CEO: American royalty

A recent report in the NY Times listed the 2010 CEO income from 200 of the largest corporations. The amount of compensation was stunning, of course, and ranged from a stratospheric $84 million for Phillip P. Dauman of Viacom, $70 million for Larry Ellison of Oracle, and $76 million for Ray R. Irani of Occidental Petroleum to a rather mild-sounding $10-20 million at the lower end. The most remarkable part of the report, however, is the number of women included in the list of 200. That number is less than 5 percent; to be precise – eight.

It’s easy to assume that sexism and gender bigotry are responsible for this disparity; women are routinely paid less than men for equal work, find themselves excluded from the corporate “Men’s Club” as a matter of course, and those women strong enough to take on the system are often labeled “bitches” and subjected to harassment. Though true, these facts may not tell the whole story at all. It’s just as likely that women simply want no part of the male-dominated corporate world, and for good reason.

While there certainly are exceptions, by-and-large women are more cooperative and collaborative than men. Women are more in touch with their emotions and more willing to relate to them openly and honestly. Women form relationships easier than men and put more time into sustaining relationships. However, the talents women bring to society and culture are undervalued and considered liabilities in a large corporate environment. The modern large corporation is about maintaining strict hierarchy, sustaining power-based relationships, using aggression and manipulation to fulfill objectives, and establishing relationships based on these terms. In a male-dominant, patriarchal society women must either adopt to and operate from these conditions, or opt out. Most women, it appears, have opted out.

In many respects, American culture is more favorable for women now than in any point in history. Most people entering college (57 percent) are women, and the number of women professionals continues to increase (though comparable pay remains lower). Sensitivity to gender discrimination is greater than it has ever been, and of increasing awareness around the world. On the other hand, 27 million women and children are enslaved globally, and sex slavery is the world’s fastest growing criminal industry. In other words, things have improved for women but have a long way to go.

When it comes to the CEO suite and the dominance of men in positions of upper management, change will not come easily or quickly; male aggression resonates deeply within corporate culture. Relying on an ethical framework of domination developed long ago by men to control men, corporate culture is highly undemocratic and most closely resembles royalty. Within the corporation, the CEO is king; his rule is absolute, his word law. Think Donald Trump. There are those who are just, and others tyrannical. In either case, corporate structure essentially consists of King (CEO), Noblemen (Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Directors and so forth) and Serfs (workers). Within such strict patriarchal power-based hierarchy, few women rise highly in the ranks of the largest corporations. Think Joan of Arc or Cleopatra.

Within our modern democracy, the day-to-day working life of many people is governed within the confines and imperatives of corporate royalty. Is there any other way to view Larry Ellison and his $70 million compensation package? Is this not money fit for a king?

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