Leadership: Women Leaders

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patrick o'heffernan
patrick o'heffernan
United States

Women Leaders

The survey questions on the home page miss the mark. In a survey I did in the late 90"s of female heads of state, one result that jumped out is that the office makes the person, not vice-versa. That is to say, women and men responded identically to a majority of international situations because the rules and responses of international relations dictate the range of action and often the actions. Additionally, domestic politics and cultureal conditions also constrain and direct responses (i.e., Secretary Rice's record of US Sec. of State is not much different than tht of the man who preceeded her).
Where women leaders do differ from men is in the domestic political arena, where they are better at decou0pling interntional and domestic concerns, and at practical problem solving. However, the record here is mixed - female heads of state have often shown little difference from their male counterparts simply becaue the political conditions (i.e., parliamentary support, constituency needs, budget constraints, etc) narrow their range of action.
This is not to argue against electing more women - in fact it is an argument FOR electing more women. When a critical mass of women populate a political infrastructure, they can change the rules and the conditions and constraints, allowing both male and female leaders to make decisions based on the common good and problem solving.

Masum Momaya, Curator
Masum Momaya, Curator
United States

"Business as Usual" needs to Change

Many thanks for your comments! In the exhibition, we have several examples of individual women who seem to be changing the nature of the office and the way "business" is done in politics. Amongst our April features is a profile of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the Liberian woman filmmaker, Siatta Scott-Johnson, who followed Madame President during her first year in office. The documentary film, which we share an excerpt of, actually SHOWS the political process changing, albeit slowly and sometimes painfully. President Johnson-Sirleaf is working with a ton of weighty constraints, including massive poverty, unemployment, corruption and the legacy of 14 years of conflict. The relationship between office-holder and the office seems to be a dance and the current Liberian president does seem distinct from her male counterparts and predecessors.

Also, the point about critical mass can not be made enough! We intentionally feature a selection of stories from Norway, where critical mass is a reality, to show that while politics doesn't magically transform into a perfect arena when more women enter the "game," having a critical mass does result in significant policy changes that benefit ALL of society. Likewise, the 2 million women in India who participate in local villages councils have impacted their communities for the better.

Examples like this, coupled with the reports of women exercising their power around the world that are posted in this exhibition everyday, make us very optimistic!

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sesame seed
sesame seed
Palestine

Women leaders

You bring up a great point here, Patrick. Thank you! Yes, being a woman doesn’t necessarily mean a good leader or a better leader. I think the issue is for citizens of this world to vote with their conscience. The focus should not be on giving more women – any women – the opportunity to rise to power; it should be on choosing leaders who demonstrate good judgement, and can make decisions that are beneficial to their people, and the people of the world. Leaders who think beyond their borders, and promote Justice EVERYWHERE, are good leaders… woman or man.

Your comments though also reminds me of the old adage “power corrupts”… and I would caution against using this as an excuse for those leaders who have failed while in power. I don’t believe Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, or Golda Meir to name a few, should be excused for their human rights violations. Some men and women have risen to power and have been GREAT leaders. So, in a way, I think while your point is well taken, I would caution against giving leaders a carte blanche by blaming their bad leadership on the office itself or b/c “international relations dictate the range of action and often the actions” as you mentioned. Why is it that someone like Mary Robinson can do a great job as a leader on the local and international arenas when she led Ireland?
Finally, while I agree more diverse voices in government can bring change, I think more humanitarian leaders should be the goal. We do not want another Madeleine Albright (who cut off food and medicine from reaching the Iraqi people and resulted in the deaths of innocent women and children) in power. We do not want another Condi Rice, or any person who do not have an ounce of humanity in them.

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