The NPR program “IA” recently aired an hour segment titled: “A MYTH OF MASCULINITY; THE TRUTH ABOUT TESTOSTORONE.” The host Joshua Johnson noted that some blamed testosterone for the 2008 stock market crash. Meaning the hormone led to “unscrupulous and idiotic risks.”
This notion about testosterone was not endorsed by the panel on the program. However, the show did conform to the way men and their effect on the stock market are consistently discussed. That is, we only hear about the plethora of men running top companies when there is something negative to say about them. So the fact that stocks had risen from 8776.39 on December 31 2008 to 27,681.24 (knoema.com/jhxfibc) on the November 8th 2019 day this episode of “IA was aired, was not observed on the program (IA WAMU Nov 8th 2019).
Merely observing titles of recent articles tell a story. Titles such as, “Without Gender Diversity Companies Will Fail” ( www.weforum.org › agenda › 2018/01 › gender-…). Or a September 18th 2017 Chicago Tribune article, “How Many Women Run The Top Companies, Not Enough.” These captions beg the question, how could so many male top-heavy companies have been successful for so long?
It also is worth noting that the financially least successful earning companies are not given the same scrutiny by the press. Therefore, one must assume that these companies are doing just fine. However, can anyone doubt that newspaper journalist, who have lost numerous jobs, are the best judges about the hiring practice of the most successful companies? Yet the people in these businesses whose decisions are largely responsible for the success of these companies, seem to think otherwise. But I digress.
The condemnation of men who run top earning companies coincided with the booming economy of the 1980’s. Time and again we heard about the bias and inefficiency of having the top of the most successful companies being male dominated. It makes sense. After all, doesn’t the fact that men are disproportionally, are both starting and running the top companies say something bad about men and their ability to run these businesses?
Perhaps a politically incorrect example analogy could be illuminating. Suppose black people were condemned because of the disproportionate number of black men on championship teams in the National Basketball Association. People would retort, that besides basketball skills, success in the sport takes, team work, selflessness, smart decisions etc. However, based on the coverage of men in top companies, one can only presume that their success reveals only bad things about men.
The criticism of too many men running Fortune 500 companies continued as the economy boomed. Then there was a recession, and we were inundated with the failures of men. For example, in 1991 we learned in detail about business scandals such as Enron and the men behind them.
In the same year, Michael Moore’s book “Stupid White Men” which chronicled the failures of powerful white men came out. The book went on to become a #1 best seller. Regarding the economy Moore observed: “Our great economic expansion is unraveling faster than a set of Firestone tires” (www.audible.com/pd/Stupid-White-Menand-Other…}.
Obviously, Moore’s views on the economy could not have been more wrong. The country’s economy healed. Men continued to run top companies, as well as start and maintain new ones, employing numerous people with many of these businesses achieving great financial success. We experienced a long period of low unemployment, years of economic growth and historic gains in the stock market. Still, men as a group were not given credit for these companies’ success by the media. Then the economy took a downturn and we learned once again the problem with these companies, men.
How did the mainstream media discuss the economic downturn as we were coming out of it? An example is a May 24th 2010 “Time” cover story by Michael Scherer about female financial reformers titled, “The New Sheriffs of Wall Street.” The article started with a quote by Timothy Geithner, who himself commented on an article “What if Women Ran Wall Street.” Geithner observed: “How could women not have done better.” Sherer went on to observe: “it is rarely noted that the financial wreckage littering our world is almost exclusively the creation of men, not women.”
The 2010 July/August “Atlantic Magazine” also mentioned the RARE TOPIC of men’s failures. Atlantic’s editor and chief James Bennet observed: “most of our big institutions in the past ten years have not exactly covered themselves in glory… all these institutions breakdowns have been overwhelming run by men” (https://www. theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/ shes-the-man/308125).
Bennet failed to note that stocks in “big institutions” knows as S & P 500 companies were on a major upturn, gaining 25% in 2009 and continuing to rise at the times his comments were published in “The Atlantic” (www.thebalance.com/stock-market-returns-by-year).
Certainly, problems of companies and their effect on the economy need to be discussed. But even back in 2010, were we really seeing a failure of men? Perhaps instead, we were seeing and still are, a renaissance in American business, with men leading the way. Think of all the innovative companies who took advantage of new technology such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook that men started from scratch. Of course, I am not discounting the fact that women have done their share to contribute to these companies and started many successful companies themselves.
Certainly, one can find aspects of companies such as “Facebook” not to like. In fact, even years ago, a “Newsweek” article disparaged “Facebook”. Unsurprisingly, the critiqued fit the men bad women good scenario. The September 27th 2010 “Newsweek” ran a cover article titled “Facebook” Is Not your Friend.” In the article, the writer explained, that after viewing the movie “The Social Network” about “Facebook” and its creator, “hanging around the site seems like a bad idea.” He ended the article telling us, “were all hoping to avoid turning into Mark Zuckerberg.”
Compare this to an October 2008 article, also in “Newsweek”. In this piece, Sheryl Sandberg was praised for joining what she called a “real impact company”, “Facebook”. So Sandberg was praised for joining a major company, the year such businesses were being vilified by the media. Zuckerberg was condemned in 2010 when top companies were gaining back respect. Of course, Zuckerberg was a founder of “Facebook” and the company was already being worth billions of dollars when Sandberg joined (en.wikepedia.org/wik/facebook).
As I write this, the stock market continues its remarkable success. Will the fact that men are running these companies, get greater scrutiny. History tell us yes. All that has to happen is for things to go bad.
So what is the answer to the question posed in the title of this article. Does the continuing success of male run Fortune 500 companies (meaning top grossing companies) really say something terrible about men, or is a better explanation that the mainstream press lacks insight and are extremely biased, or perhaps another explanation?