Where are the Women Business Gurus?

By Bailey McCann

2401674702_8d2928ec1c_m.jpgRecently, the Wall Street Journal released its ranking of top business gurus, compiled by Babson College professor Thomas H. Davenport. The top 20 included household names like Bill Gates, as well as several authors currently featured the business section at your local bookstore. The one thing missing was women. Only one woman made it onto the list in 2003 and this year’s update saw none get added to the list. We weren’t the only ones to notice – several other sources including New York Magazine and Independent Street, one of the Wall Street Journal’s own blogs, have commented on the dearth of female gurus in business. The lack of women on this list begs the obvious question, where are we?

According to the list’s methodology, the results are compiled from “Google hits, media mentions and academic citations.” So even in a world where Gina Bianchini is gracing the cover of Fast Company, Suze Orman is releasing something like one book or personal finance program per minute, and Cathie Black’s fantastic book is taking off, we still can’t make the list. Wasn’t this supposed to be the year where the forces of Oprah, Hillary Clinton and the coming invasion of the Sex and The City movie combine to create “The Year of the Woman”?

On this score, the results are mixed at best. Zoe Cruz got fired from Morgan Stanley, Hillary’s presidential bid is in it’s last throws and the top tiers of the business world are not exactly packed with women. Yet, on this very website we have a voice of experience column which highlights women at the top of their game each week. Not to mention the growing public presence of women leaders of all stripes. The Journal piece notes that there is a lack of women speakers, and a quick stroll through the business book section at my neighborhood Barnes & Noble today didn’t show me a lot of female authors of non-fiction business minded books. So is that it? We aren’t doing enough speeches, books, and business-oriented navel gazing? I’m not so sure. One of the counterpoints in the Journal piece points out that big business books from the big names are in decline. There are other discrepancies. The article says that the most popular themes for managers right now are “globalization, motivation and innovation.” The CEO of Pepsi, Indira Nooyi springs to mind, as does Meg Whitman, who just stepped down at Ebay after turning the online auction site into a global sales powerhouse. In this light, maybe it’s a case of being ahead of our time. Bill Gates, Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Friedman all have a long tenure in this space. Gina Bianchi’s company, Ning on the other hand, is now. If this truly is the year of the woman, maybe it will take us until next year, or next list, before the data set is in. Which conveniently, gives us more time to climb a few extra notches up the leadership ladder.

0 Response

  1. I was equally disturbed by this WSJ article. Yes clearly men have a head start in terms of years of years in business and more representation at the top, but knowledge and insight in not predicated on years alone. I personally am sick of conference line ups again and again having an all male roster, or perhaps the one token female. With women representing over 80% of the buying power in the US, it seems to only make sense that a female perspective would provide insight that the men simply don’t have on their radar or are not wired to impart. With the launch of my book this year, The Chic Entrepreneur: Put Your Business in Higher Heels, it has been interesting to see what speaking invitations have come, mostly women specific events. Which brings up another question, when a woman business guru does emerge why are they often relegated to teaching business only to other women? Why when a female superstar does emerge, is she put on the all girls playing field instead of in the main arena? Men teach to both sexes, why don’t more women?

  2. Nicki Gilmour

    ELIZABETH, you make a good point with
    “Why when a female superstar does emerge, is she put on the all girls playing field instead of in the main arena? Men teach to both sexes, why don’t more women?”
    on the Today show in NBC this morning there was a segment on what women want and the disturbing news is that 56% of women surveyed prefer male bosses
    what is up with that?
    the newsreporter Anne also this morning showed visible signs of frustration when she talked about hillary and obama footage aired. so much so, she looked irritated and repeated what she has said about hillary. amazing- the conscious and purposeful images that are sent out to make people believe that women cannot be worthy of the job