Saturday, 9 October 2010

Where are all the women?

This blog has too rarely been a place where I have expressed my views on things other than fashion. After a lengthy hiatus, during which time Virgin Media has failed me, and I have failed my readers, I am back, with the following question:

Where are all the women?

Forbes’ list of the 100 Most Powerful Women was published a couple of days ago, and yesterday I finally had the wifi to study it. The list, which ought to be a celebration of the rising number of women in power, was more disappointing that cheering.

Firstly, where are all the BRITISH women? Of course Forbes is likely to have a strong US bias, and it is unmistakably at work here, however, there is only ONE woman on the lift from the UK. Predictably, HRH Queen Elizabeth. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the Queen a lot. But I’m sure she’d be the first to acknowledge the fact that she’s far from self-made, she got to where she is by being born. There are also some ex-patriots, such as Anna Wintour, who is probably an American citizen by now, but who was once a daughter of Albion. There are also those functioning within the UK, such as Angela Ahrendts the CEO of Burberry. However, there are exactly ZERO examples of women from the UK gaining power from their work. I won’t go into the make up of the list, which (alarmingly) places the Speaker of the House BELOW Lady Gaga and Beyonce…

Secondly, Forbes’ list of the 400 Richest Americans, they acknowledge, is only 11% women, and the majority of those have inherited their money. Only four were ‘self-made’.

President Obama addressed some of the issues facing women in business when he addressed the summit for the Fortune Most Powerful Women, which interesting includes a difficulty to raise capital. Unfortunately, he chooses the adjectives “tall, good lookin’ and strong willed” to describe his wife and daughters. Now, I am a stickler for rhetoric, but, really? He couldn’t have come up with anything better? “Smart”? “Driven”? “Impressive”? Because, “tall” and “good lookin’” are two things they had nothing to do with (and he had everything to do with, in the case of his kids).

Now, these last two paragraphs have been US-based. Sure, Ed Miliband yesterday named several women in his new cabinet, but I am adamant: it should not be usual that there are women qualified for these posts. I don’t think it’s solely the fault of a patriarchal society that women too rarely reach these positions of power. There needs to exist an ambition within my generation of women to reach our full potential in the workforce, to break the glass ceiling where it still exists, and to prove ourselves EQUAL to men in ambition, work ethic and, eventually, power. It isn’t the fault of men, if women aren’t willing to try. And this message, it seems, needs to reach the women of the United Kingdom, because we, as a group of women, are embarrassingly underrepresented on the international stage.

1 comment:

a said...

Of Mary Callahan Erdoes, Power Woman No.84, CEO of JP Morgan's Asset Management:

She is known to be a workaholic, often putting in 100-hour weeks and bringing her three daughters, all under 7 years old, to office with her on weekends. "It's OK to promote a family culture in business," she said at September 2010's WIE Symposium.

I think this says it all.