A few weeks ago I was pleased to be listening to Sam Roddick speak at a women’s conference. She was brilliant. The nub of her speech was that she ran her business in her own way, regardless of disapproval from others or traditional business models. And if that meant she showed emotion when she was upset, that was fine. She was upset so she showed it.
“Men are allowed to get angry at work; that’s seen as acceptable. I get upset I cry. That’s not deemed acceptable. I say deal with it, or get therapy!”
She wasn’t talking about bursting into tears at inconsequential slights, not at all. She’s a very strong woman. She was talking about putting passion into what you do with your life and caring.
However, her way is not the accepted way of running a business. In the UK, business norms have been set by men. Male norms prevail and are rewarded, female behaviour is derided as ‘soft’ and not as effective. Shows of emotion that aren’t anger are seen as a weakness. Many pioneer women in business had to behave like men and suppress their feminine side. Often this can penalise sensitive men as much as women. It’s bad enough for a woman to show her emotions; imagine what it’s like for a man in a macho world!
Diversity and Equality
We’ve moved on a lot and many new businesses have really good true equality policies which work in theory and practice (I’m thinking of Pepsico, for example, where difference is valued and equality doesn’t mean ‘allowing’ women to behave like men). The evidence is that where business values all its employees and has significant numbers of women in senior roles, the bottom line is better!
Yet I still find myself in coaching conversations with senior women struggling to survive in a macho culture which constantly undermines their contribution. Usually these women are working in long established business areas like banking, finance, and local government. Newer businesses, while not exempt, tend not to have a long history of ‘We always do it this way; it’s worked up until now. Don’t rock the boat’
Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?
Because she’s a woman! And women bring other equally valid and valuable qualities to the workplace. And a workplace which doesn’t acknowledge and nurture that is missing out an a huge valuable resource! Eventually those senior women will find places where all they bring to work is valued and respected, where they don’t have to struggle to fit a male model of desirable manager or executive.
Share Your Story
I would love to hear from you if you have had experience of this. I’d love to know if it’s not an issue in your workplace, and if it is. I’d love to know how you think we can combat it, who your best supporters were, who inspires you, and any advice you’d care to share! (You can remain anonymous if you wish, if speaking out feels too risky).
Posted on November 30th, 2010 by Jane