We think of power being at the top of our most visible structures …. government and large corporations. And that’s where the 80:20 balance persists and in some cases women don’t even reach the 20% number. The ratio of women to men as CEOs of the top 100 companies (FTSE) in the UK is still only 2 to 98 so that’s a proportion of 98:2 instead.
How will we ever create change? It’s coming up to a century since women were first given the vote in the UK (1918) and I am sure they felt that the job was done when they finally achieved that but not so. 100 years later and women are still marginalised at the top levels of government (now only 3 women in the Cabinet, as of last week) and business.
The question is …. do we need to be in those top Ministerial and CEO and Company Board positions to create change and have influence? Well yes, I think so, but perhaps not entirely ….. BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour has just published their 2014 list of women who they are calling Game Changers, the top 10 most influential women and none of them are in Government, and only one is a business CEO.
The women selected this year seem to be using their influence to challenge power. Baroness Doreen Lawrence, mother of murdered Stephen Lawrence, has been named ‘most powerful woman’ and most of the women on the list are activists or campaigners. They are getting on with things outside the system, doggedly and passionately working for change.
That’s definitely something to think about. As more and more women demonstrate their skills and abilities in the public service, volunteer and social change arena, perhaps they will be “seen” and invited to change the game where it desperately needs change … inside the system.
Let’s think about what we can each get active, or more active, in ……. what cause can we take up or align to with greater energy, passion, vision and action? Women focusing on the greater good are making a difference and getting noticed.
The 2014 list in full from BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour is:
1. Doreen Lawrence, OBE – anti-racism campaigner
2. Julie Bailey, CBE – campaigner and founder of Cure the NHS
3. Professor Nazneen Rahman – geneticist and cancer specialist
4. Carmel McConnell – activist and founder of Magic Breakfast
5. Julie Bentley – chief executive of Girlguiding
6. Nimco Ali & Leyla Hussein (jointly) – anti-FGM activists
7. Dido Harding – CEO, TalkTalk Group
8. Francesca Martinez – comedian, actor and disability campaigner
9. Laura Bates – founder of the Everyday Sexism Project
I think they do, judging by what I saw when I was in Australia.
During my last visit to Sydney I had the good fortune to spend time again with leadership expert Dr David Paul. The video series I did with him last year, with seven conversations on Feminine Leadership recorded on video, were extremely popular. We continued our conversation and another six videos have been created which I shall release over the next month. (Here is the link to the blog post with all seven of the previous interviews collated together)
What are we expecting from women leaders? More positive dialogue needed ….
Kicking off our first session in November, was the discussion about the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Of course, as the PM she will be in the media all the time but I noticed how disrespectful some of the reporting about her often is in the papers. This may be increasingly true for many heads of state in the western world (a colleague of mine talked about how the largely Republican-slanted TV news during the election coverage referred to Obama without the use of ‘President’ in front of his name which they had normally done before …). It does seems that more is expected of this first female leader in Australia and she is attracting much more criticism.
And then came the most downloaded political speech in history!
It is one thing to be forced to debate and defend policy decisions, it is quite another to receive a deluge of personal attacks as she says she has done. So one morning in Parliament she hit back at Opposition Leader Tony Abbot and gave the famous misogynist speech which apparently has turned out to be the most downloaded political speech in history. In the Australian media it was given quite a bit of negative reporting but outside in the rest of the world it seems it was universally applauded. And obviously more so by women commentators.
As David Paul points out, she gave chapter and verse of what she said were comments and actions that she found deeply offensive ….. this is what you said, this is how you made me feel. It is quite unprecedented for a woman leader to speak out in such a strong way. If you watch the video of her speech (and there is a full transcript too, courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald) you will see her refer to a placard that Tony Abbot apparently stood next to with the words “Ditch the Witch”. Needless to say she found that offensive. He also suggests at some point that the unmarried Prime Minster make an honest woman of herself and on another occasion refers to the housewives of Australia doing their ironing. Comments like that are never going to go down well.
This speech followed some press reporting about inappropriate comments by a government minister and also much-talked about comments about how the Prime Minister’s father, who had recently passed away, must have “died of shame” because of how Julia Gillard is performing. You can’t quite believe that a public figure would actually say that! I think Julia had had enough. She took a very important topic about how society sees and treats women, and gave it a very public airing.
Many male politicians have what Julia Gillard calls “in my view such old fashioned and close-minded attitudes. I was not going to sit silent”
I don’t know opposition leader Tony Abbot – he’s a husband and father to daughters and I am sure he wants the best for them. I think there are some underlying attitudes that are coming out which show the confusion for how women public figures and women in professional life are treated. This also came out during Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in the USA when he talked about being presented with “binders full of women” when he was looking for more female applicants for his cabinet. That comment, and others, set off a massive furore across the USA. It was very demeaning.
Thinking that women are ‘less than’ in some way comes from a culture where throughout history, women’s rights have been secondary. How women have subsequently been treated is all on a continuum. Somewhere in the negative spectrum is a lack of understanding and disrespect, while shift further along to the other end and we see extreme behaviour of violence and complete subjugation.
Men need to be engaged in this conversation
This month violence against women has been brought to the fore by Eve Ensler’s campaign launched on Valentines Day called One Billion Rising. There seems to be have been a wave of action across the planet where men and women are taking up this issue to stop violence by a new kind of activism based on celebration and dancing. I definitely think this is a much more creative and enrolling way to engage men in this conversation with women. For change will not come from women setting themselves against men … violence against women, and men, will only stop when we both work together to create the cultural change needed to make violence a thing of the past.
The treatment of women by corporate leaders, politicians, law-makers, police and out on the streets is really becoming a weekly conversation in the media with the most dramatic shift happening after the horrific rape in Delhi at the end of 2012.
Time for women to take leadership in change
David Paul ends this interview with a statement about strong leadership saying that “women are just coming to knowing what that power is”. Exciting times ahead … women finding their voice, connecting with their power, bringing about change…. yes it is time for us to really understand what power we have and how we can use it to help create a balanced, fairer society and a safe world. What does it take ? .. each one of us to step up and speak out whenever the opportunity presents itself …. or to decide what opportunities we ourselves will create.
Now there’s a thought …. what opportunities are you interested in creating?
Who have been your women role models in the last century who have driven change? I wonder who your future ones will be …….in fact, what will you be a role model for? Imagine starting out this second decade with an idea or even a tiny proposition that would profoundly change the world by the end of this century.Think back to the early 1900s. Women did not even have the vote. According to Louise Raw, author of a brilliant women’s study Strike a Light, at the end of the 1900s there were effectively three archetypes for women …. the Angel of the Home bringing up a family; the Celibate Spinster who had not been fortunate enough to make a marriage; and the Promiscuous Prostitute who worked outside of these two realms in one of the few occupations open to women, beyond domestic service. There were no archetypes or models for “working women”. Indeed, although women were working (as nannies, in teaching roles as governesses and also in factories) their contribution was generally inconvenient and overlooked as it did not seem respectable in Victorian society to work outside the home. Where women did work outside the home they were paid poverty wages. By the beginning of the nineteenth century work was generally seen as masculine, it was skilled and it commanded higher wages (still extremely paltry). When women worked their effort was generally downgraded to unskilled and low-waged. It took many years to achieve a breakthrough in recognising the contribution of women.
Louise Raw’s fascinating book is an academic study of how a group of women went on strike in 1888 in east London at the Bryant and May match factory. It was national news. Although these women were self-directed, mature and made their own decision to strike (the working conditions were unbelievable and full-time pay barely generated enough money for women to feed their families) the media represented them as innocent young girls being used as pawns by reformists who supposedly told them to go out on strike. Louise researched this book to prove this theory wrong in order to give these women their rightful place in history as the mothers behind the modern trades union movement. Their successful strike provided a foundation and inspiration for the Great Dock strike of1889 which was subsequently credited as being pivotal in the birthing of the modern labour movement, but in the popular history version there is no reference to the women. These women have literally been written out of history.
In this last video interview of my series on Feminine Leadership, Dr David Paul references the movie Made In Dagenham which was another milestone for women. Wikipedia called it “a film that blatantly condemns sexism and shows, despite its mostly light tone, the real cost of fighting for civil rights”. It was a true story of the strike at the Ford car plant in 1968 over the downgrading of women’s work on seat finishing to “unskilled” and therefore lower waged. The women also found out that they were being paid a fraction of the men’s wages and so they took on the fight for equal pay for equal work. David pointed out that the action of these brave women was a milestone in women showing their value to men.
At first nobody took their strike action seriously, after all they were only women …. that was until the factory had to close down because they ran out of seats to put in the new cars. It was a momentous struggle and finally succeeded with the help of cabinet minister Barbara Castle. Their actions paved the way for equal pay legislation which has subsequently helped women across the world. It’s full of great dialogue …… in one scene the wife of a senior Ford manager puts her support behind the striking women, much to their surprise, saying: “I have a first class honours degree from one of the finest universities in the world and my husband treats me like a fool … don’t give up!” There have been many ‘firsts’ and milestones for women since this event but we still have more to go.
My conversation in this video with David Paul starts by talking about the career path for men and women and how it is different because women will take time out to have children which interrupts their career flow. David points out how women miss out on having a boy’s club network to help them up the ladder and face different ceilings that stop them moving ahead.
Madeline Allbright is an inspirational role model who created a career after motherhood. Her milestone for women was in 1996 when she became the first female Secretary of State in the USA. Although she was ambitious at school, when she graduated from Wellesley College she was married a few weeks later and was aged thirty nine before she took her first paid job after raising her children. She had a passion for politics and international relations, and pointed out that she only got the job of Secretary of State through the intervention of Hillary Clinton, who asked her husband why he wouldn’t appoint her ……… and told him that his mother would be proud of him if he did! Madeline has said that there was more resistance to her doing the job from her own White House male colleagues than from the leaders in the Middle East who people feared would not accept a woman in the role. Since then there have been two further females in that lead role ……. one of them is Hillary herself!
David talks about what holds women back and what women need to do to advance. In these conversations David keeps calling on women to come together behind a cause. Here he said he strongly believes this is now the century for women to really come forward and create something new …….and that women are going to take humanity to the next level of evolution …….. in a big way. He said what we do will enable men to see new possibilities for what they can do.
What is it that doesn’t support women as a leader in business when they have taken a few years out to raise a family? David says there are different ceilings that women face in the workplace.
The bamboo ceiling is where women get into management and find it too hard so they decide they don’t want to go any higher (in the old days, blinds made out of bamboo were used as screens …).
The glass ceiling in the barrier in middle management. While the crystal ceiling makes accessing board rooms difficult (the boardroom is where everything is served in crystal).
Unlike women, men do not face these ceilings. The barrier for men is not being part of the “boys club”. Not being part means they can miss out and not be accelerated to higher levels.
Women don’t even have a girls club!
And also there is competition by women against each other. And women are not even nurturing each other! Competition happens because of the hierarchy in business structures which is part of the masculine paradigm. In the hierarchy paradigm we are often waiting around for the top job, so this fosters competition.
Great film to watch: movie “Made in Dagenham”: This is a great example of women showing men what they can do and what they are capable of ……… and how valuable they are!
David pointed out that the country would not have been so advanced during World War II if women had not stepped in and kept the manufacturing going. We took over men’s jobs. Think about what would have happened if we women had not done that. The war would have ended differently. Women stepped in then and they can do so again …..
David said he strongly believes this is now the century for women to really come up and say: let’s break and shatter these ceilings, let’s break and shatter the old paradigms, let’s create something new.
Let’s unite and do something amazingly different. What Gina is doing is part of opening the doors.
Women need to say let’s connect, let’s unite, let’s fight together.
Gina points out that in our language we don’t want to use the word ‘fight’ because that is a male metaphor!
If we are not going to fight what are we going to do? Instead we are going to:
2 have new conversations
3 use creativity and intuition for new solutions
4 uniting behind a cause to create change that way.
David emphasised that the most powerful thing a human can feel is emotion – imagine if we fought with emotion – we need unite with a passion to drive something for a greater good.
So many women are now seeking new roles, changing their own lives, and they’re deeply passionate about change and about finding a role to play in creating a new world … a role that is ours. This is huge at the moment.
We are not wanting to put men down but men / manhood does not have the answers any more. A lot of men are losing out by being trapped in a system that doe snot work for them either. The system, led by men, no longer has answers. If we need a different thinking is needed then bring on the women. This is where we women need more significant input to emerge the answers through:
4 working out what the answers would be
David says he strongly believes that women are going to take humanity to the next level of evolution in a big way, not just in a small step-way … in a leap! Men will then see the possibility of what we can actually do and stop focusing on what can be done in the short term to just survive the next year.
Women need to envision what the possibility can be and inspire everyone to that vision, taking humanity to another level. (The energy in the interview at this point is quite profound after this beautiful possibility is uttered).
Are you inspired to step forward beyond where you have already gone?
What is your role as a woman in creating change in the world? What milestone could you be part of creating with other women?
Please leave your comments and sharings there.
I’d really appreciate it you could please share this message and video around your circle – thank you!
In the latest video in the series of seven in my conversations about Feminine Leadership with Dr David Paul, David shares a great story about a golden buddha.
Apparently, in order to protect it from being taken by an invading army, someone came up with the bright idea of covering up the gold with mud. It fooled the invaders who left the buddha undiscovered and intact. It was decided that it might be safer to keep the mud covering on for a while longer ….. of course the years go by and now nobody remembers the gold underneath!
David shares this as a great metaphor for where women are now.
We have to remember to uncover our gold inside.
In our series on Feminine Leadership David and I have talked about how women hold themselves back. Currently we have an issue with not having enough women on boards; there are not enough women government leaders. Although the system is actually holding women back because there are many occasions when the men have to ‘give permission’ to allow women to move through; the picture is much more complex. There are things that we are doing as women that are not advancing us, or our game. We could change what we do. I asked David what he had noticed that holds women back? (Watch the video)
David responded by asking: Why aren’t there more women prime ministers, why aren’t there more women CEOs … yes we have a few but why aren’t we seeing more women leaders in the 21st-century? Why is it that we don’t we see more women driving the agenda behind the scenes?
Women are nurturing, they care about the environment, the planet. So why aren’t women a real force behind environmental issues? There are women doing that but maybe they are not getting their voices heard ….. why are they not getting the publicity?
There is another place where women could drive change: why do we still go to war these days to solve our problems? Why don’t women mobilise against war ? We could create a women’s movement to stop war, protesting about sending our men away to war… but there seems to be only silence. Yes there is activity but women are doing things in pockets. We are against war but we are not organised as a group of women against war. There isn’t a women’s voice against war in sufficient quantity to make a difference. Why can’t we do something which unites us to fight something out there?
The question to women from David is: “What can you do as a movement, what can you do as a united whole?” David points out that women connect far more easily than men. Women are always talking …. you see them in coffee shops every day. Women get together and talk about social things ……. why can’t we use that time, that force to do something even greater than what women are doing today? That is the question for women.
David says the reason we have not been leading and driving change is because women are not united behind a cause. There are lots of causes but they are not united. It’s like we are putting out small bushfires. We are all working on separate fires, we are not united. Why aren’t the men turning around the global financial crisis? It’s because men have not got the answers….. so we need to women step into the foreground and say “this is what we women have been doing…”
David then shared a story about the Golden buddha in Thailand. When the army was coming to ransack village, the villagers covered it in mud to hide the gold. 100 years later and with the mud still there, everybody forgot about the gold underneath.
That is what women have done … they have hidden their gold, it’s now time to get rid of the mud covering up the gold. Let’s bring out the gold in women. When I was touring Australia earlier this year I was giving talks about The Rise of the Feminine pointing out that the biggest threat to this potential shift in society is women themselves NOT stepping forward. In our own inner talk we often ask ourselves “who am I to do this?”. We have all sort of ways of holding ourselves back. Women have used many barriers and defenses to hold themselves back. In the past we have not been allowed to do many things: it’s not been safe to speak out, many times we’ve been told to keep quiet, shut up and not to say silly things. That probably remains within us still and yet there is a strong part of us is calling us forth to speak. We now have to listen to that stronger voice. David says women should use our conversations to get rid of “all that mud”, let’s really think about what is covering up our gold.
David stressed that this is the of decade change. This is when we are going to cross certain lines globally and not be able to go back. The environment is breaking apart, there is a lot of evidence to say that. Unless women say this is a cause worth fighting for we are going to cross a line where we can’t go back ……. our children, the next generations, will not be able to do anything about it.
We have to be outraged and take action. Just like S A W I D (South African Women in Dialogue), we have to get into conversation to discuss what our priorities actually are. Currently we’re not in that conversation of working out what our priorities are. We are not thinking about how we could make time to create something better. David pointed out that after decades of unrest, violence and destruction in South Africa, things are changing because women are taking an interest. Women are passionate about change. They are getting themselves heard.
It’s time to reach within, discover what our personal gold is inside and bring that forth with conscious and constructive conversation with other women about how we can drive change. Watch the interview on video.
What are you passionate about? What is your gold? What are you doing now that is driving change? I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading/watching this.