Women Leaders: Washington Post ✘: Obama ✔

Is it a Christmas gift that both sides of the aisle agree on something? Writers for liberal and conservative media, the Washington Post and the Washington Times, agree that Obama is wrong: women do not make better leaders than men. The gift comes from the cold-hearted likes of a female Ebenezer Scrooges. 

In time, both sides of the aisle will be proven wrong by history because women can and do make leaders that are every bit as good as men, and as noted in my previous post, women have the potential to be even better. 

In the Washington Post article by Abigail Post, Post argues that female national leaders engage in violent disputes to disprove society’s view of women as weak and they are 17 percent more likely than a male leader to use military force.   

Women have served as national leaders 5 percent of the time that men have since the first time a woman served as a female prime minister in 1960. This really makes the sample of women leaders and their warlike actions a little too small for a fair comparison. For example: if one woman, say the UK’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, went to war in the Falklands, a war that lasted 2 months and had 900 casualties; and five male leaders, went to war in say the Sri Lankan Civil War, Iran-Iraq War, Soviet-Afghan War, Somali Civil War, and the Second Congo War, which totals 77 years of war and 3-5 million dead, “women leaders” would be seen as more belligerent, with the inference that they were more dangerous when it comes to national security. 

Women prefer peace to war for many good reasons like keeping their children alive and keeping themselves and their children from sexual violence. Civilians today are victims more than soldiers in conflicts, and women and children are disproportionately targeted. Rape has always been used as a tool of war. In the Second Congo War, a conservative estimate of women raped is 500,000. Jeffrey Gettlemen, a reporter for the NY Times based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo wrote about an 80-year old woman being gang-raped, and yelling “Grandsons get off of me.” Women as national leaders, if they do preside over war, are more inclined to seek a victory quickly and, when women are at the table negotiating an end to conflict, peace is more durable. 

To paint female national leaders as weak, because the female stereotype is weak doesn’t make any sense. The handful of women that become national leaders or CEOs of large companies are not clones of the female stereotype. They couldn’t be. If they were, unconscious biases would have left them on the sidelines like so many other aspirational women. These women passed through the glass ceiling because they were so competent as leaders that the forces against women leaders made an exception for a super woman.

For Post to use Indira Gandhi’s actions to support the assertion that the perception of female weakness will end up leading to war is misplaced. In 1971, the situation in the future nation of Bangladesh was dire. The Pakistani military in Operation Searchlight was on a mission to wipe out the Bengali intelligentsia and Hindus. Of the 3 million that died in this war, 2.4 million were Hindus. Hindu homes were marked with a yellow H. An estimated ten million refugees fled to India. In 1971, an article in Time magazine noted that: “The Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Muslim military hatred.” Hindu-majority India, under Gandhi, entered the war and it was over in 13 days.

Female national leaders are perfectly capable of leading nations and corporations too. If there were gender parity in leadership, we would be able to do an apples-to-apples comparison with male leaders. But this is never going to happen as long as women writers, liberal and conservative, are leading a charge against women leaders.  How can women expect men to support their presence as leaders if women don’t? 

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