Today I read an article about the traits of successful women in business. High-achieving women are, apparently:
My first question was: is this surprising to anyone? That female leaders who have already reached the top have self-belief, are happy to push for what they deserve and are pretty adept at coping in high-pressure situations? This, I’d argue, isn’t a revelation.
A second question soon followed: is this helpful? Identifying a set of traits that all women must possess to succeed and setting these traits up as inherent qualities in female leaders, rather than skills that are developed over time does nothing to empower women to shoot for the boardroom.
This question of expectation and empowerment reminded me of Sport England’s brilliant This Girl Can campaign to encourage more women to get involved in sport.
Research shows that there are 1.5 million fewer women than men taking part in regular sporting activity (I must confess, I usually spend Sunday mornings having brunch rather than a kick-about on Clapham Common). There are sure to be a cocktail of reasons behind this – a lack of successful role models at the top of their game, scepticism over the ability of sportswomen compared to men, concern that success in sport is somehow unappealing or unattractive, apathy and so on.
Does this sound familiar? There are parallels to draw between getting more women involved sport and encouraging more women to aspire to business success. Sport England has chosen to tackle its challenge through a rallying cry – don’t worry if your face gets red and sweaty, or if the bodybuilders at the gym give you a funny look, because you’re working hard and you’re bloody great! But the majority of research and discussion about women in business seems to want to give us a good telling off for not being more like this, or less like that, or to give us lots of instructions about how to succeed.
At the time of writing the This Girl Can Twitter feed has 40.8k followers and the flagship video has been viewed over 6 million times. Whether they succeed in their mission is yet to be determined, but their campaign should be an eye-opener for those championing the cause of female diversity in business – and a lesson in the power of positive communications.
Let’s start a campaign for bad-ass business ladies – don’t worry if your face gets red and sweaty, or if the blokes in the boardroom give you a funny look, because you’re working hard and you’re bloody great.
This post is part of Man Bites Dog's Taking the Lead blog series focusing on women.
To see the other blogs in the series, click here.