Women in the boardroom Margaret Hirsch

2016-07-26 06:00
Margaret Hirsch Photo:

Margaret Hirsch Photo:

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“DO you make the tea?” When I first went into an executive position I was convinced and I was determined I was not going to go into a board meeting and make the tea or take the minutes.

For ages I didn’t. I was very militant about it and the tea would arrive and I would studiously ignore it and wait for somebody else to make it. However, I would feel embarrassed about it because it just didn’t feel right.

I knew I was doing it to make a point, but I felt uncomfortable and so did the men in the room. So I made a decision that I would make the tea.
When I got to a board meeting or any sort of meeting where I was always the only woman - and sometimes with between 10 and 15 men in the room, I would ensure that I organised the tea and coffee before the meeting started.
What would happen is that the meeting would start and then there would be this huge disruption with the tea and coffee story.

Luckily I sell coffee machines so I would often take a coffee machine in to demonstrate - then I would make coffee for everyone - and sell the machine to some. I found that by doing that, when it came to me asking them for something they felt they had to give it to me because I had given them their coffee after all, so it actually worked for me.

When it came to taking the minutes, I was trained as a shorthand typist and I can type almost as fast as people can talk - so people relied on me to take the minutes.
At first I was annoyed because I felt I couldn’t contribute to the meeting.
Then I worked out that I would plan what I had to say ahead of time and type it out so I would not have to type it into the minutes. I would take minutes while everyone was talking and I actually found that I remembered far more of what was going on. It gave me time to think and also I could refer to my notes and come up with good ideas at the end.

“I always say to women who are in boardrooms, don’t act as if you are someone else. You are still a woman and it make sense to make the tea. My husband makes coffee for every person who comes to see him. They feel he is being humble and waiting on them, and he enjoys doing it.

It gives him time to think and is a great ice-breaker.

So don’t be the Devil Wears Prada character, be that fabulous person that everyone wants to be around. Offer to make the tea and coffee. Take the minutes. Send them off straight away. Go the extra mile, and see how well it works for you.

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