YES

ANNA MELVILLE-JAMES

ACCORDING TO a report last week, young women like me are smoking, drinking, eating erratically, blow-torching the candle at both ends and generally ruining our health in order to get ahead at work. The authors are worried that we're mimicking "male dysfunctions". Well pass me my easy-chair and slippers if this isn't ridiculous.

By the definitions of this survey I am a full-on case study. I'm writing this late at night, drinking a glass of wine and smoking a cigarette, after putting in a full day's work. I forgot to have lunch today because I was too busy, and last night I didn't get in until 2am, which means I have had less than six hours sleep. And this is a good day. I don't see that I'm behaving like a man - I see that I'm having a good time and making something of my life. But if other people want to interpret it this way then so be it.

I am ambitious - not to the point of insanity, but I am after all one of Thatcher's Children, steeped in a work ethic and fast living. And, without sounding too Eighties, if that means working hard, playing hard and having the odd vice or three, then that's what I choose. I am not some unbalanced heathen or crushed husk of a young female, forced to live a dysfunctionally hectic lifestyle. And curiously I don't see a correlation between promotion and eating rubbish, smoking, drinking or not exercising. Yes, I am guilty on all counts, but so what? It's not some carefully crafted career plan - it's just the way I live.

Sometimes it's because I simply can't fit anything else into my life or I'm too high on adrenalin and sometimes because I'm too busy enjoying myself to notice. I'm not a desperate ladette and I'm not trying to mimic male behaviour, dysfunctional or otherwise. I didn't realise they had a monopoly on it. And let us not forget that not so very long ago a woman was "behaving like a man" by having an opinion or a brain. It's time to stop being so precious about what constitutes male and female behaviour. And if a thousand pop-sociologists imply that these are abnormal behavioural traits, and therefore male, then that's their categorisation problem.

Scrabbling around for evidence of my imminent self-destruction, I do appear to spend every fourth weekend of the month under the duvet recovering. But then apathy has the same effect on people, and I don't see any surveys on how destructive that is.

I can climb the stairs at Angel Tube Station without losing my breath, have no fillings and (according to my doctor) enviable blood pressure. And most importantly I'm living a life I enjoy, which suits me.

The Demos Advisory Council says that there is an urgent need for a more sustainable model of success which isn't at the expense of mental or physical well-being. Bravo, spoken like a true think tank. Obviously it's not worth sacrificing your health for a career, but real life doesn't work by models. The day the strain shows I'll meditate up a mountain - you have my word. But, it's an urban jungle out there and you have to do what it takes. And if that means "behaving like a man", then I will do that, until my priorities change.

NO

EMMA COOK

THERE'S ONLY one thing more tedious than the thought of behaving like a man to further your career and that's listening to someone who's already doing it. Wow, you stayed up until 6am and smoked so much your mouth tasted like the floor of a parrot's cage? Really, you can't remember how you got home? And you'll never ever do it again, you feel so crap, until the next time. Mmm. Impressive. Give the girl a promotion. I'm referring to that particularly irksome habit among some young women, a la Zoe Ball on her morning radio show, to boast about their nights of debauchery. Zoe delights in bragging to the nation but her imitators happily settle for anyone in earshot, preferably male.

What's so irritating for the rest of us is the sheer inauthenticity of their tales. A friend of mine insists on boring Britain about her drinking records after work; "I swear I'm an alcoholic; it was half a bottle of Absolut and then I passed out in the taxi." So why is it whenever I go out with her she's glazed after a couple of lagers? Still, it's that up- for-it image that counts, apparently. Younger women will indulge in this type of behaviour if they think it will win them promotion - according to a new Demos report. Some 61 per cent feel a pressure to be a success. Thirteen per cent would sleep with their bosses. Others, meanwhile, punish themselves in other ways by "mimicking male dysfunctions", chiefly, smoking and drinking too much. Also they were far more likely than male colleagues to skip meals. They're just too busy to fit it in to their frenetic work schedules, the report claims. As much as we think we're under pressure, just who hasn't got enough time to grab a bite in between those power meetings? Not even Tony Blair, who ordered Boots sandwiches between his negotiations last week. Men certainly manage to eat when they're hungry, so why are women risking their health in this way?

And then there's the sex thing. I don't know where 13 per cent of these female interviewees who are keen to sleep with their bosses actually work, but I wish I worked there too. Looking around the average office, you'd have to be truly dedicated to go that far for a promotion - or just pissed maybe.

This may explain why on the one hand ambitious young women are supposedly willing to adopt a charade of male behaviour to scale the greasy pole, yet on the other they'll opt for the oldest trick in the book. We know sexual favours didn't work first time around when women had even fewer options, so why resort to them now? It's desperation, not emancipation - all those pints on an empty stomach have clouded their judgement.

While men have twigged that overtly male behaviour doesn't work these days, younger women are hurtling in the opposite direction. Yet new management styles favour female traits; emotional intelligence, mediation and intuition.

The increasing female appetite for booze, fags and poor food are more likely to be symptoms of stress rather than evidence of glamorous living, which isn't progress at all. Men would never be so hard on themselves, so why are women?

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