Thursday 27 October 2016

Colette Fitzpatrick: So The Devil wears Prada? Well think again, it's more like a three-piece suit

The Devil Wears Prada
The Devil Wears Prada
Madeleine Albright
Maia Dunphy
Richard Branson

While my favourite line from The Devil Wears Prada is when Emily Blunt's character, Emily, tells Anne Hathaway's Andrea that she's "one stomach flu away from her goal weight", one of my all-time favourite female leads is Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly.

The character (right) was almost certainly modelled on Vogue editor Anna Wintour. And, just like Sigourney Weaver's Katherine Parker in Working Girl, she was a so-called 'Queen Bee'.

'Queen Bees' got their name in 1973, thanks to an academic paper. Supposedly these bossy, bitchy women are hell to work for. They're reluctant to provide career support to other women and may even actively undermine them.


They're also known as so-called 'rope ladder' or 'drawbridge' women - those who get to a senior position and as soon as they're there, haul up the ladder with them, gender discriminating against their own sex.

Perhaps some or many women can cite another woman who did just that. But why do one woman's actions have to reflect an entire gender? Isn't the world a different place in 2015 than it was in 1973, when perhaps some women believed that to be as successful as men, they had to stay close to them and act like them?

Doesn't workplace toxicity cross the sexes? There's no doubt that there are men in senior positions that do down other men. They don't support them, they want to stay at the top and, like a Tomcat marking their territory, signal to other men that this is 'my domain'. They bully and have their own cliques.

There are all sorts of biases at play when people talk about women in the workplace. Words such as 'bitchy', 'emotional', 'ballbreaker' and 'hysterical' are often routinely thrown around offices to describe women.

But hold on. In a blow to the stereotype of 'successful executive level women equals bitch', a survey by Columbia Business School of 1,500 companies over 20 years now suggests that female in-fighting is a myth.

Apparently there is no such thing as 'Queen Bee syndrome'. How disappointing for those who love demonising women, especially successful ones.

The report concluded that women are not, in fact, held back by each other women but by men who don't want them in the boardroom. "Women face an implicit quota, whereby firms seek to maintain a small number of women on their top management team, usually only one," the report says.

So most women aren't looking at their female juniors as competition to be cut down. In fact, women can be more effective mentors for women because as well as talking about career, they might also understand other issues that may affect women in the workplace.

Either way, as former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said: "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women".


How about a future where we don't have to campaign to get basic rights?

Maia Dunphy

"#FeministFutures is being able to say I'm a feminist without being called a man-hating lesbian."

That was broadcaster Dil Wickremasinghe's tweet this week for the viral campaign #feministfutures. The hashtag trended ahead of the National Women's Council of Ireland's AGM yesterday and hundreds of Irish women (and men) took to Twitter to support ideas for a world where women should be treated as equals.

The conference explored what feminism means today in a world where many are shunning the label and actively distancing themselves from the movement. (Demi Moore, Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson, please look up its definition.)

Maia Dunphy tweeted that her feminist future would be "the day when people say in disbelief: 'Jeez, do you remember when women weren't paid the same as men?'".


That's apt, as the gender pay gap here is almost 15pc and by current trends women and men won't be paid the same for another 75 years.

Marian Keyes tweeted her feminist future would be a time when "the word 'ambitious' when referring to a woman, isn't an insult".

Dr Ciara Kelly tweeted that hers would be when "magazines that make you feel inadequate because you're not anorexic thin and airbrushed simply won't sell", acknowledging that we live in a world where looks matter more for women than men.

Men joined in too. Patrick Dempsey tweeted "when women are not 'ranting' or 'nagging' but rightfully voicing themselves." Another woman tweeted "when women aren't expected to automatically take on the child rearing and housekeeping duties." I would happily forgo 'Women's Christmas' for an equal division of labour all year round.

Here's my #feministfuture: That we live in a world where we don't have to resort to hashtags to get attention for basic equality.


Why do we see so few tech women?

Jennifer Bailey

While it was great to see women top the bill at Apple's developer conference this week, I do hope the focus on diversity isn't just optics.

The company's own diversity report revealed that 70pc of its employees were male and 55pc were white - Twitter and Facebook have a broadly similarly make up.

Apple Pay vice-president Jennifer Bailey was first on stage, the first time a woman executive has presented at the event since 1976. What is it about tech that makes it one of the most gender-biased industries? It seems women aren't as interested if they're not being raised in an environment that encourages them to study science and maths.


Now we've a daddy and mammy track


We now know that not physically giving birth to a baby doesn't preclude the need to spend time with the newborn. So Richard Branson's (inset) new policy at Virgin, that will see new fathers granted 12 months fully-paid paternity leave, is welcome. In Ireland, men aren't legally entitled to any leave, but will soon be entitled to two weeks.

Richard Branson

Bar the benefits to family life, the benefit to women would be enormous. If dads were compelled to be at home, then your boss might envisage him with a baby sling and not you balancing him on your child-bearing hips. And sharing paternity leave would have the same impact on the company's bottom line as the current system. Only there'd now be a daddy track as well as mammy track.

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