Thursday, February 25, 2010

Women in Power - an Article on Power of Women to Lead

Women enjoy various positions of power and prominence in our society – teachers, corporate leaders, politicians, etc., but they are seldom seen as heads of states. If you try to count, you will surely find a few women who are heading states or look likely to head, but they are by far outnumbered by men. And it is not a current trend but a historical fact.

I read an article recently which didn’t refute the fact – that few women have led nations - but regretted it – because women, it said, when given an opportunity to lead, have not just proved equal to men but even better.

Queen Elizabeth I of England, Catherine II of Russia and Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Britain are points in case, the article informed.

The article, titled Women in Power, presented snippets of many women leaders but profiled Elizabeth, Catherine and Thatcher elaborately giving various facets of their personalities and leadership.

These women beat crude generalizations that attribute the ‘lack of women in leadership’ scenario to biological reasons, like men are inclined to competition and women, cooperation, compassion and similar soft characteristics which make them unsuited to the brutal game of power.

I think also the fact that the modern day female corporate leaders, who combine both the extremes – competitive instinct as also compassion - refute the generalization.

Or does a combination of the strong and soft traits help women understand their subjects as humans and lead them more effectively?

The article, published by the Geo magazine and authored by Mathias Mesenhollle, also informed that the feminine trio becoming leaders had less to do with biological inclinations (or lack of it) and more to do with circumstances: absence of male heir, political compulsion, etc. However, once in power they proved to be formidable leaders, although they made mistakes during their rule; they grew intolerant of dissent, incurred unpopularity and stifled rebellion. However, they became icons during their times.

The article detected another interesting trait of times. Slicing history between pre and post French Revolution, the article says after French Revolution, although class difference narrowed, gender difference widened. The number of women in state leadership declined after the revolution.

I would slightly differ with the author. Today, business is also a big avenue of leadership and women have proved very successful in various spheres of business leadership.

Of all the characters, I found Elizabeth most intriguing. She came to power against popular will and because there was no male heir to the throne. She asserted the prominence of England by severing ties with Rome. She snubbed the expansive plans of the ruler of Spain, who, underestimating the fact that England only had a woman to defend herself, had been pilling up army at its shores. This helped Elizabeth 1 to establish herself as a leader with her subjects. She was a spinster who turned down marriage proposals saying she was already married to her people. I will read up her biography.

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