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Tom Peters on Women

Posted by: Jena McGregor on October 10, 2007

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.

Reader Comments

Garland Walton

January 26, 2008 11:11 AM

Agreed--it's good news that guru Peters is thinking and commenting on the subject. The Stamford, CT human services nonprofit where I work, Domus, has recently started sharply focusing on female leaders (and they are plentiful). In our attempts to learn, share, inspire, and brainstorm about issues facing leaders who are female, I've noticed the books available on this subject are not impressive (and sometimes insulting). Anyone have any suggestions?

Jay Forte

August 20, 2008 9:48 AM

Agreed - I teach a program to help women navigate the obstacles to management imposed in a male-dominated workplace. In today's intellectual workplace, the feminine brain exhibits the attributes that more successfully engage and inspire employee performance. We are in an age where the emotional connection between employees and customers drives customer loyalty and ultimately profitability. If employees are not engaged and passionate about their work and their managers, they do not make the extra effort to connect with customers; this affects results. The intrinsic biology-inspired feminine attributes of communication, consensus building, nurturing, cooperative spirit, empathy and connection naturally predispose female thinking to effective millennial management - the process of connecting and inspiring employee performance. Additionally, as the larger consumer group and the other stats presented by Tom Peters, women have, and need to have, a more significant role in organizations at all levels. Their thinking is key to inspiring performance and their input reflects a unique and necessary perspective. The age of disregarding female perspectives and feminine success attributes needs to be over.

Check out an article I wrote titled "Shirts or Skirts - Who Can Best Manage In Today's Economy at

To use a quote from Dee Dee Myers book "Why Women Should Rule the World" - "If the three wise men had been women, they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, brought practical gifts and there would be Peace On Earth."

Adam Dothan

August 31, 2009 6:21 PM

Cool buying into the concept of female superiority, you queers.

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