The question is: is the future still female or, indeed, has the future arrived?
My business world is full of men. Of the 300+ companies I have bought and sold, less than a dozen have been with female clients. Most of the professional advisers I am working with on a day by day basis are men, whether they are lawyers, bankers or accountants. I know there are lots of female lawyers but few seem to be attracted to corporate law.
I am a regular speaker at Chief Executive groups and at the IoD Chartered Directors Training, regularly presenting to 100’s of senior managers and directors every year, and every year, a tiny minority are female.
Mmmm, me thinks the future may be female but we are not there yet by a long way, in Corporate UK at least.
So, does it make me feel any worse about my career and prospects? The honest answer is no. There are, in fact, loads of advantages in being the sole female. Ok, I accept it’s not so good for those that strive for that role and I am all for sisterhood and helping and supporting my female colleagues. In fact Madeline K Albright is quoted with saying “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” and I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, but we are where we are and therefore its essential, if you are that sole female, you make the most of that unique position.
Remember you won’t be forgotten and hopefully for the right reasons.
As inevitably you will be substantially more efficient than your male colleagues you will get through much more work, much faster (make sure this doesn’t go unnoticed).
You should be quicker than a man at gaining another mans trust as they will not see you as a threat (even if you are!).
As women tend to be more conciliatory you will be able to make bridges across problems where often men create uncrossable divides.
Controversial I know, but a smile and a bit of charm, even some light flirting, can not only improve the atmosphere in a transaction and can help you win points, conceded by a man to a women, that may not have been so man to man.
You can play the dumb card and then sneak round the back when they aren’t looking. I know it’s not cricket, but that is my point exactly.
You can go home and have a good cry and a moan to a friend, rant and rave at the husband, dog or cat and feel a hell of a lot better than storing it all up and sitting stewing in your male cave.
So – my female future: I am happy to be there making my own special mark and proud that it’s sometimes rather different from my male clients and customers.
Jo Haigh is senior partner at fds Corporate Finance.
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