Harriet Harman MP caused controversy again, with her comments about women in leadership. She said she does “not agree with all-male leaderships” because men “cannot be left to run things on their own.”
The problem with these statements and the sentiment behind them, is that Harman is both right and wrong. Traditionally, women earn less than men, even when they do the same jobs. Sometimes this happens in the guise of modified job titles.
We hope this will continue to change. Women and minorities should not be discriminated against simply because they are not white males.
Harman is suggesting that we actively encourage women and minorities in leadership, almost to the point of preferential bias. Hiring a woman exclusively because she is a woman is still discrimination.
In fact, it is demeaning to give a woman a promotion without the demonstrated merit, purely on the basis of her gender. Tokenism does not add prestige, it patronises. It is saying we should have pity on the female and promote her because she is unable to earn it for herself.
Women in leadership can add valuable input and skills. They can change the way this country runs. The banking crisis may have been avoided if we had more women running the banks. History records powerful women who have made a difference: Margaret Thatcher, Queen Elizabeth I, Emmeline Pankhurst, Mother Theresa, and Golda Meir, just to name a few.
The point is for women to get the same opportunities to develop and use their skills. The proverbial playing field is certainly not level, yet.
If men consistently earn more across the country, this earnings disparity means that women are less economically independent than men. The fact that women give birth to the children, this also effects their career path and working future. Until men start giving birth, this problem is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
There are 192 countries in the United Nations, but only 24 have female leaders. It is interesting that the most powerful nation in the world, the United States, has elected a black President before a female one.
This week on her visit to the Congo, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked by a student her husband’s views of the Chinese loan offer to the Congo. Clinton “bristled” and responded saying, “If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channelling my husband.” Clinton was probably a little harsh but she was reacting to the notion that, as a woman, she would not have her own opinion.
There’s a saying: women can do anything men can do, but backwards and in heels. Never underestimate the impact of a woman with a cause. Hats off to Harriet.