NOW, the debate over the years is that because the man is different from the woman then one has to be greater/ better or of more relevance than the other. But in the real sense, different and unequal are not interchangeable concepts or words. The age long fight has really not been about equality because God already made the man and woman equal. The movement, however, is to ensure that everyone everywhere recognise and embrace this unchangeable equality. It’s simple; though we are different, we are equal.
But are we equal enough to have a fair shot at leadership and excel at it? Absolutely. Every society needs true inclusion of all persons in national leadership and at all levels of societal participation. To explain this let me give you another illustration. Let’s look at the evergreen rice or beans debate. Which is better? Rice or beans? Well, as far as I am concerned, both and neither. Rice cannot give your body the nutrients that beans will and beans will not do for you the things that rice will.
Yet your body needs the nutrients that both can offer. If you choose to always eat only rice, you’ll soon suffer from a nutritional deficiency. And if you choose to always eat only beans, you’ll get sick soon. Just as our bodies need a little rice and a little beans to be healthy, our organised governments and societies need nutrients from both men and women. And really, true inclusion is not about giving women a quota in leadership. The quota system only implies that if the quota has been filled up and there are more suitable female candidates for the vacant positions, we’d rather settle for the less qualified men. It also means that, if the allotted quota is yet to be filled and the women available aren’t qualified, we just have to put them there even when we have more qualified men. We don’t need a 35/65% or even a 50/50% representation. Leadership is more than representation, it’s about deliverables. If leadership must work, we must leave the doors open.
Let the best human win but let every human have a fair chance to be considered based on what they can deliver. There has been the question of what happens when biological differences and cultural roles interfere with the responsibilities of leadership. Well, I think it’s time we permit a revision of these cultural roles and allow our culture to truly evolve. A good example on the “notion of interference” will be to deny a young woman a sit at the helm of affairs in a company she has invested so much in just because she is married and may get pregnant and this may interfere with her ability to perform.
The truth is, if she is good enough then she is good enough for exemptions and extra help. Let us look at it in another way. If you have two boys in school and one happens to be a one-way Jack with academics and the other though brilliant, also performs well in extracurricular activities like athletics. Will you say to the latter, “Boy, focus on the extracurricular” or “Abandon the extracurricular activities for academic?” or will you say “Boy, since you are brilliant at both, we must find a balance and if it means making exceptions and investing extra resources, we’ll make sure you become your best in all you do?”.
I think a considerate parent would choose the latter option. So, if she’s good at all, she must be good enough for extra investments. Nevertheless, whatever your thoughts are, I think everything about Hillary Clinton (to go back to my earlier reference to her) screams “Men-O-Pause”. I see her place in the ongoing presidential contest as a barrier-breaking one- especially if she wins, even the primaries. I do look forward to her winning but I don’t think Hillary Clinton will make a better president simply because she is a woman. Similarly, I don’t think that the men vying against her will lead better because they are men. Being a good and resourceful president has nothing to do with gender. Like every other candidate, Hillary has the skill set, exposure, insight and foresight that qualifies her for the seat. But, unlike every other candidate, she holds a key. Not just a key, the key. The key to female freedom and in some sense gender equality.
Eight years ago, Obama held a similar key that had been crafted and forged over centuries by the blood, sweat and voices of warriors like Dr. Martin Luther King and opened the door to endless possibilities, dreams and aspirations for the black race. A black family in the white house was the needed push that millions of Africans all over the world needed to dream big, seamlessly and pursue their dream. Hillary can do much more. Hillary holds the key to the freedom of not just billions of women across cultures and races but for men as well. With her as president, our boys and men can be encouraged to embrace equality in ways that no finely crafted speeches, persuasions or persons can convince them to. They can dream better for their daughters and sisters and give them access to opportunities that will launch them to remarkable inclusion, productivity and greatness.
Hillary can give our girls the license to dream and dream wild and big. If a woman becomes the President of the United States of America, then our young girls and women will be emboldened to step out and lead at whatever level, in whatever capacity. There will be a coming out revival across all cultures and in fact, where there is reluctance on the part of women, the men will do the pushing because they have seen and now know that the wall of gender limitation is a needless obstacle to true societal growth and development. I have high hopes for Hillary and I stand with her. But above all, may the best candidate win. God bless Nigeria and those who love her.
By Deborah Adeojo