A quiet revolution is going on in the United States and while I am heartened by it, I’m not sure where it is taking us. I’m referring to the creep of women into positions of authority and the concomitant fact that many are the sole breadwinners in their families. I’m not referring here to the number of single women as heads of households. I’m talking about a change for couples as well.
One reason for the shift is technology. Most jobs no longer require physical strength and this fact opens up new opportunities for women. Add to that the effect of the recent recession which deprived many men of their higher paying jobs and we can see why women are gaining influence. Of note, too, are the number of women entering college. Their numbers have outstripped those of men, assuring female leadership roles in the future.
A few, like Eric Erickson in RedState.com, lament the passing of those “good old days” when the “ideal and optimal family arrangement” was a mother at home with a father at work. (“Talking Points,” The Week, June 14, 2013, pg. 18.) But for many reasons, those days aren’t coming back and as a feminist, I welcome the change. For too long we’ve lived under the male paradigm of what constitutes leadership. I think it is no accident that Golda Meir of Israel, Indira Gandhi of India and Margaret Thatcher of Britain were all “honored” with the title “iron” ladies.
As women move into the future, I hope they will rethink the male paradigm. I believe they can. We’ve seen inklings of what feminine leadership can achieve. Leymah Gboweg stirred a peaceful protest that ended the Liberian civil war. Ann San Suu Kyi showed us the face of patience in Myanmar. And if we look back to recent history, the suffragettes taught us to persist in our goals without throwing Molotov cocktails. The same was true for their successors, women like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug.
Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In is a salvo for more change. It takes aim at the workplace and encourages women to set boundaries for themselves. Hers is a good first step toward ending old paradigms. But I think we need to develop a larger vision, the kind that guided us toward equality. In business, religious and political worlds, as women assume more power, how do we want them to lead us and where do we want them to go? Now is our chance. I truly hope whatever we create will bring us closer to that long promised kinder, gentler world.
(Courtesy of reogersh2-2012.wikispaces.com, Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross)