Linda Yaccarino, an American of Italian origin with solid past experience as a manager in the advertising sector, is the new Managing Director of Twitter. Analysts are already questioning what her sphere of action will be and if Elon Musk will effectively entrust her skills to reorganize the company (above all to bring back investors in advertising) or if, instead, she will just be a front, leaving the unpredictable founder of Tesla really in the driving seat. Now, if Musk had hired a white male CEO, would we really be discussing such issues now? Almost certainly not, although Musk is a character who can certainly raise doubts as to his style of company management.
On the other hand, it was Musk himself who declared, shortly after acquiring Twitter, that he would resign as CEO as soon as he found someone “crazy enough” to sign on for the post. In the meantime, he has enacted a brutal restructuring in order to cut costs and to break even on the 44 billion invested in purchasing the social platform, only to jeopardize even the daily functioning of Twitter. It is certainly far from an idyllic situation for a manager who has to take command of the Company. And is this the very reason that the hot seat has been offered to a woman? Certainly Yaccarino was Musk’s first choice and he will have turned to her because of her consolidated relations in the world of advertising. But it wouldn’t be the first time that a woman got into a top position because (unfortunately) no man wanted to hazard his career in such an obviously risky situation. Sociologists call it “the rock crystal effect”, clearly referring to the fact that acceptance of such appointments is particularly high risk.
A woman has been summoned to sort out complicated situations at other times in the IT world. For example, Marissa Mayer was invited to head Yahoo when the company was losing out to its competitors. Choosing to appoint a woman can certainly serve, symbolically too, to underline clear discontinuity with the past. But, at the same time, female managers have far fewer opportunities to get into roles that count.
And so they are almost obliged to take risks in many situations which their male counterparts would not even deem to consider. There are psychological, or even biological components that can account for this female propensity to take risks: since, on the one hand, we have more courage (and, let it be said, less to lose), at the same time complexity is more congenial to the emotional, so more sophisticated, female way of thinking than to that of the rational and analytical male. Women, too, are more intrinsically drawn towards the long term, tied to the survival of the species. Consequently, they are less needy for situations of power for power’s sake only. If you can accept that your life goes on, even without holding power, you are more likely to accept risky situations. This by no means justifies the fact that, in the end, we are only offered impossible missions. Maybe doing the dirty work while our male colleague, “savior of the homeland”, awaits just around the corner, ready to take all the credit for the rescue.
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