Women are too often the candidate (waiting to be chosen), not the voter (with the power of choice).
Recently, someone I know—let’s call her “Sally”—was lamenting having been fired from a kindergarten (abroad), for falling pregnant. She was particularly stung because it happened on International Women’s Day.
The outpouring of support for Sally struck me as odd. It was her second pregnancy in as many years. You cannot go on a tot-making spree and expect to remain gainfully employed. I thought it was interesting that among all the gushing sympathy, not one practical voice piped up to say: “How about shutting the baby factory down for a while, eh, Sally?”
Speaking of practical voices, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank recently declared that in the last 50 years, only four women had reached Director level at the Bank. Since 2009, Sanusi has appointed seven female directors and called on the state to give women top positions. The Central Bank has also ordered financial institutions to make 40% executive management and 30% of their board members, women.
So why don’t women get to the top spots under their own steam? Perhaps:
Because the Kingmakers are always male.
Women are too often the candidate (waiting to be chosen), not the voter (with the power of choice). Look at Hillary Clinton. All that nonsense she put up with from Bill for all those years, only to end up having to wait for President Obama to pick her as his Secretary of State. For all her talk of the “Sisterhood of the Travelling Pantsuits”, Mama Clinton had to rely on the “Brotherhood of the Kenyan Black Guy” for her seat at the top table of US politics.
Because ‘all-female’ is still interpreted as ‘inferior’.
Women are supposedly the more compassionate sex (a principle obviously dreamt up by someone who has never set foot inside an all-girls high school). Yet, when it comes to power plays, “compassionate” is just a fancy way of saying “weak”. They even coin flimsy terms like “soft power” as though burying wayward opponents’ heads in our bosoms is the female go-to move for getting it done. The implication that when the ladies do it—whatever it is— it has a little less edge; is everywhere.
Because the way we define “success” has become warped.
About a year ago, the internet exploded with outrage, when it was revealed that ‘Jersey Shore’ star Snooki, famous for flaunting shamelessness for a living, was paid more than Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison to speak at a top university in America. Then you get the veiny and desperate Madonna, who has run out of ways to scandalise us but keeps trying, just to stay talked about. And those Kardashians. Ugh.
Closer to home, we have the girls who are happy to churn out offspring for the likes of 2face Idibia and 9ice, presumably in exchange for a swish lifestyle and a carelessly flung ta-ra! to anything as tedious as a hard day’s work. The list of today’s most high-profile Nigerian women reads increasingly like a list with celebrity (or rather, notoriety) based on indiscriminate use of one’s “swimsuit area” to either gain fame or a secure an easy lifestyle.
So, maybe it’s our aspirations that need re-assessing. How many of us even see being elected onto the Board of the Central Bank as “making it”? And how many of us would rather get there by having a paparazzo flat on his back taking a photo up our skirt? Honest answers on a postcard, please.
I like how Rashida Dati chased her ambitions. Back in 2010, France’s then Justice Minister was back at work just five days after giving birth. Little Collette (I made that up) may be fraught with all sorts of emotional trauma once she hits puberty, but Mommy made a choice to avoid the post-maternity career crisis.
Tough decisions have to be made, for sure. But, rather than the Central Bank lowering the bar for women by reserving senior management and board seats for us (it’s not really much of an achievement if it’s handed to you on a plate), how about we make the tough choices for ourselves? And then commit completely. Whichever path we choose.
Over to you.