Female Execs Horrified By Former GE CEO's Comments

Jack Welch women at workIs Jack Welch, the former General Electric CEO, a timeless seer or an out-of-date warhorse? The Wall Street Journal recently posed that question, but the the answer is simple: He's an out-of-date warhorse.

The occasion for the question was a Journal-sponsored conference on Women in the Economy. Welch doesn't think much of women's networks ("victims' units") or mentoring programs ("you should see everyone as your mentor"); instead, women should just work hard, over-perform and
that will take them straight to the board. When asked if there were any questions, a woman executive in the crowd reportedly shouted out, "We're regaining our consciousness."

What Welch didn't seem to appreciate was that women have been doing that for decades -- and the number of women at the top table has scarcely budged. [See excerpts from his comments in the video below.] The world may look meritocratic to Neutron Jack but to women it looks as biased and old-fashioned as he does. Welch has never been sensitive to, or shown any awareness of, these issues. This is, after all, a man who in his memoirs talked about what fun it was to go into the office on Saturday morning and hang out with the guys. He's always been contemptuous of the concept of work/life balance and the degree to which external commitments may drive internal performance. He's apparently oblivious to the scientific data that shows putting in hours doesn't improve results. Instead, what's become increasingly clear, is that Welch's core competence was managing his stock price -- a very different business indeed from managing productivity.

The truth of the matter is that, these days, everyone busts a gut to over-perform; that's an entry-level requirement. Networks, connections and mentors still make a very big difference. So too does the mental model which most CEOs and chairmen have of what success looks like;
overwhelmingly to most business leaders, it looks male not female, which is why only 6 percent of VC-backed startups are run by women. We would all like to inhabit a world where all that matters is the work, but we're don't.

If all that mattered was the work, women at Harvard Business School wouldn't have to worry about being ranked according to their physique. Nor would they have to handle games like "Kill, F*** or Marry" in which male students name the women in their classes that they would most like to murder, have intercourse with or wed. In case Welch doesn't quite understand, activities like this create what we call a hostile work environment and it isn't a great incentive or performance enhancer.

If all that mattered was work, we wouldn't continue to have perennial articles about the shortage of women in senior positions in Silicon Valley and we wouldn't be subjected to the misogyny of Path's VP of business development Matt Horn who thinks the way to get a great job is to email bikini shots from nudie calendars to prospective employers. Companies like Sqoot wouldn't think the way to attract great programmers is by advertising "friendly female event staff" and we wouldn't even have a phrase like 'brogrammer' to sum up casually sexist computer coders.

To do well in a career, of course, women have to work hard, yes, but we also have to work within a culture that takes us seriously. Unbeknownst to Jack Welch, that can be quite hard to find. Frankly, if he were working for me these days, I'd throw him out for not having done his homework, having no peripheral vision and being a lazy thinker.



Jack Welch on Women in the Economy




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VanShoMac

Why would conference organizers hire him knowing his opinions? I think there needs to be a female boycott of his future talks so he can see how hard we can really work.

September 29 2013 at 8:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nlknlk7442

For those of you who did not know and work for Jack, you do not have a clue. He was a tireless worker and wore younger men down with his long days. The dedication to success he demanded was the same for both genders. He promoted the best and dumped the worst. It was not sex based Is he old? Yea! Are his ideas and approach out of date? No, the drive for success, through hard work and innovation still work Does he allow for excused failure? No, he does not.

May 08 2012 at 11:57 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to nlknlk7442's comment
cactus11

Obviously you were one of the supposed "best" but I highly doubt they were really the best. I've watched how management works for 50 years now and believe me, they don't choose the best, they pick the brown nosers period.

May 16 2012 at 10:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
emurphy824

Sounds like a great boss. What is he remembered for? "Wore younger men down" Such enlightenment. But women aren't included in that phrase. Why? Apparently Jack though so little of them that he didn't bother abusing them. Well, thanks...I guess.

May 23 2012 at 3:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jmg62

Dear Jack - you had your time. Savor the memories. The last few times I've seen you on TV, or read an article about you - it was sad. You served your purpose at the right time. Now, it's time to go enjoy the rest of your life. You've been looking rather piqued lately. The more you talk anymore the more damage to your legacy you do. Look and move forward so you don't keep sticking your foot in it.

May 08 2012 at 11:09 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
harveylawson

Jack Welch has for most of his career lived and worked in a controlled atmosphere. More like a glass house where ordinary folks waited on him hand and foot. His work at GE? I would say there are probably more than a thousand other men or women who could have done his job just as good. Welch just happens to be one of the last white male warhorses of the corporate world. Many more people, men, women and minorities have outperformed him a thousand times over. So if you like Welch, go kiss his feet. If he doesn't really matter than to hell with him. He's not on the top part of my list of who's who in Corporate America.

May 08 2012 at 10:59 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
Mostberg

My experience with women's lib goes way back to a first wife - now deceased - who was one of the originals. Far as I can remember she neither needed affirmative action nor did she ask (or demand it). She did it based on just plain hard work, competence, and more hard work. She was a journalist and a winner of a Hearst award while at the University of Nebraska on the subject of Nebraska Public Power. That would have been about 1962. Later she was the first female Director of Public Relations at the Highway Department in Oregon. In the end her career was ended by a genetic brain issue. But she had quite a run until then, just past the age of 30. So to women I give this advise: work hard, become very competent and then work very, very hard.

May 08 2012 at 10:28 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
societybewary

Ho-hum. Another feminazi wants to tell us why it's everyone else's fault. An she'd fire Jack Welch if he worked for her? Hmmm, interesting that she claims that men at the top can't see talent, but she would fire one of the most successful CEOs in history because she doesn't like his perspective. The pot acting like the kettle???

May 08 2012 at 8:40 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
yellowpearlinc

he's not a great old sage.....the hero has clay feet. tragic, why would this clown open his mouth.....
why a fine way to self destruct. his epitaph will now read about his being woefully out of touch in his later years and little about his myriad accomplishments. clever jack--another indication you don't know diddly about the media either.

May 08 2012 at 6:39 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to yellowpearlinc's comment
rjen164497

And you have accoplished in life?

May 08 2012 at 7:09 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
rjen164497

Women, like other underachievers want special treatment, not equal treatment. First women can't be equal to men. They can only be equal to other women. I agree if a women has equal experience, equal education, equal ability, she should be considered for the job at equal pay. What many women want today, is for men to be discriminated against in women's favor. A women who is more qualified in all ways needed for the job then a man ,should get the job and the pay. A women less qualified should not, period.

May 08 2012 at 5:58 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to rjen164497's comment
tonycon

I just love the title "FEMALE EXECS HORRIFIED BY FORMER GE CEO'S COMMENTS". As far as I can tell from reading the article, there is only one person complaining; an obviously embittered Ms. Heffernan, who claims in autobiographical submissions to be/have been a high ranking exec at a somewhat large number of corporate entities, none of which she currently manages.
Makes one wonder..........

May 08 2012 at 5:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tonycon's comment
emurphy824

Makes one wonder why YOU aren't complaining. Jack Welch pisses off lots of people, men and women. But enough women turn the other way, and enough men defend him by trashing the messenger and ignoring the message. Good job.

May 23 2012 at 2:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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