Fresh off their National Magazine Award nomination, Portfolio looks at women in the corporate world. Haven't things gotten better? Is sexism real and pervasive? Respected author Harriet Rubin writes:

This has been the hardest assignment I have ever had. For more than a decade, I've covered gender and power in the business world. I've analyzed heroes and villains, sinners and saints, and the rest of us in between. I've never had so much trouble getting people to talk to me. Nobody really wanted to get into it. Not even the people who would seem to have the most to say. In fact, those people especially would rather not mention it at all.

The statistics are pretty stunning, showing that women hold few slots on corporate boards and in top management. Says Rubin:

Mark Walsh, a venture capitalist and co-founder of Air America Radio, was surprised by these statistics. "I'm on two public boards and a ton of private boards, and the mantra is diversity. But as I think about it, when we interview females in the mix, the offer of a board seat typically goes to the nonwhite men—Latinos and African Americans. We think, Great, we've done diversity." He concludes, "Women have taken a backseat. They're not being allowed to drive in terms of corporate governance."

Rubin worries that the few women at the corporate top have become men. But with a great tone, she notes;

And yet, plenty of outposts of traditional femininity can still be found in corporate America. Many executives are still openly emoting, laughing and hugging each other, dressing themselves in pink shirts and cashmere sweaters.

Of course, they're all men. General Electric's Jeff Immelt is soft tissue compared with Jack Welch. Disney's Bob Iger was promoted to replace the heavy-handed Michael Eisner. One of Iger's first jobs as Disney C.E.O. was to repair relationships Eisner had busted up. The co-presidents of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn and Jon Winkelreid, named in 2006, epitomize the supposedly "female" affiliative approach to business. Bill Gates, whose career was ripped from the pages of Lord of the Flies, now preaches a "creative capitalism." Mort Zuckerman, meanwhile, has a style bordering on Oscar Wildean flamboyance.

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