Women Leaders Needed
We need women leaders leading as women on our own terms, in ways that work for us
Have you checked out the Women's Equality Party? If not, do. Especially today when women of the world might feel in need of some hope.
I love that this party exists and is growing in momentum. I will be watching them closely come the next election. I looked into becoming an active member of their party as I support their aims and values, but when I looked into it I found it crossed one of my core non-negotiable values and roles: that of being a mother. I don't want to be away from home campaigning and door-stepping because that takes me away from my kids. I'm happy to lead, but I don't want to lead like a man; long hours, the banter, the jousting. I am a woman. I am a mum. I want to lead in a way which works for my family because I don't feel right about going out to put the world to rights at any cost to my kids.
Being a woman is still a stumbling block for many of us as we have seen today. Some suggested that Hilary Clinton lost the election because she hit the glass ceiling and that America just wasn't ready for a female commander in chief, because, after all, that's a man's job right? She played the game on men's terms and met them on their turf and still wasn't good enough.
But here's the thing, as much as I appreciate that the UK has at least had women prime ministers, it's not enough of a change. I want to see women in power on their own terms, in their own way, being the women they want to be. In theory there is nothing to stop workplaces and institutions changing hours and working patterns to accommodate family life, menstrual cramps and the menopause. The only thing which stops this is the assumption that the masculine model for the working day must be the only one that which is efficient.
We just need to get creative with these monoliths of masculinity just as the women workers at the Dagenham Ford factory did when they stood up the the accepted and invisible norm of men being paid more than women, and men's work being seen as more skilled than women's. They did it then, and we can do it now, we just have to see that they things we all take for granted are just constructs and therefore can be deconstructed.
The cult of pressure and over achievement which leave so many of us feeling stressed is a construct. Competition is a concept, Working 50+ hours a week is just an idea about how long we 'should' work. Who decided that 4 weeks holiday should be standard and why? Who decided that part time work meant that people are not as committed as their full time workers? We need to start challenging these assumptions because that is all they are. By getting really clear on how we want to live and work and then standing by that is how we can challenge the system to change.
A young woman I talked with this week was in tears after being humiliated by a man in a meeting; she felt that he undermined what she has to say because she was a woman. I wasn't there when it happened so can't tell you if he meant to have that effect, but I do know that this won't be the last time this potential leader of the future will be put down because she's just a woman.
She was visibly shaken after the even; tearful and emotional. 'I'll have to toughen up' she said; 'I can't go getting all emotional'. Well, do you know, I think she can. All the time we women keep buying into the male modus operandi we are trying to be something we are not. This young woman was upset by the way she was spoken to and I think that's a valid response. I also think it's OK to show that response, otherwise how can we hold people to account for the way their behaviour impacts on us? When we women silence ourselves so we don't 'make a fuss', we condone powerful men putting us down, sexualising us and then turning it into a joke. When we don't allow our vulnerability to show, our 'toughness' lets them off the hook.
It is about time that women pushed to be accepted on our terms. We have periods, we might suffer from PMT which means that our responses might vary at different times of the month. Of course, that's not seen as an OK way to respond; we need to be rational like men..oh but then Trump's tantrums have won him the election. There are so many double standards.
Some of the most amazing women I know chose to work part time or as consultants so they can still get to the Christmas play and parent's evenings and you know, these are the people I want to see running the country; people who put relationships and well being at the heart of their lives. I want to be led by people with compassion, wisdom and the ability to tend to others and be of service.
Those who argue that women aren't tough enough and couldn't cope with conflict hasn't seen a woman when their child or loved one is being bullied or hurt. Women can be ferociously fierce when we need to be, we just don't often need to be very often because we know we can generally talk, listen and empathise enough to find solutions.
Carl Rogers said that there are three conditions which humans need in order to reach their full potential. Empathy is the ability to put our self in some one else's shoes. Congruence is our ability to be genuine and authentic in how we relate to each other and unconditional positive regard is our ability to hold another human being as having value even when we don't like what they do or say. These are the conditions we as nations need and these are conditions which I believe that women could bring to the world were we more able to allow ourselves to lead as our selves rather than trying to imitate men.
Which isn't to say that men can't also inhabit these values and conditions; many men feel equally constrained by the narrow model of combative leadership which Trump has exemplified throughout this campaign. We women need to take the lead in order to allow men to lead differently too.
2016 has been a year where the politics of fear and lack and division have been powerful. I would love to see 2017 as the year where women leaders say more loudly; 'yes I feel this..', 'yes I can empathise with...', 'yes we can collaborate..' and 'no I'm not working late because I'm going home to see my kids'. I would love to see 2017 be a year where we begin to see clearly where the politics of fear is taking us. I would love to see women step forward to find new models of leadership where compassion sits with strategy; where family life can be seen as an asset and an enhancement to our working life, where the long term and the short term are equally considered and where social, emotional and environmental capital are just as important (if not more so ) that financial capital.
Things need to change and we can make those changes one by one as well as by joining together, by living the lives we want, on our terms, in our way, by what we believe.