Let’s not be sexist while envisioning a peaceful world with women as torchbearers. I mean women can and have been fighting wars too. Women never lacked the intellectual capacity to lead from front, it were the societal shackles that circumscribed the required opportunities for women to ramp up. To a certain creed, the idea of women ruling the world always seemed ridiculous. However, in recent times, with feminist movements and women empowerment where women have been standing up for themselves and each other, stereotyped ideas and attitudes has taken a back seat. Having said that, it’s shameful that women from several corners of the world continue to face discrimination and challenges in this arena, limiting their scope of leaping from traditional enclosures to modern spaces. Both men and women possess varying skills and qualities that are reflected in their participation in public life. It’s rather significant to acknowledge this aspect as for too long women have been dominated to think and act like their male counterparts in the respective domains to achieve success. Today, however the changing face of the globe project women as a driving force across sectors.
Studies reveal that women exhibit different leadership qualities than men. Women are usually more collaborative and inclusive. Their approach well fits today’s work cosmos which demands enhanced innovation and less hierarchical setups for ensuring efficient performances. The former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, states that women bring an inter-generational perspective to their work. “We need to take decisions now that will make for a safer world for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and I think women are more likely to do that when they come into positions of leadership.”
Many say that women securing leadership positions are better listeners; they encourage dialogue and are often successful at building consensus. Christine Lagarde, the MD of the International Monetary Fund says that “”Diversity is absolutely an asset”; with diversity you bring different ways of looking at the world, different ways of analysing issues, different ways of offering solutions. The sheer fact of diversity actually increases the horizon and enriches the thinking process, which is critical.” Research shows that women’s achievements have been undervalued as they are offered restricted margins for errors. Some experts point out that women often hold themselves back and negotiate lesser for higher pay or promotions.
A study conducted last year shows that in 2014, women were responsible for spending $20tn, which is estimated to appreciate to $28tn. Companies around the world too have taken notice of women using their purchasing abilities dynamically. Consequently, they have been investing more on women strategically. Today, women stakeholders play a prominent role in discussing broader range of issues contributing to bridging gaps, be it concerning matters of sexual violence or food security. Former US Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice says that, “you need women to participate in the peace process. First and foremost women are often the guardians of the village, the family, and are therefore the ones who suffer most in conflict zones. They’re often the target of marauding forces, the target of those who would rape and maim and if you can engage them in the process, then they also can help the society to heal.”
Let’s sneak peek into history to comprehend the correlation between women frontrunners and peace. First World War period narrates how the poet Dorothea Hollins of the Women’s Labour League proposed for a ‘Women’s Peace Expeditionary Force’ across Europe to interpose between the warring armies. Though her plan didn’t materialize the way it was schemed, it has been accorded prominence by activists. Dorothea’s fellow peace-activist Helena Swanwick founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. This organisation was dedicated to eliminating the causes of war. The former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher remains the only woman leader distinguished for her jingoism in the Falklands that led to her election victory in 1983. There are infinite examples of women leaders. Think of Rani Lakshmi Bai, the Queen of Jhansi, eminent leader of the 1857 Indian Sepoy Mutiny that battled the British army; or of Emmeline Pankhurst who led the militant campaign in 1914 to support Britain’s entry into the Great War.
A research conducted by Katherine W. Phillips, Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School, between 1950 and 2004, suggests that across 188 countries, lesser than 4% of all leaders have been women. The data included 18 presidents and 30 prime ministers. Researchers like Caprioli pointed out that the “fear of appearing weak affects modern women leaders too, causing them to over-compensate on issues of security and defence.” She cites Thatcher, Meir and Indira Gandhi (Indian PM from 1980-84) as ‘‘bi-form human being’, neither man nor woman—are more likely to succeed as political leaders.” Caprioli’s study revealed that with an increase in the number of women representatives in parliament, violence in international crisis is likely to be lesser. This argument rested on the possibility that “women are more likely to use a ‘collective or consensual approach’ to conflict resolution.” Latest data from this year’s survey conducted indicated that “worldwide average of women in parliament is only 23.3% i.e. a 6.5% gain over the past decade.”
A United Nations study revealed that, “2.4% of mediators and 9% of negotiators are women, and just 4% of the signatories of 31 peace processes.” The research connoted that the inclusion of women made a great difference. Correspondingly, an analysis by the US non-profit Inclusive Security of 182 signed peace agreements between 1989 and 2011 found that, “an agreement is 35% more likely to last at least 15 years if women are included as negotiators, mediators, and signatories.”
While personal history suggests that women mostly emerge as peaceable leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi, the de-facto leader of Myanmar who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights,” has been criticized for ‘failing’ to condemn the country’s military for its campaign of ethnic cleansing against the persecuted Rohingya people (a Muslim minority in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state)” Caprioli also noted that women leaders possess the ability “to be forceful when confronted with violent, aggressive and dangerous international situations.” In the wake of parallel arguments, is it right to label women as inherently peaceable?
As stronger economies aim at improving quality of life bestowed with sustainable peace, empowering women in ascribed ‘powerful’ roles surpasses political debate and precision. Be it the corporate world, field of politics, education or any other sector, the paradigm shift is apparent with women peacefully marching ahead. More power to womenfolk!
Article by Rochita.