The Benefits of Replacing Powerful Men with Women in the #MeToo Era

Women are cracking the glass ceiling and making it into top leadership positions amid the #MeToo Movement, according to new research, but the distribution of female replacements varies by geography and social sector.

In an article in the Houston Chronicle, authors Yan Zhang and Yoon Jung Kwon, a professor and Ph.D. student at Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business, argue that the phenomena of women replacing men in leadership roles holds great potential for signaling all sectors of society about changing gender norms. Even in heavily male-dominated sectors like major league men’s sports, a new era is dawning in which women’s leadership will provide a different paradigm.

From the article: 

Cynthia Marshall was hired as the new CEO of the Dallas Mavericks last February, with the mission to clean up the toxic culture of the franchise. 

Marshall’s appointment at the time was not an anomaly. According to data recently compiled by the New York Times, the #MeToo movement has brought down 201 powerful men (and three powerful women). Among the 98 men whose positions have been filled, half of their replacements were women. However, the percentage of female replacements was lower in Republican states than in Democratic states, and it was lower in government, politics and businesses than in media, entertainment and education.

An important point here for women donors to contemplate: moves like that of the Dallas Mavericks bring the #MeToo movement into the popular culture domain through sports, and this may be an effective way to create visible leaders for gender equality that contribute significantly to social change.

The research also highlights an important problem: women in the fields of government, politics and business need more opportunities to rise into leadership positions. Feminist philanthropists are uniquely positioned to push for this in the companies that they own or invest in, and by contributing to PACs, women candidates, and organizations supporting the government and business leadership pipelines for women.

Back to the article:

Replacing accused men with women amid the #MeToo movement offers important benefits to the institutions where the scandals were uncovered.

First and foremost, replacing an accused man with a woman immediately sends a signal to external and internal constituents that the institution is going to change its culture. Second, since most victims of the #MeToo movement are women, it is easier for a female replacement than a male to connect with the victims based upon their gender similarity.

In the case of the Mavs, minutes after accepting the job offer, Marshall joined the team’s owner Mark Cuban for a news conference, in which she told the media, “I want to do it for the sisterhood.” Such a commitment to the “sisterhood” is unlikely to be made by a male replacement. The connection between a female replacement and the victims can help the institution repair its stigmatized image and damaged relationships with constituents.

Seriously, try to imagine anyone other than a woman taking a CEO position and saying they are going to do it “for the sisterhood.” This kind of leadership sends major shock waves through the culture and helps shift our understanding of what it means to be a leader.

By finding ways to link women’s empowerment and safety with cultures that are known for being particularly male-dominated, like major league men’s sports, feminist philanthropists may find unique opportunities to create awareness and foster social change.

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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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