Did she jump or was she pushed?

There have been a number of women resign from the Civil Service recently. The suspicion is that if not pushed they were encouraged to jump. Those less familiar with how things work at the top may be surprised to learn that whether they jumped or were pushed the issue was almost certainly not one of competence. In such cases the words whispered are confidence, trust and loyalty as in the board no longer had confidence in them, they had lost the minister's trust or their loyalty to the department/organisation was questioned.

Confidence, trust and loyalty are words used to describe a relationship with your boss or the board. The individuals skills or abilities are not being called into question neither is their professional judgment.

Is what makes women jump different to what makes men jump? In my experience a man jumps because he no longer has the support and trust of his boss or the board a woman jumps because she believes she can no longer do the job. The two may be related but they are different. A man would never resign because he didn't think he was up to the job. Men in senior posts have a tendency to overestimate their abilities which means they are often over confident and will likely see this set back more as a reflection on their boss or the board rather than them. In my experience of mentoring women they tend to need some encouragement to apply for senior posts as they are more likely to focus on the gaps in their experience and skills and question whether they are truly equipped to do the job. Men tend to take the view that if they give me an interview they must think I can do the job. So a woman doesn't jump because others think she should but because she thinks the circumstances make it impossible for her to do the job. One is resigning because the boss is a "fool" the other because the boss won't let them do the job the way they believe it should be done.

I am probably over stating the differences. I acknowledge that to get the top jobs women may have to behave more like men do but never the less I believe there are differences in how men and women approach their careers, why they apply and why they jump.

Blair McPherson author of An Elephant in the Room about delivering equality and diversity in large complex organisations published by Russell House. www.blairmcpherson.co.uk


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