What do these countries have in common?
Philippines, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Argentina, Nicaragua, Haiti, Bangladesh, Turkey, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Guyana, Mozambique, Panama, and Mongolia?
Struggling Economies? Nope.
Repressive governments? Nah.
Places on my next round-the-world trip? Hardly!
Give up? All of these countries have had WOMEN presidents or prime ministers!
But wait! That's not all! There's more!
Lithuania, Finland, New Zealand, Germany, France, Britain, Iceland, Malta, Canada, Ireland, Switzerland, and Latvia!
South Korea almost had a woman prime minister and Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi would have become prime minister had the current military government accepted the election results where her party won 82% of the vote despite her house arrest. Liberia's President-Elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will become president next year in January.
Excuse me. Does anyone see anything wrong here?
WHERE IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?
My parents have recently become fans of the television show "Commander In Chief." In this flight of fancy, my country is actually being lead by a woman, played by Geena Davis. With my trademark snort of contempt (copyright pending) I wondered out loud whether I would actually see a US female head-of-state in my lifetime. My mother tried to defend the "land of the free and the home of the brave" by saying we have far more women in power than most countries. Somehow after reading the list above, that pride seems to fall a little short.
This leads me to wonder then-are we as Americans afraid of powerful women? Or do we just dislike them? Women candidates initially are stereotyped as domestic issue oriented, specifically more interested in education and social issues than foreign policy. However it seems to me that if an American woman is smart and confident about her abilities (i.e. Hillary Rodham Clinton), people write her off as a "feminist." Do we only like women who are humble and not opinionated? This is tragic. We have so many capable and talented women in the U.S. that, despite their talents, routinely earn less and are promoted less. There are the few exceptions, like Oprah and Martha Stewart but these influential ladies are too smart to get involved in politics.
Earlier this year a friend of a friend loaned me a microwave. On the side was a magnet that stated "All My Heroes Are Women." It caused me to think about all the women in my life that have been my heroes. Women who have inspired me, encouraged me and saved me. If it wasn't for the women in my life, my life would be vastly different than it is now. It was a woman who taught me to love reading, a woman that taught me music, a woman who taught me compassion and a woman who taught me to face my inner fears. I have shared bitter tears and riotous laughter with women. With women I studied and gained my education and it has been my privilege to teach side by side with women in the trenches of education. Finally it was with women that I shared my secret hopes and dreams.
It seems to me that if my life could be so enriched by women in my life, that the United States could only benefit as well from a woman in charge. A recent Newsweek article agrees: "Studies show that women are better at creating and keeping the peace in post-conflict societies because women are-generally-less violent than their male counterparts."
The same Newsweek article states:
Swanee Hunt, head of The Initiative for Inclusive Security, a multimillion-dollar nonprofit supporting the work of women in conflict zones, says: "During the [Bosnian] war, I asked the prime minister of Bosnia, Haris Silajdzic, "If half of the people around the table at the very beginning had been women, would there have been a war?" And he said, "No. Women think long and hard before they send their children out to kill other peoples' children".
"Men are stubborn," says Monica McWilliams, a signatory to the Northern Ireland's Good Friday agreement in 1998. "Women are more comfortable seeking compromise. They see it as a strength, not a weakness."
It should go without saying that in praising women, I'm not demeaning men at all, far from it. I just feel it is high time that not only should women have "a place at the table", but rather that we would all benefit by placing her at the head of that table. It's not about feminism, it's about humanism.