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Applauding diversity not fearing it


A young woman I know (30 – age is a relative thing) works within the financial markets. She works long hours, with little recognition or even contact with her manager. At annual review time her manager was very tough. He even went as far as to say: ‘the way you approach work is just different to the others.’ Interestingly, all her peers are men. Of course she approaches work differently – she is a woman. We are not all the same – we bring different things to the same problem. She did not get a particularly good review – or any recognition for the long, hard hours she works. She was devastated, upset and unable to sleep. She said, ‘I work so hard – do I have to be just like them?  If I give up, how will any woman ever make it in this man’s world?’ So whilst my friend battles on, lonely, unappreciated and ‘different’ – we need to do something at senior levels. We don’t want women on boards who act like men – we want them to bring their personality, intuition and empathy.

Until there are as many women in executive roles and on boards, many young women will give in. It is too lonely, too hard and the pay just does not warrant the angst. (My friend knows she is paid less than her peers and her ‘bonus’ is always less).

It makes me so sad for her. I want to go into that institution and stamp my feet and yell, but I also know that those macho men in that business would just look at me bewildered and say, ‘See this is why we need to keep it the way it is – no crazy women here, thanks – they’re just too hard to understand.’

Which is why affirmative action for women on boards is eminently sensible. If ‘traditional’ (male) businesses struggle to accept us for who and what we are, women will always feel they “have to be just like them” to get to the top. Which isn’t authentic, and dismisses all those innate positive qualities the feminine brings. Legislation that supports the appointment of women to boards would help change perspectives that, sadly, are currently too male-skewed.

What are your thoughts – given it is International Women’s Day and the debate is throughout the media?

Reader Interactions


  1. I think the skills/intuition/dedication that women bring to businesses is priceless. I’m not sure if more legislation is going to help. The last 10 years however has seen the rise of a string of very successful female entrepreneurs empowered by the web allowing them to run solid businesses from home. I personally attribute a large amount of our progress as a business to one such lady.

    I believe as more people i.e. GenY Entrepreneurs become aware of how important it is for us to look beyond our personal egos and embrace the sort of wealth that women inherently have in their work ethic, relational approach and natural altruism, the world will be a better place!

  2. I feel sorry for your friend too. Wow. And I feel sad for her male colleagues. What will inevitably happen sooner or later is that she will get fed up, assume there’s no point talking to her boss about it and secure a better balanced, better paying job where her contribution is more valued (yes, these types of jobs and employers are out there).

    Time and time again I see this play out with the women I mentor and in fact I encourage women to see the light and switch over to some of my enlightened clients who are doing plenty to look after their female talent.

    Things are changing. Quotas for women on boards? Maybe… it can’t hurt, after all. But boards are small by nature and the relative number of seats on offer mean boards are never going to be a big enough target. The ASX Corporate Governance principles require organisations to report on the number of women on boards, but also in senior roles and throughout the organisation and this is a much bigger opportunity to drive change and – perhaps more importantly – get more women into executive roles which will flow directly into to board roles.

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