One would think it’s ridiculous to first talk about rejection on such an important topic. What exactly does rejection have to do with women leading? Well, in our quest to see women lead, there will be times women will be rejected.
Sometimes, all people will see is your gender and not your competence, not your value or expertise and so it matters that we talk about it too.
Rejection however only stops us from getting what we want for a while. It is only permanent if we let it be. Rejection gives you room to prepare for the next opportunity ahead.
Ironically, looking at the consistent motivational/inspirational speeches aired everywhere, the numerous quotes we read and even sermons we listen to on dominating, reaching for the stars and becoming the best version of ourselves, you’d actually think this will help people rise up and champion the cause that will push women to be all that but somehow we still manage to push them to the back burner.
It’s as if to say, dominance and self-fulfillment is gender specific when in actuality, it isn’t.
Women as compared to men are less likely to aim for the stars because our society puts pressure on boys to succeed than it does our girls. This makes it more convenient for women to see rejection from a job, promotion, school, position etc. as their last stop. I will fail. I will be rejected but I will never give up.
It always comes to a point where preparation and consistency pays. View rejection as it is; temporary.
The picture we have created with consistently seeing men lead even when they do not succeed at it, is ingrained in the societal imbalance we see.
We point hands at women who aren’t successful at a job or task or a position and somehow pin it on all women. The typical one I hear mostly starts with the phrase “when women lead.” The claim is this: men are born leaders whereas women are not and so it’s perfectly fine if a man fails because enough room needs to be made for men to fail until they succeed.
Women participation in national level parliament stands at 24.5% worldwide. There has been progress but it has been slow. Some women have however assumed very delicate positions.
Eugenia Charles of Dominica
Angela Merkel of Germany
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia
Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh
Indina Ghandi of India
Even in countries where the population of women is generally higher than that of men, there is evidence of a wide disparity in leadership.
For instance; in the U.S. where women represent 50.8% of the population.
Just 24% of members of Congress
24% of the House
23% of the Senate
28% of seats in State Legislature
18% of Governors
And unfortunately, statistics show that the darker the complexion the less likely they are to represent. Women of colour constitute just;
9% of members of Congress
2% of Governors
10% of Mayors
The 2018 elections in America saw a shift and surge in women in office, majority of whom pointed out to the fact that they were inspired to run because for the first time a woman became the presidential candidate of a political party. Hilary Clinton’s defeat is an example of the need for older women to be examples to the younger ones.
If Hilary had never run because of sexism and the many obvious limitations, these other women, would never have stepped out there and later be elected into critical leadership spaces. That definitely would’ve been a big blow.
We will see the change we want if we become/practice it and lead the next generation of women/girls to do same.
One very crucial element in this fight is information. The kind of information we give girls and women influences the way they act, think and eventually who they become. This is why we need to speak up and serve. Girls need to see other women serve as CEO’s, carpenters, engineers, footballers, etc. We need to stop telling women and girls that the reason they need to do something is because they are girls/women. Because I’m a particular gender isn’t enough reason to do anything.
Do not underestimate your own capabilities. Do not let the cancer of likeability prevent you from saying No when you know that’s the best option.
Becoming a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you take up just any space but it has to do with aligning your strength/expertise with the opportunity that comes your way. We need to encourage women to take up spaces in tech, business, finance and anywhere their interest lies to be an influence or change agent. Girls/Women need to see positive examples in their countries like that of Rwanda.
Africa has tasted very few women in leadership. The continent has gone from leaning onto deep cultural stereotypes which still exist to watching women slowly position themselves for a table society deems them unfit to occupy.
We have seen Sylvie Kiningi, Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Joyce Hilda Banda), etc occupy some of the highest positions of authority in their country.
Corona virus has put many world leaders to the test, as each decision they make either brings the country closer to bending the curve or otherwise. We have seen the amazing leadership exhibited by female leaders worldwide.
Before COVID-19 women were kicking ass, sitting at the table and making very reasonable decisions/choices. The arrival of the pandemic has given us a green light, something that should’ve happened long ago. The world is talking about female heads of government and their prompt, reliable decisions during this period.
One such popular individual is Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Jacinda imposed a 14-day mandatrory quarantine on anyone who entered the borders of New Zealand on 14 March and afterwards, the country was on lockdown. They had just recorded 150 corona virus cases.
Mette Frederiksen also closed the borders of Denmark on 13th March and placed ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people.
From New Zealand, we move to Angela Merkel of Germany who has also been very swift with her decisions. Europe has been the hardest hit continent, including Germany but the number of death as compared to France, Italy, etc. has been very low. Take note of this, female leaders during this pandemic are doing amazing. They are bending the curve. It’s not just heads of New Zealand, Germany and Denmark; Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, Erna Solberg of Norway and Finland’s Sanna Marin have all been very successful with their decisiveness and early warning of citizens on the dangers that the virus poses.
Victoria Mclean, Ceo of CityCV.co.uk, aptly said “It is not just about the way women approach issues, it’s also about the results they deliver.”
Unfortunately, statistics show that even in countries where the percentage of young girls in schools have increased and women have pursued higher educational goals over the years, limitations deter them from running for various leadership positions.
Nigeria with a population of more than 200 million people, have some of the lowest representation of women in Africa, as well as Morocco with just 5.6% representation of women. Cultural stereotypes and religious doctrines are some of the major reasons we see this disparity.
Rwanda has a representation of 51.9% of women in ministerial positions. Other African countries such as South Africa, Ethiopia and Seychelles also have some of the highest percentage of women in ministerial positions in Africa.
Let’s start by breaking structures that prevent women from getting the contacts, financial support and platform locally. Let’s add institutional provisions that reserves seats for women just like Rwanda (change in constitutional provisions that reserves 30% of seats for women in its Bicameral Legislature).
According to the UN, percentage of ministerial positions occupied by women in some Africa are as follows;
South Africa 48.6%
Relegating more than half or even a population of women lower than 50% to the back means preventing the country from benefiting from the uniqueness, talents, ideas, skills and knowledge they could’ve brought on any day to quicken development and bridge the wide gap between the poor and rich.
The world needs women in various leadership positions that could effect the change we need to see in our world today.
- Accept Rejection as something temporary.
- Build a better network that mostly revolve around your interests
- Let your partners be real partners (be open about support and your ambitions)
- Change the kind of information you relay to girls/women that hinder their growth.
- Be a part of the movement that destroys systems that prevent women from climbing to the top.
- Be a change agent wherever you find yourself.
- Inculcate in your constitution provisions that ensures the representation of women.
My Dear Woman, You Can Do This.