Published: January 2007
WOMEN ON TOP: Redefining power and the nature of success for the 21st century.
Women on Top - Extract 3:
When I finally get through on the phone, much to my amazement, June Coldren is laughing. "Oh my god, it's ridiculous. It's been insanity. It's pretty wild. We evacuated New Orleans and moved west to Lafayette -- and now it looks like the storm is heading back up to us! They're basically evacuating everyone from Galveston right along the coast to Louisiana. All my staff who were evacuated here left yesterday to help evacuate their families. Another tidal surge and everything will get wet all over again. I'm ready to move to Canada!"
June's family and her companies, Cenergy Corp. and Cenergy Logistics, were based in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit on August 29, 2005. Everyone scattered, to friends, to family. But when it was all over, June had two companies to run, companies that catered to the oil and gas companies in the Gulf of Mexico, themselves in turmoil. Three weeks after the storm hit, the website proudly announced that Cenergy was up and running.
"I love just winging it. That's just how I am. The logistics group – some of them live in Lafayette so they came here and set up. So then we all got in touch and realized Lafayette was going to be best place to be. We identified an office, set up, signed a lease and moved in. Everyone who could get here did. The hard thing was to find places to live. There were no hotel rooms, no houses to rent. One of the guys I work with had an extra house so I feel like a queen because I have a house to live in! But a lot of people didn't luck out like that. You have to keep going."
Not every business gets hit by a hurricane. But every business will suffer shocks and setback – and successes – it had in no way foreseen. You can plan, do your research, and plan again. But the one thing you have to be able to do is improvise. What makes women so good at this is that they have, as psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen wrote, "no expectation of lawfulness."  Women do not approach business expecting it to obey rules. We don't think of business as a machine which, if we could just understand the physics well enough, we could control. So many descriptions of business and management carry this assumption: that if you could just study companies deeply enough, crunch the numbers long enough, you can glean the scientific laws of business that govern business behavior. But business isn't a science; you can't design or conduct replicable experiments. No two companies are the same, no two days are the same. The variables are infinite. And so starting from the premise that there are rules is doomed to frustration. Where women start – with no expection of lawfulness – turns out to be a lot more realistic. That doesn't mean women don't believe in plans or decisions. It just means that we aren't especially thrown when events render them meaningless.
 The Essential Difference by Simon Baron-Cohen, Allen Lane, 2003.