Boardroom diversion and division

Sydney Morning Herald
24 January, 2010
By Ian Freeman

''ARE you looking at me?'' she asked, with the start of a frown.

I had noted she had recently streaked her hair, spent quite some time on make-up, complete with enhanced eyelashes and lipstick of an intriguing hue, was adorned with attractive earrings and necklace, was wearing a lift-and-separate bra that was certainly doing its job, had undone the perfect number of buttons to display a sweeping decolletage, and her skirt was designed to emphasise a pair of silkily stockinged legs terminating in an elegant pair of quite substantial heels.

''Well yes,'' I confirmed.

''Do you think that's appropriate behaviour in a boardroom?'' she asked.

Now I wasn't staring, gawking or goggling, just noting the package in a vaguely appreciative manner.

Appropriate behaviour? The clear implication was that my behaviour may have been somehow inappropriate. And here is where the gender problem begins. I am a male a bloke even, perhaps, a chap. Whichever, I almost certainly march to the beat of a different drum.

If I had gone to a similar degree of trouble to make myself stand out from the crowd, I would have been severely disconcerted had I not been noticed. Or, conversely, would have been delighted if someone had taken the trouble to observe, appreciate and nod tacit approval.

''I was just noticing the benefits of ladies' apparel in our climate,'' I intoned. As we were, in fact, sitting in a boardroom, my expected attire included a tie and jacket.

''There's no need to be condescending,'' she snorted. Of course! She was no lady! She was a ''woman''. Again, if someone were to refer to me as a ''gentleman'', I would feel quite chuffed.

''It's no wonder they're talking of bringing in quotas to ensure women get the opportunity to bring a female point of view to boards.'' I didn't like to mention the fact that she was the member of a board here. I was just a consultant presenting a paper.

''The sooner they bring in quotas to get more women into parliament, the better things will be as well,'' she muttered.

Now, Australia has had equal franchise since Federation and the country has almost always contained more women than men, so surely more women have voted for men than for their own brand. (Let's not even start on the Premier, Prime Minister, Governor-General thing).

Sometimes I ponder the value of passing a law that women must be obnoxious to men, if only to watch them beating blokes about with umbrellas demanding the right to be nice.

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