Comment – Success depends on being a chap

Dame Sheila Masters has just become the first woman president of the English ICA, although apparently she prefers not to make an issue of gender.

I can identify with that.

I was once gathered with a group of fellow equity partners when we were collectively referred to as ‘chaps’. Someone said: ‘but Ann’s here’, to which the response was: ‘well, she’s a chap too’. And that was OK with me. Not to be seen as different, not to be given special treatment, not to represent the distaff side was in my view real success.

Over the years, as the growth of women in senior positions has progressed far slower than I had imagined, I have been collecting research and anecdotal evidence about the issues.

Successful career women are less likely to be married than men and, even if they are married, they are less likely to have children. We’re in for an interesting world if too many intelligent women choose not to breed.

As a senior businesswoman said: ‘Those who are promoted are the charismatic, workaholic individuals with high profiles and invisible families.’

In Neuro Linguistic Programming terms, successful businesswomen often reside in the typical male first position – concerned with themselves and how they see the world – rather than in the more typically female second position – concerned with how others see the world, exhibiting greater empathy.

Business stress and success generates testosterone, whether you are male or female – there is more testosterone in a female lawyer than a male vicar. More testosterone means more confidence, optimism and aggression.

A male hormone patch stuck on one’s arm may soon be all it takes for women – and men to make it to the top.

Successful businesswomen learn to speak with lower voices, learn to talk over others, for if they don’t they won’t get a word in edgeways in a male-dominated environment. Asking questions is a no-no. Research shows that men interpret this as lack of confidence.

It’s important to learn to speak rugby – and cricket and football. It’s through these discussions that many men create bonds, in the same way that women talk about relationships. If women cut themselves out of the after-work pub discussions, they may well harm their promotion prospects.

So maybe being a successful businesswoman has meant becoming a ‘chap’.

But, thanks to Susan Gompels’ work in founding a forum for women in accountancy, these and related issues are being explored as women, and increasingly men, seek to balance their family and work life, express their individuality, and harness gender differences in the workplace.

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