The VigilanceVoice

August 13, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 335

Women Of Vigilance Poised To Fight Boardroom Terrorism
Cliff McKenzie
   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 director.
        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 in business.

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.      

Sherron 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 historically.   
         My viewpoint skews toward the women.
         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 Vigilance.
      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 boardrooms.
      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

©2001 - 2004,, All rights reserved -  a ((HYYPE)) design