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Thu Oct 23 07:52:55 SAST 2014

If you have a womb, sell yourself in the workplace

Jackie May | 26 March, 2012 00:15
Jackie May. File photo.
Image by: Times LIVE / Times Media Group

We know women are treated differently in the workplace. There are pay disparities, and too few women are in leadership roles, executive positions and in boardrooms.

Women are treated differently by those in positions of power, mostly men. Why?

Author and businesswoman Mrs Moneypenny says: "The world's employers are inclined to view us - all of us - as being distinct from our male colleagues."

What makes us different in this respect, she points out, is "the simple biological fact that we have a womb". It's not because we like lipstick, high heels and a pretty bra.

Whether you're already a mother, plan to become one, or never intend to raise difficult little scoundrels, like mine , your employer's views of you "will be partially or wholly affected by their experience of women having children and taking time off work".

For those who don't get the fine British newspaper Weekend Financial Times thrown over your wall on a Saturday, Mrs Moneypenny writes a weekly column. In it she refers to her children as cost centres.

Mrs Moneypenny, aka Dr Heather McGregor, is tough. In a recent column she recalled telling her son (CC#2) he would no longer receive an incentive bonus. She runs her family like a business. Her message to her son was: life is hard, so get real.

Her book Careers Advice for Ambitious Women (in the US it has been published as Sharpen Your Heels: Mrs Moneypenny's Careers Advice for Women) aims to help women overcome their hurdles and a "fear of flying".

To do this she offers 10 useful tips. Climbing the corporate ladder, or leaving the "sticky floor", is about what you know, who you know, financial literacy, learning to say no and so on. The one I found most amusing was the chapter dedicated to doing your own PR.

We shy away from self-promotion, don't we? But do we criticise a man for doing his PR? He probably understands that (research quoted in the book) "moving into leadership roles takes more than doing things right".

If you're good at your job "you need to make sure people know that you are".

Every woman should spend 5% of her time doing her own PR, advises Mrs Moneypenny. But, ultimately, to get to the top, she says, "women need to do all things that men do to get there - and they have to do extra as well". My daughters' response would be: "That is so unfair."

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