WHAT ABOUT BOB

If we really want more women in the C-suite, some good men will need to be tossed aside

Alexander Hamilton really took one for the team this week. The founding father of the US financial system is being shoved aside to make room for a woman on the $10 bill. We don’t know which woman yet—it hasn’t been decided. What’s been decided is that America needs a woman on its paper currency, and fast. And since the $10 note is the next one due for a design refresh, that’s the one she’ll be on.

That’s one way to usher in change. But now imagine if corporate boards took a similar approach to diversifying the C-suite.

“I’m sorry, Bob. You’ve been a great CFO. But we need to quit embarrassing ourselves with our lack of female representation here, and your contract is the next one up for renewal.” The dismal numbers on gender diversity in corporate leadership roles would improve rather rapidly. Bob’s female replacement wouldn’t even have to do a better job than Bob; just doing as well as him would be enough to make the move worthwhile, if you buy the argument—and hopefully you do by now—that diversity is its own reward. But what about poor Bob?

We’ve been so focused on getting women into the corporate pipeline that we haven’t spent much time talking about what happens as they move up the pipeline, encountering fewer and fewer openings the higher they go. Historically this has been a problem for women: They may be qualified, they may have overcome all kinds of gender biases, but they still have to wait out an attrition process to really get their shot. But if the gender gap starts getting addressed with greater urgency, eventually this will become a problem for men—even the good ones.

This was published as part of the Quartz Weekend Brief. Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search