Tuesday, 8 April 2014

‘Sorry Skirt’ culture

Jane's latest thoughts from the dentists surgery. 

"It’s amazing what articles you can come across whilst waiting in the dentist surgery.  In a back issue of Grazia magazine I was intrigued by a debate which was sparked by a comment from Liv Garfield, the recently appointed chief executive of Severn Trent ( a UK Water Company and part of the FTSE 100 index).  In this appointment, Liv Garfield has joined a very exclusive club of women bosses in FTSE 100 organisations, being one of only four women to have achieved this status.

On gaining this undoubtedly hard earned position Liv Garfield, according to Grazia magazine, stated that, ‘to do well in business, you have to ignore the fact that you are female.’  The argument is then taken up by two female business women Amy Molloy (author and entrepreneur) and Helena Morrissey (CEO of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% club).

Amy agrees with Liv Garfield and feels that women need to be ‘gender neutral’ in the workplace.  Amy then goes on to discuss the female traits that she leaves until she gets home and those include being gossipy, broody and emotional.  I have to admit that with this description of female traits, it is little wonder that Amy wants no part of it in the workplace.  Amy’s role model, in business, was her father who taught her to leave her personal life at the office door.  I am never totally sure how possible this actually is.  Do people really compartmentalise their lives in such a way that work is work and home is home, or is there a tendency to have a little cross over or leakage of one into the other? 

The one area that I totally agree with that Amy addresses is the propensity for women to over apologise.  This has been a subject or a CiPD study described as the ‘Sorry Skirt’ culture.  The apologetic nature some women have has been attributed to why they find themselves lagging behind in the area of senior management positions.

On the other hand Helena Morrissey fights the corner for women holding onto their femininity in the workplace as, as Helena states, it brings ‘real diversity’ to an organisation. Helena does not see being good at your job, being strong technically and developing oneself as being anti-female.  She recognises that these attributes are essential no matter what gender you are.  Helen contends that women are pressurised to conform in the workplace and that no-one would dream of telling a man to be less male in order for him to succeed.   I have to say on this point I agree.

When it comes down to it, surely the issue is really about being able to bring something new and unique to an organisation?  Essentially being able to be yourself and to bring the expertise required to do your job well and to succeed.  I do not believe that women have to stop being women in order to be successful.  There are a few things that maybe women need to work on, such as the over apologising.  However, being female and feminine is not something that should be looked down on or frowned upon.  The terms leader and woman are not mutually exclusive, we just have to get organisations to recognise that."

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