Voice of RB First Women: It’s much easier to just be yourself

Working in corporate finance for many years, a world filled with bull sh*t and fakery, I have made a supreme effort not to be sucked into this charade filled with archetypal red braced antler waggling charlatans.

It seems harsh, but after 25 years in the business my eyes are wide open, even with a brush of mascara on them! 

Corporate finance has long been a man’s world. I know of only a small handful of women at the top in this career and sadly sometimes it’s difficult to be sure they are female, so androgynous some of them have become.

Corporate finance is a very tough field; there is no doubt about it. Negotiations are hard and ruthless, tempers flare, and personal insults are flung across the room and the ether. It’s difficult not to take it personally. Quite often a personal attack is a well-used method of disarming the other side.

That isn’t of course to say that women are sensitive soles, but my long experience has demonstrated that a woman seeks a mutual win and the less fair sex takes a more one-sided approach. 

Posturing in negotiations is something of a must do in some quarters and largely an accepted fact, BUT fakery and being rude are in my world at least, childish, unnecessary, and show a lack of confidence by the perpetrator.

I have three particular values that have served me well throughout my life and would love to share them; be kind, stay positive and work hard.

These have undoubtedly seen me through some fairly tough times and have helped me build a great business.

Colleagues will appreciate how straightforward you are, how honest and natural you are with no airs and graces.

It’s actually much easier to be yourself anyway. Keeping up a charade is jolly hard work, although I am no reality programme junkie, you only have to watch celebrity big brother or the get me out of the jungle programmes to see that keeping up a facade for long periods becomes increasingly difficult and the real you is rapidly exposed, particularly under pressure.   

It’s also much easier to be nice. Getting angry is very hard work and maintaining such a position is exhausting and bad for your health.

You can achieve so much more by being positive and charming. Try using this approach next time you have to make any sort of general complaint and I guarantee you will have a much better response than losing your temper.

Screaming, shouting and losing your temper rarely achieve a positive result and if it does it’s probably at an undesirable cost, not least to your health.

I have never been one to conform to a stereotypical position, but that doesn’t mean when I have set out my differentiators I have done so by creating a fake persona. Rather, I have emphasised those elements that make up who I am and which perhaps are not always the norm.

This includes dressing in clothes I feel good in as Coco Chanel famously said, “wear the right dress and they notice the woman, wear the wrong one and they notice the frock”.

Jo Haigh is head of FDS corporate finance services and a previous winner of the First Women Awards.

Drawing on ten years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit – designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business. Book your place for the Summit in February here.

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