Worthy equality laws can be counter productive

Harriet Rubin, the author of &ldquo;The Princessa: Machievelli for Women&rdquo; has struck again. Her latest book, &ldquo;The Mona Lisa Strategm: the Art of Women, Age and Power&rdquo; popped into my mind earlier in the week, after the passing away of Bruce Wasserstein and Nichola Pease&rsquo;s comments about maternity leave.<br /><br />&ldquo;Become a great man who is all woman, because the sexes do not age. They mature into femininity. Once upon a youthful time, men were from Mars and women from Venus. But with age, women and men arrive at the same place: maturity,&rdquo; writes Rubin.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s quite a thesis. Just as Obama is the transformational leader because he doesn&rsquo;t strike &ndash; even in words &ndash; but stirs, observes, influences and encourages, there will also be transformational business people who adopt position more in tune with being a confidante than a pit bull. It makes them no less effective<br /><br />Women will find their balance and role, and will lead, but it will come on the back of them being sought after, not imposing themselves. In a world which has moved from linear and hierarchical structures to one of networks and communities, those who can align the energies and business model of the ecosystem win.<br /><br /><strong>OLD HAND FOR MOST WOMEN</strong><br />This is old hand for most women. Peace-making, making it work for the group, multi-tasking, promoting from within, using a sense of humour to patch over the rough spots, and leaving egos at the door in the morning &ndash; it&rsquo;s all dead simple.<br /><br />How did Anne Mulcahy lead a comeback at Xerox? I heard her speak at the Chairman&rsquo;s Club a couple of years ago, and it was poignant to hear her speak of knowing that she would need to radically change the culture when she took over as chief executive, and yet she knew that she was a product of the culture. She ended up growing a new farm, but not by blasting the one that was there.<br /><br />Year-long maternity leaves, like so many laws which are passed in the name of fairness, appear just but then have unintended consequences. I have men confide in me repeatedly that they aren&rsquo;t employing women of childbearing age because of the fear of legal consequences if things go wrong. Surely that wasn&rsquo;t the objective. Careful what you ask for. You may get it.<br /><br />And Tamara Mellon rounds out the thesis. This century, there will be more women worth &pound;100m who build their fortunes out of raw skill and feminine swagger. The point is not the money, but what the money will achieve in society.<br /><br />Power shouldn&rsquo;t be a zero sum game. My hope is that fortunes built on inclusiveness and networks with female strength will be spent to empower the masses. <br /><br />Julie Meyer is CEO of Ariadne Capital.