There have been some interesting articles appearing lately dealing with the possibility for women to hold positions of power or top posts in various walks of life. First there was that controversial article by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the Atlantic, which she titled ‘Why women still can’t have it all’ (read it here if you haven’t already). The article received such varied responses and remarks, that it’s hard to take one stance on it. On the one hand, she’s absolutely right to point out the societal structures in place that are more likely to prevent women from reaching and/or staying in positions of power and influence, but on the other hand, these same practices prevent everyone (men and women alike) from benefiting from an ideal ‘work/life/family’ balance. Reading her article could also easily get the blood of less-elite women boiling. ‘She has got it all’ is one of the major reactions I’ve heard from several women who have read this article and with whom I have discussed it.
But that’s not all. The BBC’s new director general is a man. As usual. And suddenly this has many people begging the question: just why aren’t the women in the BBC (of whom there are many!) making it to the top positions? Read, for example, this comment by Catherine Bennett at the Guardian, who tries to tackle this precise question. An example of tradition and role perception winning the day yet again?
Clearly, there is something going on. The feminist movements of the 1960s have given so much to women in terms of equal access to education, workforce etc. But are we now just beginning to realise that, hey, that’s not quite enough? It’s not only that women continue to remain excluded from positions of power and influence, but that the entire social system we are working in is rather unhelpful when it comes to promoting equality. In many couples, there still needs to be decision made about how to balance work and life and family and career. I would rather like to see a society where there needs to be no such choice – where work and family can be integrated into a lifestyle for both parents to feel balanced and involved.
This may be a utopian ideal that I won’t see in my lifetime. But, at least there is a conversation going on. Let’s keep it up!