While being told "performance is it" or to "over deliver" isn't inherently bad advice for women, it is bad in an overall context in which women are expected to work harder because they're women (or, as with the nine rules piece, suck it up and do the work men don't want to do in order to "get ahead"). As Alison Quirk, an executive VP at State Street Corp., told Bussey, we all need to understand the "unconscious biases" at play—biases which Welch fails to acknowledge. As another executive said, "He showed no recognition that the culture shapes the performance metrics, and the culture is that of white men." Per Bussey:
Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary who is now with Glover Park Group, a communications firm, added: "While he seemed to acknowledge the value of a diverse workforce, he didn't seem to think it was necessary to develop strategies for getting there—and especially for taking a cold, hard look at some of the subtle barriers to women's advancement that still exist. If objective performance measures were enough, more than a handful of Fortune 500 senior executives would already be women. "
It's not that women don't work hard. It's that there are other elements at play here that Welch is not acknowledging—like, to start with, the entire history of women in the workplace—that have created a situation in which women are far less likely to be the heads of corporations or even making the same amount of money as men. These women may already be expected to do or are currently doing more both at home and at work than are their male peers. So Welch suggesting something like "over deliver" is particularly galling—galling enough for some women to walk out of the presentation.