Here is the second excerpt from my upcoming book. I posted the Introduction a week ago. This is the first of 50 strategies. I welcome your feedback!
“Men’s Guide to Ultimate Power -50 Strategies to Hold Women Back (Or Not)”
Strategy 1. Convince women there is something wrong with them
“I’m a perfectly good carrot that everyone is trying to turn into a rose. As a carrot I have good color a nice leafy top. When I am carved into a rose, I turn brown and wither.” Mary Pipher, School Girls
A few years ago I attended a talk with over 200 professional women tilted: “The Seven Deadly Career Mistakes Women Make.” It altered the course of my life. The speaker, a beautiful, tall, thirty-something executive from a large recruiting firm told us in no uncertain terms that women were seriously lagging behind. Here are a few of her statistics:
- About 5% of all CEO’s of the top 500 North American companies are women
- About 20% of elected political positions are held by women
- Women receive on average 75 cents for every dollar earned by men
- Women rarely advance as the same rate in careers as men
- Women who raise children face hurdles returning to quality and high paying careers
The speaker told us that women have barely made headway into top positions in corporations and are rarely seen in influential or political positions. We still earn much less than men, have almost no mentors or role models and get offered fewer promotions. In other words, women lag behind men in terms of income, status and influence.
But rather than point to real causes of these problems, she blamed women. According to her, there were seven main reasons why we women were not succeeding in our careers. These included wearing the wrong clothes, not bragging enough, being too concerned about what others think and being too friendly, among other things.
Later that night I became deeply depressed and kept asking myself the same question over and over: Why are there no talks like this for men? Don’t men think they could be making some deadly mistakes as they climb the corporate ladder? Why are women so concerned about getting ahead?
A slow crushing wave of sadness crept over me as I began to imagine the hundreds, perhaps millions of unbelievably talented and successful women who think there is something terribly wrong with them. These women, like me, somehow came to believe that we are not quite good enough. We think it is our fault for not getting ahead, our fault for not asking for bigger raises, our fault for not managing our workload and childcare responsibilities better. And because we blame ourselves completely, we take on full responsibility for engaging in our own self-improvement no matter what the obstacles.
Then I had an “ah ha” moment. What if the problem is not women? What if there is absolutely nothing wrong with women? What if instead, the problem is our thinking about women? What if the real problem is a world that cannot see women’s true value? What if women are actually doing things correctly, but their bosses, their friends, their husbands are telling them that they are all wrong? What if we stopped asking women to improve themselves and instead asked men and all our systems and institutions that reject women, to change. What if we embraced women and all their strengths? Imagine that! Crazy talk, I know.
Most women think that they are entirely responsible for their slow success and advancement. We attend courses and read books on self-esteem think we come to believe that we just need a few more tips and strategies on being tougher and more ambitious. These beliefs are turning women into workaholics and also this continuous cycle of self-blame, self improvement and failure makes women feel like we are going crazy.
We women have no idea how universal their difficulties are. But they are not due to a genetic malformation or female-gene. Women are not born incompetent, weak, or stupid and yet we as a society tell them day-in and day-out that they are not quite good enough. Women are not good enough to be CEO’s or heads of countries, not good enough to be parents and professionals at the same time and not good enough to get paid for child-care or domestic work.
We not only tell women directly and indirectly that they are not as good as men, particularly in leadership roles, but are actually intended to assist and support males in their comfort and pleasure. We refuse to pay women for much of the work they do (such as childcare) and through the institution of marriage cause them to become financially dependent on their husbands.
Girls and women world-wide are being held back, because we have created a world that still sees them as second-class citizens. We then treat them unfairly, normalize this treatment and then hide evidence in propaganda so it’s almost impossible to see, yet alone question. And to add insult to injury, we convince everyone that it’s a “women’s problem,” it’s their own entire fault and that they must change as individuals if they want things to change.
The bottom line. The brutal fact is that millions of women today are unhappy, stressed, depressed and have almost no time, energy or power to change things. This is primarily because they are overworked, underpaid, undervalued and have limited meaningful choices. They are absent in high levels of corporations and politics so unable to change the very things that hold them back. They blame themselves when they get squeezed out of high paying jobs and think they are selfish to demand the supports that would allow them to excel and free them from some of the drudgery work and financial dependence on spouses. And to add insult to injury, we tell women that it’s not only their fault but also that there is something drastically wrong with them and they need to change!.
What to do. First we must stop telling women that there is something wrong with them. We must admit that since all women are impacted it is a society-wide problem – not a women’s problem. We must turn the tide and begin telling women that they are perfect just as they are. Instead of telling women to make better choices or find balance we need to look instead at the barriers that keep women down and out – from absurd societal pressures and expectations to corporate practices. In other words, we must stop telling women to “lean in” and start asking everyone (men and women) to “lean out” against the beliefs, systems and institutions that hold women and our whole society back. END
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