Minorities have a hard time delivering their authentic value to a group because they are so easily perceived as the outlier. So you know you’re on your way out of minority status when you bring your authentic value forth.
I heard an anecdote the other day from a woman who had once been the “token” woman on a corporate board. To her surprise, when more women joined the board, she felt free to say what she really thought in the board meetings. Until there were more women at the table she hadn’t been aware how much she self-censored so that the men wouldn’t think she was “voting like a woman.” Once there were a variety of women’s views, she felt more comfortable putting her true opinions – and talents – on the table, which included disagreeing with both the women and the men sometimes. She feels now that she has greater impact because she is able to be more authentic. What she will never know – and none of us will – is what would really have happened if she hadn’t self-censored in the first place. Would she have brought more value sooner?
If We Act Like a Minority, Are We Perpetuating Our Minority Status?
Minorities band together. Sometimes majorities do too, but for minorities it’s often a requirement to be heard. There’s nothing wrong with banding together, nothing at all. But I think we should take heart when we see powerful women disagree publicly that maybe the time when we have to band together is coming to a close. That’s why I really enjoyed reading about the civil clash between Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, earlier this year over the negotiations of the Greek debt crisis. How cool is it to see the lead negotiators representing some of the largest economies in the world – both women – on opposite sides of an issue?
It’s true that women are still under-represented in European and world governments, just as they’re underrepresented in the U.S. But I think when voters see strong women arguing opposite sides in debate over substantive and important issues, we’re making progress because no matter which side they’re on they will see a woman representing their interests.
Bringing It Home To The “War On Women”
On April 28 many Democrats will join marches against “The GOP War On Women.” As someone living in D.C. and running a professional women’s web site all about power I thought I should consider attending. Researching it and thinking about it more I’ve decided to boycott the War on Women.
It’s true that I personally think the GOP is shooting itself in the foot by refusing to support women’s health care and reproductive rights, and I admit to voting Democrat in the last 4 presidential races, but I just can’t rally in support of any “war on women.” As misguided as I think the GOP is on this, I don’t think they’re declaring war. I think as a male-oriented group the Republican Party is just clueless, and as individuals many of them are principled (I’d link to my mother-in-law but she doesn’t have a web page). This may well bite them in the keister because they’re missing a diversity of thought that could save them a devastating defeat in the next election, but they’re not declaring war. I like to think that if more women were leading the GOP we would begin to reduce some of the polarity we see in today’s political dialog, but that’s something they’re going to have to work out on their own.
Outgrowing Our Minority Status
I don’t want to see all women represented by a voting block, “the women’s vote.” I don’t want to act like a minority anymore. I want to reach across the aisle and ask Republican women to step up into leadership and take on these issues within their own party in ways that will help us engage across the aisle. I applaud Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) for her efforts to do this within the Senate, but she’s had few Republican colleagues to play with. Apparently, the Tea Party grassroots flames were largely fanned by women and yet, the Republican Party has yet to field many women candidates, and it’s exhausted some of the ones it has.
Maybe “the war on women” will encourage more to run, but the last thing I want to see is a war between women. If anything, let’s bring more women into politics to add back some sanity. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m pretty tired of war.