Aldagh McDonogh, Transformation Director, urges women to step forward and #makeithappen.
I love women.
It doesn’t mean I don’t love men. But I love women. I love how they can positively affect our world. I have to declare a (potential) bias here. I am a woman. I have a mum and a sister. I have two daughters and lots of girlfriends. I work with lots and lots of women (doesn’t nearly everyone?) Each and every one of them – in all their different ways - fuel my belief that women are incredibly important to the well-being of this world.
Everyday I am grateful for the fact that I (and my daughters, friends and colleagues) were born into a society that educates its girls, that is now (finally) driving equality in its Corporations and eventually in its Government (more on that in a minute). A society that is striving towards meaningful gender equality. We know we’re not there yet but I believe, at least, that it’s now firmly on the table.
We know that where you are born is the lottery of life. That is especially true for the women on our planet. I occasionally work in places where women do not have equal rights and those societies are seriously compromised. They are economically poorer; they have more wars and civil unrest. There is more corruption. Decisions are made that are certainly not in the best interest of society as a whole. The whole of those societies (not just the women) are under-educated and under-resourced in healthcare…under-resourced, in fact, in all the things that matter for a decent quality of life. This issue is so well-researched and well-documented by others far better qualified than I am so I won’t repeat well-trodden stats and examples but I think a quote by renowned activist, Malala Yousafzai best sums up the huge cost to the world of disempowering 50% of the population.
"We cannot succeed when half of us are held back"
- Malala Yousafzai
So I bring my thoughts back to so-called more advanced, developed nations. With so many more rights secured than in Malala’s world, what do we have to strive towards? Well here’s the thing. We may have our girls in school, our women in the workplace. We may have our societies propped up with the huge number female volunteers doing crucial social work in the community and everyone knows the nurses and midwives are the heroes of our hospitals…and on it goes. But where are all the female leaders?
Why do women do the work in droves and yet so few claim the roles to lead, to direct, to set the agenda, to make the decisions? There will be any number of theories on this… Childcare responsibilities, lack of confidence, fear of failing and hence not stepping forward, disillusionment with the way things are and a lack of belief they can be changed It’s probably all of these and many other reasons too.
I think there’s something else at play though. Women tend to wait until someone else suggests, “You’d be good at that. Why don’t you apply?” Why are we not putting ourselves forward? Is it that insipid belief that “nice girls don’t push forward, nice girls wait to be asked!?” I know that’s overly-simplistic (but this is a blog, not a thesis so I can’t debate all the potential causes). Whatever the causes, we’ve a sadly powerful vicious circle at play. Bottom line is, unless we get more female role models into leadership positions, it won’t be the norm. Women won’t expect to be in a leadership position and on it will go. I stridently agree with the quote by European Commissioner Viviane Reding “I don’t like quotas but I like what they do.”
The ultimate leadership position must be the running of a nation. I’d like to see these stats significantly changed post the next election. Since the foundation of the Republic of Ireland State in 1918 our Dáil has never been less than 85% male. At local level, women make up 16% of elected representatives, an increase of just 1% in ten years. At this rate it will be the year 2250 before we influence decision-making in this country! I can’t wait that long. (For any readers outside of Ireland, I’d encourage you to look at the stats for your country. Where do you rank in balanced power?)
So what am I doing about this? Well I take my leadership role in Morgan McKinley seriously as I am aware of the “role model” responsibility of the position. I am not going to run for public office but I am an advocate and supporter of Women for Election. A non-partisan group who empower and support those talented women who are prepared to step forward and take a national or local seat at the table. Now that’s smart.
So what’s my Crie de Coeur? If you’re a woman and you want to lead something, don’t wait to be asked. Step forward. And let’s all encourage any capable, talented female we know to step into Leadership. We will all benefit from that for generations to come.