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Women in Business

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I’ve spent the past week trying not to write this. I also tried not to write the new Dean at The Tuck School, my b-school alma mater. I failed on both front — I wrote the letter and I am typing away on this post.

So what’s stuck in my craw? Last weekend I attended my 25th Tuck reunion, up in beautiful Hanover NH. Lots of reminiscing with old friends, an opportunity to catch up with people I haven’t seen in years and a chance to note that while my classmates are all aging appropriately, I still look the same as I did 25 years ago. Or not.

Reunion is fun — cocktail parties, a BBQ, some presentations and panels (just to get back into the feeling of sitting in a classroom again). I tried not to notice; I really did. I tried not to notice that somehow my alma mater thought it was okay to offer a panel that featured five white men, moderated by a white male professor. What’s the big deal, right? It’s just a Reunion panel, right?

Not quite, at least not for me.

Granted, I am particularly sensitive to issues around women in business, partly because I attended a women’s college and partly because I have dedicated much of my golf career to helping executive women learn to play golf for business.

The issues are always the same, and it’s a chicken or egg thing. On the one hand white guys do what white guys have always done — they round up a bunch of their white guy friends to do fun stuff — play a round of golf, hang out and drink beer, serve on a panel at their b-school reunion. And more power to them for taking advantage of the world’s most powerful informal network, “the white guy thing.”

Women don’t do it — not on the golf course, not in the business world. Hence women miss out, not only on the small stuff, like a round of golf or participation on a meaningless Reunion panel, but also, far more importantly, on the big stuff in business like “let’s do a deal together,” “let’s take this company public.”

Grrr… so who’s responsible for the solution — the chicken or the egg?

I don’t know, but I know that small things matter. Symbolism matters.

So, as Jon Stewart said on his last show, “if you smell something, say something.”

For the record, I smell something.

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