ABC Touts Male Bashing Theory: Could More Women Have Saved Wall Street?

On Thursday's "Good Morning America," co-host Robin Roberts and reporter Claire Shipman eagerly touted a theory, recently highlighted by a liberal New York Times columnist, that the problems on Wall Street could have been avoided if women were in charge. As video of bank executives who testified Wednesday in front of Congress appeared onscreen, Roberts mused, "As we saw, the nation's top bankers were grilled on Capitol Hill. Take a look...What do they all have in common? Well, for one thing, they're all men."

Making the point clear, Roberts wondered, "Which raises a question, would things have turned out differently if there had been women in the mix?" Shipman then lectured, "Greed and glory and then risk and disaster on Wall Street. Could testosterone be to blame?" The segment featured New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (never identified as a liberal), who wrote a February 7 piece on the subject. Both Kristof and Shipman mentioned a British study which found that testosterone went up for male bank traders as they made more money.

However, in Kristof's piece, he expressed some doubt about the validity of reports (though agreeing overall with their claims). The Times columnist wrote, "It’s important to be skeptical of some of the research: often it seems to be conducted or studied by those who have strong views about gender. And it’s generally true that research conducted on matters pertaining to fairness or social justice rarely has the rigor of research conducted on, say, particle physics." Of course, Shipman didn't mention any such uncertainty on GMA.

Instead, she asked, but didn't answer questions, such as querying, "Could more estrogen around have saved them [Wall Street] and all of us from meltdown?"

Back on January 29, Shipman highlighted new legislation signed by President Obama that was aimed at ending pay discrimination. She enthused that the bill, "not only evokes change, but also the impression of a female-friendly administration."

A transcript of the February 12 segment, which aired at 7:18am, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: As we saw, the nation's top bankers were grilled on Capitol Hill. Take a look. What do they- What do they all have in common? [Video of bankers appears onscreen.] Well, for one thing, they're all men. Which raises a question, would things have turned out differently if there had been women in the mix? And why are we asking this? Because there is new medical evidence, medical evidence that says yes, if women ruled the world we might not be in this mess. Our senior national correspondent Claire Shipman- It's medical evidence. Claire has more.

ABC GRAPHIC: Should Women be in Charge? Would Things Be Different Now?

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Greed and glory and then risk and disaster on Wall Street. Could testosterone be to blame?

MICHAEL DOUGLAS ["Wall Street" clip]: Greed is right. Greed works.

SHIPMAN: The quintessential alpha male from the movie "Wall Street." More than 20 years later, a world ruled still almost exclusively by men. Could more estrogen around have saved them and all of us from meltdown?

PROFESSOR JUDY B. ROSENER, PHD (University of California at Irvie): Women tend to be less risky in their decisions than men.

SHIPMAN: That's the position some British government officials furious at their banking titans are now taking. Talk of the benefits of gender balance, suddenly the next new thing.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF (Columnist, New York Times): Would we have been better off if it hadn't been Lehman Brothers, if it had been Lehman Sisters?

SHIPMAN: One intrepid researcher at Cambridge University tested the saliva of male traders recently.

JOHN COATES (Researcher, Cambridge University): We found out testosterone was going up when these guys made a lot of money.

SHIPMAN: But that also often means taking big risks.

COATES: They're very short-term thinkers. They're very fast- have very fast reactions. And women seem to be better at putting together a larger picture.

SHIPMAN: In part, that's because we use both sides of our brain more than men do, but also because of the hormone oxytocin causing most women to react cautiously under stress.

ROSENER: That's a hormone that's secreted when women are pregnant and it's the kind of hormone that says let's make everything work together, let's get together.

SHIPMAN: Studies have started to bare out that the female management style is good for business. In Iceland, the scene of a spectacular economic collapse, citizens have put women in charge of government and two major banks. But balance would seem to be the key.

KRISTOF: It's having Lehman brothers and sisters. And having that more diverse group means you not going to have a herd go over the cliff.

SHIPMAN: And experience certainly no one wants to repeat. For "Good Morning America," Claire Shipman, ABC News, Washington.

[Sawyer and Roberts are now surrounded by male crew members.]

SAWYER: Yeah? Anything you want to say?

ROBERTS: Ooh. We're out of time.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's site.