I used to think The Rules, Women are from Jupiter and books of a similar ilk were bad enough. Using spurious biology to reduce all men to cavemen with credit cards who could communicate with no more finesse than blurting 'Me want sex!' to frosty-knickered ladies instructed to use their sexuality as a bargaining chip to achieve the Ultimate Goal of a ring on the finger and a bun in the oven. Because that's what relationships are - The Krypton Factor with genital based challenges.
However, given a magazine article I read a while ago about a woman who was pressuring her hapless boyfriend To Commit after nine months
because she wanted a baby...well, maybe gender relations are a little bit different over the pond. Then I picked up the Metro this morning, and reading this article
made me feel as though not just romance but now the workplace is some kind of 9 to 5 starring Doris Day. "'It's basically a travel guide for women,' explains Nelson. 'You do better in France if you know a little about the language and the culture and it's the same in the office.' "
Now, 25% of all women are in lower-level admin roles, compared with the enormous dominance of men in senior positions. There are a lot of reasons behind this - from fitting work around childbirth and childcare to the male dominance that still exists in many spheres - and there are many ways in which this can and should change. Fitting men and women into pre-supposed gender roles and patterns is not going to do it. However, I hear they let us out of the typing pool these days so let's see what our authors suggest. It's the same with e-mails, urges Brown. 'Men focus on the content, the words. They are literal communicators. Women focus on the socio-emotional, or feelings dimension. They read between the lines.'
Oh dear. I knew I was doing something wrong by telling agencies that they can't show a cat being electrocuted because it reminded me of dear old Fred, awwww, fluffy kitties....dribble...sorry, where was I? 'We all know first impressions count, so make sure you dress for success and not access,' says Nelson. 'I once saw a board-level PA at a Fortune 50 company bend over and reveal her thong and birth control patch. It was more information than I needed.'
Noted. I'll go and get sterlised, then. Wouldn't want to make those nasty men think I'm one of those available women because I'm using contraception. 'Women are guilty of smiley face syndrome,' says Nelson. 'They do excessive smiling as if to ingratiate themselves. Combine that with the fact many of the speech patterns assumed by women are high pitched and they giggle a lot - you can see why it's hard to be taken seriously in the boardroom.
OK. I'm a second alto, and a miserable one at that. I must be doing something right here. Hooray!
'It's also not feminine to be ambitious or get angry,' stresses Nelson. 'Anger is a natural human emotion and in contrast it's one that men display publicly. When a woman gets angry she's either seen as having PMS or being menopausal, so it's important to fight fair.'
I'm sorry, I can't even snark here. I'm too mollified at trying to picture this world where any emotion is hormonal and any ambition is unfeminine.
Masculinity is more entrenched as there's that hidden homophobic issue. If a young man shows his feminine side he's called a sissy at school, but when a young girl is called a tomboy it's more acceptable.' This is entirely true, and it's not going to be changed by perpetuating stereotypes of feminine and masculine. Having said that, my colleague goes to our agency party each year in full drag, and I wouldn't dare call him a sissy. Those earrings could whip my eye out.
OK, so I work in the media rather than a more corporate environment, and I don't doubt that women are accused of being a bit troublesome or hormonal as sex-discrimination cases seem to suggest it happens more often than you think. However, if women are to get a foothold in corporate or traditionally male-dominated worlds (and conversely, men in caring professions) then we could do without books like this that treat female businesspeople as tourists in some wacky Land of the Men.