Want to be just like Margaret Thatcher?

A survey suggests women lower their voices and their hemlines to get along in business - which naturally means they all want to be like Maggie. Hmm.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 19 Sep 2012
From the swirling depths of MT’s inbox crawls this offering from serviced office provider Business Environment, which reckons the number one reason women pass judgement on their colleagues and clients is because of how they’re dressed. Yep – according to the survey, 72% of women judge their peers not on, say, the quality of their work, their level of enthusiasm or how well they meet deadlines, but whether or not they’re wearing this season’s cocktail jeans. Now don’t get us wrong, MT takes a lively interest in fashion, but this seems a little unfair…

If it’s true, no wonder women are so self-conscious: apparently, 46% of the 2,000 questioned said they’d lowered the tone of their voice in an attempt to be taken more seriously, while over half said they dress ‘more powerfully’ at work, with 23% wearing longer skirts and another 23% showing less cleavage than they ordinarily would. (At which juncture we should point out that while we haven’t done a poll on this one, we’re pretty sure the percentage of men wearing work-appropriate suits to the office versus those who rock up in loungewear is also fairly large).

What’s with all this power-dressing and voice-lowering, then? You’ve probably guessed what’s coming next: yep, it’s the obligatory Iron Lady reference. David Saul, Business Environment’s managing director, says deep down inside, all ladies really want is to crack out the string of pearls and don a pussy bow blouse. ‘[Margaret Thatcher] paved the way for the likes of Richard Branson and all the other entrepreneurs out there to think big and live their dream. So as the first major female leader of our times, it’s not completely unexpected that today’s women should want to emulate her in various ways – intentionally or not.’

Well, that’s cleared that one up.

Sarcasm aside, the point that many offices are still very male-dominated – so women will naturally want to fit in – is fair enough, just as (we’d imagine) men subtly change certain characteristics when they’re working in a female-dominated environment. It strikes us as a bit of a cop-out to suggest that all women want is to be like Margaret Thatcher – ask female leaders like IMF boss Christine Lagarde or Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts who their inspirations are and we doubt they’d cite her.

And we still take objection to find the idea that women would rather judge their colleagues on their outfits than their work. Surely the sisterhood’s stronger than that.

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