The Women Leaders We Choose

“When you own your choices, you own their consequences.”

― Jack Welch, Winning

As human beings, we all seek to live our lives in a way that expresses our own individual truth. When we own our choices, we must own their consequences. When we do not have the right to choose, we cannot and should not be forced to accept the consequences of those choices.

A lion raised amongst sheep will eventually think it is a sheep. I am not a woman. I cannot speak for women. But what I can speak for is the conditioning that women–and men–receive from a young age.

After her inauguration, Kamala Harris will be the first individual of African-American and Indian descent to be sworn in as Vice President of the United States. Would this have happened if a system of democracy didn’t exist? The power to vote gives ‘the common man’ the right to choose their country’s leaders. It is not a choice to be taken lightly. One person may not be able to do much alone, but when the collective power of the populace comes to the fore–we can create an explosion.

The power to vote allows people the opportunity to live their lives as an expression of their true selves.

Inheritance

In The Merchant of Stories, Dipa Sanatani writes about how in traditional societies, a man would inherit his father’s legacy by default. Inheritance had little to do with ability, aptitude or personal capacity. If you were a son–in particular, an eldest son–you were born with a birthright to inherit everything your father created in his life. In some societies and certain cultures, this is still the prevailing hegemony. I am wholly and unequivocally against any system where a son–or anyone else–thinks that they are entitled to a position of privilege and power that they do not need to earn.

Privilege exists in the world. It has–and will always–exist. We all have different levels of privilege based on the circumstances with which we came into the world. But a society that denies, diminishes and downplays the contributions of half its population is no society I want to live in. Warren Buffet, a former Republican, once said, “Wait until women discover they’re the slaves of the world.”

Would you want to live in a world where you are not permitted to work or have access to social and economic opportunities simply because of your gender? I don’t want that world for the women in my life. But that is the brutal reality that stares me in the face whenever I scroll through the news of the day.

Selective sex abortion continues to be a serious issue in certain cultures–a practise where unborn baby girls are terminated before they can even emerge from the womb. In other societies, a male guardianship system limits the freedom and decision-making capacity of women.

While some societies have moved on from the archaic system of inheritance–unconscious bias and prejudice continue to fester in people’s minds about a woman’s ‘place’ in the world. Will they ever have a ‘place’ that they can choose for themselves? Or will they be forced to settle in a space where they feel uneasy and can’t belong?

I’m an optimist. I have a tendency at times to see the world as I would like it to be and not how it is.

But who can avoid reality forever?

People Who Lead

As an angel investor, I have invested in businesses that are founded and run by women. The challenges they face are significantly different to what I’ve gone through on my own journey. I didn’t have it easy either. No one who starts from zero ever does. But I have noted how much harder women have to work to prove themselves and to be taken seriously–both by men and by other women.

We hear stories of the sisterhood in social media and in women’s groups all over the world; but I have seen time and time again how women are more likely to tear another woman down than they are to help a sister in need. It all comes down to how we have been conditioned by society.

From a young age, women are fed this fairy tale of being rescued by a handsome prince. They are encouraged to be daddy’s little girl. Perhaps she is even proud of being a daddy’s girl. This little girl then grows up looking for her prince charming…only to find that he doesn’t exist or is always at work.

If the man is the sole breadwinner in the family, he probably won’t get to see his wife or kids all that much. Your father ends up being a mythical heroic figure you rarely know. Due to this set up, you never ever see him as a fellow human being. And that is exactly who he is–a flawed human being who tried to give you a good life that is not a depiction of the real world.

My father never cut me any slack. He was not the sort of parent to give his kids ‘everything he never had’. He expected me to earn my place in the business world and to fight for it. As a child, I harboured a lot of hidden resentment.

But now that I am in my 40s, I understand the value of what he was trying to teach me. He was, in essence; teaching me to value what I could create on my own two feet. He was guiding me to fight for a life that was in line with my true self.

I am nothing like my father but I ended up with a woman who is similar to him in many ways. She is a leader, not a princess. I never cared for royalty, anyway. She faces many challenges that I sometimes struggle to understand. Some of those challenges are typical of any entrepreneur in her situation, but others… Let’s just say that it hasn’t been easy for her to find ‘her place’.

I am not an unempathetic person. But there are days when I have to admit that I simply don’t get it. It takes me a long time to understand what is wrong and if there is anything I can–or should–do about it. A bigger challenge still is figuring out how I can best support and stand by her as she overcomes those challenges.

I don’t have all the answers. What helps is talking. Asking questions. Finding out what I can do to actually be there–and not trying to be some patronising price who dreams of recusing his precious princess. After all, she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself before I came into the picture.

I do not want a wife who stays at home and looks after the kids. I understand that for some people that is still a preferable choice and I respect that. My own personal view is that I don’t think men should be forced into being primary providers any more than women should be forced into the domestic sphere. I do not want that burden. I do not want to come home to someone who feels like a stranger and kids who have grown up largely in my absence.

Which is why despite all the flaws of the democratic system, I believe it is still the best system we’ve got in the world today. It gives people a voice. It gives people a vote. If we still lived in archaic societies where the eldest son succeeds the father, we would not have the presidential cabinet that we do now. We would have another powerful scion in office exercising ‘a birthright’ he did not deserve. President’s Trump’s term probably wouldn’t have ended till he willingly retired or passed away.

The democratic system is not perfect. It is susceptible to popular opinion and a lack of continuity between leadership legacies. But it is the only system I can currently think of that allows people a voice. It is this voice that they use to express who they are and the calibre and character of the person that they want to lead them.

And the voice has spoken. The voice chose Kamala Harris. If we were still living in traditional societies, the legacy would likely have been passed down to someone we did not get to choose. I do not want to live in that type of society. But that is still the reality of the world for many of us.

But in either case, I am no quitter. I will fight for my beliefs. I will fight for a better world. And I will continue to fight for it. It is because of a woman that I came into this world… and perhaps when I leave, I will see her again on the other side.