Mixed Blessings: Corporate Bosses in Skirts, Disappearing Dishes, Etc.

Are men washed up when they turn 40? Perish the thought. They’re not quite half washed up. Analyzing data it amassed during the past 12 months, Euro RSCG Worldwide concludes that men no longer experience 40 as “the symbolic representation of ‘over the hill’ “—or even as the halfway point in their lives. “All around the world, respondents deemed one’s 50s and 60s the years when men reach the pinnacles in their careers, but the 40s are when they begin to get a pretty good sense of how far they are going to be able to go.”

Patriarchs, beware! Women continue to infiltrate the upper echelons of business. Looking at the 500 largest companies in the U.S., a study by Catalyst found 15.7 percent of corporate officers are women—up from 12.5 percent in 2000 and 8.7 percent in 1995. Of special note were gains in the number of women holding the title of chief financial officer (7.1 percent, vs. 5.6 percent in 2000) or general counsel (16.1 percent, up from 13.7 percent). At 60 of the 500 companies, women hold 25 percent or more of thecorporate-officer positions. On the other hand, 71 of the companies didn’t have even one female corporate officer. Can’t accuse them of tokenism, now, can you?

As orchestras strain to make dead composers seem more lively, the Richmond Symphony offers a funny variation on that theme. A faux personals ad introduces us to Richard Strauss as a Romantic (with a capital R) seeking “neophytes for musical tryst.” Another version of the poster (created by Neathawk Dubuque of Richmond, Va.) draws our attention to Tchaikovsky as the fellow who “put the ‘nut’ in nutcracker.” Then there’s the “egocentric genius” with the first name Ludwig, who gives a phone number and implores potential callers to “Please speak LOUDLY.”

How do busy Americans find time to ingest the vast numbers of calories they now consume? In part, by cutting down on cooking time. A report from NPDFoodworld says half of all home-prepared meals are whipped up in 30 minutes or less. How is this possible? For one thing, “Nearly half of all main meals are one-dish affairs.” The side dish is becoming an endangered species. “At-home suppers that included at least one side dish fell from 66 percent in 1991 to 56 percent in 2002.” Moreover, 35 percent of main meals are now made completely from scratch, vs. 41.3 percent a decade ago. Naturally, fewer appliances are needed to make these foods. Just 23 percent of dinners entail two or more appliances, vs. 38 percent in 1990.

Here’s a question you mightn’t have thought to consider if Family Circle hadn’t posed it for you: Would you rather have Walter Cronkite, Harrison Ford, Caroline Kennedy or Whoopi Goldberg recite A Visit From St. Nicholas to your kids? Respondents to a national poll on this topic gave nearly half their votes to Goldberg (48 percent). Ford was the runner-up (37 percent), while Cronkite (8 percent) and Kennedy (7 percent) lagged far behind.

In an uncertain world, we’re grateful for affirmation of the eternal verities. And that’s what we get from a commercial for Swanson Hungry Man dinners as it demonstrates anew that men were not meant to eat quiche. Sitting at a birthday party for a kid, two fathers chat about what they ate for dinner. As any sensible man would, Guy A had barbecued chicken, boneless pork ribs and mashed potatoes. Guy B, on the other hand, had quiche as his main course. Bad move, Guy B. This repast reduces him to suchflimsiness (despite his considerable girth) that when the birthday girl blows out the candles, the wind propels him across the room. Yes, we may be perplexed by some aspects of current gender roles, but at least we know that men must eschew (not chew) the dread quiche. Foote, Cone & Belding of New York created the spot.

This must make life more challenging for travelmarketers: Young adults are clueless about where in the world places are. In a recent quiz put to 18-24-year-olds by the National Geographic Society, 69 percent of them were unable to locate Great Britain on a map. France (not found by 65 percent) and Japan (58 percent) were similarly elusive, while 29 percent couldn’t put their fingers on the Pacific Ocean. For that matter,11 percent couldn’t find the U.S. on a map.

Let’s hope they have something to show for it. A study by NFO WorldGroup finds people under age 35 are carrying alarmingly high levels of credit-card debt. Among those who regularly carry an unpaid balance on their cards, the average amount of debt is $3,527—a rise of 48 percent from a year ago. The number of “chronic revolvers”—people who always carry a balance and usually fork over the minimum payment—increased by 6 percent in the past year. In all, 33 percent of under-35 consumers said they’re “uncomfortable with my ability to handle the amount of debt I have.” And42 percent of them confessed they “spend too much when using credit cards.”