Many people, in a number of cultures, have prejudices towards female leaders, very often subconsciously. This is due to a number of reasons, including the fact that women do not always support one another in business life, of course depending upon the organization. In many cultures, stereotypes are more than strong, leaving a woman either having to adapt to the local culture and manners, or giving her the choice to become a catalyst for change, an emancipated woman driving changes in both her personal and professional lives.
Stereotypes and cultural manners are not easily changed, since everything starts from early childhood, where small girls are often dressed in pink color and expected to behave in a certain way. If you are a girl, or a woman, behaving differently from what has been expected from you, you are often regarded as being either a complicated personality, or simply difficult. Even by other women. Being different, and driving change, is not easy, but it is possible.
I come from a culture where women have equal rights with men, which is not self-evident in most cultures in the world. In Finland, a woman has the freedom to do anything she wants to, just like men. We had a female president, Tarja Halonen, from 2000-2012. Women have also been eligible to vote since 1906, as the 2nd country in the world after New Zealand. However, on a global basis, 80 % or more of all poor people worldwide are still women. Even in Scandinavia, and Finland, domestic violence and abuse of women is still high, among other injustices that women worldwide, unfortunately, have to deal with on a daily basis.
As a woman, and a man, what can you do to improve the global conditions of women?
- Check out organizations supporting and empowering women, and female leadership. For example, UN Women is campaigning for a more equal world through the empowerment of men to support women in its “He for She-campaign”.
- As a woman, make sure to support other women and their aspirations. Too often, women are said to act as wolves against each other, although many women support each other as well. You lose nothing by supporting other people, and individuals of the same gender.
- Leadership is not about gender, but considering the current state of the world, there is definitely a need for more balance between genders in regard to leadership, and decision-making in societies.
- We have many strong and competent female leaders worldwide. Yet, the current situation is not enough. More women need to take action, responsibility, and step into leadership.
- As a woman – believe in yourself. We are biologically somewhat different from men, which does not make us lesser from males. What male leaders have not managed to achieve, is “left over”, or possible, for women to manage and to take care of. The potential is huge.
- As long as gender is an issue, and people are not being treated equally, there is work to do, both for men and women.
“Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country”. (Margaret Thatcher).
Merry Christmas to everyone, and a blessed & successful year 2015!