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The beautifully organised and conducted BritCham lunch at the Shangri-La last Monday was a model of how such events should be staged. And yet I thought it sad that there were only about a dozen men in a congregation of 250 women. The speakers were excellent, the panel discussion, helpful. And yet I came away feeling that I wasn’t sure why we were there. To  celebrate is always acceptable and it was certainly a celebration, but of what? We know women are taking more senior positions in business. We know that women have a great deal to offer in every aspect of life. But I came away with an uneasy feeling that we were still drawing attention to their competitive relationship with men. I rather hoped we left that behind thirty years ago.

I left it behind eighty-two years ago in my casual job as a farm hand at the age of ten. And did so doubly when I got my first job in London aged twenty-two. Almost the first thing I noticed was the way women were treated, not so much pruriently in those days but more as a piece of office furniture. A sort of pre-robot robot. I vowed that they would never be treated like that by me. It’s one vow I have kept and three times I have threatened resignation from good jobs over the issue – and always won.

My early observations may have been precipitated by not having a living mother through WWII with the result that I had to observe more and try to understand what other people had to offer and what they needed themselves. They led me to realise that as a broad generalisation gender did give rise to different advantages, some for women, some for men. I’m not sure exactly when the word ‘strategic’ crossed my mind but it was certainly in my teens. I understood it to mean the ability to think and see ahead. Again, as a sweeping generalisation, women have this intuitive ability to think beyond the battle. Men, on the other hand, are great tacticians. They react fast and often short-term. They win the battles but sometimes lose the peace.

A war is an extremely silly and basically wicked event. Our primary need today is not competition but cooperation. Were we more cooperative the world would not be in the unbelievable mess that it is. Some women compete in the same way that some men cooperate. But for real cooperation put a gathering of women first. It’s more to the strategic advantage that cooperation works best.

Gender divides will outlive the planet. Gender cooperation could keep the planet alive. Perhaps we could initiate a Gender Cooperation Day Celebration and have both men and women taking big parts. Not to compete but to learn how the innate strategic ability of women can make the brilliant tactical adeptness of men become more fruitful.

How about it, BritCham?

My piece is about business and life in general. The sex side of gender will hopefully always be there. “Oh, Him” and “The Wife” will hang around for a while.

I shouldn’t wonder.

Good morning
John Bittleston

7 March 2024