Gini Dietrich

Is It True Behind Every Successful Woman Is a Man?

By: Gini Dietrich | August 5, 2009 | 

rosie One of my favorite reporters in the entire world is Del Jones, the leadership columnist for USA   Today. I’ve worked with him for many years. I know him in real life. I’m featuring him as a case study in a book (details forthcoming). And I have a daily conversation with him on Twitter.

So when his cover story, “Often, men help women get to the corner office” ran today, I was more than intrigued. As usual, his style of reporting is fair and covers all of the reasons the title he choose might be true.

The premise:

* There are more men in leadership positions at companies big and small so it makes sense the mentor a woman has is male (only 29 Fortune 1000 companies have women CEOs).

* Men, (Gini adds “unfortunately”) have the power to make women great.

* Female champions are rare.

I agree with all of this. I am in a communication business and I’ve only had one female boss my entire career…where females are prevalent at the lower levels, but not at executive levels.

But I am FIRED UP! Why, you ask? I just spent 20 minutes reading the comments. Because there are nearly 200 comments, I started with the most recommended ones.

I am shocked and appalled there are men out there, like Slay and ChristianCon3, who still think women belong in the kitchen and not the workplace. And that people recommended their comments for others to read!

Read this comment from ChristianCon3:

“Not an issue for me since I believe women do not belong in the workplace, but at home tending to the children and the husband. Much of what is wrong with our society today is because of women’s liberation (a product of liberal / socialist thinking) and the idea that women “can have it all.” — family AND career. Well they can’t. Just look at the divorce rates. The crazy, drug addicted children that come out of two career households. It’s high time we get back to a traditional nuclear family: husband who works, wife who minds the house and two or three kids.”

Now I know that by putting this on my blog, I’m engaging this man and his ludicrous opinion. Did he not read the story? The point is that, even in 2009 where women ARE in the workplace and DO have it all, their mentors still are men. That even though we’ve come a long way, we still have to rely on men for procreation and to promote our careers. And that does NOT mean we’re sleeping our way to the top as other comments on the story suggest.

I have belonged to two women-only organizations in the past and have gotten nothing from either of them. No return-on-investment of my time or money. Not one woman from either of those organizations referred business to us – most women see other females as competition. I’ve always kept this in mind as I grow a business – that women deserve as much mentoring as the men in an organization.

But truth be had, the most ROI on my time, the most referrals we receive (even today), and the people who affect my business decisions are men. I have a handful of women business confidants, outside of the Arment Dietrich walls, but I’d venture to guess they’re less than 10 percent of my “mentors”.

Social media is changing that. I’ve been able to connect and engage with women business leaders around the world and we help one another quite often. It’s fun to get a woman’s read on a particular situation because we look at things so much differently. We lead differently. We think differently. We act and feel differently. We should be mentoring one another, without threat, and with a man’s assertiveness and ability to forgive and forget sprinkled in.

With Del bringing this very sad reality to light and with our social media connections, soon behind every successful woman will be another woman.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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21 Comments on "Is It True Behind Every Successful Woman Is a Man?"


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6 years 11 months ago

One of my biggest goals is to become the kind of woman that can mentor others. I’ve been lucky to have some pretty good male business associates and bosses in my life, but — man alive — as a full time working mother of two with no small ambitions for her family OR her career — it’s a bit like stumbling through no-woman’s land… Awesome post as always Gini. Can’t wait to read your friend’s article — and your book!

6 years 11 months ago
Nice commentary, Gini. I agree that social media can and will help. One will have access so many more people from various industries and backgrounds without the competitive concern or insecurities that sometimes come from people within the same company. I agree that men and women think, act, and lead differently and it is the person who is open to learning from, and mentoring to, both who will be most successful. I read Del’s article, but have not read the comments. I may do so now, but first I have to go home and check my children as I just… Read more »
Laura Scholz
6 years 11 months ago

Great blog, Ginni! I also work in communications, and female mentors are few and far between. Many of the older women I’ve worked for seem to view the younger ones as “competition,” and have been downright hostile. I agree with you that social networking is allowing me to form relationships with other great female business owners and entrepreneurs–something invaluable to my work.

6 years 11 months ago
Gini – I love it when you get fired up! This is a subject on which every woman business owner undoubtedly will have an opinion. Unlike you, in my career, I have mostly reported to strong women. And, I belong to many women’s organizations where building trusted relationships has and hopefully will continue to lead to ROI. HOWEVER, this is not to say that strong men have not played an important role in my growth and development as a CEO. They have, and I certainly will continue to look to them – just as much as my women advisors –… Read more »
Beatriz Alemar
6 years 11 months ago
Gini, I agree! Although relatively “new” to the workforce, I do see a lack of women mentoring and promoting other women if only do to the lack of women in higher-level management positions. I for one am thankful that women like you are reaching out to other women as mentors and sources of inspiration. Women aren’t meant to just be in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant – they are meant to be what they strive to achieve. For some women, their calling is being primarily a homemaker – for others, it means climbing the corporate ladder. There are plenty of… Read more »
Paul Segreto
6 years 11 months ago
Personally, I believe more women need to be in the boardroom. Maybe keeping them out in the past helped create the economic turmoil we’re in today. We’ll never know for sure. But, I can tell you this, women in business are better at developing and nurturing relationships, more insightful and perceptive, and are definitely better communicators than their male counterparts. All extremely valuable traits, and when worked at, actually become skills. That being said, there are certainly management and leadership skills where men excel. But maybe only because men have had the opportunity to develop those skills over a long… Read more »
Mike Koehler
Mike Koehler
6 years 11 months ago
Hey Gini. I’m fortunate, all of my mentors have been women and women who have been around for 20-40 years with the company. We are lucky in that women hold many positions in leadership here and that will actually increase in the next 5-10 years. The knowledge and assistance I have received from them the last 8 years is immeasurable. If I didn’t have them coaching me and pushing me to better, I really would be up a creek here. I may complain about 1 or 2 of them from time to time, but they are really pushing me to… Read more »
Kristen Leigh
6 years 11 months ago
Agree with Laura above, great post. I can understand your outrage at comments like the one from CC3, but surely you realize there are A LOT of nutty people out there with A LOT of nutty ideas (on many topics). Sometimes you just have to deep sigh and move on. I do want to make a note about two particular points though. 1. I’ve worked in communications and advertising for over 15 years now, and — setting my own merits aside for a moment — I can directly relate my current success to 4 people and 1 organization. The first… Read more »
Beatriz Alemar
6 years 11 months ago
” But, I can tell you this, women in business are better at developing and nurturing relationships, more insightful and perceptive, and are definitely better communicators than their male counterparts. All extremely valuable traits, and when worked at, actually become skills. That being said, there are certainly management and leadership skills where men excel. But maybe only because men have had the opportunity to develop those skills over a long period of time within male-driven organizations.” Paul – Very, very true. Most women are taught from very young to be great at relationship building but to be submissive. To stand… Read more »
Lois Arbogast
6 years 11 months ago
Gini, As always, I completely agree with your post. I too read Del’s article and was appalled at the comments that followed. Not only do I believe that women bring a different mentality to business, as Paul suggested in his comment here, but I also believe that women bring an entirely different skill-set. Women constantly have to battle their male counterparts for equal opportunities, from the lowest levels in a company through to the highest. Their ability to persevere and brush-off male domination is exactly the reason they should be invited into the boardroom. It’s my opinion that the same… Read more »
Heidi Goldstein-Sidley
6 years 11 months ago
I think that sometimes people (both men & women) might not necessarily recognize who has mentored them or influenced them the most during their careers/lives. I didn’t have a traditional childhood, growing up between 2 countries, broken home, lots of new places, new friends and new environments. I learned to adapt quickly and was probably more independent than most kids, traveling across the Atlantic often as an unaccompanied minor. My mom remarried when I was 9 and my mom & step-dad raised me. He was a strong successful businessman (entrepreneur). I came into the family business as a teenager and… Read more »
Joe Heidler
6 years 11 months ago

Has anyone examined whether the inverse could also be true. Although all of my mentors have been men, I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for my wife. I believe that most successful men have the love and support of someone to allow them to do what they do. In the end the people who get ahead are the ones who surround themselves with others, be they mentors or supporters, male or female who help them to drive life passionately in a positive way.

Matthew Dibble
6 years 11 months ago
My first and only boss that has ever mentored me is a woman. She was tough, fair, driven but unbelievably sensitive to others as well. I can not say enough about the business and personal lessons I learned from her. It’s because of her that I now gravitate towards women in the workplace. My current business is for everyone, but it tends to generate interest from mostly women and I believe that they are a bit more well rounded at work than men. They are many times concerned for the personal aspects of the employee and how that can help… Read more »
Jenifer Morack
6 years 11 months ago
After reading Del Jone’s article in USA Today, I tried to remember my “company days” and the mentor’s of past. I will agree that most were men but I’ve had a few women challenge and educate me. As increasing numbers of women advance to executive levels, I believe we will see the result of more women mentors. There is another issue that was not appropriate for Del’s topic but does demand discussion and that is the issue of “choice”. Many women at many different levels in organizations will make a choice to either leave the workplace permanently or take time… Read more »
6 years 11 months ago

See my response here – 😀

Jeff Lipschultz
6 years 11 months ago
What comes to my mind are three little words: “Diversity of Thought.” I don’t care if you are man or women when I look for mentorship, or from another country or background, for that matter. Bottom line: Does the mentor offer valuable experience that pertains to my needs at the time. I’ve had mentors from walks of life for all types of different subjects. They all brought value. As companies become more and more diverse in their population of employees, the odds of having a mentor from another camp will be more and more likely. And won’t it be nice… Read more »
6 years 11 months ago
Wow, I don’t want to bring myself to read that USA Today article and accompanying comments. I can’t deal with the Neanderthal mentality. I have had horrendous and fabulous female managers and colleagues, just as I’ve had horrendous and fabulous male managers and colleagues. I think the mistake that some women make is expecting a natural “sisterhood” where there is automatic bonding and they are shocked to find vicious competitiveness or at best, blase neutrality where thy hoped for mutual support and assistance. Color me wary, but not cynical. I have made it a point to be the kind of… Read more »
6 years 11 months ago
Gini, Once again, you give us a well-written thought-provoking post! What I particularly appreciate is your ability to be transparent without being narcissistic. I believe that this is what is necessary to become successful in the rapidly changing workplace. It has been a slow process, but we are moving away from the old patriarchal “good-ole’-boy” top-down management models that have created many of the problems that organizations face today. To survive in a globally-connected, real-time market place, then organizations must embrace the ability to create trust within relationships through communication that respects the voice of all stakeholders-especially the consumers! The… Read more »
WomanCEO (WomanCEO™)
6 years 11 months ago

Is It True Behind Every Successful Woman Is a Man? Ooohh. Would love to know your thoughts on this one

Davina Brewer
6 years 11 months ago
I’ve never been comfortable with “women are more threatened by other women,” as I’ve experienced territoriality from men and women over the years, both protecting their little seats of power, challenged more by my intelligence and abilities than my gender. While the concept of the USA Today piece is a little sexist, it’s as you write “unfortunately” true by default: men (mostly) are the ones in power, hold the most senior positions, ergo men promote (mentor) women. Statistics. Aside from the crackpots that commented on the story, even the supportive arguments bug me: “I am a man who had a… Read more »
6 years 11 months ago


The person whose comment you quoted, Christiancon3, is apparently not a man but a woman. You can view her profile on at

Click on the comments tab and read some of her posts. You will be amazed and saddened by what you read.

Thank you for a wonderful article