How hard is it being a woman in the workplace? The answer is very, as Mary Ann Sieghart in this eminently readable book convincingly tells us. It seems to require a good deal of acting talent. It’s no use just following advice to behave like a man – something that itself requires quite a lot of effort. It is much more complicated than that. Women have to combine ‘confidence and warmth in exactly the right ratio for them to be taken seriously but not disliked in the process’. Not everyone manages that or can be bothered to keep it up for long, and many women opt out of the race altogether. Yet it is crucial for getting on, as the perceptions of what is acceptable in women’s behaviour are coloured by what is generally expected of them: to be soft and obedient. And what’s more, as research cited by Sieghart shows, many people still expect women to be less expert than men and resist the idea of women having authority.
The adjectives generally used to describe successful and confident women tell their own story: ‘bossy’, ‘abrasive’, ‘strident’, ‘shrill’, ‘scary’, ‘cold’, ‘stern’, ‘controlling’, ‘ball-breaking’, ‘bitchy’, ‘unlikeable’, ‘pushy’. Women who are ambitious are often encouraged to try and hide it. For many, however, ambition is taken out of them at quite a