Two reports in the media this week, claiming both that women are bullies in the boardroom and that we let ourselves be walked over.
The first, by Dr Judith Baxter of Aston Uni, argues that we are held back in high level business meetings because we defer to men and try to avoid confrontation. Her research found that women were four times more likely than men to put themselves down, be self-deprecating, use humour and speak indirectly or apologetically. Examples include phrases such as ‘Sorry if I’m talking out of turn, but..’ or ‘I don’t mean to cut across you, but I wonder if..’ She also uses the example of a woman who spoke only twice in a meeting saying, ‘Sorry, sorry I’m talking too much, I’m talking too much’.
On the other side, we have research from London University, which shows that when women ‘try to act like men’ or adopt ‘aggressive management styles’, staff are less likely to follow their lead. Researchers concluded that women would fare better by drawing on ‘typical feminine qualities of sensitivity and good communication’.
Seems to me like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.