Women Matter

1 10 2010

Last week, Switzerland’s parliament elected two new members of cabinet to replace two elder gentlemen who had recently stepped down. There is now a female majority in the seven-member cabinet – four women and three men.  This, just 39 years after national female suffrage was introduced, and just 20 years after the last Swiss canton finally allowed its women to vote in local elections (as a result of a Supreme Court case, against the will of the canton’s men).

It’s a bit distressing to know that I live in an industrialized, first-world country where women have had the right to vote for less time than I have been alive.

Last Wednesday, the parliament had the opportunity to elect a fifth woman to the cabinet instead of a man, but I guess that was a little too much of a good thing for the (male-dominated) legislative body.

It's hard work, climbing a mountain.

I grew up in a household where I was told that pretty much anything was possible. My parents did their best to open doors for me, sent me to top schools, and told me I could go out and be whatever I wanted to be. But amid all their motivation, when it came time to strike out on my own, they were surely silently aghast at (and hopefully a little proud of) some of the decisions I made. I became a journalist and went to dangerous places, I learned to fly small airplanes, I expressed no interest in having or being around children.

My fortune would be found on the road less traveled by, my career would certainly not follow a straight line – of that I was convinced. By no means a trailblazer, I just wanted to do something unusual with this life, and saw no reason to do what people expected of me. Or to worry about what the neighbors and relatives would think. One uncle declared me lesbian when, at 30, I still wasn’t married.

An international management consultancy recently published a series of studies on the effectiveness of women in upper echelons of management. The main conclusion: the more women in positions of responsibility, the better a company does financially. Why? Because female managers use a wider range of techniques to motivate employees (like “inspiration”), thus improving performance. Very, very simple concept, folks.

Yet women continue to remain outside the old boys clubs, noses pressed to the windows, looking in. In order to advance up the ladder in the workplace, women are required to display the same dysfunctional patterns of behavior and play the silly power-games that men have cultivated for years. They must take on a dress code and a language which is often all too foreign to them. Sometimes other women are our own worst enemies – mistakenly thinking there is room for just a very few of us at the top.

Will the female-majority cabinet in Switzerland make a difference in the everyday lives of women here? Probably not. Misogynic attitudes don’t change in an instant, and the everyday challenges women face will not disappear overnight. Government business will go on as it has always has – with the exception that cabinet meetings might be a little more colorful in the future.

But it’s nice to see that we are finally getting somewhere, ten years into the 21st century. And boys, don’t worry – when we women end up ruling the world we promise not to silence you. Unlike some of you, most of us believe gender diversity is a good thing.

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3 responses

1 10 2010
Ironic Mom

My home and native land, Canada, which I believe is a leader in so many areas (such as universal health care and peacekeeping) is embarrassingly behind in women in politics. As of this summer, Canada ranks 51st in the world for percentage of women in parliament. That’s BEHIND the Sudan, Iraq, and Pakistan.

1 10 2010
Evelynn Starr

Really? That statistic is actually pretty amazing. In a not-so-positive way.

6 12 2010
The Neanderthal of Zurich « Evelynn Starr

[…] we forget, currently has a female president, two women leading the two houses of parliament and a female majority in its cabinet, such clearly discriminatory and misogynist attitudes seem common among men in positions of power. […]

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