‘We women persist. Isn’t that our job? Throughout history, we have persisted in our quest for respect, for justice, for equal rights, for suffrage, for education, for enfranchisement, for recognition, for making our voices heard. In the face of violence, of opposition, of ridicule, of belittlement, even of jail time, nevertheless, we have persisted.’Valerie Schultz
On my way to the British Library I noticed a small gallery dedicated to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson tucked into the corner of the UNISON headquarters. Stepping in for a quick nose about; I discovered a shelf of books about pioneering women and social reformers. Flicking through pages at random I found a trove of delicious snippets of information about disobedient women who fail to conform to their role in society or pander to the desires of the males in authority. What a treat for a rainy afternoon.
Fortunately for me, one of my managers early in my career held rather a different view. He once told me that he had hired me because ‘I was bossy and opinionated’. Finally, someone who valued my strengths. But why is it that women who display traditional “masculine” qualities such as assertiveness, forcefulness, and ambition are labelled as “bitchy”, unfeminine and aggressive when their male counterparts are praised for natural leadership ability and promoted for exactly the same behaviours?
Research shows that women who want to succeed are told that they need to consciously monitor themselves to balance assertion with enough caring/nurturing behaviours so they don’t upset the way in which others are used to seeing the world working. How much longer do we need to hide our strength behind a soft outer shell to be accepted and recognised for what we can contribute? I say stop pandering to outdated views and allow capability to be recognised whatever package it comes in.