The woman who would be CEO of Morgan Stanley
New York Magazine has an interesting story about the fall Zoe Cruz, the woman who came within striking distance of becoming Morgan Stanley's first female CEO--only to be fired last November after 25 years of distinguished service.
It's impossible to tell from the article whether Cruz was penalized for being as abrasive and competitive as her male colleagues. It seems her career plateaued because she was much better at making money for Morgan Stanley than at playing office politics.
As a trader, she gravitated towards foreign exchange where her accomplishments could be measured in dollars and cents. But as Cruz rose further in the ranks, politicking became an increasingly important part of her job. For whatever reason, she wasn't successful at building the alliances she needed.
The central question of the article is whether Cruz was at an unfair disadvantage in the networking game because of her gender.
There's no question that Cruz had an aggressive personal style and a tendency to alienate people--which could itself be a legitimate performance-related reason for not making her the CEO. Management decisions should be based on results. If an executive can't get the people around her to do what she wants-- whether out of love, obligation, fear, or whatever--that person isn't likely to be a good CEO.
The article hints that Cruz was personally vilified and resented for her sharp elbows in a way that her male colleagues weren't.
The article hints at a deeper question that many ambitious women have asked themselves: Do we face a Catch-22 in professions where advancement requires a fair amount of assholish behavior? If you need to be ruthless to be good, are women systematically penalized for having what it takes?