That bastion of female-ness, BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, last week launched its search for the most powerful women in Britain. It seems that, such are the sensibilities and organisational abilities of women, that we need yet another list to prove how powerful we are!
This coincidentally in the very same week that our Prime Minister, David Cameron, is harangued by the media for his Bullingdon club 'old boy clique' that excludes women, with a response from a former minister, Dame Helen Ghosh, saying that women MPs don't have time to network because they're too busy juggling family commitments and the demands of their constituencies. It begs the question, do we have a feminine leg to stand on when it comes to the corridors of real power?
Power is packaged up under the umbrella of a huge array of women's networks - social and business. From the long established 'jam and Jerusalem' of the Women's Institute to the selective club and social network, Sister Snog - for 'smart-sassy-brand-savvy business women' - they all have their place in a feminine landscape where women take their 'campfire' mentality and do the business whilst stirring the pot. It's power but not as the men know it!
And, as these networks proliferate, the men should be afraid, very afraid, because that's where the hard work gets done. Whilst the Bullingdon boys are out toffing it up in the playground, our 'girl guides' are earning their badges, getting down to the nitty gritty of building a base for women to grown their families and creating their feminine vision of the world.
The Woman's Hour Power List will rank the 100 most powerful women in the UK as recorded at the start of 2013. This will focus on the women who have the biggest impact on our economy, society, politics and culture. We're being asked to nominate the women who have the ability to inspire as role models or thinkers. They are also asking if power boils down to having the money to make things happen and the impact that new technology has had on the ability to be powerful.
I, like most women in business, love a list and have to be honest here, would be honoured to count myself in as a woman who inspires and leads in my own secular way. I was therefore impressed when one high profile woman of my acquaintance emailed all her contacts and asked them to nominate her! I confess, I couldn't do that - so maybe there is a connection with this ability to self-promote and power? This comes more naturally to men, hence the balance of power, whereas women excel in self-deprecation.
So taking a leaf out the Bullingdon book of networking, is it the hearty backslapping and self-congratulation that gets us noticed? Do we need to shout 'vote for me'? If so, is there a 'ladylike' way of doing this? I believe that we are at our most powerful when we are passionate about what we do or believe in - but even with the fire in your belly you're not going to impress anybody if your voice isn't heard.
Woman's Hour pledges to survey the achievements of British women across public life and offer some measure of the progress women have made in society. "We hope to shine a light on the top female politicians, business women and leaders in their field - from areas as diverse as finance, education, health, engineering and the arts. And we will ask how much power these women have in modern Britain?" So goes the blurb.
Working in comedy it's interesting to see where the power lies. There are some extremely powerful and smart female managers and agents - Lucy Ansbro, Hannah Begbie, Dawn Sedgwick, Hannah Chambers, Debbie Allen, Lisa Thomas just to mention a few (there are lot more), who all manage and promote some of the biggest names in comedy, male and female. The head of comedy at Sky is Lucy Lumsden, who should surely make the list, given that her rise began in her previous role at the BBC. Plus there's the performers themselves who have written their own tickets into the annuls of fame - Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Victoria Wood, Sandi Toksvig, Jo Brand, Ruth Jones and Miranda Hart.
Woman's Hour is asking us to suggest the women who we think have the greatest influence and ability to change the way we live our lives in the UK today and such icons of female comedy have influenced a generation, proving that women can use humour, be funny and make a living out of writing, producing and performing comedy. Let's see if we can get a few of these women on the list.
The power debate will no doubt percolate through the media, politics and (hopefully) entertainment worlds over the next few weeks. In the meantime I believe that integrity gives you the power to believe in yourself and see the value of those around you. So I'll leave the last word to one of my favourite powerful women and namesake, Lynne Franks, founder of the Seed Network: "Including your personal values and ethics in your enterprise is as important as employing your skills and incorporating your passions." (The Seed Handbook).
To nominate a woman for the Woman's Hour Power list click HERE.
Funny Women runs 'Stand Up to Stand Out' workshops to help women from all walks of life to find their voice. For more information read HERE.
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