Pretty Woman

rebecca_mark1

Rebecca Mark: The ultimate combination of business saavy and glamour?

Aside from all of the testosterone that was brewing and stirring at Enron,
Rebecca Mark managed to have one of the most impactful yet seemingly detrimental roles of any executive at Enron.  When Rebecca Mark was handed Enron Development, it was only a concept without any employees, let alone contracts or a solid business model.  Similarly, when she was tapped to head Azurix, she essentially built that business from the ground-up as well.  For any business person to accomplish such feats is very impressive.  Although she had not been tagged by the government’s investigation into the demise of Enron, she still had both hands in the cookie jar of Enron International’s long list of failed deals.  How did Mark, in an especially difficult time for women to rapidly rise up to an executive position of a company, position herself for such success while at the same time effectively managing to set herself up for imminent failure?

Commonly known to the public as the face of Enron, Mark embodied not only the intellectual characteristics necessary for success in the industry; she also embodied the physical and personal characteristics that carried her through her ascent through the company.

She happily played up her physical attributes, which included long blond hair, big brown eyes, and a dazzling smile. At Enron, she viewed her outfits-usually high heels and short skirts-as part of the show (McLean and Elkind, p.72).

Therefore, propelling her into multiple CEO roles was her attainment of various forms of power.  Most importantly, Mark embodied a great amount of situational power which assumes that the power is derived from different sources.  Mark’s combination of intellect, work ethic and attributes played a pivotal role in helping her achieve her own personal goals.  According to the text,

An individual’s power is based on all the resources-money, skills, knowledge, strength, sex appeal- that he or she can employ to help or hinder another in the attainment of desired goals (Scott and Davis, p.204).

Just as Skilling had an army of dedicated followers, so did Mark.  This intense loyalty that she managed to build may very well have been one of the reasons many of her business deals spun wildly out of control because of the lack of due diligence.  Clearly, this is where her situational power resonated because not only was she able to pull off these deals, she was able to keep the loyalty and dedication of her working fleet.

Additionally, her personal desire for success combined with the abuse of her situational power seems to have contributed to her ultimate failures.

Mark ‘worked very hard at self-promotion,’ says an early executive. ‘She had a lot of drive and personal ambition, but I’m not sure it was always directed toward the company’ (McLean and Elkind, p.71).

This loyalty to self and lack of loyalty to the company clearly was apparent to some individuals. What can be done in these cases to remedy situations such as these? It’s apparent that Enron’s lack of formal organizational structure and controls contributed to this situation spinning out of control.

And just for the sake of conversation and more thought, here’s another idea I have relating to Mark. Despite some of her failed projects, namely Dahbol, Mark managed to generate actual profits for Enron. This is in sharp contrast to another Enron start up, Enron Broadband Services where Ken Rice managed the businesses that spent over $1 billion without making a single cent in real profits. Why, then, did Skilling not oust Rice as well? I understand that it had much to do with the fact that Skilling despised Mark on many personal levels, but the fact that he chose to spare Rice causes me to think that it must have been more than just business and personal ideology conflicts causing his disdain for Mark. Maybe the fact that Mark was a woman had more to do with it than most people thought.

Other side note questions I also have regarding Mark and the gender card: Was she faulted more by fellow Enron executives for having a competitive business mentality simply because she was a woman? Additionally, although Skilling fundamentally disagreed with the nature of her asset-heavy business, would he have been less motivated to out her from the company if she were a man?

And just because I was curious…I found this article detailing what Mark has been doing since her departure from Enron and Azurix.  Seems like she’s now living large and clearly got out at just the right time to avoid any criminal charges.  Sheer coincidence or not…Mark still has it made.

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One Response

  1. Leah raises a good point–what are all of the former Enron employees doing that got out in time? The article Leah linked at the bottom stated that Mark “left day-to-day management of Enron in 1998, long before the trouble began.” Hardly. If McLean and Elkind are right, Mark helped built the shaking foundations of Enron that collapsed later.

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