Right of Reply: Peter York

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The social critic responds to a piece by Anne McElvoy on his research

into career women

ANNE MCELVOY is clearly two people - Anne Sploggs and Elvira McElvoy. Anne Sploggs read the article about our research among senior women and chose to misunderstand it and generate some funny copy.

She says that we concluded that women pass through the glass ceiling in a mystical way. But we didn't and they don't - they just don't spend a lot of time agonising about it - they've been too busy doing something very well.

She also attributes to us the notion that miracle women have learnt not to be too intense and ambitious. We didn't say that. We said that our successful women told us that young women now tend to be too intense and ambitious for its own sake. Ambitious? Of course they're ambitious - to achieve and contribute and get rewards - not just to have "drama, excitement and the acclaim of millions", as we used to say at school.

The idea that Peter York would outlaw dressing up is mad. Peter York's preferred dress code for women is formal, produced and done up to the nines. Again, we simply observed that power dressing wasn't what these women did. They were aware that how they look matters but, by either instinct or good sense, knew that "in your face" dressing up can look slightly ridiculous to real-world inhabitants (cf fashionland).

But then the other personality, clever Elvira, takes over and produces some perfectly sensible observations. Then she ends by reverting to a bit of Lee-Potterism with a revelation of the kind served up as wisdom by fathers of brides at buffers' weddings.

Anyone who, like me, makes his living studying social trends has been living with the amazing thought that women are people too for an awful long time.