Mary-Jane Kingsland: If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning

I admire any woman who has achieved status in her profession; but in the case of Rebekah Brooks I defer to her vociferous critics. Women look for powerful role models: Ms Brooks has become the antithesis.

There is no doubt that Ms Brooks, who rose from secretary to editor in just 11 years - and in the characteristically no frills environment of newspaper publishing - has enjoyed phenomenal career success.

Brooks certainly held Rupert Murdoch and his son James under her spell. Her retention as chief executive of News International beggared belief.

Mr Murdoch, having shut down Britain's oldest newspaper and rendered some 200 journalists redundant, was quite content to point at Ms Brooks and confirm to the world that she was his top priority.

At least she failed to charm one of Murdoch's family, his daughter Elisabeth, another power within the News Corporation; reported as saying blaming Ms Brooks for the company's predicament.


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Perhaps it takes another woman to see what's really going on.

So what can we salvage from this sorry tale? You may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell; author of 'The Tipping Point'. He captured the world's attention in 2000 when he defined a tipping point as a small change that can have unforeseen effects in the way we view our world.

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The phrase has become part of our language; used by writers, politicians and business people to describe significant cultural trends.

The scandal surrounding Ms Brooks has caused a 'tipping point'.

Gladwell writes insightfully about how underdogs struggle to win - and as working women struggle with representation at board level and unequal pay, I think the simile is useful.

Gladwell writes that in most fields of competition, a game is played reflecting and perpetuating the strengths of the established power players. For those that are not high in the ranking - in other words, the underdogs - the best hope is to ignore the norms, if not actually the rules and seek to change the nature of the game.

Ms Brooks is undoubtedly an accomplished tactician.

She has scaled the slippery ladder and smashed triumphant through the glass ceiling.

However, as the shards lie around her she has achieved something much more significant.

A tipping point of such magnitude that political parties have united, a Select Committee in Parliament is scheduled for next week and criminal investigations are being considered by Scotland Yard and wider afield - in the USA.

I cannot think that was ever in her game plan.

As Catherine Aird said: 'If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning.'

I couldn't agree more.

<t> Mary-Jane is a coach, mentor and tutor. You can contact her at mary.jane.kingsland@gmail.com

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