When one imagines a boardroom setting, images of men in sharp suits, expensive briefcases and a high backed chair for the ‘big boss’ come to mind.
If there is a woman she’s usually in the corner taking notes or timidly interrupting the meeting to let someone know they’ve got an important call. Well, actually you can blame Hollywood for this simpering example of a female and the idea that if a woman is doing well she must work in fashion… yawn.
This male dominated image and female stereotype should be turned on its head. We can hold our own just as well as any man in a meeting, so why is the boardroom still such a male dominated environment?
It probably all comes down to the ‘boys club’ attitude that dominates those FTSE100 companies out there, where women are still overlooked for high-ranking positions.
Women can bring another way of looking at things to the table. We can be ruthless and make quick decisions just as well as any man and while we might opt for heels and a skirt over an androgynous shirt and tie combo to fit in the guys, this doesn’t impact on our work – we just look better doing it.
Change is starting to take place but if someone were to ask you who the CEO of John Lewis was or Barclays Bank or Kraft you would assume it is a man without hesitation – and you would be right. Even a leading fashion brand, predominantly catering for females, such as Topshop, is controlled by a man overall although technically the brand’s CEO is a woman.
Women actually account for less than one in 25 UK CEOs and the average company boss is 54 years old, filled with archaic knowledge and strained methods of doing things. This is why many boardrooms are so male dominated, it’s basically a place for the older men who lost their nerve years ago but have been around so long no one dares to question them to get together.
Publishing houses are a great example of this, as newspapers quickly decline we see their 60-year-old male directors scratch their heads amidst the rubble of their old businesses – wondering why their sales tactics from the 70s no longer worked and flicking through their leather bound diary to find that Facebook password they wrote down when someone insisted they start using social media three years ago to stay in the loop.
This male dominated image and female stereotype should be turned on its head. We can hold our own just as well as any man in a meeting,
While they drank coffee in the boardroom discussing trivial matters, the company collapsed around them because they wouldn’t move out of the way for a younger person or a woman.
However, Germany is making changes with a bill introduced in 2014, which requires at least 30% of corporate board seats to be filled with female non-executive directors. The bill will also mean more women are considered for managerial positions. This is a positive sign but also a clear indication of how male dominated the executive boardroom scene is, that such a bill is required.
It’s true, men and women have different strengths. But if women are regularly overlooked for high-ranking positions for simply being female, whether they apply through the company or on an external recruitment site like exec-appointments.com, how will we know what they are?
Women can bring another way of looking at things to the table. We can be ruthless and make quick decisions just as well as any man and while we might opt for heels and a skirt over an androgynous shirt and tie combo to fit in the guys, this doesn’t impact on our work – we just look better doing it. Women work hard, simply because we know our goals won’t just be handed to us on a plate, as we aren’t male and friendly with the boss.
However, as bitter as you might feel (and jealousy is not a good look) you still have to really want it to get around that boardroom table. You’ve worked hard this far, you can take it to the next level, while ignoring your male colleagues who seem to have an advantage, as they take up your potential spot in the boardroom. With this in mind it’s time to find your voice and your seat at the big boy table.