Suzannah works in investment banking. She is on track for a senior role and intends to have a high 6 figure salary (at least) by the time she is 40. Her goal is to break through the glass ceiling in this male dominated sector which has less than 10% at board level.
A 70 hour week is her norm and leaving the office at 9.00 p.m. would be considered an early finish. Her boss might ask her only semi-jokingly if she has enough work. She is well-groomed and exercises regularly. She has time for passion, but not romance. She is aware of her ticking biological clock and although she thinks about having children, her partner is a corporate lawyer, she is not sure marriage is in her long-term vision. The only items in her refrigerator are nail polish and left over takeaway. She has a housekeeper and has no idea how her own washing machine works.
She is a top revenue generator and improves the team results. She believes that there is one passenger in that number and she has made her thoughts clear. Her colleagues respect her, but don’t seek her out socially. She travels internationally at the drop of a hat to make pitches and close deals and always sits “at the front of the bus.” She takes no prisoners in negotiations and she knows she is considered in the office to be difficult to work with and at times referred to as a “a complete bitch.”
Does this bother her? Not one bit. She told me why.
“The difference between the alpha female and the alpha male is that most men and women admire the alpha male and most men want to be like him. He is considered to be successful. The alpha female becomes the “alpha-bitch” in the eyes of both men and women and almost an object for sympathy and ridicule. Being tough, direct, successful and assertive is not considered to be feminine and attractive. I don’t fit a mould and neither men or women know how to deal with that.
I work hard and give 100% plus. I don’t expect my subordinates or peers to work the way I do, or have the same ambitions, but I do expect them to do a proper job. I’m a result orientated rather than presence insisting manager, and if someone works a 70 hour week and needs to attend their child’s school play at 3.00 p.m. then I’m OK with that … if they get their work done by the deadline.
I get tired of waiting for men to create better conditions for women, but not as much as I get irritated by implications that I’m a “ball-breaker” because I don’t behave in a stereotypical female way. Most men by definition aren’t aren’t alpha males either, but alpha males don’t get the type of flak that I do.
My starting salary in my current organisation was twice that of the other women at my level because they had failed to negotiate their market value and were being under paid. This is not my fault. At least one has now had a 30% increase because of my efforts. Should I decide to have a child, then I have negotiated more generous maternity options than are on offer currently, which will certainly become a precedent for the other female employees above a certain level in my firm. Just as all men are not dominant and assertive, not all women are group-hug, collaborative and supportive. Most times someone has to take tough decisions. Work is not a popularity contest which is what worries many women and holds them back.
They are just as guilty of perpetuating gender stereotypes as men and they need to get over it.”
Strong words…What do you think?