Good women bosses should be worn out by work... not babies


Compulsive viewing: Rebekah Wade's testimony at the Leveson Inquiry (above) was an illuminating window into the mind of a female chief executive

Compulsive viewing: Rebekah Wade's testimony at the Leveson Inquiry (above) was an illuminating window into the mind of a female chief executive

Do women make good bosses? I was glued to Rebekah Wade’s testimony to the Leveson Inquiry on Friday (I refuse to refer to women by their mercurial marital names).

The testimony was a window on the world of the female chief executive, how her mind works – potentially, evidence of what the corporate world is missing, given its glass ceiling.

The former News International chief exec’s choice of dress was an early indication she should have stayed in the typing pool: a Peter Pan collar? White cuffs? The curls, too: I’d take her so much more seriously in a chignon.

Her performance was entirely female (simpering, placatory), when I’d have thought her years as a Fleet Street editor would have toughened her up. Most shockingly, though, she seemed to have dementia, given the number of times she said: ‘I can’t remember.’

It wasn’t looking good for  the feminist cause. Perhaps her head was full of shopping lists, things to get fixed around the house, that order that needed placing for more horse feed (the most important point missed about Horsegate was that the former police steed was found to be in a ‘poor’ condition; for this alone I’d have locked up Rebekah and her posh husband, and thrown away the key).

No, Rebekah wouldn’t be distracted by such domestic trivia – she is, I’m sure, the kind of woman who delegates the power-washing of the reclaimed stone patio now spring has sprung. No. I know what it is that made her so incoherent, so lacking in fire! She became a mum barely four months ago.

Oh dear. Middle-class mothers. Because the real key to what makes someone a good or bad boss or employee is not their sex, but this: how focused is he or she on the job in hand?

Gordon Brown, complaining about The Sun’s revelation that his son has cystic fibrosis, said in a statement he could think of no reason why the illness should have been put in the public domain.

Girl power: I was heartened by Yvette Cooper's recent remark that she saves time by getting her husband Ed Balls to do the shopping and cooking

Girl power: I was heartened by Yvette Cooper's recent remark that she saves time by getting her husband Ed Balls to do the shopping and cooking

Well, I beg to differ. If you become Prime Minister, expect not to have a private  life. When doing such an important job, voters need to know  you are committed and have  the time and energy to carry out your duties.

The reason children, healthy or otherwise, always impact  less on a man’s career is that women, especially the ones who run corporations, cannot leave the Ocado ordering to their other half (although I was heartened by Yvette Cooper’s recent comment that she saves time by getting her husband to do the shopping and cooking. That  alone was enough to swing my vote back to Labour).

 I THINK the only good workers are those who do not take their domestic life into work with them. I appeared on This Morning on Thursday to discuss this very topic. I was being interrogated by Holly Willoughby, who has either just given birth, or is just about to, I couldn’t be sure (I know that is a terrible thing to say, but she riled me).

In light of the previous morning’s Queen’s Speech, in which HM announced her Government’s plans to introduce legislation to give parents of both sexes more flexible working hours, I was on the programme to say that 12 months’ maternity leave is a very long time, especially in a recession, and the least a new mum could do during that time would be to phone in every once in a while.

Since the Queen's Speech, which announced plans for changes to working hours for parents, I have been arguing that 12 months' maternity leave is a very long time, especially in a recession

In light of the Queen’s Speech, in which HM announced her Government’s plans to introduce legislation to give parents of both sexes more flexible working hours, I have been arguing that 12 months’ maternity leave is a very long time

‘But that time is important, it’s when we bond,’ Holly mewed indignantly. The woman alongside me on the colourful couch said she had become a mother aeons ago (again, I was about to ask her when it was due).

She explained that I couldn’t possibly understand the need  for a year off work – with a schedule that only allowed time to come into the office to collect baby shower gifts – as I ‘hadn’t had children’.

Well, yeah, tell me about it. The child-free are the ones who  are discriminated against. I’ve been asked to travel hundreds of miles on a Sunday to do a story with a woman because the interview and shoot have to finish at 3.30pm the next day, as that  is when she picks up her child from school. You see? That’s MY  Sunday (thank heaven that Homeland has finished).

Not all child-free women make great bosses, of course: Sly  Bailey, forced to resign as head of Trinity Mirror, has Maine Coon cats, not human babies (but they do, I suppose, have very time-consuming long coats).

However the bags under Brooks-Wade’s eyes are testimony not to hours spent poring over documents, but over a  cradle. I also can’t help thinking: who would think about buying an extra bit of family at a time like this?

When I was being sued by  Ashton Kutcher, who is not remotely as credible as Lord  Justice Leveson, I had to say  no to adopting a kitten. Case opened, case closed.

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