Monday, 25 February 2013

Work - It would be easier if all women were called Wendy

"It would be easier if all girls were called Wendy." That was the rationale of one of my first News Editors who proceeded to call all the women journalists in the newsroom by that name - this in the same organisation where Jimmy Saville was at the time.  As far as I can remember we thought it bonkers and laughed at him.  But at the same time we did know the individual intonation he would give each 'Wendy' when he wanted the attention of one of us! 
That was back in the day and now it would not be a laughing matter - but I bet he'd still have us all as Wendys in his head even if he knew better than to voice it.  
Giving lip service to gender equality in the workplace was on the agenda for the Professional Women's Network meeting at OC&C Strategy Consultants this month.  The motion was "Does the issue of Female Representation on Company Boards need politics?"

The speakers were Helena Morrissey, CEO Newton Investment Management and 30% Club Founder, Therese Coffey, MP Chair of Executive Women in the Workplace, Meg Lustman, Managing Director of Warehouse and Helen Loveless, Enterprise Editor of Associated Newspapers.
A packed room of professional women from all sectors heard that while some things had changed in support of having more women in top positions on boards  - the shift was pretty minimal and was more about it being a subject out there for discussion rather any conversion into significant numbers in the boardroom.  
However, apart from a few questioners, the consensus came down clearly against any sort of quota legislation or political intervention.   Personally I think it would be terrible to have any sort of positive discrimination - have never wanted it, or felt I needed it - this one man's Wendy has been another's MD and for every difficult Board-blocking man I've worked with, I've worked for equally tricksy women.     
What was more poignant were the questions (from younger women) that veered away from the central theme.  Never mind reaching the heady heights of the boardroom - other old chestnuts had their outing. ie How to balance having a family with building a career (one answer from the panel - choose your career carefully) and how to  prioritise 'his' or 'her' career expectations and opportunities in a relationship with family plans.  I think it fair to say that most older women in the room didn't feel our younger sisters had reached sunny uplands compared to our own early career days - however un-PC they might have been.  

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