The United States is considered the most powerful country in the world. Then why is it that we stand 90th in the world in terms of women in national legistures?
Most don’t know that even countries like Cuba, China, Iraq and Afghanistan have more women in the government than the US. Most of us remember Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher, thanks to Hollywood and pop culture. But not many know that Argentina had the world’s first women President more than 3 decades ago—Isabel Peron. But she can’t claim the title of the world’s first elected female head of state. That position was filled in 1960 in Sri Lanka by Sirimavo Bandaranaike…even before Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir.
Since then, more than 50 women have been elected heads of state, from powerful nations like England and Germany, to smaller countries such as the Phillippines, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, to developing countries like Lithuania and Rwanda. Some of these countries have already elected women leaders two or more times (to see a complete list, click here.)
So the question remains, how come the US has not elected a woman President yet? This can’t be just a conspiracy by men. Let’s face it, there are more women voters than men, just as there are more women in the population and work force than men. Could it be that women are not voting for women, and if so, why?
This is not to imply that the qualifications should be gender based, but let’s at least ask the question: are we really standing up for the right values? Even the highly acclaimed oscar-nominated movie “The Iron Lady” about Margaret Thatcher’s life showed the hard powers versus soft powers. And yes, she got elected 3 times. Do we think that’s what it takes? Safety, security and domination before freedom, openness, trust and partnership? Women and men of all races, cultures and ages largely agree on life goals. We all have masculine and feminine qualities. It is the position of power and domination that differentiates us, not just between men and women, but also among women themselves.
You can’t be what you can’t see. I believe that media’s misrepresentation of women has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence. We see that in top Corporate/Board positions (only 5-8% women representation) to Congress (17%). So surely there is emotional and cultural resistance on top to fiercely guard the status quo. This is largely due to all the gender stereotyping and how we define power and success in media as well as business and social models….how we create a culture of fear that justifies the social model of domination in the name of safety and protection.
Being the most powerful country in the world is not an easy position to maintain on an ongoing basis. But so long as we continue embracing the mindset of security, protection and domination for that top position, we are forcing our nation to default into the masculine qualities and hard powers. And, yes,, women are perceived as softer/nicer. Why else would we have 93% of prison population occupied by men, and only 7% by women. I believe as long as we value hard powers, masculine qualities for President position, we will continue asking ourselves this very same question—or maybe in a decade or so, end up electing another “Iron Lady.”
Great New World Leaders—women and men—should be ready to trade fear, scarcity and domination mindset for love, abundance and partnership mindset….lead from the heart and manage from the head. That means combining hard powers of safety, protection and competitive advantage with the soft powers of love, caring and relating. Let’s just call it “smart powers.”