Thursday, 17 January 2008

The death of the 'Alpha Female'

According to a survey by Business Link, which is featured today on the StartUps site, the person budding entrepreneurs would be most scared of pitching their business to is Dragons’ Den panellist Deborah Meaden.

The poll questioned 720 aspiring entrepreneurs, and Meaden received a fifth of all the votes. This compared to a mere 10% for Bannatyne, Jones and Paphitis.

Afsana Shukur, head of diversity and equality at Business Link London, sheds some light on the matter:

“There is no denying that Deborah's passion and direct approach has helped make her the successful business woman she is today. It’s unfortunate though, that many successful businesswomen tend to be viewed as domineering and aggressive.”

Over three years on, I am still trying to shake off my 'Dragon Bitch' persona - and I don't think I was anywhere near as hard as Deborah on the entrepreneurs who pitched in the Den.

It's a real shame that Deborah Meaden still portrays the old pinstriped 'Alpha Female' 1980's stereotype (although she did eventually soften her look for series 5) - she is after all a role model for all who watch the Show, which includes many young girls looking for someone to emulate.

But then if Deborah were any 'nicer' the BBC would have thrown her off the Show by now, as happened to Richard Farleigh and Simon Woodroffe before him.

I meet women in business at events all the time these days, and it so refreshing that the majority are feminine, sexy, supportive and collaborative - as well as being fabulously successful.

Being feminine and successful in business are no longer mutually exclusive.


Anonymous said...

I do have to say that there is a difference between being aggresive and successful and being totally inhuman.......I do feel Ms Meaden should look at herself sometimes. I also feel sh has the habit of jumping on the bandwagon and not being first with her views but simply trying to endorse what ther have said normally by tearing the individual apart...........a similar trait to school bullying.

robert said...

A successful buisness leader must display some sense or ruthlessness, directness and aggressiveness, otherwise they will be brushed aside by their competitors. Unfortunately these traits are typical masculine characteristics born out of the process of evolution, and frowned upon if a woman displays too much of it. I don't think Ms Meaden was being inhuman to the people on the show, it's like that in business and many in real life have been put down and humiliated for a lot worse!!

I have met many successful buisnesswomen (but only at board meetings dominated by males), and they all have to display the typical alpha male characteristics to get their points across. They may be feminine, warm, and supportive in real life but too much of that in business may make you vulnerable when up against your male collegues.

From you experiences Rachel, do you feel you can be a successful buisnesswoman by not having any of the alpha male characteristics? Equally how important is it for buisnessmen to adopt some of the benefical characteristics of businesswomen?

Ian said...

I'm going to disagree with Robert. I think that there are probably some businesses where ruthlessness and aggression may be required, but it really has not been my experience that they are synonymous with being successful.

I think that there are times when being correct with procedures can be seen by others to be bad, but these are usually only in disciplinary matters.

From a business point of view, I have always found that in senior levels you are better off speaking of competitors with respect but pointing out how you exceed them, and promoting the benefits of your product or service rather than arrogantly and enthusiastically mocking others.

This is an ever changing world and today’s business competitor may be tomorrows’ business partner.
Worse than that, you may also find the person that has been the target of your aggression sitting on the panel of the local quango deciding if you get your 50% grant for your new development.

To go with the original thread, I think that the ruthless business ‘person’ is actually an overall minority.
I would imagine that many males who first go into business may imagine that there is a need to be aggressive, but I’m sure that they will soon figure out that being in business is like pushing treacle up a sandy bank.
It’s much easier if you have help.

Elizabeth said...

Hello Rachael

Everybody has a softer side even Ms Meaden because life kicks you in every direction. She has a strong persona, most important for fronting the business world - a tactical advantage which women perhaps need.

It is interesting how women are media termed "bitches" and men are media termed "aggressive"; the former a negative label and the latter a positive label. The media do like to stir the hype.

google said...

She should have been the one to go - not Richard Farleigh. There is even a petition to get Richard back on the Dragons' Den.

Bring Back Richard Farleigh

Rachel Elnaugh said...

Yes I agree, Richard Farleigh is fab.

But I fear, not 'Dragon-esque' enough for the show.

Which is a shame.


Anonymous said...

I find Deborah Meadon utterly sexy, strangely I also found Rachel Elnaugh also sexy. Why is this? If I could choose to spend a night with one of them it would be DM for sure.