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Saturday September 27, 2008

Women in Power

A recent survey apparently reveals that women hate working for female bosses. Now whether this was funded by an obscure misogynist circle I cannot say but it did have me pondering about my experiences working for women. In truth I only ever had two female bosses and both were rather controlling and at times paranoiac. However one has to look at the context in which they were working. When I started out in the work place women who dared not to be secretaries were still very much on the back foot. I found working for men more straightforward. For one thing they were relaxed, less perfectionist and had a better sense of humour. Their innate belief in their own abilities (often mistakenly so) meant that with a bit of ego massaging, a wily female employee could get her way on budgets or key issues in the workplace. I certainly did. The only exception to the rule was working for Norris McWhirter, the founder of the Guinness Book of Records, who inspired utter devotion from all of us in his office.

I remember, aged 22, playing an April Fool’s joke on my female boss and colleagues. I was a press officer and rang the communications department from upstairs with a fake accent, pretending to be an investigative journalist who’d stumbled on some erroneous data in one of the company’s consumer leaflets. I said I was on deadline with the Daily Mail and left a false telephone number. A few other chums in other departments were in on the joke so I was sure my boss would see through it. Unfortunately not. Within ten minutes there was a maelstrom in the office. When the truth unfolded, I was in big trouble. My incandescent and hysterical boss sent me to the Director General for a dressing down. He was an ex army colonel and formidable. ‘Think that was funny?’ he barked as he slammed his door shut. I nodded. He gave me a grin. ‘So did I. That little stunt showed up big holes in the way we respond to press so well done. However, when you see your boss, say I gave you hell and apologise. We don’t want her to feel undermined, do we?’ I learnt big lessons from that and hopefully my female boss did too.

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