Whining women let the side down

Males may dominate the workplace but their war-like tactics are not the most effective for coaxing customers or peers. Melanie Rhodes explains how a little female nous can go a long way in business. Melanie Rhodes was until recently head of ad

Let’s consider some facts about the progress of women. In the country, just one in ten MPs is a woman, while in business, women who reach and cling to board level soon learn that if there are three female directors sitting round the table they will be surrounded by 97 men. So what or who is holding women down?

Let me be bold. Recent physiological evidence suggests women have smaller, lighter and less capable brains. On average, their IQ is four points lower, while at boffin level, women are outnumbered by men by nine to one. But of course this data is only part of the story, since IQ only measures certain skills, and size as we know is not everything. Compared with men, women think and communicate differently. Typically, at work they listen more and tend to seek a consensus when a decision has to be taken, often preferring to conciliate while males confront.

For women to succeed in a male-dominated environment, they need to maintain their female integ-rity and focus on what they do best. For example, men invariably behave with greater ag-gression, which is OK if you’re planning a war, but when selling, most companies find customers like to be coaxed – not attacked – and to coax you need to listen, and to listen you really need the qualities of a woman.

Simply look around a marketing department, or advertising agency, or a TV station. In the communications business, more and more women are employed, not simply in menial roles, but at managerial and director levels as well.

Think of the stars – from my old boss Jan Smith, to Amanda Walsh, and good old Janet Street Porter. All of them have demonstrated success and none of them has felt it necessary to pretend to be a man. So how have they done it? Simple: unlike a lot of men, they make their company and the product the hero instead of themselves. Wisely, they have also distanced themselves from that self-defeating band of whining females who blame “the glass ceiling” when in fact they should look in the mirror and point a finger at their own lack of ability.

There is also a lesson to be learnt by companies. People work best as part of a team and teamwork requires two things: leadership, rather than dictatorship, and willingness. If you don’t ask your staff you’ll never learn and if you fail to ask your customers you will not be around for long.

It is advisable to do one of two things: employ more women to do senior jobs or employ more men with some of those admirable female qualities.

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