Manufacturers of insecticides have a big problem.
Many years ago, they could produce basic insecticides and kill
almost any insect alive. However, a few always survived, adapted
and got stronger. The insecticides had to be more potent to do
the job. Through the years, we have bred a super race of insects
that can hardly be killed by any chemicals. I believe our previously
male-dominated society has a similar problem.
Over the years, males, stereotypes, and conventions
repressed women. Women were raised as followers, inferior to men.
But gradually, they became stronger and able to survive almost
anything. Unfortunately, many women do not yet realise the powerful
internal strength they have, unless they get put to the test.
Therefore, we, as women, need to encourage one another to stretch
further, expand our comfort zones, and become the fulfilled achieving
individuals that we are each capable of being. In the light of
the above, I firmly believe that the 21st century can be "The
century of the woman!"
For many years, women have displayed incredible
strength in certain areas of society. They stand together to erect
shelters for victims of rape and abuse. They show unbelievable
character in dealing with everything life throws at them--from
the pain of childbirth to the agonies of raising children in a
world filled with drugs and other dangers. They fight like tigers
for their young and weak. The sad fact, however, is that when
they have to survive in a male-oriented world, they are scared
They are so scared to be labelled typical, hysterical,
emotional women, that they leave all of their female strengths
in the powder room when they enter the boardroom. For years, men
have conned us into believing that the only acceptable behaviour
in the workplace is the "male way," and with good reason.
As long as men can force women to do business on male terms, women
will have the disadvantage.
Men would be stupid to invite women to bring
their female strengths like intuition, interpersonal and verbal
skills, diplomacy, empathy, and loyalty into the workplace. It
is time that women get the message that it is not only acceptable,
but preferable to be, act, and feel like women, and survive in
the business world on our own terms. We need to change the male-dominated
world into a fertile ground for males and females--one that benefits
from the richness of all diversity of gender, colour, ethnic grouping,
It is not enough to treat men and women the
same. It is necessary to level the playing field to enable women
to fulfil the same roles as men. If a woman is allowed to attend
the same board meeting as a man until ten o' clock at night, but
she sits there worrying about her children who did not get supper
or their homework attended to, the playing fields are not level.
Providing women the same opportunities does not necessarily mean
that they have the same access to these opportunities. Usually,
men have an infrastructure at home that fetches the children from
school, pays the bills, does the grocery shopping, and waits for
the telephone company to come and repair the phone. That infrastructure
is called a wife. It should therefore be accepted practice that
special additional arrangements are required to enable women to
fulfil traditional male roles in the work environment.
I find it unacceptable that as women we do not
tolerate rape and abuse of the woman's body or emotions, but we
still allow rape and abuse of her intellect on a daily basis.
We view participation in the male world as a favour. We allow
men to make chauvinistic jokes. We raise our sons to keep on repressing
women and our daughters to allow it. Little boys are encouraged
to be adventurous and daring. Girls are taught to be nice, nurturing,
and amenable. We expose our children to movies where the stereotypes
are reinforced, without teaching them to be critical. It is in
the hands of the women of the world to change our children's perspective.
Women's organisations usually have a very strong
focus on charities and female issues like rape and abuse, and
rightly so. These issues have always been and always will be extremely
important. However, too little emphasis is put on development,
training, sharing of knowledge, and business perspective. We need
to establish role models of successful women who should be committed
to act as mentors and encouragement for upcoming businesswomen.
Women should take responsibility for the development of skills
and the fast-tracking of talented career women of the future.
It is necessary, once we have given all women the opportunity
to be human beings, with a right to a normal life, to also develop
them to become economically active and self-sufficient.
It is up to all women's organisations to strive
to spread these messages to all women. I believe it is in the
hands of organisations like the International Federation of Business
and Professional Women to lobby with all the stakeholders to achieve
the above objectives, to create awareness of women's needs as
economically active participants in the labour market. Furthermore,
they should encourage all women to unlock all of their hidden
potential, to believe in themselves and to assertively assume
the appropriate position in society. Liaisons, with other minorities
and previously disadvantaged communities--where there is common
ground, will also get the message across more effectively. If
all of the above materialises, the 21st century will indeed be
"The century of the woman."
Bio: Carin Jacobs is Strategy Planning Manager (Fuel
Procurement) for a large corporation in South Africa. She has
spent the last decade negotiating the hazards of the corporate
ladder in a traditionally male-dominated line of business.