Rupert Murdoch's idea of a good joke? Saying he'll put his infamous 'Page 3' girls into the Wall Street Journal -- but they'll all have MBAs.
Yup, that's had us business women rolling in the aisles. It's so reassuring to know that, if Murdoch gets his hands on the WSJ, we can count on it to be as sexist and ignorant about women as - well as the rest of Wall Street. What a standard bearer it will be.
Of course, all the big investment banks and brokerage houses are struggling to rid themselves of this kind of sexist image. They fund big diversity efforts led by incredibly smart women who love banking. They're building impressive networks and mentoring programs to try to keep the super-smart women that flock to them out of business school. They hold fantastic conferences with state-of-the-art executive education to ensure that women have all the information they need to get ahead.
What they don't have is a mandate to change the culture. Because old guys at the top don't really want to change. It's fine for women to climb to the top as long as they play by the guys' rules. Do the hours, don't mind the strippers -- you too can be one of the boys. But want to change any of that and -- well, please. She just can't cut it, can she? And whatever you do -- don't have kids! These corporations demand that you have one loyalty and one love only. Banks are jealous institutions and they don't stomach rivals.
Why do women continue to bring their MBAs to employers like these? Because they think they won't mind the pain. I've lost count of the number of brilliant young women who tell me: I'll just do 10 years, make my money and go. They don't think the place will get to them. You see them a few years later -- hollowed out and leaving, having lost all sense of just how good they are.
What a good idea it was for Murdoch to piss off so many of his customers. But then he probably can't imagine that women read business publications. He probably doesn't know that women now own nearly 50 percent of private businesses -- or that their companies are more likely to stay in business. It may have escaped his notice that, if current trends continue, the largest group of millionaires will be female.
The last laugh may be on those that share Murdoch's sense of humor. Because those younger than Rupert are different from Rupert. Increasingly they feel uncomfortable around old guys with such bad jokes. They have smart wives and feel pretty embarrassed by the idea that they (or any other sentient being) would find him funny. They do want to have kids and, when they do, they want to spend time with them. The single question that shocks them most, when they consider the Wall Street culture is: how would you feel if your daughter worked here?
Nowadays it isn't just the smart women who turn their back on this antediluvian crassness, it's the smart men too.