This discussion was held in one of those bizarre ‘team building’ style training sessions that everybody has to go through these days. It related to the concept of leadership: examples of ‘great leaders’, characteristics that those leaders shared, and, from that, the traits necessary for a person to lead effectively.
So, with seven of us – three white men, two black men and two women of indeterminate origin (myself and one other) – pooling ideas, the following names came up.
Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, Martin Luther King, John Maxwell (one of the men’s personal idol, or so it seemed), Malcolm X, George Bush, Mahatma Ghandi and Hitler.
Only one woman came up before I demanded the inclusion of at least one more token female name, and that woman….
…was not Margaret Thatcher
…was not Indira Ghandi
…was not Mother Theresa
It was, in fact, Princess Diana.
And it got worse. Because on the list of traits that we felt great leaders shared were the usual things – honour, integrity, strong personal beliefs, inspiring trust, good communicators etc – but for her, the one woman in the entire list?
Oh, for fucks’ sake.
Really? Does it have to be this way? Me cutting you into very small slices and telling the Prince that you walked over a very sharp cattle grid in a very heavy hat?
(to misuse and probably misquote Blackadder)
I have some fairly major problems with this.
For one thing, she wasn’t a leader. Yes, she seemed to be a good, charitable person. The two are not related. And as far as I am aware, compassion has never been an essential trait of a leader. It would be nice if it were, but it would also be nice if we lived in Happyland where nobody was ever mean to each other. I don’t think it’ll happen, somehow.
And for another, I, as a young, well read, opinionated feminist, couldn’t think of more than two or three examples of great female leaders.
What is wrong with the world? I can’t seriously believe that there are no more than a handful of great female leaders. And if I accept that as fact, then I have to wonder why I don’t know of them.
So I come to the conclusion that I was never taught. And I never thought to ask, because through school, I came to accept that history was and is predominantly about the doings of men; that the role of women through the ages has been unseen, undocumented, unrewarded.
I would like to research this. It may have already been done, but fuck it, I’ll reinvent the wheel if I have to.
I’m going to be gallivanting around blogland asking for people’s opinions. And I’m advertising it here, of course.
Please, if anybody can think of any great female leaders – and I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but I mean real leaders, not just women who smile and wave – let me know. If I can, I’ll post up a big list.
I really, really want it to be a big list.