What a Woman's Got to Do Pushy, Ballsy, Mumsy, Frilly, Frumpy: The Attributes Required by Women to Succeed in the Workplace. That's What Surveys Say, So It Must Be True, Mustn't It?

By Treneman, Ann | The Independent (London, England), March 9, 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

What a Woman's Got to Do Pushy, Ballsy, Mumsy, Frilly, Frumpy: The Attributes Required by Women to Succeed in the Workplace. That's What Surveys Say, So It Must Be True, Mustn't It?


Treneman, Ann, The Independent (London, England)


It's a confusing time for women who want to get ahead at work. "Pushy Women Don't Make it to the Top" screams one headline. Evidently, to get promoted women need to be "cheerful, self- confident, motherly". This has me searching through the cupboard for my apron. But no sooner have I knotted the ties than I read something completely different. "If you really want to be successful, you have to adopt a masculine approach of being pushy and dominant. In short, you have to walk on dead bodies," says the next survey. Right. Apron off. Armour on. Then comes yet another survey on the subject, by the Industrial Society. "The writing is on the wall for the macho managers," comments one news report.

Well, all I can say is that it is nice to get out of that armour. At least I now know why I always carry around such a huge handbag. It's the only way to cope with having to change my identity so regularly. What a choice: pushy, ballsy, mumsy, frilly, frumpy! But, handbag aside, what really is going on here? Why are there so many surveys, with so many different results? Truly, do any of them really know what they are talking about?

It's a subject we cannot get enough of. The experts say that we have become obsessed with it for the simple reason that more women are at work than ever before, and more of them want careers, not just jobs. This is the Sexual Revolution at the Coffee Machine and, even though it's been going on for some time, we are still in chaos over what it all means. For years we've been saying that everyone is equal, and that it was only a matter of time before this was reflected at work. But now we have had to admit that we were wrong. "We have finally given ourselves permission to look at how men and women are different," says Liz Cook, a senior consultant for the Industrial Society. "We have had 20 years of equality legislation and affirmative action, and it hasn't really worked. What we've really got is that men and women are different and unequal." This has thrown up a whole new set of questions. What are female personality traits? How do they fit into the male-dominated workplace? Should women change? Should the workplace change? "Maybe," says Ms Cook, "by nature women aren't designed to be in the boardroom as it is today. That doesn't mean they won't be in tomorrow's, though." But tomorrow isn't in this year's budget planning session, and firms insist that they want more women at the top today, especially now that such female-friendly skills as listening and mentoring are all the rage. But the reality is that only 1 per cent of executive directors on corporate boards are women. "The figures on this are pathetic," says Sue Vinnicombe, of Cranfield School of Management. Clearly, the situation is grave. Everyone agrees that something must be done - and so far that something has been to conduct a survey (make that a dozen). Press reports present each report as saying something completely different from the one before. But what is behind the headlines? Surely there must be some wisdom in all this survey lunacy? I decided to deconstruct the most recent three surveys, and the results were instructive. Take the Industrial Society survey that concluded that the days of the macho manager are numbered. It turns out that this survey did not talk to managers at all. Instead it concentrated on the views of what it calls "followers", but what you and I would call underlings. Not surprisingly, these underlings liked in their leaders such qualities as honesty, trust and humility. It seems that these are seen as female attributes; ergo, the conclusion that macho is out, female is in. Sounds great. The only problem is that this is really just a report on what employees wish were true. It has nothing to do with reality. That is probably just as well. At least, that is the only possible conclusion that can be drawn when looking at the results of another survey, conducted by Tuvia Melamed, a psychologist.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

What a Woman's Got to Do Pushy, Ballsy, Mumsy, Frilly, Frumpy: The Attributes Required by Women to Succeed in the Workplace. That's What Surveys Say, So It Must Be True, Mustn't It?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?