There’s no one-size-fits-all “How To” navigation guide or blueprint for women who have decided to sit firmly in the driver’s seat of their own lives. This powerful position seems to trigger the ire of those who are against the elevation of autonomous women. While nothing can truly prepare us for the backlash of living this way, here are a few approaches that have kept me motivated, especially during the more adverse moments that life has presented.
Curb intense public
scrutiny by focusing on purpose
I accepted the position of Senator and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, St Vincent and The Grenadines, because women’s voices need to be heard and amplified in the spaces where the decisions that affect them are made. The United Nations (UN) January 2021 statistics show that only 5.9% of elected heads of state (9 out of 152) and 6.7% of Heads of Government (13 out of 193) are women. This is not surprising as women in leadership roles may experience intense scrutiny, sexual objectification, character assassination and dehumanization in a way that is not experienced by their male counterparts. The moment we enter this arena, absolutely nothing about our lives is off limits. Instead of the focus being on our pioneering efforts towards a better civilization, our bodies, beauty, sexuality, relationship status – and even the clothes on our backs take center stage.
These factors act as artificial barriers that make running for public office unappealing and hinder the growth of female participation in political leadership roles. However, despite the possibility of cruel public scrutiny, we must remain committed to creating tangible and sustainable solutions to the issues faced by women and to improve the structures and conditions that will positively impact our lives.
RECONCEPTUALISE THE INDICATORS OF FEMALE POWER
Optimising the unique qualities of women in
Womanhood is not monolithic, yet there are antiquated notions of how women should “act” and “be”. There are expectations that women in politics should portray stereotypically masculine traits in order to be established as credible and worthy of being taken seriously. These perceptions are normalized and perpetuated by nuanced patriarchy, sexism and ageism. The result is a society of women who are afraid of expressing their authentic selves for fear that it will cost them serious opportunities.
The irony is that even if we abandon our authenticity or our intrinsic femininity, there will still be unfair comparisons and expectations that will regard women as tokens and symbolic placeholders who are not as good as men in leadership roles. True progress begins by reconceptualising the dated indicators of good leadership skills in a way that does not marginalize women but instead fosters the development of our humanity. This will pave the way for gender equality and inclusivity. It will also give women an opportunity to add value from a place of authenticity – making it ok for the next generation of girls to be young, chic, beautiful and feminine (if they so choose), while simultaneously improving the world we live in.
Know that some women become the glass ceiling for other women
In my early career, I committed to uplifting other women through my vocation as a Lawyer, stealthily working to guide others from the pitfalls I encountered and sharing these lessons in order to make conditions less difficult for the women of the future. However, I have recognized that not all women are allies to each other. Even in this day and age, some women still choose to become the glass ceiling for other women, refraining from offering support and fellowship. What to do in this situation? Keep going. Instead of calling it quits, let us set boundaries, see the big picture and continue on our path.
Despite the deterrents, I invite more women to be brave enough to enter politics and other positions of influence and leadership. I would love in my lifetime to see the conditions in these arenas stacked for women to thrive.