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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

In Enron Scandal, Powerful Women Have Taken Some Leading Roles

Aired February 14, 2002 - 08:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: With more now on the Enron story, here's Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Jack. One of the things that makes the Enron scandal unique is that powerful women like Sherron Watkins have taken some leading roles. Another company executive, Maureen Castaneda blew the whistle on the large-scale document shredding at Enron. When she appeared here last month, Castaneda talked about the Enron attitude.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAUREEN CASTANED, FORMER ENRON EXECUTIVE: There was a lot of arrogance at the company. I mean to the point where an arrogance at the level where you think you're going can to lie to Wall Street and get away with it. You can't get more arrogant than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And joining us now to talk more about the women of Enron, from Washington, Deborah Tannen, an author and professor at Georgetown University, and in New York this morning anthropologist Helen Fisher from Rutgers University. Welcome to the two of you, appreciate you joining us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning.

ZAHN: All right, Deborah, just last week the FX network announced that they're going to do a movie about the Enron scandal and a veteran "60 MINUTES" producer, Lowell Bergman (ph), who is the consultant on the film had this to say about the women of Enron.

"This is a story about men versus women and how it was the women who stood up to the electric cowboys of Houston". Is that the way you see it, Deborah?

DEBORAH TANNEN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: There is something about that. I was - I was not surprised that it was the women who spoke up. In my own research, I first found that women were self-deprecating when talking to subordinates. For example, saying to a secretary, could you do me a favor and type this. But that's just the kind of ritual self-deprecation to save face for the subordinates, and then I found that often their bosses, the very top guys were shocked at how much lack of self-deprecation there was in talking to their superiors, and it does seem that often it's the women who are the ones that are most likely to go up and tell the boss something he doesn't want to hear. And that's what I think Sherron Watkins was doing there.

It's almost like a less awareness of hierarchy. They don't feel that you have to really look out for saving face for the boss, and I really don't consider them whistle-blowers, which is somebody who goes out and tells it outside -- perhaps Castaneda was doing that about the paper shredding. But what Sherron Watkins was doing was very loyal to the corporation, trying to alert her boss to a problem that according to her, many other people knew, but nobody wanted to actually bell (ph) the cat, go and tell him about it - tell him something he might not want to hear.

ZAHN: Well, Helen, is it that women are less respectful of the hierarchy? Is it the fact that they're just not a part of it, that ...

HELEN FISHER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: I think ...

ZAHN: ...the Boy's Club is still at the top.

FISHER: Yes, I think that they're just not a part of it. I mean - I mean these women were at the top, and we're seeing more and more women who are going to be at the top, and frankly I think we're going to see more whistle-blowers because there are going to be more women at the top. But women don't tend to give as many orders and take as many orders. They tend to - I think they may even have a slightly more independent moral system than men do.

They don't tend to join hierarchies as children and cast themselves and give orders and take orders. So and also women see a company almost as another human being, something that they need to nurture and take care of. They tend to use less of the perks of the company. They tend to share more information with other individuals, and try to nurture the entire system. So this may be part of that.

ZAHN: Well, Deborah, based on what both you and Helen are saying this morning, can you analyze this for us? The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting yet another memo has surfaced, and that this is involving Sherron Watkins whose participation in the story is becoming a little more complicated, because apparently she wrote this memo to Ken Lay, urging him to contain the damage by restating earnings, but pleading ignorance and then pinning some of the blame on some of the other management figures. Does this track with what you're saying here this morning? Is this square?

TANNEN: That does reinforce my view of it, that she felt that she was being loyal to the company be telling him something he really needs to know, that others might be afraid to tell him. I hadn't seen that particular story, but that certainly does jive with my view of it, yes.

ZAHN: Helen, what is to be learned from this scandal, from a young woman's point of view, particularly as there still continues to be so much talk about (UNINTELLIGIBLE). FISHER: I think that women are learning that maybe if they are honest and actually do express this kind of loyalty and whistle- blowing, that they may come out on top for it, and maybe men are learning that the women have some particular skills. You know, if they - if you're not part of the old boy's club, and you don't have that kind of allegiance, you may have a clearer eye of what's going on, and that's very valuable in a company to have people like that.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: I'd like to get a bottom line here.

TANNEN: Yes, just to add something there. I think maybe the guys will learn from here to pay more attention to what the women are saying. There might have been a tendency to pay less attention because it was a woman pointing it out to them.

ZAHN: Well fascinating discussion. Deborah Tannen, Helen Fisher, appreciate both of you joining us this morning, and I'm sure you're going to be watching Ms. Watkins' testimony right along with us. We're going to be covering it live today later on CNN.

Thank you. Happy Valentine's Day ...

FISHER: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... by the way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Same to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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