Female Supremacy Articles
Fixing the Economy? It's Women's Work.
By Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
Sunday, July 12, 2009
While the pinstripe crowd fixates on troubled assets, a stalled stimulus and mortgage remedies, it turns out that a more sure-fire financial fix is within our grasp -- and has been for years. New research says a healthy dose of estrogen may be the key not only to our fiscal recovery, but also to economic strength worldwide.
The sexy new discussion in policy circles around the world, thanks to the recession, is whether a significant shift of power from men to women is underway -- or whether it should be. Accounting giant Ernst & Young pulled out charts and graphs at a recent power lunch in Washington with female lawmakers to argue a provocative bottom line: Companies with more women in senior management roles make more money. The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine sweepingly predicts the "death of macho." Economists at Davos this year speculated that the presence of more women on Wall Street might have averted the downturn.
Mistresses of the Universe
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
New York Times
February 7, 2009
Banks around the world desperately want bailouts of billions of dollars, but they also have another need they’re unaware of: women, women and women.
At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, some of the most interesting discussions revolved around whether we would be in the same mess today if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters. The consensus (and this is among the dead white men who parade annually at Davos) is that the optimal bank would have been Lehman Brothers and Sisters.
Men 'out-performed at university'
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Female students are ahead of men in almost every measure of UK university achievement, according to a report from higher education researchers.
A Higher Education Policy Institute report shows that women are more likely to get places in the top universities and go on to get better grades.
Women also outnumber men in high status subjects, such as law and medicine.
The institute's director, Bahram Bekhradnia, says the cause of this gender gap remains uncertain.
Women have been entering university in greater numbers than men in recent years - with the participation rate for young women standing at 49%, compared with 38% of young men.
The study disproves the notion that men dominate in the most highly-regarded subjects and institutions.
It found that women are taking more places at prestigious Russell Group universities and on the most sought-after courses.
The only exception is for Oxford and Cambridge, where men and women are now level.
There are also still some subject areas, such as courses related to maths, physics and technology, where men are in the majority.
But the overall picture shows a consistent trend in women substantially outnumbering men.
There are more women on part-time and full-time courses and women account for a higher proportion of younger and mature students.
In degree grades, women are more likely to gain "good degrees" - taking first class and upper seconds together - while men are more likely to gain lower seconds and thirds.
However male students still maintain a narrow lead in firsts - 13.9% to 13% of those who graduate.
According to the report, women's greater success in gaining university places and achieving better degrees extends across different social classes and ethnic groups.
But finding the cause for this is less straightforward.
"We just don't know," said Mr Bekhradnia.
The introduction of GCSEs in the late 1980s coincided with the time that girls began to overtake boys in academic achievement.
However the report also shows that the greater success of women in education is a global pattern - suggesting it is more than the local circumstances of particular types of exam.
Another factor suggested in the gender gap is that boys' academic performance is weakening as much as girls' is improving.
A science test taken by 11 and 12-year-olds in the mid-1970s had been successfully passed by 54% of boys and 27% of girls.
When the same test was taken in 2003, the scores for both boys and girls had fallen to 17% - a much more rapid decline for boys.
While young women have been entering university in greater numbers and achieving academic success, too many young men have been underperforming, suggests the report.
And while there is still a "mindset that continues to see males as advantaged and females as disadvantaged... that is emphatically not the case in higher education".
In response to the report, a spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: "This government is committed to ensuring that everyone with talent and ability to succeed should be given the opportunity to do so whatever their background, gender or race.
"It is essential that we continue to tackle differences in aspirations, which is why outreach programmes such as Aimhigher seek to engage and inspire young boys to go to university through targeted activity around sport, science and music."
Why boys can't keep up with the girls
By Lee Elliot Major
Tuesday 9 June 2009
Is the future female? Ten years ago I wrote an article for the New Statesman magazine predicting as much, on the back of figures showing women for the first time making up the majority of university admissions – a transformation from the exclusive preserve of white, middle- and upper-class males that made up academe as little as 50 years ago.
This week, a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) has once again documented the relentless rise of girls in the educational stakes. Females now outperform males on just about every higher education indicator, at every university in the land (with the exception of Oxbridge entry, where the sexes remain tied), and in most degree subjects.
The impact of disadvantage on educational opportunities is the primary concern of the Sutton Trust. But the educational gender gap has also emerged as a worrying trend. Female pupils outnumber males two-to-one, for example, on our university summer schools, the week-long visits to encourage more non-privileged students to consider elite research universities. Our annual surveys of 11- to 16-year-olds, meanwhile, show that boys consistently lag behind girls in their aspirations to go onto higher education.
As is often the case in education, such trends reflect inequalities set in train early in life. Girls are already on average two months ahead of boys at the start of primary school. The lack of male role models in these formative years is striking. Studies show that mothers, not fathers, are much more likely to read to their children in the home. Most of the teacher common rooms in our primary schools meanwhile remain male-free zones.
The Hepi authors also argue that the introduction of GCSE exams, based more on coursework than one-off tests, has favoured female styles of learning. The report challenges the "mindset that continues to see males as advantaged and females as disadvantaged". The authors even liken education policy makers to the incompetent generals of the first world war – unwilling to raise their heads above the trenches to recognise that the battle of the sexes has been turned on its head. This macho imagery, however, has triggered a backlash among feminist academics as give-away signs of deep male insecurities or, as one put it, "castration anxieties".
But one of the most shocking aspects of the evidence is that boys' educational achievement is actually going backwards as girls reach new academic heights. One telling statistic is that at a time of expanding higher education, university participation rates have been falling for males: if boys matched girls in degree enrolments, the government would almost instantly meet its target of getting 50% of young people into some form of HE.
Yet the female detractors of the report have a point. The educational advancement of women has not as yet translated into female participation at the very top echelons of society. A case in point is the world of politics. Last week's accusations by the former Europe minister Caroline Flint that the prime minister's inner cabal of male advisors excluded senior female politicians may seem like bitter parting shots. But for all the talk of Blair's Babes, New Labour's reign will be remembered for the big beasts of the male variety.
Ten years ago, I speculated that the upward wave of highly educated females could create a world where most doctors, lawyers, lecturers, perhaps even chief executives and cabinet ministers, are women. In fact, little has changed. Surveys by the Sutton Trust documenting the educational backgrounds of leaders in different professions have shown this time and time again: there is little sign of male domination of the most powerful positions on the wane.
But the sheer weight of numbers suggests that it must be only a matter of time before hierarchical professions such as medicine and law are "feminised" – and hopefully for the better. Could it be that the downturn in the economy places an even higher premium on good degrees in the jobs marketplace, enabling more women to launch careers that go all the way to the top? Could it be that future female leaders smash the male-dominated networks that cling onto power so successfully, limiting social mobility in the UK? It will certainly take more than a decade for this to happen.
However, we must not lose sight of the stark underperformance of boys – particularly those from the poorest backgrounds. There are deep-rooted cultural forces at play – a "macho anti-intellectualism" that surfaces particularly during early secondary school. The need for role models is absolutely key. More dads in the primary school classroom would help to combat negative stereotypes of those who do well at school – early in children's lives.
We also need to review whether alternative tests (such as the US-based SAT) or alternative teaching methods in schools would be better suited to boys (this is, after all, an era of "personalised learning"). Finally, it has been suggested that we simply broadcast to all those under-achieving males that university campuses are currently dominated by the opposite sex. Advocates of this approach argue that it would be a win-win situation for both sides of the educational divide.
Women are achieving better grades at university, study finds
By Joanna Sugden
From The Times
June 8, 2009
Women are outperforming men at university according to research by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).
The study shows that female students of all ages and social and ethnic groups now outstrip male undergraduates in almost every subject including law and medicine. They are also more likely to go to leading universities and achieve better grades.
More than 49 per cent of women now go on to higher education compared to 37.8 per cent of men who study for degrees.
Women have almost reached the Government’s target of half of all young people becoming graduates, but the low percentage for men drags the overall figure down.
Researchers found that the gap between the sexes is widening most dramatically between the poorest.
They argue that GCSE exams, which heavily favour female styles of learning, exacerbate the differences in performance later in life. They warn that plummeting achievement among young men risks creating a disillusioned and excluded male generation — particularly among the working class.
The number of women undergraduates first overtook men in 1992-3 and they now outnumber male students at every university except Oxford and Cambridge, where the balance is about level.
The strides taken by women in higher education have been matched by soaring numbers of men underperforming, the report suggests.
The study says that the situation reflects a “mindset that continues to see males as advantaged and females as disadvantaged.” It concludes: “Whatever the truth in society at large — that is emphatically not the case in higher education.”.
Women are outclassing men at university, according to research by the Higher Education Policy Institute. They are also outstripping men in most subjects, including law and medicine, and are more likely to go to leading universities.
Economist: girls actually better than boys at maths
By Lewis Page
Posted in 'Science'
30th May 2008
An economist in America has published research stating that girls have at least as much innate mathematical ability as boys. Paola Sapienza contends that the fact of girls almost always doing worse in maths exams results mainly from sexual discrimination.
"The math gender gap can be eliminated, and it is indeed eliminated in some countries," says Sapienza. "Our research indicates that in more gender equal societies, girls will gain an absolute advantage relative to boys."
Sapienza and her co-authors reached their conclusion by looking at boy-vs-girl maths performance in different countries, and checking this against various measures which indicate how sexually equal each country is believed to be.
The maths test figures used were from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), set up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The PISA data included standardised test results from some 276,000 children in forty countries.
As for equality, various figures were used, most notably the Gender Gap Index from the World Economic Forum. This is worked out according to various measures, such as the support given to working mums, proportion of women who work, females in politcs etc. A value of zero GGI indicates "inequality" (males totally dominating; women do no work, earn no money, don't appear at all in politics etc). A GGI of 1 equals "equality" (women just the same as men in these areas).
Presumably there could exist a condition where the GGI approached infinity, in which the zero state was reversed and men were totally crushed. However, no country has even achieved a rating of 1 yet; in every nation on Earth, according to the GGI, women are disadvantaged to some degree.
Sapienza and her colleagues noted that in Iceland, girls actually beat boys by a small margin on the PISA maths tests. Iceland scores high on womens' lib, at GGI 0.78. By contrast, Turkey - where the men keep their women firmly under the thumb (GGI 0.59) - showed girls lagging. The top four countries for gender equality are all in northern Europe: Sweden, Norway and Finland are the only ones which beat Iceland. (You can see the latest rankings in pdf here).
"As a European, I'm not surprised that the top countries are the northern European," said Sapienza - who comes from Italy herself.
QED, then. In the northern-Euro countries, where the human race is most nearly approaching gender equality - though not by any means there yet - girls are already outstripping boys at maths, as they often do in non-mathematical subjects. In the gender-equal society of the future, girls really could be expected to trounce the chaps on all suits. Men just aren't as intelligent as women.
FOXSexpert: Understanding S&M
By Yvonne K. Fulbright
April 23, 2009
Who does these kinds of things?
For many, the term “sadomasochism” (S&M) conjures up images of whips, chains and leather. It seems like an underworld of incomprehensible eroticism. How can pain can be pleasurable? Who could possibly enjoy this act? And just what exactly does S&M entail?
Believe it or not, S&M is all around us in the mildest forms. You don’t have to go to an S&M club to find it.
Woman as Goddess
Camille Paglia Tours Strip Clubs
Reported by Melanie Wells
When Camille Paglia burst onto the scene three years ago, her iconoclastic views on art, literature, and sexuality were published in Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. Since then Paglia, 46, a professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, has published a second book and become notorious for her controversial views on the roles of men, women, and sex in society. For example, Paglia rankled fellow feminists by asserting that "whenever sexual freedom is sought or achieved, sadomasochism will not be far behind"; "rape is male power fighting female power"; and pornography is art. Penthouse thought it would be interesting to take the professor, who admits she is bisexual, out on the town to sample New York's best-known strip clubs and comment on what they mean in the arena of sexual politics. A brash, fast-talking Paglia, who maintains that stripping is "a sacred dance of pagan origins," was bursting with enthusiasm and theories. In a tour of three Manhattan clubs, she surveyed scenes of writhing women and ogling men with candid observations that were entertaining and often startling.
Because most of my life I was openly lesbian, I totally understand men's passion for women. Women are beautiful and remote and unreachable. You feel desperate. There's nothing you can do to win their favor. The only thing men want is women's attention, and in nude dance clubs, they can get it for a moment.
The feminist line is, strippers and topless dancers are degraded, subordinated, and enslaved; they are victims, turned into objects by the display of their anatomy. But women are far from being victims -- women rule; they are in total control.
My whole life I've been gaga about beautiful women. That's why I have this angle on it -- I can see the way men see. White middle-class feminist rhetoric has been produced by professional women, lawyers, bookworms, and paper pushers who can't stand the fact -- it's unbearable to them -- that most men will still turn their heads and gasp when a beautiful women walks into the room and exposes a little tit and ass. It's a white, bourgeois prejudice to find the seductive wiggling of a butt degrading.
Even though I'm one of those supersmart white middle-class women, I don't have this jealousy. I'm strong enough as a woman to say that it's natural for a beautiful young girl walking into a room to capture the attention of all the men and women. That's an eternal human principle. It's not white male hetero-sexism. It's universal. All people admire youth and beauty. In the Greco-Roman tradition, youth and beauty are divine and worthy of worship. That's my theory. I'm saying that people go to strip clubs to see beauty and it's fucking elitist for people who go to museums to look at paintings and statues of beautiful bodies to denigrate strip clubs. These museum goers are staring at beautiful nude bodies for pleasure, and it's supposedly high art. The educated and rich get their kicks in museums. Most people who come to these mid-level or sleaze-level clubs are usually not highly educated literati. It's perfectly legitimate for them to want to look at beautiful female bodies.
I don't want a culture that says that a woman exposing her breasts is degrading. That's white middle-class bullshit. Men are fascinated and terrified by women's sexuality. That's why they pay prostitutes. The feminist analysis of prostitution says that men are using money as power over women. I'd say yes, that's all that men have. The money is a confession of weakness. They have to buy women's attention. It's not a sign of power; it's a sign of weakness.
At Flash Dancers, a middle-of-the-road topless bar, a blonde with slightly sagging breasts is onstage, acrobatically simulating sex against a fire pole. Her fluorescent yellow bikini top is draped over the head of one patron, a young man wearing a flannel shirt, who watches the dancer thrash against the pole, then clasp it between her legs. Simultaneously, several feet away, a dark-haired woman wearing a skimpy red bikini inches from the faces of two male customers. Smiling coquettishly, the dancer slides her bikini top aside, exposes her small breasts, and massages her nipples.
Look! The men don't know what to do! The money they're stuffing into the dancers' garters is a ritual offering, and the women are wearing their booty around their thighs. They're displaying dollars as trophies, just as the great women in history -- the great queens and courtesans -- have worn diamonds and emeralds.
The dancers are flirtatious but removed. Even when they approach the men, even when they're dancing at the men's tables, there is something removed or detached about them. The men know it. The men value it. The men all know they can never fully penetrate the dancers and their lives. This is a point I made in Sexual Personae: Feminists are wrong to think that when women expose their breasts -- or even their genitals in a beaver shot -- they are totally exposed. No woman is ever totally exposed; you can never fully penetrate her womb, the heart of her sexual nature. Every woman we're seeing tonight is still mysterious. No man ever thinks, even when he is putting money in her garter belt, that he has her secret.
But men are totally exposed sexually. Their penis and scrotum are externalized and vulnerable. Men have no secrets that they're hiding. Men in strip clubs are completely cowed. They are dazzled. The only time the men feel remotely superior is when they're young, 19 or 20 years old, and in a pack. They'll come in very giddy, drink a lot, and try to get their spirits up. Even then, if there are six of them, one woman coming over to them totally throws them off. My theory is that woman rules the universe; woman is the dominant sex. Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct was a great example of woman's power. Stone uncrosses her legs, shows a little pussy, and it turns the men to jelly.
The idea that exposure of nudity is degrading to women or anyone else is absolutely nonsense. It's one of the biggest lies of the feminist establishment. If they would just open their eyes and visit these strip clubs, they'll find the exact opposite of what they've been complaining about. The more a woman takes off her clothes, the more power she has.
The feminists who claim that woman are violated and diminished by this kind of format don't know what they're talking about. Current feminist rhetoric has gotten parched and bleached and sanitized and distorted. It doesn't allow for passion, for instinct, for lust, for beauty, for the awesomeness of nature. It's not sufficient to explain sex. So, bizarrely, the more antiporn that bourgeois feminist rhetoric gets, the more these clubs will arise, because they are fulfilling a deep need.
Strip clubs are pagan temples, pagan shrines. It goes all the way back to Babylon, which has a very bad reputation in the Bible, where it's a synonym for sin and decadence. Why? Because apparently there was ritual prostitution in the great temples. Women offered themselves to random strangers in honor of the great goddesses of the ancient Near East and Asia Minor -- modern Turkey.
In these pagan cults, the goddess was omnipotent. What we call striptease -- that is, erotic dancing -- was central. Contemporary strip dancing is in the mainline of this kind of ritual dancing. Belly dancing, where you clearly see the sexual undulations of the hips and pelvis, was designed to incite the lust of aging sultans. That's exactly the kind of dancing that was forbidden by Judeo-Christianity, which has always been opposed to dance. Christianity wants us to rise above nature, above our sexuality. All activation of the body is pagan -- it's never degrading. Instead, it's filling a hole, the vacuum in our religion. Judeo-Christianity is not enough. It cannot explain sexuality. It suppresses the organic rhythms of the body.
In other words, the more something is forced underground, the more intense it gets because it becomes taboo, forbidden. This makes it dangerous and very alluring. So you have these women letting us look at them. The areas of the body they're exposing are the ones we're not allowed to look at.
College women are being trained in women's studies courses to say that when men focus on a woman's breasts and buttocks, they are reducing women to dead parts. This is absolute bullshit. I'm radical on this. I'm militant. I know I'm really extreme, and most women probably can't feel what I feel. I say there is nothing degrading in the exhibit of any naked form, in whole or in part, male or female. In India you've got copulating nude bodies -- three- and foursomes -- depicted on the temples. In Hinduism the body is part of nature and the cosmos; sexuality is seen as the life force of the universe. In Judeo-Christianity we have a problem. We feel we always have to surmount nature, to contain and control it.
Our best women students are being taught that pornography and strip clubs lead directly to rape, that there is no space between men going to see this and then attacking women. This is absolute nonsense. The truth is, the minute you have a complex, advanced, urbanized society, throughout history, you get prostitution, stripping, and homosexuality. Immediately.
What does that mean? It means that as soon as people cluster together, the reality of sex erupts. What you see in pornography and prostitution is the reality of sex. It is not a patriarchal distortion. It is the ultimate physical reality. So a feminist who claims to understand sexuality but cannot deal with pornography or topless clubs is no expert. She is a censor. She is a prude.
Stripping is not about sexual freedom; it's about freedom of sexual imagination. Stripping, erotic dancing, is an art form, and the artistic level of the scene in American has increased enormously. It's obvious that it's a new vocation. Dance itself has gained in stature recently. I think Madonna, with her sensational dance routines, has helped bolster the pride and self-confidence of these women. They are professionals, and they know they are in control. They aren't apologetic or defensive. These girls know their power.
At the Paradise Club, the beer is cheap, but a private viewing of two women making love will set you back several hundred dollars. It's a hard-core strip joint in a quiet neighborhood off Broadway. Chairs rim a room-length platform on which two women stalk naked.
A curvaceous black woman stoops in front of patrons and allows them to peer between her heavy thighs. By regulation, they can't touch her, so she massages herself absentmindedly. Porno movies run on televisions suspended at both ends of the platform, but they are largely ignored. The main attraction tonight is a lithe, long-haired woman with one tattoo and a penchant for bending over in front of pairs of sheepish male patrons and exposing her hairless genitalia.
Look at those two young men! They don't know what the fuck to do. The girl is dancing right at their table. She's flirting with one of them, touching him, flaunting her rear end in his face. The men are desperately looking at each other for support. They're embarrassed. She is in total control. They're paying her a tribute. They're offering her money for her momentary attention. They are as abashed as they would be with their mothers.
There's nothing humiliating in this. Look, she's totally self-assured. He's nervous, insecure. She's helping him feel confident. That is part of her skill -- to make him feel relaxed. He is admiring her. She's lifting up her breasts for him to see. Now she's leaning over and shoving her tits within inches of his face. He loves it! He's purchased a close encounter with beautiful female breasts. And why shouldn't he? I think it's wonderful.
These women have great asses. Twenty-five years ago in America, only breasts mattered. Asses were not important. Now we've gotten much more sophisticated, in the European way.
I first became interested in topless dancing when I was teaching at Bennington College in the 1970's. Some of my students were moonlighting as topless dancers. They made a lot of money, but they and their coworkers always drew a very firm line between themselves and prostitutes. Many of the dancers are single or divorced mothers who rightly regard what they do as a profession. They know it's an art form, a craft with demanding skills.
Strip clubs today are far less squalid than the clubs I saw 20 years ago, before feminism improved the status of women. These women are very secure about themselves. I'm very happy with what I'm seeing here, because I think it's showing a kind of European cosmopolitanism. For more than a century in Paris, there have been all kinds of sophisticated displays of sexuality, such as the shows at the Moulin Rouge. In Europe it's accepted. European television has a tremendous amount of nudity. Men and straight women over there like to look at beautiful female bodies. In London, one of the most popular family newspapers has a topless "Page 3" girl every day.
I don't want a culture that says a woman exposing her breasts is degrading. That's just puritanism. We are so fucking parochial about this. The feminist establishment believes the stripclub scene is chaos, all debauchery and decadence. It's not It's as strictly organized as a faculty meeting at Princeton University.
At Stingfellows Pure Platinum, patrons wear Armani suits and can enjoy an expensive full-course dinner while watching gorgeous "entertainers" dance and drop the tops of their full-length gowns. During individual dance routines, the women shed everything but skimpy thong bikinis and invisible patches of latex covering their nipples. When they're not performing, the women mingle among their guests as if they were hosting an intimate cocktail party.
Twenty dollars buys you a provocative table dance, where a woman of your choosing sheds her dress and dances suggestively over your lap. Hard work? The best dancers take home from $700 to $1,000 a night.
Men Don't just want to see women taking their clothes off. They want to see beautiful women. Period. Some women here are in various stages of undress, but others are fully clothed, promenading around in fabulous glittering evening gowns. We are being treated to the full range of women's sexuality. This is theater, a mesmerizing sexual theater. There's an energetic, improvisatory quality. It's very sexy. It's almost as if the women sauntering around were creating their own plays, their own little dramas. There's a classy, high-fashion element that I think is a real step forward in American eroticism.
Strip clubs are an art form for the masses. It's the highest paternalistic condescension when people attack and dismiss them. We haven't seen a single man cross the line anywhere tonight. What we have seen is men understanding that women rule the world.
I issue a challenge to all those prudes and puritans who are carrying on from the oh-so-safe precincts of the Ivy League to come to one of these clubs and actually watch the men's behavior. The reality totally contradicts the bullshit feminist ideology. All sexual entertainment is pagan; that is, it's oriented around the supreme fact of woman as goddess.
You can sense the awe in men's attitudes to each of these women as an incarnation of the goddess figure. I'm radically pro-pornography. The dominance of woman's image in pornography is not about the subordination of woman -- it's the opposite. It's about male anxiety. It's about the male mind trying to confront and take control of this enormous, mysterious power of female sexuality.
Men are run ragged by female sexuality all their lives. From the beginning of his life to the end, no man ever fully commands any woman. It's an illusion. Men are pussy-whipped. And they know it.
Everything we've seen tonight shows women in control and trying to be patient and nurturing with the men. You see that so clearly with prostitutes and strippers. Very powerful sexual women always know that men need to be led and guided. Men need help.
The sex industry exists as a rebuke to the philosophical inadequacies of Judeo-Christianity. Our religious system is simply incomplete. Unlike Hinduism, it has never fully dealt with the power of woman's sexuality. Until our culture does, we'll continue to get it in these underground ways. That's what strip clubs are about: not women as victim ... not woman as slave ... but woman as goddess.
WOMEN, SEX & POWER
Patricia Sellers Reporter - Associates Eryn Brown And Tim Carvell
If women are from Venus and men are from Mars, then Rebecca Mark is from another planet altogether. Six years ago she was a 35-year-old student at Harvard business school, nicknamed Mark the Shark for her ferocious ambition. Today the 5-foot 7-inch honey-blond is a CEO. As a builder of pipelines and power plants, Mark brings electricity to browned-out corners of the earth. From Bogota to Bombay, the lady knows riots. She's dodged bombs. When foreign governments collapse, she digs in her high heels. After Hindu nationalists and their allies canceled her companies power project in India--the subcontinent's largest-ever foreign investment--Mark reincarnated the deal. "I enjoy being a world-class problem solver," she says. "I'm constantly asking, 'How far can I go? How much can I do?' "
Welcome to the corporate orbit of super successful women: the ones who blast through glass ceilings, achieve otherworldly feats, and take astronomical risks to boldly go where no man has gone before. FORTUNE looked inside hundreds of companies in dozens of industries and found seven women who are the best--better than the men and all other women in their businesses. Charlotte Beers led the most impressive turnaround of an ad agency at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. Jill Barad made Barbie the world's most popular toy. Little-known Roberta Williams is the best-selling designer of computer games. Some of these women are chief executives. This is not, however, a gender-bending group of tomorrow's CEOs. Linda Marcelli will never head Merrill Lynch. But as director of Merrill's flagship New York City district, she made FORTUNE's cut because she oversees the top-performing branches in the top market at the top brokerage firm.
The real surprise is how the women reached their pinnacles: They broke every rule imaginable and trashed the conventional wisdom of executive women's groups, career counselors, and other gurus of getting ahead. They didn't plan their careers. They didn't network and still don't--in fact, they despise the word. They don't blend into the corporate culture. They don't whine when the culture works against them, and they never cry, "Discrimination!" They don't play the man's game, literally or figuratively. They don't act like men or think like them. They never dress in androgynous suits and those homely bow ties. And they don't golf. Well, one of them does: Diana "Dede" Brooks, the unstuffy CEO of Sotheby's, one of the world's stuffiest companies. And wouldn't you know, she plays better than most guys, scoring in the mid-80s.
This new female elite is definitely not your parents' paradigm. Remember when executive women used to be overwhelmingly single and childless? All of the FORTUNE Seven have children. Five are married and two, Mark and Beers, used to be. Feminists in no standard way, they flaunt their femininity. As Rebecca Mark says, "It's startling to people when you're attractive and also really smart or extraordinarily good at what you do. You have greater impact. People want to meet you. They remember you." Beers, 61, is a flamboyant flirt who calls CEOs "honey" and "darlin'." She's been known to refer to IBM CEO Lou Gerstner, her largest client, as "that adorable little man." Says Beers: "One of the biggest mistakes women make in business is that they aren't friendly enough."
Which brings us to our title: "Women, Sex, and Power." By sex, we mean gender. Unlike so many women, these seven see their gender as a help, not a hindrance. (For some high-powered girl talk on this subject, read the box "Cocktails at Charlotte's.") We also mean sexuality, which these women skillfully exploit. Finally, by sex, we do mean sex. Women who are attractive and successful, particularly in male-dominated fields, sometimes have to fend off suspicions: How really did she reach the top?
Sexual innuendo dogs Mark, in part because several years ago she had an unusual relationship with John Wing, once her boss at Enron. People close to Mark and Wing say they had an affair; both were married to other people at the time. Mark declined to talk about their relationship, and Wing did not return repeated phone calls from FORTUNE. However, friends say that the mercurial and charismatic Wing began as a mentor to Mark, and later turned into a Svengali. After Wing left Enron, Mark assumed his duties of developing power plants. No surprise, rumors have circulated that Mark has had relationships with other Enron colleagues. "Of course they're not true," says Mark, "but it's terribly flattering that people think my life is so exciting. I think all I do is work, travel, and take care of my 11-year-old twins."
It's the Mary Cunningham curse. Sixteen years have passed since Cunningham, a young, blond MBA straight out of Harvard, arrived at Bendix, where she simultaneously became a top corporate strategist and a constant companion of CEO William Agee. Now married, the couple always denied having a sexual relationship at Bendix. But the Mary-and-Bill saga was the talk of the business world, and it remains so titillating that high-powered women to this day carry some burden of proving they did not sleep their way to the top. "There are still so few women in high-powered corporate jobs," says Kathleen Reardon, a professor at the University of Southern California business school and an expert on male-female relations. "When people see something unusual, like a woman who is No. 1, rumors provide a rationale." For women, the dilemma is how to fight them. "Defensiveness causes more rumors," Reardon says. "You know, 'the lady doth protest too much."
The FORTUNE Seven are complex, controversial women who have made long--and not always politically correct--marches to the top. Nonconformists to the core, they have unique styles but also share some similarities. Here are five ways they have acquired and kept their power.
THEY USE THEIR SEXUALITY
Most women in business downplay their sex appeal. They seem insistent on being judged like men, repressing a trait they could be using to persuade, win favor, gain power-- okay, manipulate their way to the top. Not these women. Says Barad, decked out in shocking pink from shoes to suit to lipstick: "We never gave up our femininity. We didn't become little men. I don't care to get on equal footing with men." Welcome to the boys' club anyway, Jill. Barad, 45, is expected to become Mattel's CEO next year, making her one of two female chief executives in the FORTUNE 500. (The other is Marion Sandler, CEO, along with her husband, of Golden West Financial, a California S&L.) Like Barad, Linda Marcelli greets colleagues and clients with hugs, sometimes kisses. "If one of my financial consultants is having a problem, I'll put my arm around him," says Marcelli, 53. "A male manager once asked me incredulously, 'You touch your financial consultants?' I said, 'Yeah. What's wrong with that?' " In fact, these women are taking advantage of an odd double standard: Men who touch women risk accusations of sexual harassment.
Charlotte Beers is known for sweeping theatrically into client meetings. Even before hellos are exchanged, she'll drawl to the group, "Now, you're gonna give us this business today, aren't you?" To most men, she's beguiling. Sears CEO Arthur Martinez, an Ogilvy client, says, "I think a lot of male-female business relationships get stilted. What I like so much about Charlotte is that you can have fun with her." Beers's former colleague BBDO International President Jean-Michel Goudard says, "Charlotte, more than anyone in this business, wants to seduce. There's something deep about Charlotte, and also frivolous. She is a woman, a woman, a woman."
It is the women, the women, the women who knock her style. Some say she sets feminism back years. "The criticism really ticks me off," says Beers, who comes across in an interview as intimate, incisive, tough, funny, and a decade younger than her 61 years. A cowboy's daughter from southeast Texas, she first learned to dazzle the crowd when she was in her 20s, teaching algebra to oil-patch engineers. Beers reckons that Southern charm is simply smart business. "Yes, I call CEOs 'honey,' but to me, that's wry Texas humor," she says. "I'm likely to say the most outrageous thing in the room--to liven things up."
Four years ago, Beers seemed an unlikely corporate revivalist. The longtime head of Tatham RSCG, a one-office ad firm in Chicago, she moved into a New York company with 270 offices around the world and famously inbred management. Ogilvy & Mather used to be the class act of Madison Avenue. Then in 1989 it was acquired in a hostile takeover by Britain's WPP Group. When Beers arrived, key Ogilvy veterans had quit. Clients were pulling major accounts. "A lot of people thought Charlotte should have her head examined for going to Ogilvy," says WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell. "And most people thought I was crazy to hire her."
Sorrell, who pays Beers $1.5 million a year plus stock options, acquired a CEO many thought was mercurial, flighty, and disorganized. Instead of talking profits, Beers preached "passion"--the essence, she said, of resurrecting Ogilvy & Mather. She had one big idea to sell to clients: "brand stewardship." Insiders considered it pretentious shtick about the emotional bond between a product and its consumer. Even David Ogilvy, the 85-year-old Scot who founded the agency in 1948, was a skeptic. "I had to shepherd the idea because our own people were unconvinced," says Beers, adding, "I think consensus is a poor substitute for leadership."
She globetrotted, mostly alone, visiting 50 clients in six months. "As a woman, I got in to see people quickly," says Beers. "they were curious about me." Before long she landed two important accounts: American Express, which had earlier yanked its $60 million business from Ogilvy, and Jaguar. During a pitch to Jaguar executives, Beers tossed her own car keys on the table, then rhapsodized about the relationship between an owner and her Jag. She didn't create Ogilvy's award-winning campaign, but it is quintessential Charlotte: a glamorous ode to the Jag, set to the 1961 Etta James recording, "At last my love has come along. My lonely days are over..." She tools around Manhattan in her ice-blue XJ6. Her buddy Martha Stewart drives the same Jaguar in gray.
It's supposed to be a secret, but Beers's No. 2, Shelly Lazarus, is likely to become Ogilvy's new CEO before the end of this year. Lazarus, 48, was the key to reeling in the worldwide IBM business two years ago--the largest account shift in the ad industry. IBM made Ogilvy hot again and helped attract global advertisers such as Kodak and Swatch. (Ogilvy, the sixth-largest ad agency, has billings of $7.6 billion, up from $5.5 billion when Beers arrived.) Beers will probably remain chairman for a while. Says WPP's Sorrell: "I hope Charlotte will work with WPP for life."