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Are women in business their own worst enemies?

I just read Katrina Alcorn‘s new story on Huffington Post Women titled “Stop Passing the Buck Ladies”, in which she gave some very worrying examples of women leaders in business making life hard for junior women, by complaining about “women whining too much”, complaining about women thinking they are going to get a job after a few years out of the job market to take care of their kids, even of one executive bragging about pulling all-nighters shortly after her baby was born! It’s often been said that particularly the older generation of women executives are some very tough cookies, that’s how they managed to get where they are! You would have thought things should have changed though, wouldn’t you?

Are we still our own worst enemies? I’ve been wondering about this many times myself, because even though I don’t like to believe it, unfortunately I have often experienced the same. My two worst experiences at McKinsey where with one female partner (who was known for giving all female junior consultants a very hard time in the performance reviews) and with one Associate Principal, who I thought I was friends with until I worked on a project with her and she turned into a cold and heartless robot, I was so shocked! She wasn’t too popular with the male consultants either though and never made it to partner, so it seems I am not the only one to have had a bad experience.

When I interviewed for trading jobs, the one time I had really bad vibes from an interviewer was with a female interviewer from Lehman Brothers (thank God I didn’t get a job offer from Lehman though, she saved me in the end!). On the trading floor, it’s hard to say because I have only worked with men so far, at least on the trading side, and a lot of them have been very supportive.

What this shows us is that as we move up we really have to be very mindful of how we act towards junior women in order to inspire and encourage them, rather than showing we’re tougher than them. I know it’s hard, because I must say I have been disappointed with some junior women I have met in investment banking. I am so disappointed that 95% of female graduates who make it into banking only want to work in sales or structuring and shy away from trading. We from the trading desk tried to encourage them, invited them, did everything and they would just not even answer emails and disappear, only to tell us a couple of weeks later that they had chosen a sales role, whereas all the male graduates would come by our desk non-stop trying to get the job. I am trying to be supportive to be to junior women but also find myself disappointed by their lack of ambition and self-confidence.

But thanks to Katrina for posting this, it has reminded me again of my bad experiences with female leaders when I started out on my career, and that I shouldn’t turn into one of these people. I don’t know what it is in us that makes us work against each other rather than supporting each other. Let’s all remind ourselves that we need to encourage and promote each other, for our own good! Life is tough, and no-one is going to make it on their own, no matter how smart and hard working they are. We need to be there for one another, because if not, more and more will drop out of the corporate workforce along the way and it’s not going to get any easier for those who stay.

What are your experiences with female bosses? Anyone here with positive experiences?


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