Nikita Singla

Consultant . International Affairs. Sciences Po Paris. Engineer. IIT Delhi. Solo Backpacker. Yoga Trainer

Why don’t we see many politician Moms around?

“A world where half our homes are run by men, and half our institutions are run by women, would be a far better world!”

First time, I heard Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, say this was in 2012. I immediately turned to Wikipedia and this is what I saw:

Sirimavo Bandaranaike – Prime Minister, Sri Lanka (1960-65, 1970-77, 1994-2000)

Indira Gandhi – Prime Minister, India (1966-77, 1980-84)

Benazir Bhutto – Prime Minister, Pakistan (1988-90, 1993-96)

Khaleda Zia – Prime Minister, Bangladesh (1991-96, 2001-06)

Chandrika Kumaratunga – Prime Minister, Sri Lanka (1994)

Sheikh Hasina – Prime Minister, Bangladesh (1996-2001, 2008 onwards)

While the United States of America is yet to vote for Hillary Clinton, we, in South Asia have already seen six female heads of government, serving in total, twelve terms!

Numbers of women in leadership positions have sparked a global debate, for quite some time now. Actually, there are a lot of strong brilliant women who are leaders, but they are not enough, not enough in business, not enough in politics.

Studies demonstrate that as gaps are being closed between men and women, in access to education, in health, even in economic participation, the most difficult gap to close is in political participation.

So why is that we don’t see many politician Moms around?

Are women not aspiring, are they not ambitious or are they simply not power hungry? I believe it’s the political infrastructure which is holding our women back. Our political system is indisputably a patriarchal one, creating an invisible but virtually impenetrable barrier to women’s political participation. Because of the negative connotation the word politics has, right from the school to college to office, everything incomprehensible starts getting termed as ‘school politics’, ‘college politics’ and ‘office politics’. So while women may be seen as school captains, college club presidents and community leaders, when it comes to the state level or the parliamentary level, there is one inherent question, if women want to enter the bad game of real politics?

Most of the women who enter politics locally ultimately choose not to run for the top office. Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States, said in 1920s – women going into politics should have the skin of rhinoceros. A century later, has much changed?

Many argue that the path to power is more apt to run through the C-suite than the halls of the Parliament.

Once, when I was discussing the organization’s yearly plans and my own ambitions, somebody at work remarked, “You can take it easy, you are a woman!” We can’t stop our male colleagues from saying this, but what we can do is ‘stop taking it easy, more so when we are asked to do so’.

Studies show that globally, women represent around 10% of all board-level positions, and just in India, 8% of the top 50 Indian CEOs are women. In proportion to our representation in the global work force, these numbers clearly show how women leaders are equally, and at times, even more competent than their male counterparts. Every step we climb up the ladder, we see our numbers going down. I have just begun my career and most of the times, I find myself as the only female in the room. But what is important is to not leave!

Advance our careers, negotiate our salaries, demand flexible working arrangements, speak for ourselves but get to the top! Get where we deserve to be.

Be it in politics, be it in business – let’s demand men and women to sit as decision makers with equal powers. That would be the start of a cultural and social change.

It’s time we stop teaching our children – Moms cook and Dads work! It’s time we tell our daughters to write their own destiny and we tell our sons to respect the women in their lives, and be equal partners at home. Let’s wait for the time when our men and not just women will be asked – how do they balance work and family!

India’s youngest Cabinet Minister Smriti Irani (female again!) righty says,

“A leader is someone who takes you where you want to be,

A female leader is someone who takes you where you ought to be!”

The world matters to us and let us matter to the world. The choice is there, decision is ours!

 

Published as: ‘You can take it easy, you are a woman’  @Dawn

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This entry was posted on January 7, 2015 by in Writings on international affairs and economics.

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