It seems in some ways odd that we have returned two years later to compile another MT '35 Women Under 35' feature. Why in 2003 are we still producing a list of faces to watch that is open only to women rather than all young high-fliers in business?
As I sit here editing away, MT's art director and her deputy are both female, the magazine's advertising director and manager are both women, the author of the feature in question is a woman section editor and so is her colleague. Of the staff on our masthead on page 4, women outnumber men by 12 to seven. (Although, I grant you, our list of contributing editors and editors-at-large is a bit bloke-heavy, which we must do something to redress.) Sometimes these days in the media you hear the odd grumpy old git moaning that he'd have made it faster up the slippery pole if he'd had a skirt on.
I don't claim that MT is a great beacon of worthy feminist virtue. We are hardly martyrs to the Equal Opportunities Commission cause, and neither was Rupert Murdoch when he made the ruthlessly methodical Rebekah Wade editor of the Sun. None of MT's staff got into their job because they were women; they made it through talent and experience.
They are there for sound, hard-nosed commercial reasons and are integral to producing a successful, profitable magazine.
The fact that we're still justified in highlighting the achievements of these successful young females is borne out by the response to some recent enquiries by corporate research company BoardEx. It has often been claimed that whereas we are short of female bosses at the top of British industry, further down the scale things are far more gender-blind. If you are female and talented, it is said, you will get on as fast as any man. BoardEx's figures cast doubt on this assumption. From a database of 550 of the UK's largest listed companies, there are 59 board directors aged 35 or under but only five of them are women (four are on the MT list). However, we would all do well to note that of the top 20 companies ranked by market capitalization in the FTSE-100, 80% have female directors, whereas among the bottom 20 only 40% do.
On their way up, all our talented regiment of women will have had to deal with the vicissitudes and shenanigans of office politics - a subject we also scrutinise this month. 'There are three kinds of people in business,' says the devil's advocate in the piece, 'the competent, the incompetent and the political. The competent rise on merit, the incompetent rise because of a shortage of competent people and the political rise by taking credit from the competent while blaming the incompetent.' We are, of course, confident that all our 35 young women got there strictly on merit.