International Women’s Day this year is on 12 March. When is International Men’s Day? You may think there isn’t one, except there is! Cynics may say ‘do you mean every day?’ International Men’s Day began in America in 1992 and seems to thrive. It is always held on 19 November and last year’s theme was Health of Men and Boys’. The theme for 2015 has not yet been published This discovery has caused me – as a feminist – to look at this subject in a different way.
For so many years now women in every walk of life, academia, business, family, health, public service, politics and the valuable 3rd sector and, indeed, every area of human activity have been struggling, often fighting for the top, with the possible exception of family responsibilities, especially housework.Some some women have, of course, reached what is generally considered to be pinnacle for example as Presidents of countries like Golda Meir, Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, and currently three women, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, Ruth Davidson, Conservative Leader and Kezia Dugdale Labour Deputy Leader all lead their groups in the Scottish Parliament. A small number of women are CEOs of companies for example Sylvia Sandberg and Victoria Hollick. However, where women are at the top in business, with the possible exception of Lady Susan Rice who is on the Board of the Bank of England they are running companies which they have built up themselves. I personally have met all these women, except Golda Meir, and they all came across as driven individuals competing in a man’s world.
The area which creates income and wealth benefittng the economy and, therefore, the country, has a very disproportionate number of women and men serving on its Boards. These Boards make vital decisions and many new members are appointed because they are in the image of the exsisting members. I used to believe quotas were the answer. Now I am not so sure.
How would it be if we developed a ‘truce’? Yes men and women have obviously physical differences and these include the brain. Women tend to ask more searching questions of the executives and not merely accept proposals without scrutiny. I recently met a former official of Edinburgh District Council who whilst kindly saying he thought I was the most cerebral of all the councillors revealed that, as I often did, when I got up and very sweetly said ‘Lord Provost, I would like to ask the official in charge a question, the officials inwardly groaned and said to themselves ‘what’ is she going to bring up now that I haven’t done’!
What is really needed is to harness all the talents not segregated in terms of gender but using abilities regardless. This would mean people could, and would, work together irrespective of gender differences and work together consensually to achieve this elusive world of all the talents.
I realise I have made this sound very simple and, of course, it is not. I am reminded of Henry Kissinger’s mischievous remark ‘the battle of the sexes can never be won. There is too much fraternising with the enemy’.
How can we move forward? A Charity to which I belong – Changing the Chemistry – is actively promoting diversity on boards irrespective of gender and actively promoting this throughout the country. There is hope.