The Lack of Power in your Power Suit


Where Are the Women Going?

Most don’t exit the workforce. Many choose entrepreneurship.

You’re probably familiar with the phenomenal growth in the number of women owned U.S. business, so I won’t belabor the point. If not, you can read more here. Large, successful, well-run companies such as American Express, Deloitte, and Ernst and Young, which are keenly focused on sources of their future economic growth, have established business units (American Express Open) and programs designed to sell into women’s growing economic power. This is change.

For years, I thought the growing number of women owned businesses, along with more women in corporate senior leadership roles, would bring much needed changes to business culture, ethics and practices. I’ve always seen business, with it’s scoreboard, it’s sense of immediacy, and it’s resources, as a transformational force.

Can Women-Owned Businesses Change the Game?

Many women start businesses because they want to contribute in accordance with their capabilities. They want to be and feel valued.  They also want to create something they value. For some, it’s about leaving behind the politics, the power games, the rules, the lack of flexibility, or something else about corporate culture. (Of course we have our own politics, corporate cultures and negative ways, but they’re the ones WE create.) So women often create and run businesses in accordance with a different set of values, rules and politics.

Most women entrepreneurs begin with a vision that includes financial success, but growing a multi-billion dollar enterprise is often not the singular or even the main focus.

“Women entrepreneurs are developing an alternate economic system.” A powerful male executive, made this statement over six years ago. His words bolstered my enthusiasm and my hopes regarding the difference women business owners were making and would continue to make.

By way of example, watch as Halla Tomasdottir discusses her financial service firm’s position during Iceland’s economic situation. This woman-founded company was the only investment house that didn’t lose clients’ money. Tomasdottir is also credited with rebuilding Iceland’s economy. 

As long as power and influence is determined by the relative amounts of money and resources a person or firm controls, women will remain outliers to power.

Recently, however, I am seeing all of this from a different perspective. It’s not a pretty view, so proceed at your own risk. I hope you will comment that I lack imagination, that I’m not seeing an emerging future.  I tell myself those same things, but I hear my own half-hearted tone.

Why am I, someone who has been optimistic about the positive changes women in business can bring about, less hopeful now?

As long as power and influence is determined by the relative amounts of money and resources a person or firm controls, women will remain outliers to power.  The problem with solving the problem is the problem itself. Power is defined by those in power. “Those” are not women.

Consider the following picture and quotes from a Slate article entitled Patriarchy Alive and Well in Corporate America.



(I do, however, adore the stand out red suit.)

“Men are controlling all the big companies and the big pools of money in this country. If you look around at whose running the show in the American economy, it’s a bunch of men. And I find it hard to believe that doesn’t matter.”

The problem with fixing the problem is that the fix is so wonderfully different from the problem. Ergo the paradox. Most women entrepreneurs begin with a vision that includes financial success, but growing a multi-billion dollar enterprise is often not the singular or even the main focus. It may not even be a sparkle in her eye. Women more often value community, relationships, and social good. We are typically not empire builders, like those pictured above. And it is the empire builders, the successful ones, as success is currently defined (by those in power, with money) who hold the money and therefore the power. And make no mistake, power defines culture.

The solution? I don’t know?

Tell me I lack imagination, please.


Photo Credit HERE


Dr. Anne Perschel, president of Germane Consulting ( and Co-founder 3Plus International, has over twenty years experience as a leadership and business psychologist. Prior to launching her own businesses, Anne held senior management roles at two Fortune 50 companies. Anne is a change leadership consultant, executive coach, confidant and adviser to senior leaders, their teams, and high potential up-and-comers. She cajoles, humors, leads, influences, pushes, pulls and does whatever it takes to bring leaders to the intersection of high achievement, high returns, high fulfillment and their highest potential.

  • Lisa Shelley

    Anne, I don’t know the answer, but your post is very thought-provoking. I hope that the current trend of women entrepreneurship, and businesses focused on providing value to all stakeholders, is causing a shift in the balance of power. I think the opportunity for change may lie in a missing element in your definition of power. It’s something within the hearts and minds of humanity that will allow the shift. Keep imagining! I do know that the world certainly doesn’t need more empires… it could however do with a bit more community.

  • Anne, a funny thought occurred to me as I read you post and landed on this line:

    “Women more often value community, relationships, and social good.”

    I’m a woman. I say that in jest, but the empire-building? That was my desire a long time ago, when I founded my first business – when, emotionally at least, I was less a man than a boy, playing Empire Builder. So maybe instead of comparing women out for social good to men out for empire, the comparison should be between women and boys.

  • dib e.v.

    Anne, your Point is so true for the business Society Worldwide. No one is to doubt the main theorem: Power defines Culture. Thus it can be so hard and frustrating to promote any sensible Changes within overtly “powerful” Structures.

    However, over time Power is inevitably (not fastly) lost by inflexible, intolerant Structures. Degradation and Arrogance come with a history of “taking success and power for granted”.
    My Hope is still, that all these stiff, grey, uniform style guys will not be strong enough to defend their kind of Business Apartheid for ever. One red Suit is surely not enough to make the Change, but it´s a Signal.

    It´d be an even better Signal, if also more Men stood up and act against the stiff, grey, and discriminatory uniform-style of our management Culture. That could change the Question from “men vs. women” to “empire vs. creativity”.
    We do need Changes to a present Culture that excludes the Majority of our emerging, creative Potential from “Power”

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