Women haven’t always been best suited for the leading roles. A thousand years ago, leadership depended on other skills than what is required today. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her famous speech We should all be feminists, “[…] human beings lived then in a world in which physical strength was the most important attribute for survival. The physically stronger person was more likely to lead. And men in general are physically stronger; of course, there are many exceptions.” That isn’t the case any more. Women are just as capable of being leaders as men. Yet, men are dominating as leaders in almost every sector. With less than one week to Women Deliver in Copenhagen, it’s time to reflect on why women are still underrepresented among higher positions, and how we can change that.
Over 50 percent of the population are women. Still, it’s not news that parliaments all over the world are dominated by men. Worldwide, 22 percent of the parliamentarians are women. In 37 countries, this number is below 10 percent.Parliaments in Micronesia, Yemen, Qatar, Tonga, Palau and Vanuatu only include men. Only two parliaments in the world have more women than men. However, being a Swede, I often hear people arguing that the situation is better within Europe. This is not necessarily true. Rwanda is currently the country with the most female representatives at 63.8 percent. Although the Nordic Countries are getting closer to the 50/50 line, Europe with the Nordic countries excluded, has 24.4 percent women in parliaments. Looking at the business sector, the numbers are even worse. Only 4 percent of the S&P 500 Companies CEO’s are women. Notable is that most of the female leaders are represented within the social sector, so in order to achieve equality, we cannot only look at the numbers. Women and men need to have the same possibilities of reaching higher positions within all areas.
However, there is good news too. We are on the right track. The number of female parliamentarians has doubled in the last 20 years, and we might even see a female president of the United States. Women are acknowledged as being capable of developing the same leadership skills as men, and now the situation is being discussed more than ever. Political reforms and law changes also contribute to more possibilities for women. There are also wonderful organisations and conferences focusing on the issue, like Women Deliver. This year the conference features many amazingly inspirational people, both women and men. One of the incredible female leaders who will be attending the conference is Gro Harlem Bruntland – former Prime Minister of Norway. She was in this position for 1o years, and was the youngest person and the first woman to be elected. Referred to as the “mother of the nation”, it’s clear that she is very important to Norway. Bruntland is currently a member of “The Elders” and a member of the United Nations Foundation Board. She has become a symbol for women with power and is a true role model for people all over the world.
The conference features a broad variation of people. Another interesting woman attending the conference is Moya Dodd. Dodd has been listed twice as one of the top 100 Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review. Aside from being a part of the AFC Legal Committees with an Honours Degree in Law, she has made herself a name within the world of football, a man-dominated area. After being vice-captain of the Australian team, she made her way into the FIFA Executive Committee. She is now working on reforms to include more women within FIFA and make Women’s football more acknowledged. Dodd is an excellent example of a strong leader who breaks norms and is making a change for society; we definitely need more people like her. Want more inspiration? Read more about the amazing leaders attending the conference here.
I strongly encourage everyone to reflect on women as leaders, and why there are so few of them. We already know women are amazing leaders, so let’s take a stand for gender equality. Let’s look at peoples’ competences, skills and personalities, and less at their gender. In this way, we will give the right people influence, and see more people like Gro Harlem Bruntland and Moya Dodd. I guarantee you that we’ll create a better world for everyone once we give everyone an equal opportunity.
Girls’ Globe will be present at the Women Deliver Conference, bringing you live content straight from the heart of the action. If you can’t be there in person, you can be a part of Women Deliver through the Virtual Conference, by hosting an event in your hometown, and by engaging online using #WDLive and #WD2016.
Cover photo credit: Gary Kashka, Flickr Creative Commons