‘What will it mean to be a woman in 2014?’

Christine-Richard right sizeDoing some research for this article I asked the question to a number of women of various ages. ‘Well, much the same as in 2013! When I dug deeper I found some wanted to progress their careers, others were looking to achieve places on boards, both executive and non-executive. The fields vary widely from charities to banks, business and commerce and in the academic world.

‘As far as board places are concerned the organisation, Women on to Boards was set up initially in Australia and is now a world-wide service. They actively search for board appointments of all kinds and regularly inform their members of what is available. In Scotland there is a Government department which offers a similar service for Government appointments.

Staying for the moment with boards, I belong to a group called ‘Changing the Chemistry of Scottish Boards.’ This is not simply a euphemism for getting more women on to Boards as non-executive directors but we are also looking at diversity to advance their careers. In 2014, many may well find this difficult in the present economic climate and finding and keeping a good, satisfying job is increasingly difficult.

Let’s take a look at another group of women – those who are striving to become senior executives
as a precursor to being on the boards as executives in their organisations. Evidence shows where women are in senior and board positions companies and organisations in general benefit, often increasing performance and profits.

In 2014 those of us who have climbed this often sticky ladder through hard work and persistence, must renew our efforts to help and mentor the next generation.

Happily, in my view, more women, especially those with families are starting their own businesses, often working from home and using the internet to market and deliver their products. For women in 2014 this will awaken entrepreneurial talents leading to success. However, all businesses, even small ones need capital investment. Statistics suggest even today banks are more willing to lend money to men than to women. In 2014 I hope this will change but, for example, the Business Gateway network is very helpful in helping with business plans but child care is not part of their remit. Maybe this should change?

So far, I have not mentioned men and common attitudes towards women. But I will now! I was having Christmas champagne with a young banker in his forties, recently remarried with two children of his own and now a stepson as well. His wife is a very capable and successful businesswoman. David (not his real name) is also intelligent and very career-minded in his own field of finance. During our conversation he remarked ‘of course one of the differences between men and women is women are always making plans, whereas men just let things happen.’ Whether or not you agree with this, think about it for a moment. On what I will call the domestic front, the evidence is all around us in the home. in managing the house, the shopping, the children and so on. Is this deeply engrained in the psyche of both sexes? Can it be changed?

So whilst I urge all women of any age in 2014 to continue to be confident and to help each other may I remind all of us of a quotation from Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’? She wrote ‘The woman’s cause is man’s. They rise or fall together

With all its challenges for women in 2014 optimism, hard work and cooperation with each other and, yes, with men whether in politics, business and the third sector will, I trust, bring real progress with it.

I can’t resist finishing with something pointed out to me by my daughter-in-law. In the New Year’s Honours list 2014 for the first time ever, more women than men were awarded honours by the Queen. Whether or not you agree with the honours system this does mark an historic moment in the history of women!

Christine Richard, OBE, FRSA, is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.

2 Comments on ‘What will it mean to be a woman in 2014?’

  1. karen birch // January 6, 2014 at 4:16 pm // Reply

    There’s lots that I agree with here and some things that I disagree with and even I find it a bit odd that the only part I am moved to comment directly upon is the Jane Austen quote :0) I am not a fan. Mainly down to quotations like this: “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” and “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” as sentiments such as these, with women swooning and content only when they have found their man, seem to be the foundation upon which our gender roles were built.
    I do agree that our fortunes SHOULD rise and fall together but for the moment women have to rise more quickly as we have a lot of catching up to do!

  2. I do agree, Christine. Largely because, nailing my colours to the mast, I believe Jane Austen to be a complete genius; making irony her own and skewering all those socially accepted views of and attitudes to women, whilst remaining brutally honest about the desperate position society forced them into in 18th C England – and the decisions they subsequently often had to take (Charlotte Lucas in P&P being perhaps the quintessential example). I think Christine’s quotation from the banker is interesting and rings very true; a really simple statement that when you stop, think about it and apply it to male leadership, management, domestic and marital behaviour seems to carry many grains of truth – without being too reductionist about things.
    Austen celebrated love and a true marriage of minds between the genders within the context of her time and that’s essentially what we’re still doing. We (mostly) all agree that men and women working together harmoniously is the Holy Grail and in today’s society we are focusing on different expressions of that – in the Boardroom rather than the Pump Room!

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