It was there, in the cigar and testosterone filled basements of this ultimate male sanctum, that Germaine Greer’s warning began to echo in my ears again. As the token woman among 70 men, I was conditionally accepted – but only on their terms. If I was prepared to work 10 hour days, wear managerial woman suits, put up with cigar smoke and bad behaviour, with being treated at times like part of the furniture, and at other times like a bit of flesh they could flirt with when they needed a diversion, I could achieve a measure of acceptance. But if I wasn’t prepared to make work the number one priority in my life and conform utterly to their codes of behaviour, I would be excluded from their game. I would be squeezed out of my position, to return once again to the ranks of outsider, a marginal creature men would not tolerate in their inner sanctums.
Was this, I began to wonder, the point of all our striving. To have the same opportunity as men to sacrifice our personal lives, work 80 hours a week, drop dead at 45, and otherwise trap ourselves in lives that were as stressful and sterile as I perceived most of the lives of these chief executives to be.
Sue Kedgley is writing of the late 1970s.