Why are successful women belittled?

Why are successful women belittled?  Yesterday, when the Tory cabinet was announced, the media headlines were that “Women” had been promoted, yet the male politicians were named.

 Inevitably there were accusations of women being promoted beyond their ability as ‘tokenism’. Reading these “women’s” biographies, it was clear they were all highly skilled, successful, intelligent individuals. A number of them had been junior ministers during the last government, so had acquired experience.

But the real disappointment was that the men promoted, or invited to be in the cabinet were not scrutinised in the same way. For some reason being a female in a senior political role results in accusations of tokenism, or being “Media friendly” – a term quoted by the BBC on a number of occasions yesterday.

nicola sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon mentioned on ITV’s “Loose Women” yesterday that she’d been subjected to derogatory remarks about her appearance. She said: ‘What annoys me or worries me most about it is I’m used to reading pretty derogatory things about myself in the newspapers, about how I look, about my hair and all that kind of stuff.

‘So for me it’s water off a duck’s back, but it worries me that younger women who might be thinking about politics, they’ll read that about me and think ‘you know what, I don’t fancy putting myself in the firing line for that’.’

This is a really interesting observation: is ‘society’ and in particular the media influencing women’s decisions to be involved in politics? Instead of respecting women’s experience and skills they bring to the cabinet or other areas of life, they are derided for their appearance, accused of tokenism and being “Media Friendly”.

If we compare this to the spat between the Miliband brothers yesterday. David Miliband finally spoke about his relationship and opinion of his brother Ed, five years after he was beaten to the post of Labour Leader. It was embittered, but respected by the media as an opinion. I have NO doubt if this had been a woman speaking the headlines would have been “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” yet this was “Hell hath no fury like a BROTHER scorned”.

Until we respect the success, experience and skills of women, we can’t move forward as a nation. The BBC, who ironically are accused of being left wing, need to review how they report women’s success, so there is not an underlying message that their merit is less than that of a man. We do need to have the debate “Why are successful women belittled”, then the country can move on.

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About the author

Susan Heaton Wright is a former opera singer who works with successful individuals and teams to make an impact with their voices and physical presence. Using her experience in using the voice and performing on stage, she works with people to improve their performances in a range of business situations; from meeting skills and on the telephone, to public speaking, presentations and appearing on the media.

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