Cashing in on the glass ceiling
One of the nice things about holiday parties and bars is that in both one has the opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations, and learn things you would not be told directly. We recently overheard a conversation about a pending lawsuit by several women claiming that they were the victims of their company’s glass ceiling.
The consensus opinion of the participants to whom we were listening was that the women involved had already risen to their level of incompetence, and that they would surely win the suit.
The reason for this was that while, in the view of those men and women discussing the case, the women suing did not deserve promotion (and possibly did not merit the jobs they currently held), the company had virtually no high-level female executives. This means that while the claimants themselves had not been hindered by a glass ceiling, other women, more competent than they, surely had been and would be.
Putting aside the women actually filing suit, and the women who should have been filing suit, the company will suffer in several ways.
First, the company will lose a substantial amount of money. The consensus was that if the plaintiffs hired a team of dancing monkeys as counsel, the monkeys would be able to win the suit just on the executive gender makeup of the company, and the virtual non-existence of women senior managers.
Second, some competent people, men and women, had already chosen other opportunities in other companies, rather than the company being sued.
Third, it was likely that they would lose some customers over the allegations.
It is likely that the claimants will be bought off with either money or promotions. Since they were not particularly competent in their current positions, it is likely that they will make disastrous senior managers. And if they go somewhere else – though they will probably win enough so that they will never have to work again – some other company will be stuck with more bad managers.
While we can’t vouch for the accuracy of what we overheard, the lesson to be learned is clear: You, as a senior manager, should be making sure that your management team is based on merit, rather than sex or color or religion, so that you can avoid needles lawsuits. Even more important, you will otherwise waste the talent of half the gene pool.