The paradigm shift towards women empowerment is now more than ever rolling in a new direction. According to the World and Regional Average (Statistical Archives), the rate of women representation in national parliaments globally in the last two decades has increased from 11.8 percent in 1998 to 23.5 percent in 2018.
So, how has Women power progressed over the past decade?
Nations worldwide have been celebrating International Women day for a couple of years as the number of female leaders continues soaring up high. Remember Theresa May, the second British female prime minister, elected in 2016. How about the just-concluded US elections where it was history in the making when Kamala Harris become the first female vice president-elect and the first person of color to earn such honor.
Arguably, women have been knocking the highest glass ceiling; we do not doubt that. Europe leads the park with Angela Merkel Merkel becoming the first female Chancellor of Germany in 2005. Norway currently has its second woman Erna Solberg as the Prime Minister, since 2013. Denmark, Poland, and Finland have had a fair share of female leaders running their countries.
Ever since the island nation of Sri Lanka shattering the political gender barrier over a half-century ago, over 70 countries have had women in top leadership posts—prime minister, president, or equivalent. This goes as far as Latin America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Africa. Hillary Clinton made a huge statement in the previous US presidential elections in American history.
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Getting back in Africa, women have scaled politically as peacemakers. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Noble Peace Prize winner in 2011, ascended to the top post on the backdrop of her work in reconciling war-torn Liberia by her predecessor.
The path to political power
The acceleration of the political wheel towards women continues to pick momentum. The new class of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) is making headlines in industry circles. Take Melinda Gates, who advocates for women and girls' rights and holds world leaders accountable in her capacity. Ginni Rometty, at IBM, a tech giant company, is spearheading policies that look after the welfare of women in the workforce at the company.
This means the political path is set, and many women are now giving it a shot to the highest positions in the global arena.
When it comes to advocating for issues, it gets even easier when women are at the helm of power or leadership. This is because women tend to prioritize the problems that affect the family set-up and quality of life.
The former first female prime minister of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (after stepping down from office), took up the Chief Executive role at Save the Children, an NGO that looks at the plight of children's rights in developing countries.
With impoverished situations, especially here in Africa, and the dire need for lasting solutions to societal issues, women highly respond to constituents' concerns that affect society. This is on the backdrop that women are directly affected whenever a community experiences social strife.
In the 21st century, the qualities needed to lead include collaborating, connecting, empathising, and communicating. All these mentioned qualities tend to sway on the "female" nature that gives dynamism. You can now imagine if these qualities are translated into government institutions or organizations that have embraced women in leadership to its entirety.
Additionally, women leadership brings transformational processes and perspectives that permit parity, resiliency, inclusivity, and sustainability. In the end, it drives change, breaks down the barriers, and liberates the constraint of choices available to women.
Based on the global statistic in 2019, women in senior management roles rose to 29 percent, the highest figures ever documented. Consequently, 87 percent of the world’s mid-market organisations have at least one woman in a senior position in 2020.
Now, African governments such as Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, Nigeria, and South Africa, through the principle of good governance, have integrated gender diversity in the private sector. The representation of women on the boards of state-owned companies has created a great deal of momentum that has crossed borderlines beyond Europe to India, Hong Kong, and Brazil.
According to the report by African Development Bank Group, of the 12 countries involved, Kenya has the highest percentage of women board directors (19.8 per cent), South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, follow with average percentages of between 15.7 percent to 17.4 percent.
Lessons that the younger generation can learn and emulate
If you reflect on the entire narrative on women, power, and leadership, you get some sense of struggle, determination, and the strength of their vision. Young women now can stand on their shoulders and ride on the already laid out path. The lesson is that leadership will never be served on a silver platter, so hard work is inevitable.
Deep down in our thoughts, we should always remember who we are and not let anyone define who we are. Self-belief or self-confidence should be your driving force to getting you where you want. As an aspiring future leader, always remember to seek out mentors as part of your support system—never be afraid to take a step back to learn from an experience that will have a great deal on your career path. By staying true to your beliefs and principles and investing in your experiences, it will help you grow and feed your passion.
Let us draw some lessons from the just concluded US elections; it is possible to be the FIRST, so do not be afraid to venture to the deep unknown waters. The narrative of some roles being male-dominated has changed, and so should our mindset. The world is embracing the fact that leadership is not about whether you are male or female but about your ideologies as an individual. We have seen from Ellen Johnson, Margeret Thatcher, Angele Merkel, Sonni Gandhi, and Kamala Harris. This is to say that there is yet more to come as women take up their leadership positions.
Young upcoming leaders, watch and learn. You should be next!
The writer is a senior Marketing and Communication Manager Credit Bank