March 12, 2019 | By Ioannis Gatsiounis
Growing calls for more women in leadership are based on the legitimate claim that many talented women have been held back in our male-dominated society. But in this age of acute identity politics, the push often includes the belief that more women in positions of power will make the world a better place. We’ll see fewer wars, the theory goes, because women are less violent than men. They’ll be better listeners, communicators, collaborators and so forth.
This notion is reflected in the record number of women running for president and who ran and were elected in the midterms. And it has gotten no less than an endorsement than from former President Obama, who told a leadership group in South Africa last year that “empowering more women” will help mend government and policies.
To be sure, erasing the gender gap has the power to be a force of good, giving greater representation to issues that matter most to women, from sexual harassment to paid work leave, and to positively restructure our cultural norms of what it means to be a leader in the 21st century. But doing so on the assumption that “female” energy or characteristics — none of which captures the sum of individual women — will solve our social and political ills will in fact just reinforce the status quo, as evinced by a recent spate of women who have attained pinnacles of corporate and political power amid high hopes for change only to disappoint in ways strikingly similar to men.
Within just the last few years, the first elected female presidents of Brazil and South Korea, Dilma Rousseff and Park Geun-hye of South Korea, were impeached for abusing their power. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg went from poster girl for female self-empowerment to a face of greed and arrogance in the tech sector. Burma’s de facto leader and former democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, once known as “The Lady,” now stands accused of doing nothing to stop the rape and murder of the country’s Rohingya people, while Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became Africa’s first elected female head of state only to be expelled from her party on allegations of vote-tampering and nepotism.
Last month came news that Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is running for president, has been abusive toward her staff, a month after a report that another presidential hopeful, Sen. Kamala Harris, whose website describes her as a progressive “speaking truth, demanding justice,” had a punitive track record as attorney general of California….
n the Women’s March, whose mission is to harness the political power of women “to create transformative social change,” has not been spared, with the group’s co-chair, Tamika Mallory, coming under fire for calling known racist and anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan the greatest of all time, casting doubt on the group’s future?
None of this is to suggest that women have less integrity or competence than men. Indeed, my list leaves out many prominent women who have avoided making headlines for all the wrong reasons, and sometimes have made them for all the right ones, including Janet Yellen, Angela Merkel, Mary Barra, Kristalina Georgieva and Michelle Obama, to name a few. Discount the ability for women to lead your company or community in the right direction and you may, well, get the wrong man for the job….
The danger in this romanticized view of the fairer sex is that it encourages us to judge candidates more superficially, to look less at character and ability than an identity marker in determining who is qualified. This will help us reach the noble aim of more women leaders but leave us with far less than women leaders are capable of delivering. (Excerpts from Ioannis Gatsiounis article in Flip Board – Ioannis Gatsiounis has reported on race and gender issues around the world.)
It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant… (Mat 20:26)