Katherine Butler: Women! Do everything and then learn how to shoot clay pigeons

Notebook

Share

Are you a woman aged between 15 and 51? Are you ambitious but discouraged by the failure of talented women like you to be promoted to senior positions in top companies? Are you in possession of a Hermès scarf?

If the answer to that last question was "No, I wouldn't be seen dead in a Hermès scarf", then you may want to question your determination to succeed. Because, apparently, this is an essential prop if you're ever to become a corporate ballbreaker in this country, let alone head the IMF. Other tips? Take up clay-pigeon shooting, gatecrash the Davos World Economic Forum, and, while you're at it, volunteer with a charity so that you can hob-nob with influential people as you fund-raise. Oh, and if at all possible consider hiring a driver.

A shameless 89 per cent of FTSE 350 companies still have no women executive directors at all, and it'll be at least another century before there is anything like boardroom parity, at the rate we're going. This is where your new Hermès purchase comes in. The scarf and shooting advice is contained in a new book, published in the week that Vince Cable tackles the "closed shop" culture of male-dominated boardrooms, as part of his initiative on excessive executive pay. Author Mrs Moneypenny – real name Heather McGregor, a businesswoman who presents C4's Superscrimpers – isn't waiting around for Vince to make a fuss; she wants women to tackle where they themselves are going wrong.

Her Careers Advice for Ambitious Women is not all regressively about professional blowdries (although hair matters, apparently) or carrying a spare pair of tights in your bag. It's also about sensibly saying No, and realising that while you are being ultra-diligent, your less experienced male colleague may be getting ahead by cc-ing the boss and strategically boasting about his own brilliance.

Every woman should be spending at least 5 per cent of her time on her own PR, Mrs Moneypenny claims.This is not, she insists, so much about attending networking events as seeking out "sponsors", or building a "third dimension" into your life, so that when you find you're sitting next to the CEO of Google on a flight, you have something interesting to talk about.

Most women I know are already excellent networkers: it starts in the playground. Where they probably have qualms is about seeming mercenary by asking a contact or connection to "sponsor" their ascent up the greasy pole or using charity work to burnish their public image.

And it seems unfair that women must absorb all the changes required to equalise corporate power. If Mrs Moneypenny is right, we must gain a top-flight education, then bore ourselves senseless taking extra accountancy qualifications to prove we are not a financial liability, and learn to shoot clay pigeons. Only then will we have the confidence to schmooze the people who matter. Are male executives ever sent on courses to learn how unconscious bias works?

Mrs Moneypenny would argue that we have to deal with the world, not some future theoretical nirvana. That certainly isn't coming any time soon, if Lord Oakeshott is correct. He told the FT yesterday that British business still picks its bosses from an "incestuous male gene pool". Maybe get your driver to run you to the Hermès store.

The power of canine intuition

Uggie the wonder dog from the French movie The Artist has achieved Hollywood glory and charmed the critics with his extraordinary scene-stealing. I am not in the least surprised. I accompanied a Jack Russell to the vet's the other day. Ellie, my mother's, is a big dog trapped in a small dog's body; scrappy and pugilistic when she encounters another canine. But she put on a convincing performance in the waiting room. A big rangy rescue dog "highly volatile" his carer kept warning the receptionist, was ahead of us. There was a whimpering labrador and a scared cat in a shoe box who'd been run over by a car.

Mayhem seemed inevitable But the Jack Russell imparted a kind of calm, and all the animals fell silent, like a truce in a UN green zone. Did she somehow communicate that they were all united by one aim: getting out of there alive? Or maybe the other dogs just hoped she might know where to catch a screening of Uggie.

k.butler@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Science teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are seeking a languages...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed Randst...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: out of time, polling and immigration and old words

John Rentoul
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past