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Lean In? The Queen B weighs in

Reporter: Thank you for doing this interview, Ms Winpaw, editor of Dogue.

Anna Winpaw: I suppose. Though, your nails are the wrong shade of purple. The Pantone colour of the year is radiant orchid, not . . . aubergine.

Reporter: Um, sorry. How do you view this "Lean In" movement?

Winpaw: First of all, if a woman has to lean in at the table, she's wearing the wrong accessory. We go with a gold cuff. It creates a thud that is aurally suitable for emphatic banging at the table.

But behind all that ornamental display, there must be substance. I think DBS CEO Piyush Gupta made a fine point at a women's networking lunch this week. He said it was assumed that these women seeking gender equality are competent.

Except assumptions, as they go, can be false. The difference for now is that we're well aware men can be completely inept. The true triumph for gender equality comes when we accept people for who they are: that male or female, we mostly fake it till we make it. It is the process of sussing out the real McCoys that makes gender quotas a bad idea.

Reporter: Do we have to play golf with bosses, like men, to do well?

Winpaw: Mediocre men make that their only strategy. Often, they are a different kind of hole-in-one. Mr Gupta - who bless his soul, spoke candidly - called for women to hang on to the coat-tails of important contacts, and network intelligently. He had a six-man network he stuck to, and his approach was not to drink his way into an old boy's club. A how-to-be-a-Hugo-Boss strategy seems smarter.

Reporter: But have things been fair for women?

Winpaw: Women have unique landmines to deal with. Sheryl Sandberg's anecdote of how she worried about emerging from Larry Summers' hotel room so late in the night after hours of work, is a concern. But is life ever truly . . . fair? And how exactly would we define this entitlement? Frankly, a woman at the top has no time to navel-gaze. She's busy with her job, and dubbing the men her subordinates.

There is some evidence that it is harder for women to stay at the top, some statistical - as shown by the latest glass cliff debate - some driven by anecdotes. Mr Gupta suggested that the biggest reason is motherhood, specifically, "breast-feeding, et cetera". (That statement was slightly unwise. Women do not take well to uncalled-for-references to their mammaries.)

Reporter: What do you think of children?

Winpaw: I have a good friend, let's call her Joy, who refers to children as STDs. (Actually, she's just told me she'd rather be called 'Joyce'.) Today's freedom dictates that you are welcome to contract them. But STDs are preventable, and parents are responsible for them. The virus has always been difficult and, I hear, rather resilient these days, sticking around for decades.

At a time of ambiguity over women's place in the corporate environment, a clever organisation will set up support systems such as childcare at the office. Children then become less of a potential excuse for early nights and unfinished work - some of that falls onto single women who may have STDs later. Resentment, like fashion, is recycled. It never goes out of style.

Reporter: There was a debate at lunch about being a reasonable bitch.

Winpaw: What sort of ill-advised aspiration would that be? I say, be like me. Women of my calibre (and some men) take leadership. They make smart, sometimes painful decisions that will create offence, but with good reason.

There are murmurs of double standards: women who take charge are bossy, men who lead are assertive. Maybe. But if a woman can get through that, imagine the greater strength and wit she possesses. Despite the perceived odds, women will have to be the bigger - woman - until there is more convincing proof.

Meanwhile, if you make poor decisions and offend everyone, you're just a pain and that, makes you a bitch.

Reporter: But what if I'm successful, and people don't like me?

Winpaw: Earn lots of money, and become a philanthropist.

  • With thanks to unknown creator of meme, Dogue.