Where's the Support for Female Leaders?
The other day, while casually scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed, I saw something really quite shocking. It was the source as well as the content that appalled me. A girl had posted a status, in the aftermath of the US Presidential election, proclaiming that she was glad that Donald Trump had won. She said she thought it was “only right that the President should be a man”, because “a woman just wouldn’t be capable enough.”
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had to ask myself, how can someone in this day and age think such a thing? What does a woman have to do to be considered competent and respected by her fellow women? How bad does her opponent have to be to make people think she might be the better choice? Like her or not, Hillary had – has – an outstanding political CV, and her opponent…well, how do you compare Secretary of State with The Celebrity Apprentice?
So is there a lack of self-belief amongst some women that they’ve got what it takes to succeed at the top?
Whether or not you support Hillary’s politics, she was qualified; as qualified as anyone has ever been, having also served as First Lady and Senator for New York in her career. Her downfall was helped by the widespread rejection of the Washington establishment. But in her opponent she had the most hated candidate ever to run for office by a considerable distance, with at least 12 allegations of sexual assault against women to his name.
Which makes it all the more ridiculous that nearly half of the female electorate (42%) voted for him.
Currently we’ve got Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon as heads of the UK and Scottish governments respectively, plus arguably the most popular and successful politician of the century so far in Angela Merkel, who will celebrate 11 years as Chancellor of Germany next week. Following Trump’s surprise election, the New York Times have gone so far as to call Merkel the “last defender of the Liberal West”, reminding the world that gender imposes no limits on capability.
To be President of the United States, though, is a step beyond, and a step too far for now, apparently. As the most powerful position on earth, the responsibility is far greater than any office a woman has ever held before. The President is the commander in chief of the world’s largest military, leader of a nation with a GPD of $18trn (£14.5trn), and carrier of a briefcase of nuclear buttons that could lead to the destruction of the planet. Such power should be awarded not by gender stereotype, but on merit, experience and qualification.
The outcome of the US election has raised many issues, but surely one of those issues should be confronting an outdated and unfounded lack of faith in female leadership to the extent that one of the most experienced and qualified candidates was outvoted in favour of a celebrity businessman with no political experience whatsoever. Yes, Hillary Clinton has her flaws, but if she were a man would we have seen her differently? Put differently, if a woman said half of the things Donald Trump did, would she have been elected?
It’s time now to take gender out of the equation in politics. Perhaps we must always ask ourselves how we might view politicians if their gender was different. But to say that women just aren’t capable per se is an utterly outdated and unfounded claim. Evidence to the contrary is all around us.
On Spike’s journey through life, he has walked 550 miles across Spain, spent 6 months in a tent in Australia surfing, hiking, and jumping off waterfalls; while funding himself busking with his guitar, volunteered at an english school in the Cambodian countryside, and got married on a deserted beach in Fiji. Spike has documented his travels through his blog, and his instagram. After travelling the world for four years, he now studies law in London where he lives with his Catalan wife.