Why superwomen need not try so hard to have it all
Recently, an article by Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen from the BI-Norwegian Business School, Oslo went viral. The article was based on his study which concluded that women are better suited to leadership than men. Women outperformed men in four of the five categories studied: initiative and clear communication; openness and ability to innovate; sociability and supportiveness; and methodical management and goal-setting. The study assessed the personality and characteristics of nearly 3,000 managers. With women gradually taking over workplaces, this begs the question of whether women really need to compete with men anymore.
Women have time and again demonstrated that they can do everything a man can. However, since historically, and I speak mostly of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, a wave of feminism swept across the world—whereby women wanted to revolutionize the fundamental aspects of female life at that time—encompassing everything from domesticity to employment, education, and sexuality. During this time, women were entering the workforce but were not climbing the corporate ladder or breaking the glass ceiling so to speak. It was a sexual revolution of sorts—one in which these women were making a political statement because they had a point to prove—to men, the world, and mostly to themselves.
Fifty years down the line, we’re now in the 21st century, and a woman has nothing to prove to anyone anymore. Today, for a woman to have a job hardly makes a feminist statement. A recent Flexing It survey, Thriving in the Future Workforce, found that gender rated very low (less than 10%) as a factor in diversity in the next five years. This remained consistent across gender, age, geography, and professions. It’s evident then that gender diversity in the workplace is already a proven fact—and hence, no longer a “trend” for the coming years.
Accomplished women are also increasingly refusing to settle down, choosing to remain single so as not to be constrained by the bounds of matrimony and childbearing—instead of focusing on their ambitious career goals—in other words, being “career women”. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, from 1995 to 2010 the percentage of women who have never married rose from 33% to 38%.
Despite some lingering discrimination, unequal pay scales and other challenges that the women are still struggling with in the workplace, overall they have made some great strides in the past few decades. In this day and age, it’s no longer an either-or option—a woman could well be married with a child and still manage a thriving career. Women in today’s world have the advantage and freedom to choose whether they want to live out a traditional female gender role, male gender role or a mix between the two. At the same time, whether a woman stays single and works or doesn’t, gets married and works or doesn’t—is a choice that’s no longer imposed on her.
In such an environment, the burden of being a good housewife while still being a rock star at work is no longer a real or imagined pressure on her. It is purely for this reason that women today should stop wasting their time trying to validate their achievements by competing with men. If a woman really wants to be equal to a man, she should just be comfortable in her skin without feeling compelled or forced by society in any way—something that has held true for men since centuries. Finally, women should give up trying to be equal to men because not only have they “been there, done that,” they should remember that men and women are just “different”—much like apples and oranges—and so may never really be “equal” in that sense.
Rather than trying to constantly match up with men, women just need to compare themselves with who they were yesterday. As Matty Mullins rightly said, "The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday."
**This article was first published by Flexing It, on Network18**