Hammer’s Time

USA Network CEO, Bonnie Hammer

USA Network CEO, Bonnie Hammer

Let’s start with the good news. On July 1st something truly historic happened in American business, Xerox became the first Fortune 500 company to be helmed by an African American woman. When former CEO, Anne Mulcahy passed the mantle to Ursula Burns it was the first woman to woman CEO handoff.

The bad news is that Burns became only the 15th female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. That’s right, out of the top 500 companies, only fifteen of the CEOs are women. That’s sad. Despite the fact that current statistics hold that women receive six out of ten college degrees and “in 2006 and 2007, (Executive) performance of men and women was almost identical” according to an article in USA Today women just aren’t crashing through that glass ceiling. When they do attain the top position they’re not paid as well as their male counterparts, about 1.7 million on average which is about 85% the median range salary of a male CEO in the Fortune 500.

So, I’m damn glad and happy any time I read an article about an astute and successful female CEO. In this case it’s the CEO of USA Network, Bonnie Hammer. The article is in the latest issue of Newsweek and it details Hammer’s career path and her strategy for choosing the innovative and character driven shows that have made USA Network the most watched cable network. One aspect of her management style, inclusion, is considered a more feminine approach but one that has benefited the corporate culture at USA. “Bonnie’s management style is inclusiveness,” says Jeff Wachtel, the network’s top Hollywood exec, who concedes he’d wondered at first, “Why are all these people in my business?” But he’s a believer now.”

Hammer’s inclusive approach works well and she’s been known to go out on a limb budget wise for shows she believes in creatively. Personally, I think it’s this combination of inclusion and vision that makes her successful in the entertainment industry. Interestingly, in the USA Today article I found this quote…

“The January Harvard Business Review includes a 360-degree feedback study by Herminia Ibarra and Otilia Obodaru. It finds that female leaders are seen by all around them to be strong in such traits as tenacity and emotional intelligence, but trail men in one important aspect: Their superiors, peers and subordinates say that women leaders lack vision.”

I don’t think that business women lack vision or talent. I sometimes wonder though, if the women who rise to the top are the ones that tend to conform the most. This may sound really sexist, but one of the articles I researched had photos of seven of the top female CEOs and out of the seven, only two have long hair. In fact, most of them looked, well, sexless. Not exactly masculine but with short hair, not a lot of makeup etc. I’ve always thought that being charming and sexy was more of a liability in the workplace but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

In the meantime, congratulations to Bonnie Hammer for a job well done, taking the USA Network to a whole new level and giving the viewing public quality, character driven entertainment. And ladies, keep tapping!

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