14 July 2010

NCRW Speaks Out on 'Macho' Oil Industry Culture

Linda Basch, President of the National Council for Research on Women, has a great article running on AlterNet that looks at how the "macho culture" of the oil industry -- and BP in particular -- contributed to creating the mess that is STILL unfolding in the Gulf.

Quoting oil industry veterans and insiders, Basch highlights how BP culture has been driven by "the macho myth of big iron, big rigs, wild wells, and wild men" and suggests that greater diversity in leadership -- in this case, bringing women to the decision-making tables -- might have mitigated some of the larger mistakes BP made in regard to its drilling practices. She writes,
We can begin to understand the tendency toward machismo in BP with simple numbers: all of BP's executives are white males, except for one female HR leader... [Yet] countless studies have demonstrated that diversity in leadership produces better results overall. Women also tend to be more tempered risk-takers, which, among other things, could have shifted BP's decision not to use a safeguard device on the Deepwater rig, a potentially disaster-averting move that could have cost as little as $500,000.
Basch goes on to note that though women were noticeably absent from executive suites prior to the disaster, the folks being tasked with cleaning up this ecological nightmare are largely women. And she points our attention to the special health and reproductive risks that women in the Gulf may now face to thanks to the presence of potentially volatile chemicals in both the spilled oil and the dispersants used by BP to clean it up.

To us, what Basch has to say about women's experiences leading up to and after the Gulf crisis makes perfect sense. But as we noticed when we published an article with a similar theme in AlterNet a few weeks ago, commenters can be especially hostile to the notion that women's input and solutions might make a difference in the Gulf (and, frankly, everywhere).

If you feel strongly that women do have a place at these decision making tables, and that including women's perspectives from the grasstops to the grassroots is important to the functioning of our democracy, then let your voice be heard. Take a little time to leave a comment when you read articles on mainstream sites that support the inclusion of women's solutions. If the "comments" universe is ever going to move away from promoting the same "macho" attitude that sunk BP, we'll only get there when women dare to add their voices to the media mix.

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