Mon, Feb

Why Don’t the City’s Women Managers Hire More Women?


MY TURN-Perusing the web is a little like the soap operas of yesteryear.  You get suckered in!  One link leads to another link and then one is exposed to a barrage both facts and idiocy.  The reason for this discussion was my attending a July Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (VANC) meeting with the Department of Water and Power. 

General Manager Marcie Edwards brought a large group of DWP executives who gave a slick dog and pony presentation about how we should embrace the proposed DWP increase in fees.  

I was rather impressed with Ms. Edwards when she first joined DWP as Manager. She spoke well, had a great deal of experience and many others joined me in hoping that she could negotiate changes in this huge bureaucracy.  Her siding with the union against the audit findings of the City Controller caused her to crash off the optimistic pedestal. 

So, maybe it was with a somewhat biased eye that I noticed her entourage was all men.  Bummer. 

She stated that she had finally been able to hire thirteen new staff.  One of the big problems in making changes in LA City is that Department Managers, who are appointed by the Mayor, are not allowed to hire very many … if any … support staff.  That in itself precludes change.  

She was very excited that she was able to now insure that bills were accurate and leaks would be repaired with the new money the DWP would reap from higher fees. There was a chance it could voted everyone’s favorite agency, instead of being the one that most Angelenos love to hate. 

I decided to check out the Executive Team at DWP and of nine key members, there was one female in charge of “Sustainability”.  All the rest were men.  Obviously there were no qualified women for her to choose. 

Of course this interesting piece of information led to curiosity about other City Departments.  As far as I could determine there are eleven female Department Managers.  Looking at the individual web sites to find the rest of the individual “teams” was not easy.   Each Department should list their top executives with email addresses on their web sites.  

Seleta Reynolds (photo above) the new General Manager at the Department of Transportation has a female Chief of Staff and one female Executive Officer. Points scored. 

It was hard to tell if there was anyone else working at the Department of Animal Services aside from General Manager Brenda Barnette.  She is both GM and media contact.  This was an appointment by our previous Mayor and Ms. Barnette hasn’t exactly won over the hearts and minds of animal lovers or some City Council members. Transparency deficiency.    

Even GM of Empowerment LA, Grayce Liu, has her most senior staff member, male.  It’s probably not fair to judge since her department has been decimated by resignations and budget cuts.  Bad karma.  

Hopefully City Council President Herb Wesson will help reorganize. 

So what does all this mean? 

{module [1177]}

There are thousands of studies and reports on women’s management styles.  They are known for being more consultive, open for new ideas and wanting productive and pleasant working conditions. 

Business women use positions of authority to create a supportive, nurturing environment. Men use positions of authority to create a hierarchal environment in which they issue orders and expect obedience. 

Amy Tennery talked about this in an article she wrote for TIME Magazine in 2012.  She started off with a quote from Madeline Albright who said, “ There is ‘a special place in hell for women who dont help other women.’ 

When addressing women’s underrepresentation in business, there’s an oft cited explanation: there aren’t enough women in the executive suite. “If only there were more women in charge of hiring, the conventional wisdom goes, women would hire other women! Wed support our own kind, but a new study shows that isnt the case.” 

Female pioneers in the upper levels of the business world are less inclined to help out female newcomers in their industry, according to research conducted by Olin Business School professor Michelle Duguid. 

She’s identified three key factors that keep women from giving other women a leg up in the business world: competitive threat, collective threat and favoritism threat. 

The first one is fairly simple. When you’re one of just a small handful of women in a working environment, the study shows, you’re more likely to be compared with other women. One of you is the “good one,” one of you is the “bad one,” so to speak. 

While you’d think that’d be incentive enough to create a female community in the workplace, Duguid found that few women want to be the first to take the plunge.  After years of being outnumbered in competitive business environments, women are, not entirely unsurprisingly, a little paranoid. 

Competitive threat is the fear that a highly qualified female candidate might be more qualified, competent or accepted than you are,” Duguid explained. 

There are instances were high powered women like being the “Queen Bee” and don’t want to share the attention one gets as a female in  man’s world. 

The second problem, “collective threat” can be summed up this way: You’re concerned you’re going to hire an idiot and look bad. This really goes hand in hand with the favoritism threat, the fear that you might actually look as if you’re doing what you should be doing — hiring more women because it creates diversity in your workplace. The harsh fact remains that women are scared of appearing as though they are looking out for one another.  It seems that “feminist” can be a dirty word. 

Research has proved this time and again. Women are more likely to suffer from a stereotype threat in the workplace — and in one study, women performed less well on analytic tests when asked to think about their gender. 

At its worst, this anti woman pattern leads to workplace bullying. A study three years ago showed that female workplace bullies targeted other women about 70% of the time. 

Mayor Garcetti has been very supportive in appointing women to both managerial posts and City Commissions.  Women do bring a different kind of thought process and management style to situations.  Not that it’s better or worse … just different. 

I’m keeping track of the other Departments but it seems far more male General Managers are hiring female executives in comparison to their female counterparts. 

A Postscript … I tried to find out how many women executives worked with Carly Fiorina at Hewlett Packard.  Couldn’t find staff information.   Maybe someone will ask her at the “debate.”  We already know Hillary Clinton’s record on hiring women for important positions. 

As always comments welcome.


(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist.  She is a former Publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected])



Tags: Denyse Selesnick, My Turn, women in management, Los Angeles, why don’t women hire women, giving women a leg up, Grayce Liu, Selena Reynolds, Marci Edwards, DWP, DOT






Vol 13 Issue 62

Pub: Jul 31, 2015