Women On Top

From bunga-bunga parties to genocide, from recruitment of children soldiers to senseless wars, from the massacre of civilians to waterboarding, from appropiation of territory to oppression, humiliation and selective killing, and from religion to invasions…if there’s one thing that men have demonstrated throughout History is that they are uncapable of responsibly ruling the world.

The authors of a recently published report conclude that having women in positions of power has a positive effect, both in the aspirations of girls and in the expectations of parents for their daughters. This study was carried out in India and shows that a quota for women is good because it eliminates gender differences, sets an example and is inspiring for younger generation.

Women have been present in positions of power since the beginning of History, but this has been an exception, not the rule. I align myself with media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner who once said that men should be barred from office for 100 years everywhere. In this article I reflect about the women currently ruling many countries around the world.

However, it is not realistic to expect women to assume positions of power -both in politics and in business- unless the very nature of work is redefined. Business and politics everywhere have to be reinvented so that women don’t find themselves having to chose between creating a family and competing for the highest jobs. Nordic countries offer a good template to follow, as I discuss in this article. Scandinavian women enjoy generous maternity leaves and their jobs and positions are generally guaranteed. Iceland has one of the highest levels of women in the labour force and also a high fertility rate, compared to other countries. Surprisingly, the United States is one of the few countries with no paid maternity leave national program.

For a look at the situation of women in the workforce today, take a look at this article. Unlike other articles from my magazine, I did not actually write this one. I read a full 14-page Special Report in The Economist and simply selected the facts and figures I thought were more relevant, so I was more a curator than an actual writer. For a quick glimpse at some interesting figures of women around the world, also check this map I elaborated, based on figures from this report.

The case of Lesotho is very interesting. It is a tiny country surrounded completely by South Africa, with a population of just 2 million. It ranks eighth in the world, by the World Economic Forum, when it comes to bridging the gap between the sexes. This can be partly explained by the vaccuum left by men when they left en masse to work in mines in South Africa, but education has also played an important role. Sadly, though, Lesotho has also one of the highest rape rates in the world.

Oprah Winfrey, another American media tycoon and philanthropist, has understood well the potential of Africa. This article talks about her Leadership Academy for Girls. The academy prepares girls from impoverished backgrounds to be the future leaders of Southafrica and the continent. Today, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first and currently the only elected female head of state in Africa, a continent with 1 billion people and 14.72% of the world’s population. Sirleaf was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakel Karman of Yemen.

After centuries of bad management and government, isn’t it about time women took over?