The moment I emerged from my mother’s womb, however, my possibilities dwarfed those of my siblings, for I was a boy! And my brainy, personable, and good-looking siblings were not….So my floor became my sisters’ ceiling — and nobody thought much about ripping up that pattern until a few decades ago. Now, thank heavens, the structural barriers for women are falling. — Warren Buffett
I recently read this interesting and thoughtful essay on women and the glass ceiling from Warren Buffett. Every year we see articles about how men still far outnumber women in the boardroom. And every few years a short list women are singled out as the as the ones who’ve overcome the obstacles and made it to the top. Their every move — from job performance to child rearing — is scrutinized so we can see if women can really handle the top corporate jobs. I think they’ve shown that they can but in many ways female CEOs have been disappointing.
So far, women have seemed to act as surrogate men. There has been little “female energy” in corporations though there are female people heading some of these companies. Where is the change in attitudes that were supposed to come with female leadership? I believe it’ll come but it’s been slow. So, let me ask this question: when we hire a women as hoa attorneys do we want exactly the same thing as when we hire a man? Do we want them to behave in the same ways and follow the same leadership patterns established by centuries of men? Or, do want a different sensibility or style? I suppose the larger question is really whether women and men are inherently different in leadereship styles.
I don’t have an answer — but maybe you do?
A few years ago — around the time of the 2010 Citizens United decision — I was thinking about “corporate citizenship” and corporate “speech.” These ideas don’t make sense to me. Corporations are a legal construct — something made by humans — and yet we’ve given them human rights, as it were.
Then I started to compare human behavior to corporate behavior. Though I’m no expert in human behavior, I’m pretty knowledgeable about corporate behavior. Corporate behavior is determined by the goal of profit maximization while it seems to me that human behavior is unlimited and dependent upon experience and situation. Humans have feelings and desires. Corporations do not. With these thoughts in mind, I began to make lists of typical behaviors in regards to ethics, accountability and modes of functioning.
I find myself coming back to these lists often — they may not be perfect indicators of all human behavior but they seem pretty solid regarding corporations. These “corporate citizens” we’ve created underlie so much of my current thinking. Who are they speaking for when they speak? Who benefits when they lobbying government? Who is helped when they contribute to political campaigns? And most importantly — if they are citizens in their own right, then to whom are corporations accountable?
Jeffrey Clements’ book, Corporations Are Not People, is an indispensable source of information and analysis on the present state of corporate power in America. What is particularly valuable is the cogent analysis of such a contradictory and dysfunctional conclusion. It’s an indispensible source of the who/what/when in the Citizens United timeline.
Corporations Are Not People also spells out a way this can be solved. It’s a courageous book because what he’s recommending is not easy. But then, this is not something that is beyond the power of human beings to accomplish – we can amend the Constitution. It’s very, very daunting but his focus on this (and if you’ve followed his work at all you know his dedication to this effort) and his willingness to devote so much of his intellectual energy and time is very moving.
From the very beginning, Jeff Clements knew what Citizens United would mean for our country. He submitted an Amicus Brief in the case and spoke widely before most of the public caught onto the issue. He hasn’t stopped and this book is an important resource. Read this book if you’re interested in overturning/fixing/amending the issues in Citizens United.
It is the kind of book that all successful movements have to have as their bible.