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!