I’m Sorry ‘Shumpeter’

Last week, the Economist’s featured a cover story: We Did It! What Happens When Women Are Over Half the Workforce.  It provided a good summary picture of where women stand in 2010 and suggested that we celebrate women’s progress—to which I can only say, good idea!

The magazine’s “Schumpeter” column, which is supposed to focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, took a rather contrary approach. The column is anonymously written, but named in honor of the great Austrian economist who coined the phrase “creative destruction.”

“Schumpeter” used the occasion to pen a retrograde rant against anyone who suggests that one half of the human race might bring a slightly different set of skills, values and insights with them into the world of business or government.

Identifying the first generation of female leaders as a tough bunch who bore a sneering disdain for “the sisters,” he lamented twenty years of pioneering research on the qualities women bring to leadership. He singled out the wonderful work Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Judy Rosener, and even took a swipe at McKinsey for its ground-breaking work on leadership behaviors.

Perhaps most bizarrely, he advocated that women follow the lead of one Dong Mingzhu, the boss of an air-conditioning company. She wins his heart by proudly proclaiming, “I never admit mistakes and I am always correct.”

The column seemed particularly out of whack because “Schumpeter” allegedly celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit. I suggest whoever writes it read Margaret Heffernan’s magnificent How She Does It, the best thing ever written about what female entrepreneurs bring to the game, in terms of values, skills and profitability.