Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) have shown themselves to be little more than a partisan organization in recent years. Rather than simply representing business interests in the state, they have become hugely partisan and practically the funding arm for right wing candidates. Understandably, this increasingly partisan direction has concerned numerous businesses that did not sign up for such controversy. Partisanship has become one of the obvious faces of WMC, but in a recent story in the Isthmus, we may have seen a sign of something more troubling.
The Isthmus profiled Epic Systems, a Madison based software company that has not only grown to be one of the most important companies in Dane County but a powerhouse in both the state and country. While describing the many ways that Epic Systems has been leading their entire industry, the story also takes a look at the leadership behind Epic Systems and their great successes. No look at the company would be complete without mentioning the founder and CEO, Judy Faulkner. The story goes on to give a professional and rather personal profile of the force behind this giant success story. As part of that discussion, the story points out that Judy Faulkner is very forward thinking and progressive when it comes to public policy and other important issues. This certainly does not fit with the increasingly right wing partisan WMC agenda.
The only troubling part of the entire profile of Epic Systems and its founder was the reaction by the organization that purports to represent Wisconsin Business, WMC. Shortly after describing Faulkner as having progressive values, the Isthmus reports that ‘A WMC communications staffer condescendingly referred to Faulkner as ‘that computer lady’’. Such a nasty and dismissive comment directed at a women that has not only been hugely successful but has been a business titan in Wisconsin is appalling to say the least. WMC should have immediately and publicly retracted the comment, but it is very telling that they did not.
Some very reasonably might suggest that such a condescending comment about a hugely successful woman is clear evidence of old fashioned misogyny. Who can blame them? Not only because of their condescension but also because WMC only has two women on their 48 member board. Further, WMC has opposed legislation on important women’s issues that make very little sense from a business standpoint. Others may suggest that WMC has become so very partisan that if anyone disagrees with them, no matter how successful in business, they will get zero respect from the organization that purports to serve ‘business’ interests. Whatever the real motivation behind WMC’s attack on one of Wisconsin’s most successful business women, it should at the very least prompt an important question among WMC’s members. Is this really the voice that I want representing my company?