ʇɐɯoʇnɐ (automat) wrote in ontd_political,

Moody, indecisive and always trying to behave like a man, why ladies make truly lousy bosses

Why is it that in a society overrun by greedy fat cats - where the Sir Fred Goodwins of this world continue to outrage with their business brutality, unreasonable demands and outrageous bonuses - there is not a single woman’s name in the rogues’ gallery?

Why is there not an equally hated Lady Freda Goodwin, Freda The Shred, riding roughshod over the poor workers, slashing costs and sacking staff? Because, ladies, we are not nasty enough.

Nor are we single-minded enough, nor focused, nor task driven, nor adept at that simple but essential boss task of giving orders.

In short, our commercial DNA is not wired for corporate success. And nowhere was that more graphically demonstrated than last week when the much-feted co-chairman of Gordon Brown’s Women’s Enterprise Task Force was successfully sued by one of her employees for bullying.

Dr Glenda Stone runs a successful recruitment website, Aurora, with her husband. So even this colossus of female business success, the woman chosen to front such a highprofile government body, co-runs her business with her spouse.

Not much of a triumph for feminism after all, is it?

And what’s more, by all accounts in the industrial tribunal, she was a terrible boss - overbearing, foulmouthed, petty, bullying, micromanaging-vindictive.

I know that type of female boss well, the Bully Boy Boss, who thinks they have to be nastier than the nastiest male boss to succeed. But more of them later.

Now, before the hate emails start pouring in from outraged feminists and female bosses, I have a special interest in this subject.

Not just because I’ve had the misfortune of having some of the most God-awful female bosses in the history of modern business, but because I was a boss myself, more than once.

I have edited two national newspapers, been the managing editor of one, the marketing director of two and the managing director of one national newspaper group.

As William Hague’s Press Secretary, I was boss to a team of press officers.

I have sat in the editor’s chair, the boardroom and the shadow cabinet. And while I can confidently say most of the people who worked for me liked me and respected me (I always thought of them working with me, but that’s such a girl thing), and, more importantly, worked well for me, I’m not sure I was always a good boss.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t tough enough. I had that classic female trait of being able to get the most out of people - it’s called nurturing now - but I also wanted to be liked, a fatal flaw in a boss.

And like most women bosses, I took things too personally.

I remember one particular incident when my woman boss, who was trying to get rid of me in that usual sneaky female way or undermining me at every point rather than honestly pointing out my shortcomings, called me into an ambush meeting.

She’d assembled various company directors and preceded to humiliate me in a most personal way, for my accent, the school I went to, for not liking the theatre, for my university. Not for a moment that I was bad at my job.

And to my eternal shame I took it personally. Men don’t do that.

I was a good manager of people, but a lousy risk-taker. With our typical propensity for multi-tasking, I was more comfortable doing ten things at once and keeping all the balls in the air than what was really needed, to focus on one task and nail that ball in the back of the net.

Returning to Dr Glenda Stone for a moment, ironically her job on the quango was to teach businesswomen how to take risks, one of the key areas survey after survey finds women are pathologically incapable of doing.

Even in countries where positive discrimination is enforced by law, such as Norway, the underpinning beliefs are that women bring different mindsets and skills to business.

In that country, by law 40 per cent of all corporate positions are now held by women, but even they concede women are by nature more ‘risk-aware’. For which read ‘risk averse’, for which read useless to thrusting, high-risk, high-profit companies.

Women do, however, make a difference to bankruptcy levels, says a study by Leeds University Business School. It surveyed 17,000 companies and found that having at least one female director on the board cuts a company’s chance of going bankrupt by about 20 per cent.

Why? Because we’re more cautious. But a study of 2,000 companies in the U.S. found a correlation between companies with disproportionately more female board members and lower profitability and lower market value.

So it appears that companies made up of more women executives are good at keeping afloat, but not at motoring ahead.

We’re good at preventing bust but not at facilitating boom.

These studies indicate why women bosses are so unrepresented in corporate life. We have different skill sets and the things we’re naturally good at don’t necessarily make companies rich.

That may go some way to explaining why every time a list of overpaid bosses appears, it’s a case of Spot The Female.

When the list of 323 public service bosses was published last Friday, there was not a single woman in the top ten. The Royal Mail’s Adam Crozier, Channel 4’s Kevin Lygo, the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson - all household names. Still no women.

Women have railed against it for half a century, the Labour government has legislated against it for a decade, and yet we are still in a minority in the companies that dominate our country.

And where women do score more highly, it’s in the caring, catering or fashion professions.

As Dr Stone demonstrated, women bosses tend to fall into two categories - too soft or too hard.

There are the Caring Collegiate Bosses you’ll find running shopping, retail, fashion and style companies and the middleranking public service sectors.

Tesco, Sainsbury and M&S are three of the top 11 companies employing female directors.

The two great success stories running UK companies demonstrate this point - Marjorie Scardino at Pearson, the publisher dominated by female magazines, and Angela Ahrendts at Burberry.

And then there are the Bully Boy Bosses, like Dr Stone, the women who think you have be tougher than any male to succeed in a man’s world. Yes they’re tough, but they’re also petty, small picture people lacking the risk-taking, taskdriven skills necessary for running a big, successful company.

Successful bosses mono-task, women multi-task; men are dispassionate, we are naturally emotional; they take risks, we ensure against loss.

But women’s DNA is only part of the answer as to why there are still so few female bosses in corporate life. Even in the U.S., where 60 per cent of all college
students are female, less than 15 per cent of board seats are held by women.

In the UK, the picture is worse. While the number of women in the top 100 FTSE boardrooms has doubled since 2000, it is still only 12 per cent.

That despite a decade of social engineering and an ethos of positive discrimination by this Labour government.

Women are their worst enemies in some ways, with the avalanche of eye-watering sexual discrimination compensation claims in corporate life. Only last week, we had the absurd sight of banker Haley Tansey suing HBOS for £600,000 for sexual harassment.

The £39,000-a-year businesswoman said it all began with a colleague tricking his way into her hotel room while she was asleep then appearing naked before her. An eight-year nightmare of appalling sexism followed, she claims.

Why didn’t she tackle this undeniably unacceptable behaviour head on, when it happened? A man would have. Victims don’t rise to the top.

Cases like this put the frighteners on companies. I know female bosses who privately admit that it has made them wary of employing female bosses.

Add to that the Government's new generous paternity rights and it's a double whammy for women, especially as it’s still mainly women who take time off after having children.

So it’s not getting better for women, it's getting worse. In this recession, companies have become wary of employing women at their key career stage - in their 30s - when professional women are most likely to step up the corporate ladder but also likely to want to have children.

Like many women born into the postfeminist generation, the high-fliers of the Eighties and Nineties, I was once surprised by the lack of success of women at corporate level after decades of equality.

Once, we could blame prejudice and sexism, now increasingly we have to look to ourselves. And it’s not just that women are lousy bosses of big companies because of our DNA, it’s also because of the choices we have made.

For perfectly legitimate, complicated reasons of family or love or work-life balance, many of us have chosen to leave or never even enter the corporate jungle.

But we can’t go on blaming it on men and an unfair system weighted against women.

You have to ask yourself why even in modern times there are few great female boss characters. There is not one female boss in Sex And The City, the single most iconic feminist TV series of a generation. When we do have successful women bosses, as in The Devil Wears Prada, they’re running fashion magazines, not blue chip companies.

Simon Cowell has The X Factor, in which Dannii and Cheryl are little more than pretty props. Even on shows such as Dragons’ Den, there is only one woman dragon.

Can you imagine The Apprentice with a Lady Nicola Horlick at the helm, the ultimate female corporate Superwoman boss?

We’ll know the world has changed when the planned sequel to Wall Street has as its star not Gordon, but that mean mother of all bosses Greta Gekko.

As he famously said in Wall Street: ‘Read Sun-tzu, The Art Of War. Every battle is won before it is ever fought.’ And alas in the boardroom, that’s never been more true than it is today for women.



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