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Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 08:14 GMT
How to be happy at work
Ask our work coaches for advice on your careers
Both men and women are adapting to change at work
As part of a weekly series on women in business, two career experts look at resolving work-life crises and how men are adjusting to more women in the workplace.
An impassioned plea from Cherie Blair this week has highlighted, among other things, the pressure of combining a career with family life.

"I am not superwoman," the prime minister's wife told us, before admitting that she had struggled to juggle her various roles as a consort, mother and barrister.

Cherie Blair
Cherie has found juggling her roles a challenge
Many working women will be familiar with Mrs Blair's acrobatics - a far cry from that very modern ideal, work-life balance.

And while women battle with the twin demands of work and home, how are men coping with these would-be superheroes?

No longer cast as dominatrixes or executives in short skirts, professional women are shedding the stereotypes to find a middle ground.

But have men managed to adapt to the changing roles of women in the workplace?

Click below to read about:

BBC News Online also asked you to put your career questions to our two coaches. We published their answers on Tuesday, 17 December.


Joy Palmer, author and careers coach, offers advice to women looking to solve work-life crises.

When the daughter of one executive who arrived home early asked, "Mummy why are you home already? Have you been fired?" something seemed amiss.

It was. This executive had gone missing from the lives of the people she loved.

Joy Palmer, author and coach
Palmer: Women need to delegate more
Work-life balance - an initiative for government and employers - implies that work is something we now spend our whole lives at; the corollary being that life is something to work at.

This very modern condition strikes men and women equally, but bites women in particular.

Women with jobs and families no longer feel they have to measure up to gender stereotypes.

Yet the notion of the thrusting career woman, starkly contrasted to the selfless home-maker, lurks unhelpfully in the background.

Difficult choices

Penny Hughes struck chords with women everywhere when she gave up her top job at Coca Cola UK to broaden her interests and spend more time with her family.

By becoming a lynchpin, women do themselves no favours

Joy Palmer
Few women feel reconciled about the way they are blending their dual load.

Women lose balance for several reasons.

Once at the professional helm, women who are experts in their field can overly rely on doing it all themselves, instead of delegating.

One woman, who had worked hard to become a partner at a well-known consulting firm, was stunned when advised by a male colleague "to deliver less personally" and to "just say no, sometimes".

Saying no, assertively, remains hard.

Soft skills, hard work

When fractious teams need soothing or delicate bargains must be struck, women, more than men, take on this emotionally intelligent work, adding to their sense of imbalance.

One woman, feeling put upon for being expected to smooth tempers, asked: "If women look after men and men look after themselves, then who looks after women?"

Men struggle with transition into management as much as women do - but men are more likely to grin and bear it

Joy Palmer
With "soft" skills still unrecognised, in terms of pay and other rewards, the answer is no one.

In defence of being nurturing do-it-alls, women say they are being pragmatic.

Without their attention to people problems, all progress on projects would stall, they say.

A smarter response is to pull more management levers. Standing back to develop a game plan that enables the team to be more self-managing is a surer way to let go without losing control.

By becoming a lynchpin, women do themselves no favours.

Player-managers

Even when women prove themselves professionally - as doctors, lawyers, bankers, educators or politicians - establishing credibility for being the leader of a group remains a challenge.

It is often at the point of taking on extra management responsibility that any semblance of work-life balance is lost.

Life is for living, not working at, after all

Joy Palmer
Men struggle with this transition into management as much as women do. But men are more likely to grin and bear it, rather than throw in the towel.

The recent resignation of education secretary Estelle Morris is a case in point. As she owned up to management weaknesses she stood down, something few men in her position would have attempted.

Work-life balance is about changing working patterns so that everyone has more choices, not just women.

It would be tragic if the few women who finally have it all, and I count myself among them, cannot find the balance to enjoy it.

Life is for living, not working at, after all.

Joy's latest book, co-authored with Philip Augar, is The Rise of The Player Manager: How Professionals Manage While They Work.


Don Campbell, chief executive of the leadership development company, Foundation, explains how men must adapt to more women in the workplace.

Researchers from Cranfield University say we could reach gender equality in the boardrooms of major corporations within the next seven years.

But one question springs to mind - where does that leave men?

Twenty years ago the prevalent gender stereotypes placed women in two contrasting categories.

Don Campbell, Foundation
Campbell: Older men are under pressure
Either the "flirter" who used her femininity to manipulate male colleagues and the "ball-breaker" who had decided the route to the top was to imitate dominant male behaviour.

Today, men can no longer afford to categorize in such a sweeping way.

Nor do women believe they must use such extremes to justify themselves within the workplace.

Generation gap?

Now it is men who fall into two categories of the older and younger business generations, and out of the two it's the older men who have the bigger problem.

Raised in a generation that nursed its hang-ups about successful, powerful women in the workplace, the men of the older generation feel under enormous pressure to compete in areas where they feel ill-equipped.

The 30-year-old man who clings to notions of innate male superiority doesn't look like a charming dinosaur these days

Don Campbell
Women with their innate ability to be better communicators, as well as team players, focus on what they want rather than what they once believed they had to prove.

Younger men simply don't buy the old stereotypes.

Brought up in an age that has seen women consistently out-performing their male colleagues in many walks of life, the 30-year-old man who clings to notions of innate male superiority doesn't look like a charming dinosaur these days; he's just plain out of touch.

The younger generation of men have a new politically correct orthodoxy to deal with; one which values open communication, approachability, the capacity to build trust in working relationships.

Gender splits

The outcome of this is that the women don't feel generally unconfident about being a woman in "a man's world".

They are much more able to choose the career that they want without being hampered.

The danger now is a new polarisation born out of fear and defensiveness in us men.

What we men of a certain age need is the confidence to accept the best of the new, to challenge it and then combine it intelligently with the best of the old.

This, however, will only happen for a generation, then the problem will be gone - won't it?

One real test of equality remains.

When the first incompetent woman running a company as chief executive or managing director emerges, we will know that we have reached a state of true equality.


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