives since she
was the sole member in our otherwise male executive club, she symbolized a
new attitude of exploration and enthusiasm for building the business.
Corporate directors, ultimately, are Parents of
If one looks at their role, they are the "honesty
keepers." Their job is to protect the stockholders by
questioning the decisions of the company's leadership, not rubber stamping
them. Over the years, however, corporate directorship
has become a "good ole boys club," in which four times a year its members
are wined and dined, and "salted" documents laid before them with glowing
presentations about how much money the company is about to make.
Many of the directors are highly paid, and as a result, tend to want to
keep on the CEO's right side (his or her wallet side), and therefore turn
their heads or swallow hard rather than speak out. If they do speak
out, they often digest the answer given, rather than pry deep to the roots
to uncover the real problem.
Women of Vigilance, on the other hand, have a
maternal nature that provides them a instinct to go beyond the surface of
issues. As mothers, or potential mothers, they have in
their souls the vision of the children and the children's children, often
overlooked by their male counterparts.
A woman's questions often run deep and rich.
As a financial director, a woman looks farther ahead than most men.
A woman has an instinct for the preservation of the "nest," while a man is
more interested in foraging the forest for "fresh meat."
It is the combination between the "nesting" and "hunting" instincts that
offers America an opportunity to limit its financial Terrorism in the
Few if any discussions in the boardrooms of Enron
or WorldCom or ImClone probably focused on the impact the stock would have
on families who invested, on the children, their college funds, their
standard of living. That kind of thinking comes more
from the maternal than fraternal instincts. Had women
been equally represented on the director boards, such questions might have
been raised, forcing the decision makers to reconsider "cooking the books"
an risking the economic welfare of tens of thousands.
A watchdog is not necessarily one looking for
criminal intent, but one looking for Vigilant Intent.
How do we preserve the "nest" rather than put it at "risk?"
Again, I am not foolish. Women can become
as power-struck as men under the right conditions. But, the
more women that comprise the board of directors in more Fortune 1000
companies, the less inclined such companies will be to take the risks that
men tend to take, often at the expense of the "nest."
I think the timing is right. I think
the Women of Vigilance who seek to sit as directors on boards are moving
in the right direction for the safety and security of our financial
nation. I believe the Era of Vigilance in boardrooms is far
overdue, and that as women fill the empty seats and penetrate questions
men might not ask, and chew on them until answers are given, that our
Financial Terrorism will gradually ease.
I vote for women to become corporate America's
Watchdogs of Vigilance.
I think it will be good for the children, their
parents, grandparents, and the children's children's children.
Note: See Corporate Women's
Pledge of Vigilance.
Go Aug. 12--Nuclear
Vigilance--Stealing Bomb Fuel With Home Depot Carts
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