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Boys in the boardroom

February 1, 2019

In this edition of Texas Inc., we’re proud to profile a powerful oil industry executive — Shell Oil Co.’s U.S. president, Gretchen Watkins.

In this story, we didn’t get into the obvious fact that she is a woman. We talked to her about her business, the same way we would talk to any CEO about their business.

It’s almost the 2020s, and being a woman in a position of great power shouldn’t be considered a novelty anymore — even in the oil and gas industry.

If you read Texas Inc. you will meet plenty of powerful women, including one of General Electric’s top deal makers, Victoria Lazar, who was on the cover two weeks ago. Or Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, who was on the cover of our second edition of this publication in November.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that it’s still a man’s world. Every year new studies show there are not enough women in America’s corporate boardrooms or among its executive ranks. And that women overall still make less than men doing similar jobs.

Also, on Page 9 of this edition of Texas Inc., you’ll find a guest column examining whether the #MeToo movement is cracking the glass ceiling. It’s by Yan “Anthea” Zhang, a professor at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, and Yoon Jung “Jenny” Kwon, a doctoral student there.

Their column notes how organizations embroiled in sexual harassment issues have been under pressure to replace male executives with females. It is an unfortunate commentary on our corporate culture if it takes a full-blown scandal to get a company or an institution to consider hiring a female leader.

Here’s what else is sad:

“Whether the cracking of the glass ceiling is temporary or has a lasting impact depends upon how well the incumbent female leaders perform,” Zhang and Kwon write.

I don’t doubt this is true, but really? A female leader underperforms and it’s time once again to get a male?

What happens when a male leader underperforms? Another big fat bonus from the boys on the board?

al.lewis@chron.com

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