Humanity has always been known as ‘mankind’. In a statement to describe human beings in general, man represents the species. When it comes to defining a status that is desirable- it is the man who is the absolute. Woman is relative to the absolute. Like Aristotle, the great mathematician, remarked in his times that a woman is a woman because she lacks certain qualities of being a man.
We have always been bestowed with roles of subordination and subservience. Our uterus weighed us down. Our fertility has been controlled, guided and pronounced by men.
With the World War and Industrial Revolution, demand for labor force increased and women finally started coming out in the public sphere and participating in a variety of production processes, and everything changed. There was a mass shift in the power held by each gender, although a large portion of it still continued to be with men.
Recently Gloria Steinem sparked off a debate with her opinion of Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook. She said the following:
“She has to cut this out, I think – making one powerful guy look good. Because she was working first for Larry Summers, then president of Harvard, the one who said girls don’t do science. He nurtured her in the classroom, realised how smart she was, then he went to Washington and she was his assistant. And in a way, with [Mark] Zuckerberg, it’s the same thing. I mean, she has to stop being number two to some asshole.” (TheGuardian)
Are we really happy with being second to best? This statement in not at all meant to undermine the women who have already made the leap by taking up leadership roles, their numbers are any way abysmally low. Ratio of women in managerial positions in India remain at 14% (Global Entrepreneurship Development Report, 2014). Merely 3% of the total CEO positions around the world are taken up by women. Even in these women, real power continues to be with men.
Most female entrepreneurs in India are limiting their field of activity to beauty and hospitality, while the ratio of female entrepreneurs in the field of technology is lowest.
Even in rural India, the situation isn’t quite different. When the government announced its decision to reserve a certain percentage of wards exclusively for female candidates, the system of proxy-ism emerged. The leader is now the “sarpanch- pati”, or the husband of the woman sarpanch. He takes all major decisions and attends meetings, and the members of municipal corporations, who are predominantly male, seem to have accepted the ‘changed’ situation.
We need to stop here for a moment and ask ourselves that why are we so unsure of our decisions? Why do we have an image of ourselves that is lower than that of men? Why is it that we always let men take over? Why do we think that he is better capable of handling leadership than her?
Nearly all the successful women leaders in society who I have known or read about were once unsure of their worth. Had they not gone ahead with their plans anyway, the situation of women wouldn’t have advanced to egalitarianism on the power scale to the level that it has. We still have a long way to go before the balance is achieved, and hence as a starting point, it is very important for us to realize that capability and gender are mutually exclusive.