Such is the dilemma of any woman at the top of their profession or leading an empire. Whereas male leaders are encouraged to be ruthless, and patted on the back for their leadership qualities, a female in the same position will be deemed callous and unscrupulous if she makes any harsh moves at all in the favour of her Dynasty.
Theresa May is a prime example. She has acquired the role of Prime Minister of the UK almost by default, and endeavoured to take the helm of the UK with very little support from her back benchers or indeed the Public who were constantly berating her way before she stepped into the Arena. Love her or hate her she has managed to make inroads into pulling off one of the toughest deals of the 21st Century, Brexit, and even though she mishandled the general election, she put her hands up and admitted that she had taken the wrong advice and generally screwed up.
To hear men describe her has been quite entertaining, in that because she has just had her 60th birthday and doesn’t pay great attention to her appearance (apart from her kitten heels), she has been described by one corporate gentleman as ‘poor old Theresa May’ with an emphasis on the Old. Another gentleman aired concern about her Diabetes, which he felt could put her at risk with such a stressful leadership role, and another saying how lack lustre she appeared.
The latter seems reminiscent of the 71 year old President Trump who told the World he felt Hilary Clinton was lacking in ‘energy’ because of her age, and yet praised the agile 64 year old French First Lady for being ‘in good shape’.credit: James Francis / Shutterstock.com
It has been the same throughout history with legends like Cleopatra – recognised first for her beauty, but then for her wit and intelligence. She has also been labelled as unscrupulous in her treatment of Mark Anthony who was her lover and the famous liaison with Julius Caesar. If the boot were on the other foot, it is doubtful that there would have been a mention of a wrong doing.
“For she was a woman of surpassing beauty, and at that time, when she was in the prime of her youth, she was most striking; she also possessed a most charming voice and knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to everyone. Being brilliant to look upon and to listen to, with the power to subjugate everyone, even a love-sated man already past his prime, she thought that it would be in keeping with her role to meet Caesar, and she reposed in her beauty all her claims to the throne.”
These accounts influenced later cultural depictions of Cleopatra, which typically present her using her charms to influence the most powerful men in the Western world.
Cleopatra was also renowned for her intellect. Plutarch writes that she could speak at least nine languages and rarely had need of an interpreter.
So where does that leave us ladies, who are forever being challenged on our ambition or attire (remember the fracas about the high heels at work!). My advice is to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. After all, we are aware of the issues and prejudices of certain members of the opposite sex , and hopefully the attitudes of our male counterparts can be easily brushed off once we are resolutely on the way to crashing through that glass ceiling.