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After being on both sides of the interview table quite a number of times, I think the main determinant in getting ahead in the workforce is looking, sounding and acting the part. I’ve said a few times that if I spoke to a group of people in the workplace for a few minutes about some non-work related issue and then spoke to each one individually for a minute or two, I think I could figure out who was in charge in most cases. Maybe confidence comes into it sometimes and extrovert versus introvert, but overall I think it often comes down to judging a book by its cover.

Relevant experience and the amount of it often seems to be a distant second. As for qualifications, you can just about forget them in many or most cases, or that’s what I found in the public sector and real world; it might differ a bit in the university sector, or at least on the academic side.

The result, I think, is that you get some atrocious examples of people being pushed up the corporate ladder who really don’t have much idea. I have seen quite a few examples in both the real world and the public sector.

I think men have an advantage over women in that the former seem to have more leeway for being eccentric, unwavering in their views, showing anger, being a bit rough around the edges, and being unconventional. I don’t think women can get away with as much and seem to have to be more on the straight and narrow or risk getting offside with staff and colleagues and accused of being aggressive, unfair, strange, whatever. Maybe people expect women managers to fit into some sort of stereotype far more than they expect with men.

I think women are more likely to listen to other viewpoints. For men, it often seems okay to be a bull in a china shop. Somehow, I think this is often construed as men being more assertive, decisive, etc. and perhaps, rightly or wrongly, seen as the better manager.

(I wrote and posted this as a comment to an article, “Gap or trap? Confidence backlash is the real problem for women”, at theconversation.com here in Australia back in June 2014.)