Lone female in the board room alert!

Uh Oh! Do we have a female in our midst?!? She must be a witch? Burn her! Hmmm yeah… or perhaps listen to her singular sentences, she may just be talking common sense…

What is it with insecure men? Yes at home you clearly don’t wear the trousers, we get it but here just because you are doesn’t give you license to overrule a good idea. Isn’t it funny how sometimes a female in the office is treated with such suspicion when she dares to interject with an idea, or perhaps question the rationale of a strategy? Our gender roles are still very much what defines us to an extent, even when the laws of equality in the workplace tell us otherwise. Women are for… well what are we for? Okay, well my approach is different, I nurture rather than destroy. I grow ideas, plant them allow someone to run with them. That is what I do.

Dare I challenge he of the sword wielding variety? Well today is definitely the day. The Viking warrior revealed to be a woman gives me hope. We can call be warriors in our own remit if we dare to be. And thus comes the duality of being a woman and where my gender role and my professional roles are different. Who’s to say the Viking warrior wasn’t also a mother? However getting that across is sometimes difficult. This isn’t meant as a sweeping statement because a lot of men are perfectly happy to work with female colleagues and take expertise on face value. But you do come across the odd “man’s man” and this is where you need to work in a different way to gain the respect you should have been given in the first place.

We all saw the article about the guy who replied to an email using his female colleague’s account and was horrified at the difference in response. This isn’t uncommon, in fact I would suspect that this happens everywhere to some degree. I’ve met plenty of sales reps in my field of work who see me as the forty and not the expert… honey… I’m the one justifying the reason for your purchase order to be signed… so take note!

But how does this happen? Some of it is a hangover from days gone by where women were secretaries and made the tea until they got married at which point they stopped working to look after the children. I was horrified as a teenager when my grandmother told me she went to grammar school and they were all coached how to be a good secretary whilst the boys got trained for whatever role in middle management they desired. Remember in those times, CEO’s came from different backgrounds, social mobility was only beginning. I was going to grammar school to reach for whichever damned star I desired! However; perhaps it’s worth considering this was still the done thing, even as late as the 80’s so the change has been rapid to get to where we are now. We have to consider social background and attitudes too, this isn’t a working class thing, this is an all class thing, the outlier in difference here being the class formerly known as the Middle class background. But of course in today’s apparent classless society where we can apparently be what we want to be without boundaries, we have to play nice together regardless of background if we’re to be successful. The old boys club is still present but it’s strength is severely diminished and we have to work to keep it that way.

I sometimes wonder if it’s more my difference in approach. I’m direct in my approach and some people don’t like this, being challenged professionally by a woman who can play the boys game as good as the boys is sometimes seen as intimidating. Some men just don’t expect it and are pushed off centre by it. I think essentially this is an insecurity on the man’s part, I see it in relationships all the time. I guess if I own the table, the chairs, the keys to the door and the rest of the whole shebang then what the hell is he gonna bring to the table? That’s why insecure men run from strong women. But, in the board room? There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. The usual reaction is defensiveness, or at worst, undermining and outdoing. At this point it’s time to change my approach, do the opposite, plant the seed and let them come up with the answers. It’s the long game we have to play, but it works.

Pragmatism is an art, to be a success you have to learn how to do it. Gun ho is great if you wanna be lonely in your work, but… sometimes you’ve gotta take the back seat and let them drive till they’re confident enough to accept you’re actually pretty good at giving directions. Takes longer for sure! But when it’s the difference between it getting done or having a war, the long game has to be played…

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