Money & Business
Best in Business: Briefcase
Battle of the Sexes Redux
Men may not understand the women they work with, after all. In What Men Think They Know About Executive Women, appearing in the current Harvard Business Review, a group of scholars at Baylor, the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa, and Texas A&M asked 286 execs to answer the same questions posed in a 1965 study on gender issues in the workplace. The authors found huge changes: While only 1 in 3 men in 1965 reported having "favorable" attitudes toward women in management, today 88 percent do. The proportion of men who would "feel comfortable" working for a woman jumped to 71 percent from 27. Still, the battle of the sexes isn't over. Only a fraction of men today think the business world will never "wholly accept" female execs, but more than a third of women still do.
Why Being No. 1 Isn't No. 1
Being first to market certainly sounds good. But is it? In a working paper called Believing in First Mover Advantage, Lisa Bolton of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School examines the widening gap between how academics and real-world managers view first- mover advantage. While most scholars think moving first means, at best, early gains in market share without any long-term effects on profits, many executives still believe in it. Why? Well, the media aren't helping. After studying how the business press described first-movers between 1985 and 2002, Bolton finds that 67 percent of newspaper stories talk about an "advantage"-while only 25 percent of academic journal articles make the same claim. Mostly, though, Bolton attributes faith in first-movers to culture. For Americans, especially, nothing beats being No. 1.
The Private World of Stability
You know the story: Companies are more volatile, and jobs are less stable. The world is flat, and you're going to get fired. But according to Volatility and Dispersion in Business Growth Rates: Publicly Traded Versus Privately Held Firms, forthcoming in the National Bureau of Economic Research Macroeconomics Annual, the gloomy news may have a silver lining. Scholars from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, the University of Maryland, and the Census Bureau found that while public companies are jumpier than they used to be, privately held firms-which account for more than two thirds of private business employment-have become 40 percent less volatile in the past 25 years. "This is a part of the economy that flies under the radar screen," says coauthor Steven Davis, a professor of international business and economics at Chicago. But the evidence is clear: The negative impact of all that high-profile, public volatility seems to be outweighed by the increasing stability in privately held firms. Time to take those vacation days!
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This story appears in the October 2, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.