Mar 28, 2012

Earn your place

There’s an interesting phrase that’s often bandied around when we talk about the lack of adequate representation of women and youth at decision making tables – it’s “earn your place at the table.” Without doubt years of hard work is what gets many of us into positions of power and influence, but we cannot deny the bias that’s inherent in companies, government and other sectors that are routinely dominated by men who typically earn more and are more likely to have a seat at the table.


As I look at this from the political context, I see many examples of women who have been in the proverbial trenches for years and yet when you look at their numbers at the executive level, their numbers are appalling. So, how does one “earn a place at the table?” Or maybe the better question is “what are men doing that women aren’t?”

Perhaps it could be in due in part to the following: (1) the inability of those in leadership positions to mentor and/or step aside for others to take over, and (2) women shying away from these positions because they often cater to those with aggressive tactics, and they fear being labelled a “bitch” or “unruly woman.”

Getting beyond this will require effort by everyone. Women will need to set aside the outmoded defense mechanisms set up by the old establishment that tar and feather women for being ambitious. There is real need to be aggressive in internal political processes as it pertains to nominating and adopting candidates – women need to be aggressive, and support one another from the very outset. Waiting until Election Day is too late in the process and counterintuitive.

Furthermore, mentoring is extremely critical. Both men and women in leadership need to help those coming behind them by showing them how to ‘hoe the row.’ It is of course human nature to protect what you have from real and/or perceived threats but in the political arena, where the issues at hand go beyond an individual it’s imperative to look into the future and groom others to do the job even better than you. Without this we are doomed to continue making decisions from the same narrow point of view.

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