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It’s the 25th anniversary of In Search of Excellence, one of the best-selling management books of all time, and Tom Peters wants to talk. Not about his book, mind you—that was his PR rep’s idea—but about women. So the other day, I called up the guru and former McKinseyite at his Vermont farm and we chatted about the state of women in business today.
It’s a state that still has a long way to go, rails Peters. “Women control damn near all the wealth now!” he says, befuddled at the still sorry lack of smart marketing geared toward women. Peters says his own journey (I hate that overused management word, but it does seem appropriate here) to realizing the untapped opportunities companies have at marketing to women and developing women leaders has had three stages.
First, he started writing about how rarely women are kept in mind when it comes to marketing and product design, despite the fact that they make most of the purchasing decisions. Second, he started talking in his speeches about how rarely women are in leadership positions. “Why can’t we all grow up and be Pepsi?” Peters says, invoking Pepsi’s leadership ranks, which are highly populated by women, including Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi. Stage three, he says, has been the growing understanding that women represent the next growth economy. As women outpace men in college degrees—he also points out that women have filled 2 out of every 3 new jobs, though I don’t know the source of his stats—increasingly, women will be the big earners, too. “It’s going to be so extreme in teh next 20 years it’s just eyepopping.”
I’m not sure I agree it’s going to be so easy—there are huge systemic changes that need to take place in the workplace for that to happen—but it’s great to hear a widely followed guru talking and wringing his hands about such an important issue. And no, he says, he does not have a book about women in the works.
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