Should I resent the fact that some positions are offered only to women?

I am a level-headed, unsexist accountant who believes strongly in meritocracy, and I’m beginning to get hacked off at the treatment handed out to my female colleagues. One of them has just won a prize for being an “emerging leader” that was only open to women. Meanwhile, one of my female bosses has just got a seat on a board, despite being less impressive than men at her level. Now, the final indignity is that I applied to a course in executive education and see that the college is offering scholarships to women – but not to men. Am I wrong to feel so resentful?

Accountant, male, 31

LUCY’S ANSWER

Let’s take these outrages in turn. First, the award. Why does this rankle so badly? Do you really want a hideous trophy on your desk

proclaiming that you are an “Emerging Leader”? And would you still want it if you knew the field had been limited to, say, blue-eyed men? There are hundreds of awards for women, and they don’t help women advance, so

they can’t hold men back. They are sweet but harmless – like gold stars at school.

As for your second grievance, how do you know your female colleague is less impressive than the men? Did you sit in at the interviews? Do you know for a fact it was “impressiveness” the company was after? Even supposing she was picked simply for her sex, I don’t see why this affects you directly.

More galling are the scholarships offered to women – but even these don’t damage you. If the college had stopped offering places for men or if they increased your fee to pay for the women’s scholarships, then you might have a stronger case for resentment, but as it is, I think your complaint is a bit feeble. I’m not denying that discrimination in favour of women takes place. I’m just saying you shouldn’t worry about it. There is still plenty of negative discrimination faced by women and by almost everybody almost all of the time: I’ve never visited a workplace in which decisions were all made in the level-headed meritocratic way you favour.

Nothing’s fair, as my dad used to tell me. So you should drop your resentment right now. Grinding your teeth will do nothing but wear the

enamel down. It will not only make you a bore to yourself, it will make you dull company.

Concentrate on your own career, and even if you win no prizes, you may win some respect.

Dear Lucy

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Lucy Kellaway, FT columnist and associate editor, offers her solution to your workplace problems in a fortnightly column in the Financial Times. In this weekly online edition of her 'agony aunt' column, readers are invited to have a say too. Read more about Dear Lucy here.

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