Women’s issues are extremelyimportant to me for many reasons, the least of which is the fact that I am awoman. I have written many papers on gender justice, the most recent of whichwas during this semester – a group assignment that dealt with women’s rights inRussia. I find myself constantly thinking about different ways in which we canimprove the lives of women and look to the strong female figures in my lifethat inspire me for answers.
Additionally, I think about how leaders can changethe world that we live in and the way women’s lives are affected by ourleaders. Inherently, through the scope of three books: The Buddha and the Terrorist (Kumar, 2006); Cultural Anthropology (Miller, 2012); and The Virtues of Leadership (Rego, Pina e Cunha, & Clegg, 2012) Iattempt to respond to the question, “Does having more women in leadershippositions promote policies in support of “women’s issues” such as peace,reproductive rights, and support for human capital investments (schools,children’s programs)?” that Miller poses (2012, p.242). As a self-proclaimed feminist, I feel asthough I must answer in the affirmative; but the facts presented in this paperstand on their own. Therefore, I assert that “having more women in leadershippositions” does “promote policies insupport of “women’s issues”” (Miller, 2012, p.242) and, where there is a lackof female leadership, women’s issues are not given as much attention. Facts and Figures For International Women’s Day 2017,the Pew Research Center compiled statistics on the “number of women leadersaround the world” (Geiger & Kent, 2017, title).
Through this research, somedisappointing statistics about women’s role in leadership are found (Geiger& Kent, 2017). First and foremost, a map displays that 77 countries in the worldhave not had a female leader; this includes the United States (Geiger &Kent, 2017, Graph: “Most of the world’s…”). Furthermore, that same graph showsthat only five countries worldide have had female leaders for more than 15years (Geiger & Kent, 2017, Graph: “Most of the world’s…”). Geiger &Kent explain that “While the number of current female leaders – excluding monarchsand figurehead leaders – has more than doubled since 2000, these women stillrepresent fewer than 10% of 193 UN member states” (2017, para.
4). Additionally,as Miller points out, “Countries with over 25 percent of womenparliamentarians are either African states, such as Rwanda and South Africa,that have recently experienced violence, or Nordic states which are politicallyprogressive” (2013, p. 242). However, “on average, 19 percent of theworld’s parliamentary members” are female (Miller, 2013, p.242). While thesestatistics are sobering, as Deane et al. explain, women are ready for a changein leadership and think much like I do: “Four-in-ten of them (38%) say havingmore women in top leadership positions in business and government would do alot to improve the quality of life for all women” (2015, Sec. 4, para.
1). Therefore,I have hope. Successful Female LeadersInternationally The strength and leadership of womenis shown in numerous ways both nationally, internationally, in the real world,and in fiction. In this section, I discuss the strength and leadership of womenin multiple situations, and determine the importance of women in each situation.
Firstly, this section looks at a fictional example of women’s strength (Kumar,2006, p.109-116). Then the section looks towards domestic violence inKazakhstan and how women have learned to resolve such an issue (Miller, 2013,p. 378). Finally, the section looks to workplace issues of the past in Mexicoand how women dealt with such an issue (Miller, p.
377-378). The Strength of Women in Fiction In the book The Buddha and the Terrorist, the strength of women is bothliterally and figuratively shown through a woman giving birth (Kumar, 2006, p.109-116). In that particular section of the book, although a male character,Ahimsaka, is coaching the nameless mother through childbirth, the strength ofthe nameless character is present as she struggles through the birth (Kumar,2006, p.
110-112). Additionally, the value of the strength of the woman givingbirth is shown as Ahimsaka witnesses and assists the birth because, throughthis experience, Ahimsaka “became enlightened” (Kumar, 2006, p.112). While thisfictional lesson about women’s strength is important, I feel as though lookingto the real world is needed in order to get a better understanding ofleadership. Domestic Violence in Kazakhstan Through an example in Kazakhstan,Miller (2013) shows, in the real world, that leadership occurs when there areissues that are not being solved for (p.
378). Miller writes, “In response tothe widespread domestic violence of husbands against wives, an NGO called theSociety of Muslim Women (SMW) defines domestic violence as a problem that theIslamic faith should address at the grassroots level (Shajdr 2005)” (2013, p.378). As Miller explains,these women saw an issue of “domestic violence” and decided to handle it throughreligion instead of through “secular” means (2013, p. 378). Part of the SMW’swork involves “counseling and shelter for abused women and couples’ mediation”as ways to stop “domestic violence” (Miller, 2013, p.378). The creation of the SMW showsleadership in a few ways.
First, the women who created the SMW saw that othersneeded help. Rego, Pina e Cunha & Clegg write, that leadership includes”facing global and local problems honestly and energetically” (2012, p.6).
Second, the women who run SMW decided that the best way to deal with the issueof “domestic violence” was to create a program or solution that worked best inthe context of that society (Miller, 2013, p.378). This decision to pick areligious route (Miller, 2013, p.378) shows leadership because, as Rego, Pina eCunha & Clegg explain, leadership involves “Respecting and adjusting todifferent people and cultures” (2012, p.6). By choosing to solve for theproblem of domestic violence through religious means, the SMW exemplify theprocess of “adjusting to… cultures” (Rego, Pina e Cunha & Clegg, 2012,p.
6). In fact, at the end of the discussion about the SMW, Miller states,”Thus, the SMW works within the bounds of Kazakh culture and uses that culturefor positive outcomes within those bounds” (2013, p.378). Additionally, with very littlemeans, the SMW persists and continues with their work (Miller, 2013, p.378).Again, as Rego, Pena e Cunha & Clegg put it, the SMW is “Taking challengingand wise decisions” (2012, p.6).
The SMW is “taking” on an immense “challenge”(Rego, Pina e Cunha & Clegg, 2012, p.6) by trying to deal with “domesticviolence” and “rebuild the family… without funding or professional training”(Miller, 2013, p.378). Even though the situation inKazakhstan seemed to need immediate attention, without female leadership, Ibelieve it would have not gotten the kind of attention it needed. According tothe Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, “Women represent 27% of the lowerhouse of Kazakhstan’s Parliament” (Infograph: “Gender Equality…”).
I arguehere, that if women didnot make up almost a third of the parliament (Infograph: “GenderEquality…”), then the “numberof positive steps to address theproblem of gender-based violence more effectively, mostly focusing on domesticviolence” (Asian Development Bank, 2013, p.28) would not have happened. TheAsian Development Bank (2013, p. 28) explains that these “positive steps” beganin 2008. It just so happens that in the year 2007, the “Number of women was almost doubled” for the parliament in Kazakhstan (Mazhilisof the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, n.d.
, Sec. 5, para. 9). I donot think that the greater focus on women’s issues was simply a correlation tothe increased number of women serving on Kazakhstan’s parliament; I believethis greater focus was a direct effect of more women serving. WorkplaceIssues in Mexico. According to the United Nations Women, “Investing inwomen’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality,poverty eradication and inclusive growth” (n.d.
, para. 1). In Mexico, we see anexample of empowering women and helping them keep their economic freedom duringthe late 1980s (Miller, 2013, p. 377-378) through the creation of “an informalsystem of social networks that emerged to help support poor Maya womenvendors” (Miller, 2013, p.377).
Miller explains that these female Mayan “vendors”make “an important portion of household income” (2013, p.377). These womenbegan to feel threatened by figures of authority who violated them through”rapes and robberies” (Miller, 2013, p.377).
The “network” (Miller, 2013, p.377) uses a unique system to prevent, and stop violence and violations againstwomen, and “comforts” women when they are violated (Miller, 2013, p.378).
Thissystem also involves holding on to weaponry in case of an attack and staying “ingroups” (Miller, p. 378). This “network” of women (Miller,2013, p.
377) shows leadership in a few different ways. In the book, Virtues of Leadership, Rego, Pina eCunha, & Clegg state that “Mitigating the consequences of crises (e.g.plants closing) for employees” is part of leaders’ work (2012, p.114).
AlthoughRego, Pina e Cunha, & Clegg are using this skill in reference to business (2012,p.1), it is still applicable to the Mayan women’s situation because these womenare attempting to minimize any harm that is done to them individually and totheir fellow “vendors” (Miller, 2013, p. 377-378). Additionally, Rego, Pina eCunha, & Clegg state that “Fostering a sense of community within thecompany” is a part of leadership (2012, p.114). Again, even though the”network” of Mayan women is not a business, they have still “fostered a senseof community” (Rego, Pina e Cunha, & Clegg, 2012, p.114) by supporting eachother emotionally and economically when needed (Miller, 2013, p. 378).
Not onlydo the Mayan women show leadership by creating their “network”, they were ableto hold on to their economic freedom by doing so (Miller, 2013, p.377-378). One might wonder why the Mexican governmentdid not step in and help the Mayan women, therefore, I looked to who wasserving during the late 1980s. While I could not find demographicson the makeup of the Mexican government as far back as the late 1980s, I didfind the percentage of women in the Mexican parliament in 1990 – a mere 12%(Chart: World Bank, 2017a). Since the percentage of women representatives hasbeen increasing overall in Mexico (Chart: World Bank, 2017a), it is safe toassume that in 1987 there were probably either less, or slightly more, womenserving than in 1990. Therefore, the “network” of Mayan women that was createdduring the late 1980s, then could possibly be a result of a lack of governmentintervention (Miller, 2013, p. 377-378).
Remember that the people violating theMayan women “were persons of power and influence” (Miller, 2013, p. 378). Here,I presume that if there were more female leaders in Mexico at the time of theviolations, then the government would have stepped in and stopped theviolations.
Successful Female Leaders Locally While it is important to learn aboutfemale leadership around the world, sometimes seeing leadership or leadershipcharacteristics, first-hand is most important. Therefore, this section isdedicated to a woman that our class had the privilege of hearing speak thissemester: Dr. Sarah Willie-LeBreton, who gave a speech at the CUNY GraduateCenter. Before getting to the contents ofher speech, I would look at how Dr.
Willie-LeBreton presented herself. Tobegin, her speaking was clear, concise, and conversation-like. The way shepresented herself was inspirational, which, as explained later in this paper,shows leadership. The content of Dr. Willie-LeBreton’sspeech proved her leadership even more. In her speech, she touched upon a lotof important issues in reference to higher education and the CUNY system. Dr.Willie-LeBreton had numerous inspiring aspects of her speech, however, some ofthe greatest ideas that came from her speech that showed leadership was whenDr.
Willie-LeBreton began talking about the greater governmental system that wehave today that can, many times, be the cause of injustices. She looked to theaudience and told us the “power to fight back is scary” and that “with progressthere is always pushback.” However, what was most inspiring was when she talkedabout the fact that protests are “equally as serious as they were in the past.”It is not that I did not know this, it is just that I see historical figureswho “protest” as so above-me that it is hard to think that if I participate ina protest that I am even close to being as important as historical figures. In this sense, Dr. Willie-LeBretonshows leadership, because according to Rego, Pina e Cunha, & Clegg (2012),”wisdom and knowledge” (p.
8), as well as “justice” (p.9) are all a part of “characterstrengths” of leadership. Under the category of “wisdom and knowledge,” Dr.Willie-LeBreton’s speech can be categorized as “Perspective/Wisdom: being ableto provide wise counsel to others; looking at the world in a way that makessense to oneself and other people” (Rego, Pina e Cunha, & Clegg, 2012, p.8) because her speech both inspired me and helped me understand the magnitudeof my actions. Worded differently, although arguably not on purpose, Dr.Willie-LeBreton “counseled” me to understand how I can change “the world” andforced me to process “the world in a way that makes sense to me” (Rego, Pina eCunha, & Clegg, 2012, p.8).
When looking to the “justice”category, Dr. Willie-LeBreton best fits the ideal of “Fairness: treating allpeople the same according to notions of fairness and justice; not lettingpersonal feelings bias decisions about others” (Rego, Pina e Cunha, , 2012, p.9). As Dr.
Willie-LeBreton spoke about “progress” and”pushback,” it was clear that she wanted “fairness” (Rego, Pina e Cunha, , 2012, p.9) for all individuals. Furthermore, while talking about thesystem of higher education, Dr. Willie-LeBreton said that we need to “stopabusing privileges … of higher education.
” At the of her speech, Dr. Willie-LeBretonexplained that “We must practice democracy” This statement shows a sense offairness because privilege is synonymous with “advantage, right,benefit, prerogative, entitlement, birthright, due,” (Oxford Living Dictionary,n.d.) implies unfairness, and Dr. Willie-LeBreton calls to end “privileges.
“Failed Leadership& Women Although I have mentioned multiple waysin which female leadership has had a positive impact on me and around theworld, this essay would not be complete if I did not mention how leadership hasfailed women. If I attempted to list all of the ways leadership has hurt women,this paper would be never-ending. From restricting educational rights, tounequal pay for equal work (American Civil Liberties Union, n.
d., para. 1), I could write aboutwomen’s issues for pages. Therefore, in this section of the paper, I work tohone in on one of the more severe forms of how leadership has and continues to failwomen throughout the world and how, if there were more female leaders, thisfailed leadership could be alleviated.Female Genital Cutting It is important to understand thatwhile we have positive, impactful, and most of all, exemplary leadershipinternationally, we also have examples of failed leadership across the world. Ibelieve that one of the most horrific ways in which leadership has failed womenis through female genital cutting (FGC). As Miller explains, “Female genitalcutting (FGC) is a necessary step toward full womanhood in cultures thatpractice it” (2013, p.
147). Miller uses the example of “Sierra Leone” toexplain how FGC is used within a particular culture as a form of women’s”initiation” (2013, p.147). Miller points to other places, such as “Egypt” and”Ethiopia” as countries that participate in the act of FGC (2013, p. 146). Inaddition to the aforementioned countries, the United Nations Population Fundlists Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti, Egypt, and Mali as practicing FGC within over90 percent of the female population in each country (2017, Table). Miller alsolists medical issues that come with FGC, such as, “infection” and “problemsduring childbirth” (2013, p.
147). There are many obvious reasons as towhy female genital cutting shows a lack of leadership, however, here I focus onthe lack of “courage” that people have to stand up against it (Rego, Pina eCunha, & Clegg, 2012, p. 8). Miller tells the story of a woman who hadundergone female genital cutting stating that “the physical pain wasexcruciating (in spite of the use of anesthetics)” (2013, p.
147). Rego, Pina eCunha, & Clegg tell us that with “courage” comes “bravery,” which theydefine as, “not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speakingup for what is right even when facing opposition; acting on convictions even ifunpopular” (2012, p.8). The opposite of “courage” and “bravery” wouldinherently lack all of those characteristics (Rego, Pina e Cunha, & Clegg, 2012,p.8). Even if FGC is part of culture where is the “courage” (Rego, Pina eCunha, & Clegg, 2012, p.
8) to stand against something that we know womenfeel pain from and may have medical consequences due to it (Miller, 2013,p.147)? For a reasonable explanation to myown question, I turn to the government make-up of the countries that practiceFGC. Unsurprisingly, The World Bank shows that in each of the top-fivecountries that have the highest rate of female genital cutting, less than 25percent of the government is made-up of women; three of the top five countries,Egypt, Djbouti, and Mali, have less than 15 percent female representatives(Chart, 2017b). Putting this into cultural terms, I assert that if there was a larger number of femaleleaders, or even if one of these countries were matriarchically run, then theincidence of female genital cutting would be reduced greatly. Although she is notfrom one of the countries with the highest FGC rates, Dukureh of US News,provides some evidence for my claim explaining that women from “around theworld,” including herself, have been speaking out about FGC and attempting to “end”it (2017, para. 1; 4-6; 8).
Dukureh explains that “When my daughter was born…Iknew I had to speak out to protect her and the thousands of other girls around theworld who are cut every day” (2017, para. 4). Conclusion and Limitations While, throughout this paper, I havemade some connections about the positivity associated with women’s leadershipand the negativity associated with a lack of women’s leadership – they are only connections and correlations.
Theyare not necessarily corroborated by in-depth studies. In addition, I understandthat in some of the places that I look for examples of leadership of women,leadership is still failing women in those countries. For example, in 2013, FatimaLeonor Gamboa, a Mayan women, stated: “I work for greater gender equality betweenthe brothers and sisters of our peoples in the Maya communities in Yucatan. Iam a lawyer who represents women suffering gender-based violence” (UN Women,2014, para. 4). Furthermore, as far as FGC goes, it is even practiced inplaces with female leaders,such as America (Dukureh, 2017, para.
3). More than this, there aresimply some scholars who do not agree with the correlations I have made forvarious reasons (Miranda, 2005). With that being said, I do thinkthat I have made a valid argument and that more primary research is needed tounderstand whether or not these correlations are causations (Miranda, 2005, p.10).
As Miller points out, we don’t know if “the fact of being a man or a womannecessarily predict that the person will support policies that favor men orwomen respectively” (2013, p. 242), however, from the examples given in thispaper, it is not completely out of the question. Additionally, Denmarkqualifies Miller’s argument when she states “Women can empower other women, butonly feminist leaders can further our feminist agenda and share leadership withother feminists” (1993, p. 355).