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To get ahead women told to be more like men
A memo sent only to the female employees of global law firm Clifford Chance has been doing the rounds on social media. The memo titled "presentation tips for women" focuses heavily on the shrill nature of the female voice and what to do about it; on how women would be better off if we dressed more uniformly (or just more like men) and how we really need to stop waving our hands about so much and waffling. It seems we also have a tendency to hum and haw, to be incapable of making a decision, to doubt ourselves, to be too apologetic, too accommodating and sometimes just too damned nice. (Seriously, after reading it you'll wonder how any woman ever managed to hold down a job.) The most depressing thing about the memo, however, was that it was written by a female partner in the firm and derived from her years of personal experience in a male dominated workplace.
When you consider the odds that the author faced to actually get to be a partner, then the memo starts to sound a little less offensive and a little more inevitable. Around 19% of law firm partners are women and even fewer get to be equity partners. Like so many industries, the world of the law firm is still a very much a man's one, so if women who are trying to get ahead in what is essentially a hostile environment feel the need to act more like the majority party, so to speak, then who is anyone to judge?
Another article that appeared in the past week telling women how they should behave at work was also written by a woman. It was a Boston Globe column aimed at helping female entrepreneurs who are struggling to win over mostly male venture capitalists (VCs). Only 7% of venture capital funds are awarded to female-led companies so clearly women are not quite working the system as they need to be. Apparently, the men with the money need to feel comfortable with whomever they hand over their cash to and they tend to feel more comfortable with people who are like them – that is, other men. The author's advice for women who are trying to get the VCs to look past the fatal flaw of their femaleness? Invest in a pants suit and some voice lessons.
It would be nice to think that achieving gender equality in the work place would involve a bit more give-and-take than this, but until the playing field gets a little more level most women seem to have figured out that their best option is to just don the pants suit and get on with it.
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