Woman for the win!

Studies numerically present the importance of women in the business world one after another. We clearly see from the figures that companies with more women in their executive boards have more success. Number 5 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to achieve gender quality. 

Despite all this, the studies show that still, even the most developed countries around the globe are miles away from achieving true and national gender equality. What is it that prevents women from taking steps forward when it is so clear that female leadership and the contribution of females in the business world will raise the GNP? Is it just rigid societal norms? Or has behaving according to these norms become a rigid, cliché reality for us too? 

When women realize their worth…

The success of companies, even projects, led by women is crystal clear.

A study on NGOs points to the fact that female leadership adds substantial momentum to movements, especially to volunteering. On top of that, there is a large portion of the population who believes that non-governmental acts, especially environmental and climate-related campaigns, are led by women. According to a study that has been published with the title Gender Roles, men remain much more impartial and abstaining compared to women when it comes to many topics, from recycling to using reusable bags instead of plastic. You know how sometimes we read the sentence “The world will be saved by women”? It seems that sentence will soon become the truth. 

A difference being made, now in politics

Women are not only leaders in NGOs. We witness the great weight women carry as well as the difference they make in the political realm as well. Take Katrin Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland since 2017, as an example. This remarkable young woman is adamant on not playing by the rules men in suits have been playing by with utter seriousness for years.

She is making one change after another. She is rejecting growth-based policies and working to  switch to a brand new economic model that prioritizes the happiness of the public. She is setting forth an egalitarian, family-friendly and environmental model. She is brave, determined and definitely very hardworking. 

Sanna Marin, the world’s youngest prime minister, is showing the same determination in Finland. She has indicated an upcoming project to change working hours and decrease the number of workdays to four, and it is already clear that she will do as she says. If you think women will save the world, I suggest you start keeping an eye on them now. 

The cactus, thorn and blossom metaphor

Işık ŞerifsoyIn this article I will attempt to consider the leadership model I discuss extensively in my book, Cacti, Thorns and Blossom, through the female lens. As you all know, the cactus which I consider my reference point in my book is a diligent, durable plant. But several conditions must be met for the cactus to blossom. It is not capricious, yet it has a few requirements about blossoming. It is on the defense with its thorns on display and this too augments its durability. 

In the book, I tried to show leaders who wish to turn employee potential into performance possible ways to analyze the picture they find themselves a part of. I likened excuses, reasons, delays and learned despairs to thorns and explained that concepts such as high productivity and employee happiness are blossoms on a cactus.

Women and cacti

I believe in the potential that women harbour in them. We are very much like cacti. The norms society imposes on us, the business world unable to dispose of sexism, our own boxes we try to fit ourselves in, our set beliefs are our thorns. The women who manage to blossom despite these thorns become role models to inspire women around the world. When we realize that we can blossom beautifully from among our thorns, the world will be a completely different place, I believe that from the bottom of my heart. 

What can be done?

We can start by not disregarding the importance and influence of women networks. 

As a member of PWN Istanbul, I greatly enjoy the power we create together and what we share in our global community. I believe that women all over the world will come together and trigger a time of change. But we must get away from learned despairs, fast.

Did you know that during job interviews, the salary that women estimate for themselves is lower than their male colleagues’?  I am talking not about the price someone estimates for us, but the one we estimate for ourselves. If we cannot free ourselves from the effects of these thorns, is there a way for us to ever declare “equal work equal pay”? This is just one example, one that heavily affects multiple facets of our lives. 

To institute change in the companies we work or lead, we must share such examples. This is a topic I deeply care about. By assessing the working principles of models, by sharing and discussing, we can find ways to best implement these same models onto our fields, environments, and companies. 

The business world is a domain designed for men. 

And believe me, a modernist interior remodeling is long overdue.



Author: Işık Şerifsoy, PWN Istanbul Member
Date: April 2020

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