I read an article this afternoon revisiting the age old discussion of women in the workplace which looked at a number of books by notable authors and women on the topic. Among the issues covered were whether women need to change their behaviour to ‘fit in’ with male colleagues and the success of female entrepreneurs compared to their male counterparts.
As a working woman in a female dominated industry and with experience at international companies started and headed up by women, I continue to be surprised to see this type of content appear again and again.
Purely based on my own experiences, the old stereotype is no longer relevant and in fact some of women’s stronger psychological attributes can in fact be a bonus in industries such as ours. Understanding the subtle nuances of language and behaviour can be a benefit in devising successful communications strategies when compared to the ‘ballbreaker’ approach championed by those who believe successful women need to adopt a male approach to business. You would think that the same type attributes could equally apply to activities like managing teams and securing sales.
Now I would be naïve to deny the fact that the ability to bear children can impact a woman’s career. If nothing else, maternity leave guarantees a year (give or take) career break for the many but in the modern working world of sabbaticals and relatively affordable travel, this type of break is no longer something that is limited to the female sex. There are a large number of people (both men and women) who take year long trips at various stages throughout their careers and return to pick up where they left off and with plans to extend shared paternal leave, this type of break is likely to become increasingly common across both sexes.
So what is it that continues to keep the glass ceiling in place and this conversation at the top of the agenda?
The government is trying to address the balance pushing for extending shared paternal leave and the right to request flexible working. So maybe it’s time for working women to stop talking about the issues that were, and start focusing on the opportunities that are?