REVERSE ALCHEMY

W80pxtreehat a week.

International Women’s Day, WOW on London’s South Bank, company training days and conferences timed to coincide with the ‘go, diversity’ mood.

Loving the energy, loving the get up and go. So time now to calm down, breathe deeply, and reflect. (And what an excellent place a café is for doing just that).

Yes, across the world injustices must be put right. Cruelties must stop. But what about the world of business? We really really need something different to happen. The numbers now wash over me. The 25% target for women on FTSE boards by 2015 won’t be met.

And I’m not sure that I care.

When a problem is framed as a numbers problem then the answer will be a numbers answer.

This just isn’t about numbers.

This is about changing the very culture of business, not replacing men under pressure with women under pressure.
How else will short-termism, narrow views of success, obsessive hunting for numerical growth, separateness from communities and society, pressures to conform..…and in some cases the corruption and entitlement that does so much harm to all of us…ever be challenged?

I’m not interested in more women joining the game. I want more women, working with men, to change the game.
And that’s when reverse alchemy came to mind.

I have participated in, run, listened to, several different sessions and programmes to help women succeed over the last couple of weeks. They have addressed becoming more confident, learning to negotiate, learning how to disagree without being disagreeable – you know the kind of thing. They have radiated generosity and goodwill.
Yet what I notice is brilliant, golden, individuals all learning how to be accepted in the current (barely changed) business culture. All learning how to adapt.

No matter how many times a session exhorts everyone to ‘be themselves’, the premise is still, if we are brutal, the same.
Be like this. It’ll get you further’.

Look, anything that helps confidence has got be good, hasn’t it?

But I worry: if you do what you did, then you get what you’ve got. What if ‘outsider’ qualities are the very dynamite needed to ignite the current ‘insiders’ (men under enormous pressure, and women who’ve done wonders) to change how things are done?

What if true confidence grows from actively not ‘joining’, from actively remaining radical?

What if unwittingly the golden-ness is being trained out of talented young women? What if an unintended tragic reverse alchemy is happening?

A review of Stella McCartney’s latest collection reported that she had wanted women to feel so good they could ‘unravel’ a little.

Sounds spot on to me.
Stay gold, and unravel a little.

That’s how to change the status quo.

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