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Lynne Parker

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Women and Power - Does it Work?

Posted: 12/02/2013 10:58

What is power? What does it bring you? Is the means by which you attain your dreams, goals and ambitions? And does comedy or humour play it's part in the quest for power? Clearly it has some resonance with the good women of BBC Radio 4's flagship programme Woman's Hour as several women whose business straddles comedy and the arts have made the final cut into their Power List .

My own company Funny Women compiled a Comedy Power List a few weeks ago in response to this search which is, interestingly, not reflected in today's list published by Women's Hour which has business, academia and politics at its core. Yet I am relieved to see some other amazingly high profile women from our neck of the woods on the list: Dawn French, Sarah Millican, Joanna Lumley from the performance world, and Jude Kelly OBE, Kath Mainland and Rosemary Squire who are highly influential in the arts and central to British cultural life.

So comedy and power don't mix then? I think they do and have spent the last 48 hours with a group of women who have power but didn't necessarily know it! Despite the accolades and the 'fluff' of lists and honours, I believe that we all have the power to be whatever we want to be. Maybe these carefully selected icons of British society have this in spades which is what gets them past the virtual glass ceiling - it's a form of self-belief that only we ourselves have the power to unleash.

Seeing 25 grown women wrestling with improvisation, creative writing, stand up and the rudiments of burlesque during our first ever Funny Women Workshop Weekend was a fascinating experience. Some of them were completely terrified and the words 'comfort', 'zone' and 'out of' were heard many times over the two days. Yet this became a positive mantra when mental and physical boundaries were stretched and recalibrated into something very powerful and energetic. One participant has already recounted her experience in an article HERE which, I'm proud to admit, moved me to tears.

So power is within and I think the key is not to get too drawn into a game that is mainly played by men. Power is a better 'fit' for men and they wear it in a different way than women do. We are less comfortable with the rigours of status, and prefer collaboration to delegation. Our skill is in support and development, nurturing talent in a more gentle manner. Power for us is often creative and 'circular' in its form, so it's no surprise to me that there are no women in the top echelons of the military and less women in top industrial roles.

The Women's Hour list quite rightly recognises women who have reached great heights in the worlds more usually inhabited by men, even comedy! But how can you choose French without Saunders? And surely Jennifer Saunders had a big hand too in the rise of Joanna Lumley, as it was she who created the monstrous 'Patsy' in Ab Fab?

In any list there will be anomalies, I know, but some of this is a little 'top line' and 'as seen on TV'. For example, I can think of at least 10 women who are not on the list who have made bigger and better contributions to the worlds of pop music and fashion than Victoria Beckham! This is slightly countered by the rightful inclusion of Adele Adkins and Stella McCartney, but should the world's most famous WAG really be honoured alongside leading politicians and heads of industry? Please discuss...

I am sure there will be plenty of debate about this in the days and months to come and bring it on! As women we have the 'power' of comment and I am curious to see the responses. Funny Women is the leading community for comedy in the UK and I have worked with thousands of women over the last 10 years to give them a voice and a platform for their talents. But, does this list demonstrate that she who shouts the loudest and works the hardest, brings home the prize? There are still too many voices unheard.

To see whose made the list of the top 100 most powerful women as selected by BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, click HERE.

To help you find your voice, Funny Women runs regular workshops, more information HERE.

 

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