Margaret Czepiel ’17 Women in Leadership
As Sheryl Sandberg brought a new wave of feminism upon us, it is now going to be vital for women to utilize a resource that, in the past, some have viewed as a hindrance to our equality: men. We, as women, have definitive goals for ourselves when it comes to this movement: close the wage gap, introduce more female CEOs, “have it all.” But how can we do that with just half the world’s population?
Bringing men into the discussion of gender equality is just as important as having the discussion at all. The younger generation of males in the workplace is more accepting and open to women in the same environment. Powerful, working mothers and families who preached the ideas of respect towards women and of gender equality raised this new generation of men. These are the types of men who promote women to higher positions and bring up the startling statistics of women in leadership positions. Currently, women only hold 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEO seats. We need that other 95.4% to help change that.
A key part of the solution is about being bipartisan. We, as two genders, cannot act like two quarreling political parties referring back to our party platform for an agenda instead of collaborating. It is true that goals for women as a gender right now are different from that of men. But that does not mean that they are completely disjointed or that males are a complete hindrance to the ultimate goal of gender equality. Many women view the feminist movement as a “females-only” club, possibly because for once women wanted to have something that men could not participate in, as opposed to the usual exclusion of females. But how do we expect to make any strides in the workplace acting exclusionist towards those who dominate it and who could help? This is not to say that women should ask for help from males at every turn. I strongly believe that women should be independent in their individual decisions, but for us as a gender and as a whole, in order to make the movement towards equality, I also believe that cooperation on behalf of both parties is necessary.
There is a famous phrase, “behind every successful man is his wife.” But this phrase can and should be reversed. Powerful women need to be able to find supportive and loving husbands who can help them “have it all.” Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch has some very insightful opinions on this, as an incredible husband has supported her as she navigates her successful career. She credits her ability to travel with her job and feels as though she was making a difference to the flexibility of her husband and the strength of the respect they have for each other. This is where males and females can really come together. By supporting each other’s careers, generating feelings of respect for one another and spreading those sentiments to their children, a new generation will emerge that does not view women as inferior in the workplace.
Debora L. Spar, President of Barnard College, also brings this idea that men and women should support each other to light in an article entitled, Shedding the Superwoman Myth. The article counteracts Sandberg’s Lean In, in which women are encouraged to be more aggressive in work environments in order to prove their equality with men. Ms. Spar, on the other hand, advocates for women to not set unrealistically high standards for themselves based upon Ms. Sandberg’s ideal for female participation in the workplace and success in their personal lives. Ms. Spar tells women to lean on the support of a husband, a friend or a family member in order to “have it all.” She writes, “Women, in other words, are not perfect…they are physical and social beings marked by flaws, programmed to reproduce, destined to age, and generally inclined to love.” Ms. Spar advocates for women to not lose sight of themselves as a gender and to embrace their natural tendencies. Women should embrace these, and use them to our advantage to gain the respect that we deserve.
The bottom line is this: mutual respect, and partnership, will level the playing field that women have spent a very long time trying to conquer. Women do not need to try and become men in order to be equal to them; but we do need to work with them as we cannot do everything alone.