by Nicole Newman, Contributing Writer
Educate a girl, and she will share her knowledge with everyone she knows.
Feed a girl, and she will feed and nurture everyone around her
Empower a girl – she’ll change the world (Unknown)
In many developing nations and in international development work, it is common to focus attention and resources on women in the community. When we invest in women we invest in the health and well being of communities and nations. Fellas, don’t worry I love y’all too but for this month which IS Women’s History Month, I wanted to write about why investing in the leadership potential and political capital of women around the globe makes sense.
If we believe that women have something to say and can bring ideas and different perspective to the public sphere, we must support their leadership development and do the work of cultivating them and supporting them on a local, national and international level!
It is impossible to deny the substantial progress women have made in government and politics nationally. Shirley Chisholm was not only the first African American woman to be elected to Congress but also the first major-party black candidate and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination! Hello!
But it doesn’t stop there. Fast forward forty or so years…Women currently hold 97 seats out of 535 in Congress. Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, received close to 18 million votes in her 2008 bid for the presidency. The honorable Sonia Sotomayor was the first Hispanic woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. And former yes, Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, appeared on the national ticket as Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate. All these women are examples of how hard work, dedication and a commitment to public life bears great rewards- yes, even Sarah.
Despite these stories of political success, the U.S. still ranks 90th worldwide in the percentage of women serving in the national legislature. When the 112th Congress convened in January 2011, 83 percent of its members were men. There is nothing wrong with men in leadership roles, but we must have leadership that is reflective and proportionate to our population demographics.
In honor of Women’s History month I want to lift up why I think women make great leaders:
1. Women are better communicators
Communication is key to effective leadership and traditionally women are thought to be better than men when it comes to verbalizing what they think. When was the last time you met a woman that didn’t say what was on her mind. (It’s a fact. I know this. Trust me.)
2. Women have better perspective
Women look at problems differently. Women make up half the population and reflect the consumer interests, dreams and desires of that population. The best teams are made up of a different mixture of skills and backgrounds which bring spark and innovation to organizations. See, a female perspective helps us all win.
3. Women are empathetic to the needs of others.
Empathy positively relates to job performance amongst employees. The ability to understand what others are feeling — to detect if they are overworked or struggling — is a skill that “clearly contributes to effective leadership. And clearly God gave to women first.
It’s not entirely fair to identify all of these qualities as uniquely female. There are men who have all of these qualities as well, but its not their month. *smile* The world needs women leaders because when like the quote says “when you empower a woman, she will change the world”. And we all could use a little change.
And of course, behind every great nation is a strong woman.