Democracy versus Expediency: the Democratic Race
Going to Santa Fe

Zoe Cruz: Women and models of power Part 1

Last night I was reading in New York Magazine about how Zoe Cruz was fired from Morgan Stanley. The story begins with a description of how she went to a meeting with her boss, CEO John Mack, expecting to be named his successor, but instead ends up getting fired. The rest of the story describes how Zoe Cruz was basically, punished by her male colleagues who openly hated her, ignored by her subordinates, and betrayed by her mentor. It also describes how this was partly a result of Zoe Cruz playing too well the game by adopting the aggressive power style of the men around her and the men being bristled by that.

I read the article with distress for what it means to be a women in positions of significant leadership. The lingering animosity towards powerful women 20-30 years older than me affects women of my generation and below. Generational changes will address some of this, so I can partly wait it out. But for the next 10-15 years, when I hopefully have made a transition from emerging leader to just leader, what model of power do I adopt?

Male Power?

Having attended Bryn Mawr College, I've been exposed to women who have adopted a stereotypical male style of elite power. Zoe Cruz would fit into that category as well as many women in their 50s and 60s in elite positions of power like Hillary Clinton. I do not forget that Condeleezza Rice is called the "Ice Princess." In many ways, it makes sense that this would be their survival strategy, when they were so greatly outnumbered and the hostility toward their presence so open.

It is of course a double-edged sword to adopt "male power," because I hear male colleagues all the time criticizing female colleagues, students, and me for being stubborn (i.e. holding strong opinions), self-centered  (i.e. being independent), bossy (i.e. holding people accountable for what they say but fail to do), arrogant (i.e. believing in self more than the low estimation that they hold of your abilities, especially when you deliver on your promises), and cold (i.e. not crying when they do really mean things to you).

Yet, especially as an African-American woman, who comes from a deep matriarchal structure (and not because there were no men, its just the women are awesome human beings), I am willing to hold to my opinions, structure my relationships to optimize independence, hold people accountable for what they fail to do, believe in my own abilities without them needed to be reinforced by someone else's approval, and will not cry if you do really mean things to me (not in public). And in the past, I have been betrayed by colleagues (male and female) for being so. The great thing about being independent is that while your ego can be shattered by these events, they in no way affect your material well being, so you are easily able to regain equilibrium. And once you put your ego back together, you learn.

I've learned to hold my opinions yet seek to find shared opinions with others, remain independent but structure projects so that all can contribute what they do best, continue to hold people accountable and get rid of them if they are not (this is a must), believe in my own abilities but praise the abilities of others, and still not cry if people do really mean things to me. The truth is that I don't know any great models for what I've been doing with power, lately.

I mean I get bits a pieces from people. Praising people I've learned best from Ric Grefe. I think it comes from working with a mostly volunteer effort, so payment is only in affection and praise. Remaining independent but structuring for contribution I've learned from Robert Feldman. Holding my opinions but finding shared opinions I've learned from Ken Friedman. Not crying in public, except when you really need to, I've learned from Hillary Clinton.  And perhaps that is all that you can get is learning bits and pieces from people.

But also having attend Bryn Mawr, there is the Goddess model of power. Tomorrow, I shall explore that more.


ksenija b.

Excellent example. I'd recommend reading this book not just to the student population, but also for teachers and deans. It is nice to know there is a great awareness about the discrimination issues, now it is time we join our efforts and make some changes. The first step is to speak up about the discrimination. The second is making the things happen and here we need a support of those who are an example of excellency in mentoring, they are the ones who have the power to make changes visible.

Dori Tunstall

You might want to look at the book Erotic Mentoring by Janice Rushing.

Book Description from publisher
They’re everywhere in the academy. Young, bright women mentored by older scholars, usually men, who attempt to mold them into their own masculine ideals. Janice Hocker Rushing’s study of over 200 women and their life transformations is the subject of this eloquent book. Using the tropes of mythology and Jungian psychology, the author characterizes the many paths these women’s academic lives take: as Muse for a faltering older scholar, as Mistress or wife, as the dutiful academic daughter. Their resistance to this power differential also takes many forms: as a Veiled Woman, silent in public but active in private, or the Siren, using her sexuality to beat the system. Ultimately, Rushing arrives at the myth of Eros and Psyche, where women’s self understanding and personal development turns her erotic mentoring into an autonomous, whole, and free life, unfettered by any man. These women’s stories, and Rushing’s literary and literate framing of their lives, will ring true to many in the university.

ksenija b.

Power structures in Academia

As a young researcher at the final stage of my PhD study I have found myself in the middle of power struggles and conflicts. Unfortunately, the academic sphere is still dominated by old-white-male-patriarchal structures.

In the democratic societies there is an emerging trend to support young and bright women to make decisive steps for scientific career. It is not true, that women don't want to commit their creative potentials to science. Being exposed to the patriarchal system of mentoring, this wonderful idea of practising equality in the scientific sphere makes the efforts of young students pretty hard. For we have to be aware how there is nothing democratic about the scheme of patriarchal/erotic mentoring, where elderly scholars are trying to mould the women students into their own ideas, disabling and depriving them of their own creative growth.

I'm facing quite a lot of power struggles with my mentor in this area, for he is unfortunately one of them. He is not supportive of my ideas at all, trying to constantly remind me how I don't know anything, how I should leave science and so on. But you can imagine by now, that I'll not surrender myself to those lame excuses and accusations. I have found very soon how I cannot oppose my mentor with arguments, for he is constantly avoiding a dialogue, forcing a one-way communication. Therefore I have developed several strategies of survival to get to the end of my PhD study and defend my theses. You can imagine that I cannot develop these strategies in details now, but I can do it after I complete my study. For now I can tell you that my strategies involve a lot of marketing and management strategies as well as lobbying and a lot of diplomatic skills.

I am perhaps one of the fortunate ones, for I was not only trained in design and art, but in marketing and management as well, gaining a lot of experience working in advertising as consultant and project manager. I know I'll succeed in this academic-male war for becoming a PhD, but what about those brilliant young women sharing the same story, who were not so fortunate to learn all the survival skills and secret tactics? I think we should all try to shape a better academic world, without sexual, racial or religious discrimination, where the individuals could freely develop their scientific and creative potentials, without being terrified for being expelled while defending their rights. Surprisingly, but true, in some European countries, regarding the year 2008, having a creative or theoretical difference of opinions with your mentor, can still mean you can say goodbye to your scientific career.

Social Network Web Design

Kinda surprising how some old ways and culture like that of having a double standard when it comes to women still exists in today's times when everything seems too highly technical already.

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