I've been very attuned to the concept of feminism, but never used that word to describe myself.
As I type that I wonder why not. I have always worked in industries dominated by men; always strived to not stand out as a woman in those areas; grew up with the marketing slogan “Girls can do anything!”
I guess I had figured feminists had gone before me; the path already paved the way for me to work in careers usually associated with men. Figured the battle was done because I considered, and was considered, to be hired in that field of work. But it seems the battle wasn’t won - it was barely started - and there is still an enormous amount of work yet to do to achieve equality in opportunities, leadership, and renumeration.
This year I’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted into a programme for women who aspire to leadership. My cohort include 25 other women at the University where I work. We’ve only just begun or year, but we have goals defined and intentions set.
When we last met, it seemed that everyone I spoke with said they were feeling more supported and felt on a firmer footing because of the work we’ve already done on the programme to create the platform from which we will grow and achieve.
A few weeks ago Alice Eagly spoke as a Distinguished Speaker at the University of Auckland’s Business School. She spoke of the lack of women in senior roles, but also pointed out we still have challenges at all levels, not just up there at the mythical “glass ceiling".
She talked about the very words we use as characteristics of a good leader - confidence, authority, toughness - also align themselves closely to how we see men. Women, on the other hand, we see as supportive, nurturing, social. When women come to a leadership position, our idea of men align closer to the fit that our idea of women and that can cause problems for everyone.
But ideas of leadership are changing. Leadership is being seen more of a collaborative, social, relationship-based, transformational set of traits which may, in part, align closer to the way women operate and not in small part because more women are moving into leadership positions.