While any question purporting to pit men against women is fraught with difficulty, that need not fatally flaw our endeavor. Offering up an honest answer to the proposed question only means that we must identify appropriate sub-categories as exceptional instances to the general observations, and light modifications even after. Generalizations are possible, given due regard to considerations of methodology.
Let’s assume for the moment that we can begin by setting to the side the GLBT contingent. This procedure is adequate for stabilizing the male sampling, but not the female, which presents a predicament to more than just Professor Higgins: between menarche and menopause the hormones that fulfill the imperative to rear and protect children do so in part by imparting certain proclivities that more than likely exercise an indirect influence on psychological preferences that may well range as far abroad as wealth acquisition.
There is no questioning the data: women present a markedly different profile from men in regard to attitudes bearing on wealth accretion and management. Reporting for the WSJ ‘Wealth Report’, Robert Frank notes that only 7% of 555 women, most with a net worth of $1 million or more, came about it as did men—who, as Smith-Barney might say, “earned it”. The survey, conducted by Asset Management Advisors, also found that:
Most of the women surveyed disagreed with the statement that “wealth is connected to one’s self-worth,” and most said they aren’t impressed by people with money. About a third also would “prefer that people not know that I am wealthy.”
The women also placed a strong emphasis on charity. More women were likely to be knowledgeable about charitable giving and philanthropy than they were about investment management, taxes and insurance planning. (Note 1)
To a behavioral theorist these two findings are spot on, and they tell a story that can be summed up in a single sentence: these are women who do not associate wealth with machismo, but who do tend more to associate wealth with responsibility. To state it differently but without loss of accuracy: men respect wealth (and the power it brings) far more than do women; feel more deserving of the wealth and power they accrue than do women in the same position; and permit themselves the luxury of acting as if they owned the tools by which that wealth and power were accrued, even if they happen to be publicly held corporations, in which both plant and earnings are in theory owned by, well, the actual owners—the stockholders. Meaning, in the end, that men are far less apt to believe they owe anything of their hard earned dollars to anything or anybody, even when those dollars are not their own. Meaning, that while they may earn money for the company, somehow some of them are able to treat the company as a wholly owned subsidiary of their ego structure—rather as if a quarterback could, believing himself to have won games for the team, proceed to tell the management how to distribute the ticket and advertising revenues. If there is something wrong with this picture, we would do well to understand it.
This is not intended as it may sound, namely, as an indictment. But to the extent it is true, the logic does seem to follow, no? Well, let me put it to you this way, I am hardly alone in tracing the logic to its natural conclusion:
Criminologists recognize the danger that the CEO will come to see the firm as “his” firm. This mind-set is dangerous, as the recent scandals have made clear. The next step for too many CEOs is to see the assets of the firm as “his” [emphasis in original] (Note 2)
Of course ownership is only a part of the wealth acquisition equation, but it would appear to be a larger ingredient for the guys than the gals. What accounts for this may account for a good deal else, so I will return to this discussion later.
* * *
There was a time that I sold Kirby vacuum cleaners, door to door. I had instructed my brain to apply itself to erasing this entire bank of data but, as with so much of my advice, this went unheeded. Perhaps it’s just as well. In the ‘biz’ there were ‘rules’, one of which was that you did not demonstrate a vacuum to other than the husband-wife unit. You would sooner sell snowballs in hell than a vacuum to a man alone, and showing to a woman without the hubby was asking to reshow it again, a valuable waste of universal time. To one who believes that judgment should rule over rules, I was once led by my higher instincts to break that rule. She was home alone, at work on HER computer, at HER business. Hubby was at work. Contrary to everything dear to man, God and business, I demonstrated the unit to her, just the two of us. She bought the vacuum then and there, precisely because, she said, in as many words, I had violated the ‘rule’.
Why ever did women decide to be deciders? Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D. (Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich : 75 Avoidable Mistakes Women Make with Money), may have wondered the same question, and decided to tell women what she learned (Note 3):
• Money is power, and most little girls are not taught to be powerful-they’re taught to be “nice.”
• Girls are socialized to be caretakers, nurturers, and accommodators in society-not necessarily breadwinners.
• As child bearers and caretakers women often work jobs discontinuously and are penalized for it. Alternatively, they’re put on something demeaningly referred to as “the mommy track.”
• Women are more likely to spend their income on their children and the household, whereas men are more likely to be prudent about investing.
• Women are reluctant to ask for wages, perks, or raises reflective of the value they add to their organizations because they’re not sure they “deserve” it.
To read Esther Vilar one would wonder if she and the good doctor (Lois, above) were from the same planet. In The Manipulated Man (Bantam, 1972) she makes it perfectly clear why the book was thus titled. Kindlier but not without a certain candor is the assessment of Billy Joel:
She’s Always a Woman to me:
She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child, but she’s always a woman to me
She can lead you to love, she can take you or leave you
She can ask for the truth, but she’ll never believe you
And she’ll take what you give her as long it’s free
Yeah, She steals like a thief, but she’s always a woman to me
Ohhh… she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants, she’s ahead of her time
Ohhh… and she never gives out
And she never gives in, she just changes her mind
And she’ll promise you more than the garden of Eden
Then she’ll carelessly cut you and laugh while you’re bleeding
But she’ll bring out the best and the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself ’cause she’s always a woman to me
She’s frequently kind and she’s suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases, she’s nobody’s fool
And she can’t be convicted, she’s earned her degree
And the most she will do is throw shadows at you,
But she’s always a woman to me
When men speak of a ‘woman’s prerogative’, the lyrics of Joel are not far behind. Indeed, it really seems as if he is saying that however crazed she may occasionally be, it is inherent, a part of her nature, and it is to be accepted as her inheritance from the Creator. ‘She’s still a WOMAN to me.’ She has a prerogative to be herself, a woman, and she should be accepted as such, and precisely on those terms.
What Billy Joel and Esther Vilar share in common, if in different degrees and with varying sympathies, is a woman who takes pains to get what is necessary. If, as with Vilar, it means games, games it shall be; if it means teasing and cajoling, as for Joel, so be it. In general, when nature calls, these two writers as much as acknowledge that a woman will stack the deck in order to win betting on it. It is the voice of nature letting her do what is necessary to obtain food and shelter for family and young.
Alas, life—and women—are more complicated still. Before attempting generalities we must consider the literary voices of Nietzsche, Adams and Mencken. Each wrote of women, each said pretty much the same thing. They all appeared to admire a particular sort of woman, though one, Henry Adams, felt a reason to fear her. Nietzsche lived at a time and place when people were still the ‘herd’, and women came in two sorts, the garden variety, and the uber-woman, the top few percent of woman whom Professor Higgins would have admired—the strong, manly woman. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche had absolutely no use for the common sort, but were pleased enough to be kindly toward the Great Lady. Mencken’s In Defense of Women was a paean to the paragon of his esteemed philosophical hero Nietzsche. In fact it read like a castigation of hen-pecked men who lacked the fortitude of their oppositely sexed betters. He was, or so it seemed to me, attempting to shame men into being more like these women, as if to turn Professor Higgins on his head! I doubt he’d have had the slightest sympathy for Hemmingway’s McComber. Doubtless, however, he would have agreed with the later writer that this type of woman more resembled a force of nature.
Henry Adams warned the world about Russia some fifty years before NATO was established to deal with the self-same worry. Adams compared Russia to the strong-willed women of his novels, at which he was in my view brutally accurate, for reasons to be shortly discussed. But what does any of this have to do with a woman’s attitude or aptitude with respect to wealth acquisition? What I believe we are going to discover at the end of our journey is that there are women who are pleased enough to be wives and mothers; there are those who wish to have it all—have a career and a family; and there are those for whom children are neither here nor there, some will have them and others not, but they are alike in being who they are and doing what they desire to do—many perfectly happy doing it quite alone. Yet all three groups, regardless the differences in their aptitude for earning money (from low to high as I here introduced them) seem universally to share the same attitude toward its ultimate value and purpose. They are in one sense always a woman to the money.
* * *
I am going to don another hat, that of behavioral theorist (I confess to getting a charge out of this kind of thing). I introduced Henry Adams as a segue. With Russia I will segue yet again, this time to the traits that evolution has favored many of us with, some rather more than others. What women may have in common with Russia, both may have in common to, of all things, mental illness!!!
Nature is in her own inestimable way conservative, and, like so many conservatives, perversely so here and there. She will utilize a common process or arrangement and use it again and again, each time in a different guise. To be simple and direct: she dealt with the evolution of the brain-mind no differently than gills and lungs, or fins and feet. But I am getting ahead of myself. What I really want to talk about is exposure. I really enjoyed the biography of Cardinal Woolsey, Naked to Mine Enemies. That is exposure. But if most exposure is negative, some is in fact positive. The thrill of competition, of riding a roller coaster, extreme sports, you get the idea. At bottom is an evolutionary given: getting needs met implies, more often than not, exposure to enemies, exposure to conditions like night or day, or floods or volcanoes, or living in circumpolar areas, or in altiplanar regions. In short, exposure to the elements. We have two mechanisms to counter the fear we would otherwise have, a fear that without something to cancel it, would prevent our needs from being met.
One mechanism is what we call the instinct. What is an instinct if not an urge to fulfill a function regardless (or almost so) the exposure. The alarm rings and what really is happening? You are wanting to fall back asleep almost at risk of being late for school, work, appointment. Sleep is instinctive, it wants to consummate. Thirst and hunger want consummation. It isn’t just sex. It’s completion despite, and in spite of, exposure. All kinds of completion, but only where we can reasonably presume exposure. And there is more. Instincts are biphasic. Pleasure exists to help ensure that the urge is successful, and the appetitive equivalent of pain is what accompanies too much of a good thing, for that is telling the brain that we have way overstayed our welcome in the land of exposure, and we shall have pain or other severe discomfort to remind us not to tarry so again.
In one sense, pleasure and pain are cyclical, in the sense that one leads to the other. The second mechanism functions similarly in the cyclic sense. Dominance is another way to confront fear successfully. Not just he-men or macho guys, but bullies make use of it. In the latter instance they act aggressively in advance of a possible exposure, suggesting that they are too sensitive to what others would brush off. Asperger’s syndrome is an adult equivalent with much more thrown in, which is why many of its symptoms remind one of a schizoid condition. They are related biologically, and the same drugs are frequently used to treat both. Take dominance too far, however, and we have another set of unpleasant reactions, ranging from shame and embarrassment to panic and paralysis. Too much confrontation with exposure can backfire.
We have plenty of biological cycles, diurnal rhythms and others besides. You hunt, remaining exposed for a while, then you need to get back and rest, translated as: stay put. This cycle is helped along by the day-night cycle for those especially who don’t hunt well at night. When the daylight reaches a precise loss of intensity the bees return to the hive. In the change of seasons, at a very specific date when there is a specific amount of light, our pineal glands wake up and offer us melanin. In northern climes a certain percentage of people don’t respond and have to be treated.
Bipolar disease is very likely just this general mood cycle, but on steroids. It picks up other cyclic elements, especially aggression. It picks up thrill in the character of mania. And the whole schema is cyclic, so that the mania leads to the depressive phase. Women go through mood swings not so unlike these bipolar swings at far less intensity or duration. It’s called a menstrual cycle. But raising young and protecting the home presuppose exposure, not infrequently of the same cyclic character. They presuppose the capacity to confront, then retreat, hunt, then retire to eat, and on and on. And when there was an ice age, well, we all got a very stiff dose of confronting and retiring. So much so that a few theorists, myself included, believe that the disposition for the mood system to expand into bipolar trait formation came from that period. Those in northern climes, 55 degree north latitude or above, will, I predict, demonstrate far greater incidence of several tell-tale traits. (Note 4) This got ingrained and, by virtue of the way epigenetics operates, was expanded to cover other stressors. The consequence is that post-traumatic stress syndrome is none other than our old bipolar stress reaction, with an additional couple of symptoms related to the unique nature of the stress. (Note 5)
Returning to Billy Joel, he depicts traits that, taken together, and with elevated duration and/or intensity, portray a nice bipolar composite. When you look at women’s responses to sudden severe stress, I believe you will find a bifurcation: on the one hand a strong tendency to paralytic reaction in which a dominance reaction is all but wanting, and at the opposite pole a greater degree of the cool-calm-collected stereotype than typically observed in the vast majority of men. It may be that nature ordained women to be sufficiently good at preparation in advance so that sudden serious stressors would be infrequent, making the seeming ‘panic’ reaction a false positive. It will seem to me that there is a continuum in terms of ability to compensate sudden severe exposure that covers what is probably a consistent and ever-present ability to confront certain kinds of stressors differently from men. A woman’s take on this is obviously to be welcomed.
All told, the impression from what I have studied is that women live on a higher bipolar scale than men (speaking here simply of the base mood-swing we all experience), but are less impacted by the traits even when moderate, because they represent extensions rather than abrupt changes in the routine. Regardless how dominance may affect a desire to earn money or start a business, a woman retains the balance instilled by her gender. The nurturing and related contexts are not forgotten regardless the variation of more-to-less-feminine trait prevalence. Needless to say the same is not the case for men.
Bipolar traits are very widely distributed in the gene pool, and the way in which they will mix and associate is quite varied. The result is that men will experience traits here and there, sometimes severely, without ever offering a hint to anybody that there was something called a ‘bipolar trait’ at work for any given reaction. What men add to the equation is, of course, testosterone. Dominance amounting occasionally to aggression will normally and rightly be attributed to testosterone and machismo when in fact it might actually have been a bipolar reaction. That is why a host of traits have to be identified and followed to determine whether there is a trend or disposition toward a coalition suggesting something of the usual bipolar panoply. But mark my words—this will become more and more an open and clear fact as time progresses—the folks earning the big dollars will generally be found to possess what I call a ‘bipolar personality’. Nor am I the only one singing this particular tune, I just take it for what I believe in fact to be. (Note 6)
Whether man or woman, anyone prominent enough to warrant a biography will more than likely be found, even from the evidence restricted to the biography itself, leaning toward or firmly identifying this personality. Like I say, the traits are universal. The question is: when, where and why traits coalesce into ‘symptom clusters’. On that we have rather a lot yet to learn. But when the bad behavior of the higher-ups is added to their untamed ambition and power-lust, believe you me, you will do yourself a favor to get acquainted with the work in this area.
When we now repeat the question as to what this all has to do with the aptitude and attitude surrounding wealth accretion, we must modify our answer significantly from what it was for the women. Men are profoundly influenced by these traits, perhaps because of an additive combination with underlying testosterone. The fact that they are rarely if ever aware of what is going on is only more cause to push this information to the front burner. At the point at which they realize that others know who they really are as well as what they are in fact, in addition to how they can be predicted to behave, that is the point at which an instinctive internal inducement will kick into high gear, sending the message into consciousness that it is time to modify comportment or seek help without anyone being the wiser for the sudden burst of wisdom.
* * *
There is one additional feature that influences, but usually in opposite directions, how the genders take to the money game. That is the cultural factor. Thirty-five years ago I developed a typology to help explain and predict cultural reactions to certain events or triggers. (Note ) One culture, the honor-based, places great, occasionally inordinate, stress on respectability and in respecting others. Everywhere they have been found, that I am aware of, markets have been under honor-based precepts. This is both good and bad. Good, because the garden variety of honor code regulating transactions is effective and necessary. Honest weights and measures, being good for one’s word, these are hallmarks of the code that have served us admirably.
What is more questionable is the fact that success is estimated to be a substantially greater good than fair dealing. Success is respected to the point of cult status. If a CEO desires to be unaccountable, he knows what he can count on. It is easy enough to build a corporate culture that leaves him all but untouchable. Testosterone is given all the advantage. It is one reason why men so little care to have women lurking about in rarified corporate circles. Testosterone is power, a truth that needn’t be articulated to be understood. Women undermine absolute power because they risk exposing specifically masculine-based power unique to the clique.
If we in the West often have a schizoid notion of women, welcome to the honor-based world, where the schism is well nigh complete. Women can be good (defenders of cultural dignity) or bad, naturally evil, as with snakes and promiscuity and heaven knows what. Honor-based societies have dealt with this curiosity in occasionally peculiar ways, and the Arab ‘honor-killings’ reflect this in my estimation. Likewise the very slow recognition of a woman’s place in public, or in educated realms (with exceptions, of course).
But recall what I said above, namely, that markets are honor-based. The antics of the men-folk make their mark here as well, and even in nominally dignity-based countries such as our own, it is the men who apply the most sickening chauvinism to bear on the question of women’s participation in important business decisions. While this problematic is changing, it isn’t changing fast enough. The result has dire consequences for women choosing to accrue wealth the ‘old fashioned way’.
There exists a ‘boys will be boys’ mentality in American business. Women are right to criticize it, mock it, belittle it. If there is one thing business desperately needs, it is vastly more women. There remains hope. What happened to the legal profession can and doubtless will at some point happen to commerce, just as it is gaining momentum in the realm of politics. (Of the three Republicans who have recently played a part in moderating the ideological rigor of this desperate party, two of the three are women, and the third faces a desperate struggle for survival in his state of PA—oh, forgive me, almost forgot—that struggle became sufficient as to effectuate his transformation into a nominal democrat.)
I am not merely putting liberal credentials on display (that as well, to be sure) but suggesting that we are dealing with many different sorts of wealth and power accretion where the basic postulates appear to translate through into the vast majority of metaphorical extensions.
* * *
Konrad Lorenz once castigated Desmond Morris for as much as implying that humans are barely disguised animals. I would not wish to cross one of my heroes, so I will explain here and now that I believe that he was a little hard on the guy. What Lorenz was really taking issue with was not the degree to which we respond to lower forces, but that Morris did not adequately stress the extent to which mankind can try to set up his better angels at odds with some of the meaner sorts of instinct. And, of course, he is quite right to emphasize this, and so shall I as well.
What I say in regard of bipolar and other syndromes I know whereof I speak if only because I am on disability for that condition. Because I am seriously sensitive to the worst of the side effects, I am limited to medications, in one case to but one half the recommended dosage. And yet, here I am, still alive (I would not otherwise be, let me assure you), writing these words, quite as if there were nothing whatever the matter!! Those who really know me know that this does not comes without tremendous effort. But were I not as aware of my condition as obviously I am, I will wager that I would be far and away less able to deal with it, to say nothing of dealing with it at the disadvantage of inadequate medication.
I am proof that education and the responsibility that goes with such knowledge can set loose those better angels. With education, men and women can adjust their attitudes to wealth acquisition as well. Consider how we have managed to alter how we view the GLBT community. We can do the same with our biology and the dispositions it enjoins upon us, such as show through in our methods of wealth acquisition.
Nature has arranged for those who see economics as constant exposure—war, some go so far as to call it—to possess the behavioral equipment to deal with it as they might the ice age of old. Bipolar personalities survive stresses the rest of us simply will not, often because, well, we cannot, endure. Women, for whom the same dispositions exist as a part of the machinery, are less deranged except when the traits became a full-blown disease entity. Up until that point we sing the refrains of Billy Joel. We deal with it.
Women can accumulate wealth with the best of men, but if the majority choose not to, that is their choice except when men have so narrowed the opportunity as to make women question the advisability of so much as trying. I might note that a parallel exists where the victims are a minority entity, but not in this instance women. It remains, however, a masculine-dominated and honor-based social ritual in which it is presumed that anyone not in academia or making better mousetraps is necessarily as domestic and stupid as women—we hearken back to the era of Nietzsche once again. In between the honorable manly endeavors there are the herd, the mean sorts who exist to do what they are told and vote for whom they are likewise told to vote for. Needless to say, there are ‘independent scholars’ who are not precisely pleased with this state of affairs, myself not excluded.
It is not simply that capitalism makes no place for those falling through the cracks. The government, especially when run by Republicans, expects industry and NGO’s to well up the stewardship needed in order to right all manifest wrongs overlooked by the market mechanism. Pity those who must remain at the receiving end of a testosterone-dominated climate, with an honor-based culture to justify it all. It doesn’t support stewardship much better than it does the rights of any other minority, including womenfolk.
So in the end this becomes an indictment after all. But philosophy so often works that way. The gadfly examines, at first naively, innocently, but as wisdom enters the equation, more intelligently and informed until at last the moral obligation, the stewardship, if you will, of their office says, in effect: Now that we have the truth, we shall speak it to power. And that shall have to be my justification for those irritated at my approach.
2. William K. Black, “Reexamining the Law-and-Economics Theory of Corporate Governance,” Challenge, March-April 2003, vol. 46 no. 2, p. 26. The paper was subsequently delivered at the Conference on Corporate Governance and Control Fraud (28 April, 2003), Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas. Thanks to John Stevenson for making it available.
3. The following is widely available online — http://www.businessknowhow.com/money/nicegirlsrich.htm
4. Examples in my “Bathing in Bipolar Semiology,” available online – http://www.ssrn.com/author=510356.
5. See also the treatment at Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_stress_disorder
6. See, for example, John J. Ratey and Catherine Johnson, Shadow Syndromes (Pantheon, 1997).
7. See two articles recently appearing in the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, available at –
http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=40053 and http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=40269 as well as bits and pieces interspersed throughout two other essays: “Offices of Corporate Stewardship” and “John Mackey’s ‘Conscious Capitalism’”, both available online at – http://www.ssrn.com/author=510356
Share this on... Comments (0)
Causes Charles Herrman Supports
Common Cause, Lambda