Sexist voodoo or reality check?

It is all too easy to dismiss the 1950s tone of much of Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine, Catherine Hakim’s study for the Centre for Policy Studies, as retrogressive twaddle, and its barmier suggestions have already been discussed here.

But I have now carefully read all 52 pages and there is one substantive strand to her argument that I agree with wholeheartedly.

Some years ago, an eminent old university friend of mine working in infertility research said far too many research pounds and hours were spent examining data derived from infertile rather than fertile couples. Learn from success, was his basic message.

Mentioning last November’s FT Women at the Top ranking magazine and conference, Hakim argues that:

“such events do more to support and promote women of all ages and in all walks of life than mandatory female quotas for company boards that few can see”.

Further on, she says:

“Despite the brief history of Chinese capitalism, there are substantial numbers of Chinese women who own and run their own global companies, self-made millionaires who got there without any artificial aids. Why is it that women are better able to zoom ahead in China than in Japan, in the US than in continental Europe? Why have so many European companies found it beneficial to import American women CEOs to revitalise companies, or board members to meet quotas? Addressing these questions would be rather more informative for future action than reporting annual league table statistics on the progress of gender equality in Europe.”

I agree.

By focusing on individuals, companies and cultures that show women performing at the very highest levels, we may gain better insight into how to replicate that success rather than simply analysing what is not working.

My university friend was right: we need to learn from success.

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The 'Women at the Top' blog is part of a series of online and print publications that focuses on women's achievements in business. With up-to-date news and incisive analysis, the blog will provoke discussion on the role of the world's most prominent businesswomen.

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About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.