It's just been one day since our "H-P Sympathy Watch" picked up on the "Patricia Dunn is the next Martha Stewart" trend. We had the feeling that this sort of thing was bubbling up from below. You could see it coming. The only solid evidence we had for the trend, however, was a post on the Conglomerate Blog titled "The Scapegoating of Patricia Dunn." It might have been a stretch to call one blog poast a trend but we try to stay ahead of the curve and spot trends as they develop.
Did we call it prematurely? Not at all. Today Conglomerate pushes the Martha meme even further.
I am interested in focusing on another potential "lesson from HP," raised by one of my colleagues at dinner last night. This colleague has had extensive experience as an affirmative action officer at a major university and as as an organizational scholar. She wondered whether the events at HP might be related to the fact that women were in charge. Of course, the investigations were spearheaded by Patricia Dunn, and one of the principal officers in charge of the investigations was General Counsel Ann Baskins.
Gender might figure into this story in several ways. For example, women who are outsiders to the clubby world of corporate directors may rely too much on formal procedures and not enough on informal mechanisms. Women leaders may feel the need to be overly tough or results-oriented to overcome stereotypes of weakness in a way that men don't. Or the reactions to mistakes by women might be more harsh, with less forgiveness for error, than reactions to men. I am not sure whether Viet Dinh's W$J commentary can be attributed fully to Tom Perkins, but the forgive-and-forget attitude toward Mark Hurd stands in stark contrast to the condemnatory attitude toward Patricia Dunn, especially since Hurd and Dunn consulted together on the investigations.
It's hard to know whether any of these speculations has traction, especially from this distance, but if Larry ever pursues a study of corporate governance scandals in the "good governance" era, I would suggest including gender as one of the variables.
The Women of HP [The Conglomerate Blog]