Thursday, 31 May 2012

Top jobs for the ladies?

Something a bit "off the wall" today, but I am a woman in business....... so.....

This article by the BBC was bought to my attention by a friend on Twitter. They asked the question "Are women their own worst enemy when it comes to the top jobs?" The contributors came up with some good points about how women see themselves differently to their male counterparts in the workplace. How they can lack self belief, confidence and tend to be too cautious and not aggressive enough to get to the top jobs in their profession. Interestingly it also quoted that girls outperform boys at school and make up 60% of university graduates and yet only 32% of upper management in the general workforce are female. The article also cited some parochial reasons for the possible lack of female "high flyers" - motherhood, believing a woman's place is in the home..... etc.

Hmmmmm, I thought, but that reasoning doesn't really make sense in today's world of equality......does it? The idea of introducing legislation which encourages companies to employ women in top jobs seems bonkers, but it has apparently been discussed. How would that work? Maybe there are other more subtle reasons for some very capable women, (and probably some men too) for not wanting to occupy these top positions.

I don't personally know many women or men who have what would be perceived as a "top job", but I do know plenty who run their own businesses very successfully. Most of these self employed people are probably considerably better off in terms of the quality of their lives and peace of mind than if they were employed "high flyers". Out of choice most have built a business around an aspect of their lives, some based on skills they gained in previous employment, others by using skills they acquired while at home with young children or through doing DIY jobs around the place. They are all very bright people. What would it take to persuade them to work as hard as they do for someone else and make that person's business successful instead of their own?

Like me for example. My occupation was born out of necessity, we had a houseful of decrepit furniture, it was all we could afford and I enjoyed learning the restoration skills that enhanced the quality of our lives, it was a useful, meaningful challenge. I never considered the fact that my new chosen occupation was male dominated and that potentially once I set up in business no-one would take me seriously as a tiny, young girly, (which I was then!) I must admit, I was taken aback the first time a man at a show came up to me and asked to speak to the chap who did the restoration. Then there were all the other times when a customer would start talking to my husband about a project, then their look of shock and horror when he referred them to me. It didn't put me off then and it doesn't happen at all now I'm older interestingly. I'll never be rich and powerful, but I wouldn't change my lifestyle for anything.

Perhaps there are a lot of women like me who are happy to just do what they do without a fanfare. When you work for yourself there is no corporate pecking order to respect, no terms of employment apart from the ones you set yourself and best of all there's the chance to use those perceived female "weaknesses" to advantage without corporate criticism. In running your own business a cautious nature is good. Attention to detail is a great asset. Quietly getting on with things and ignoring the chaos around you is useful, as is the ability to multitask and not panic in a crisis. The gift of being able to chatter away happily, (sometimes a lot) to anyone, regardless of age, status or anything else is priceless. I know lots of women that can do all of these things in spades!

Perhaps corporates will always struggle to persuade some women, (and men) into the top jobs. When I see someone advertising for an "aggressive, go-getter with ambition to head up our forceful and successful team" it doesn't do it for me I'm afraid! And maybe there are other less stressful ways to fulfill life's needs for a lot of folks. Money, prestige and power aren't everything.

From my point of view life's too short to bicker and fight your way up a corporate ladder. What's wrong with running a business in a ladylike way anyway - it works for me?

Bit of a different blog post for me don't you think, all comments welcomed!


AngelVirtualAssistantLtd said...

Great post! I agree that for many people of either sex, the lifestyle of the corporate high-flyer just doesn't appeal any more. I guess there'll always be some people capable & willing to take on such roles, at least for part of their career, but maybe big companies & public bodies will have to start to evolve slightly differently in future if they want to get hold of the most talented people of either gender. After all, why bust a gut for a big firm when you can run your own business and put the effort in to achieve your own success?

Louise said...

I completely agree with you, 13 years of working in a 95% male dominated environment with the computer games industry, had me heading in the direction of self emplyment. Constantly overlooked by my male collegues for job promotion, and forget trying to put a point across...
Now I'm responsible for everything including time managment, financial,customer services,efficiency, and wouldn't change a thing!
I work harder and longer, but I enjoy everything I do!It's so much more rewarding than working for someone else.
Money, well I had lots of it with the 'normal' job, but we've changed where,how, and what we value in life, and not having lots of money is not important anymore.
Self worth and job satisfaction are what my husband and I have in bucket loads :)