Female leaders can change the course of our political and economic future—for the benefit of everyone.
I often hear people say that the lack of women in positions of political leadership is an issue that pales next to world crises—global terrorism, fragile economies, inadequate health care, troubled schools, corporate greed. They see no connection between the frightening situations we’re in and the fact that few women sit at the table to determine the solutions.
No wonder we’re where we are today.
This fundamental imbalance, with men running the world and women mostly spectators (or victims), is not a trivial detail. It is the problem. It is also the one solution we have not tried, and the one most likely to work.
It’s not that putting women in power is simply the right thing to do—it’s the only thing to do. The values that women uniquely bring to the table—empathy, relational skills, community focus, inclusion across lines of authority—are vital if we are to solve any of the monumental issues facing our world today.
This is not just me talking. Three decades of research in state legislatures, universities, and international public policy centers have proven beyond doubt that women, children, and men all benefit when women are in leadership. Broader social legislation, benefiting everyone, is more likely to pass if women are in office. We know the power of women as peacemakers in the world from scores of stories about their effectiveness at negotiation, from Ireland to Pakistan to Norway to South Africa to India and beyond.
We can ill afford to use only half our talent, when we know for a fact that today’s complicated challenges demand more than one vision. It’s time for real and permanent power sharing, for real and permanent change—women ruling side by side with men, allowing their voices to rise with different solutions and allowing men to think outside of the masculine box. In this way, we get fresh eyes and fresh solutions from both genders,
applied to both old, abiding problems and to new, frightening ones.
This is not a call to pry power from the fingers of men and turn it all over to women. Together we can create a different world, shifting the burden from male shoulders and allowing the diversity of thought and life experience to transform our actions—perhaps bringing a greater peace, perhaps allowing men to be better fathers, perhaps providing a new paradigm for our security.
It’s not easy to get there. Those in power rarely let go without a fight, even if they would benefit by doing so. For women to truly gain the leadership roles, we must be insistent and persistent. We must enlist our many male allies. We must step up to the plate, letting it be known that we are ready to lead, that in fact we demand it as a birthright. If we think creatively, if we use our community resources (a particular strength of women), if we support women who say they want to lead, if we use our voices and our votes to get there, we will achieve the transformation of power. And everyone will be better for it. Our daughters and sons and grandchildren will thank us, because their world will offer more options. We owe it to them. And to ourselves.
Marie C. Wilson is founder and president of The White House Project (www.thewhitehouseproject.org), a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing women’s leadership across sectors and fostering the entry of women into all positions of leadership, including the presidency. She is also the author of the new book Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World (Viking). This text was adapted from the book If Women Ruled the World, edited by Sheila Ellison (Inner Ocean Publishing).
This article originally appeared in Ode Magazine. "We are an independent international journal, without strings to the world of commerce and power. We believe in progress, ongoing opportunities and the creativity of humankind. We contribute to progress by publishing stories about the people and ideas that are making a difference. We address society’s problems too, because they represent opportunities for positive change. We publish the stories that bridge the gap between thinking and doing, between rage and hope, and the painful gap between the rich and the poor. By doing so we build peace and sustainability. This is the news we promise to deliver. We offer our readers the chance to link up with an international network of inspiration and cooperation, strengthening the forces devoted to respect, justice and equality. In doing so we hope to invite them to make their own contribution to a more just and sustainable world." www.odemagazine.com
Also from Ode Magazine:
The Real Meaning of Security by Eve Ensler
Related links at Feminist.com:
Advancing Women's Leadership Column by Marie Wilson