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Why are Women Leaders Few?

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal – Aristotle.

Humans as species have evolved big time, starting from their raw life in the jungle to this ever-buzzing modern civilisation. Life in a jungle demanded different life skills, especially physical strength, which was the most important attribute for survival. Well, nature, with its grand design, made the male form the stronger species, and from then on, he became the one who dictated the terms of living.

Today, with the growth of civilisation, I don't find any reason for any civilised person to risk their lives in a jungle on an animal hunt. With one's physical strength no longer the most valuable survival skill, the physical differences are no longer an argument in favour of gender inequality. Today the world belongs to the intelligent, creative and knowledgeable ones. Yet, interestingly there is no particular hormone or any other feature that distinguishes a man from a woman concerning these qualities. Human life has evolved beyond imagination, yet our ideas of gender haven't evolved much from our jungle days.

One important reason I find this to happen is because of the fact that history kept repeating on and on with the same set of rules. Subconsciously it becomes normal and natural for humans to expect only a male to head a family, a company or even a nation. Any deviation here gets them out of their comfort zone, which no one likes to be in.

It feels like we had made great strides in women's liberation, from the times when women jumped to death in the Sati ritual, with no voting rights, to being treated as outcasts for pre-marital sex or facing charges for using birth control pills without marriage. Yet, it was a long way till she could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Interestingly, with only two forms of humans, male and female, the later had to fight for their voting rights till most of the nineteenth century to succeed only during the twentieth century. They still don't have the right over their body in many countries, especially in the so-called superpower nation.

It was perhaps during the second half of the twentieth century when husbands started to lose the absolute power they held over their wives. Women earned their right to work, giving them much-needed financial freedom and not needing to depend solely on a husband for food and shelter. She can finally choose a life partner based on mutual attraction and not just financial security.

The struggle for women's liberation has been long and arduous. The limitations of marriage and the rules of employment have changed dramatically for her in recent generations. Today the so-called global economy depends on skills that are not gender specific, yet her hands are not free like that of her male counterpart. This is because humans are not independent, and our social nature pushes us to internalise society's norms and expectations. This, in turn, grants the man the position of power and becomes a powerfully entrenched pattern.

Even today, no similar scale is used to measure the potential of a man and a woman for a job interview. For a woman, more than her resume, it is the crystal ball the interviewer gazes at. Through the crystal ball, one sees her future, including her marriage, motherhood and the associated leaves and delays. These make her less dependable than her male counterpart. Ultimately, we must realise that her contribution doesn't end up with the company or at her home but with her motherhood; she contributes to the nation's future which, unfortunately, is easily overlooked.

One can't just sit around and hope that private enterprises will do the right thing. Statistics say that on average, private enterprises don't fix the problems of gender inequality and discrimination when left to their own. Whether it's the pay gap or the lack of women in leadership positions, these issues will persist until the government intervenes. The government can mandate companies to provide their employees with well-paid parental leave or even fund the same.

Another essential possibility of having women equally represented in power is reserving quotas in positions of power. In the democratic socialist countries of Scandinavia, there are mandatory quotas for the percentage of seats that must be reserved for women on the executive boards of corporations and public enterprises. For example, the allocation is 40 per cent in large Norwegian firms. As a result, women held 42 per cent of the country's corporate board seats in 2016.

The late Kenyan Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai put it simply and well when she said, the higher you go, the fewer women there are. This is a sad reality, where women constitute 52% of the human population. We hear plenty of possible reasons for this lack of top-level female leadership – structural inequality, corporate misogyny, skewed work-life balance, and so on. Sure, they're all valid explanations. But there's another one that rarely gets airtime: What if the majority of women don't want to be CEOs in the first place? Maybe it is not a comfortable place up there for a woman after all.

If money is deemed significant in our society, then it would suggest that men will continue to hold greater importance than women.

The statistics are noteworthy because women, on average, perform better than men in the realm of academic accomplishments, attaining 57% of all undergraduate degrees and 60% of master's degrees in the U.S. More often than not, girls grow up learning to be obedient, listen well, and follow instructions – all of which sets them up to excel academically. Nevertheless, this abundant influx of capable women entering the workforce seems to dwindle to a mere trickle by the time they reach leadership positions.

Several factors contribute to this occurrence, but one of the most crucial is the ambition gap in leadership. Studies indicate that men are more ambitious and inclined to aspire to executive positions than women. This trend is not straightforward and can be attributed to various factors, which I would leave her to decide.

I remember reading a book which says the automatic assumption is that a Nigerian female walking into a hotel alone is a sex worker. Because a Nigerian female alone cannot possibly be a guest paying for her room. A man who walks into the same hotel is not harassed. The assumption is that he is there for something legitimate.

Girls are celebrated when they display so-called "feminine" qualities, like empathy, kindness, and patience. They're celebrated for being good listeners and for sharing. By contrast, when they fail to embody these qualities, they're often reprimanded and called "bossy" or "unladylike."

Conversely, boys are celebrated for displaying so-called "masculine" qualities, like leadership, decisiveness, and even aggression. When they fail to embody these qualities, boys are punished too. They're labelled as "weak," "girly," or a "sissy."

Women are often ridiculed for having feelings that are deep, complex, and sometimes hard to name. They are shamed for how much they want from men and have learned it is best not to talk about it. But often, what they want from men is really what they want from themselves and the other women in their lives. They want to like themselves and to feel loved and appreciated.

It is important for women to support one another, which has not always been the case. The "queen bee" phenomenon highlights this issue, where women in senior positions may feel threatened by other women and impede their progress.

Similarly, working mothers and stay-at-home mothers may feel insecure about their choices and criticise one another. This behaviour is unnecessary and can be harmful. For instance, a female officer who joined a U.S. Navy submarine experienced respect from her male crewmates but was intensely resented by their wives, which is sad.

The statement "There is a woman in every man and a man in every woman" is a common way to express the idea that human beings share common traits and qualities, regardless of gender. It suggests that masculinity and femininity are not binary but a spectrum encompassing a wide range of characteristics.

Even today, the problem is not her working late and coming back to make dinner and stuff. The problem is him waiting hungrily till that time. How unfortunate!

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