Today is Sunday, April 21, 2013.
When sleeping women wake, mountains move. –Chinese Proverb
The Chinese built a mighty civilization. If you read their history, it may seem that men had the better end of the bargain, but the piece of folk wisdom quoted above captures the truth beautifully, and not only for Chinese civilization, but for humankind, in general. There's a funny thing about folk wisdom: it's the kind of thing that cannot be erased by official versions of history written by those in power. It is not the kind of thing that governments can exert control over. It gets passed down from generation to generation without benefit of being written down, shown on TV, or posted as a status on Facebook. Of course, having proverbs written down in books and posted on social media isn't a bad thing. It's just icing on the cake.
In a lot of indigenous cultures, women had quite a bit of power; if not equal power, they had complementary power. Perhaps instead of the word power, I should use the word responsibility. Women had certain responsibilities that were theirs and theirs alone, and everyone knew what would happen if the women didn't keep their end of the bargain. In many cultures, even though women lacked political power, their influence in child rearing and the family in general was powerful.
Women have an influence on others that runs deep. As on online blogger noted, when ordinary people get in front of a TV camera, they say hello to their mom. When kids want to ask their parents for something, they generally ask mom. If you want to start a fight with a man, mention something negative about his mother. Successful men often attribute their success to the women in their lives: mother, sister, wife.
Our great-grandmothers could not vote, and their mothers could not own property or even open a bank account in their own name. We've come a long way, baby. So many things have changed, thanks in large measure to the oft-maligned women's liberation movement.
Years ago, when "women's liberation" began to surface in the national consciousness, some people thought it was all about women burning their bras, withholding sex from men, emasculating men in the workplace, or abdicating their responsibilities for childbearing, raising children, and homemaking. Frankly, back then, what women were taking off was their girdles, not their bras, but I guess it wouldn't have been as powerful a statement to burn their girdles, and it would have smelled pretty bad, too, since girdles were essentially made of latex rubber.
Now, we know that empowerment of women means empowerment for all humankind. We know that women are not interested in replacing men or emasculating them. Rather, women are interested in being respected for who they are and not whom they are married to. They want to be recognized for what they can contribute to life, beyond propagation of the species. They are interested in being compensated fairly, not only in terms of salary, but in terms of benefits, specifically health care. Women are interested in being fairly and adequately represented in government. They are interested in having their contributions recognized in business, academics, science, medicine, law, the arts, and sports, to name a few.
A lot of studies that used to be cited to show that women lacked self-esteem or problem-solving abilities are now regarded as seriously flawed. Newer, more rigorous studies paint a different picture. Here are some facts about women that have been backed by recent studies, with thanks to Cosmopolitan magazine, Ekaterina Walter, author, business and marketing leader and speaker, and Dee Dee Myers, author of Why Women Should Rule the World.
1. Women learn better and often do better in school at all levels.
2. Women have higher IQ scores than men, on average.
3. Women tend to keep their surroundings, both at home and at work, cleaner and more sanitary.
4. Women tend to handle the stress of a job interview better, possibly because they do more to prepare for them.
5. Women tend to survive more accidents. This may be because we wear seat belts more often than men.
6. Women are not afraid to ask for help and seek solace from others, and we therefore tend to handle stress better because we create our own support system.
7. Women are more recession-proof. Did you know that 80% of the people who lost their jobs in the current recession have been men? Part of this might be attributed to the fact that women still tend to choose careers in education and health care, areas with low unemployment rates.
8. Women are more likely then men to graduate from college. Women now hold more bachelor's degrees and graduate degrees than men, and women comprise one-third of all MBA candidates.
9. Women tend to eat healthier - and this may be because mothers still tend to pass on their cooking skills to their daughters rather than their sons.
10. Women have stronger immune systems, thanks to the presence of estrogen in their bodies.
11. Women live longer. 85% of all people over 100 years of age are women, and women tend to live five to ten years longer than men, on average.
12. Women are better managers in the workplace for a number of reasons that I'll go into a bit later. Nowadays, businesses find that they are much more profitable with women on board in high-level positions.
13. Women make better financial investments than men. This may be because women tend to invest more conservatively, with a greater attention to long-term goals. Half of all stock market investors are now women.
14. Women make governments more representative because they support family and community issues and they bring a women's perspective to all issues.
15. Women drive over 80% of the consumer economy in the United States; they are responsible for about 5 trillion dollars in sales annually. In worldwide studies, 90% of women who earn money choose to reinvest their money in their families and their communities.
16. Women outnumbered men on the U.S. Olympic Team for the first time in 2012, with 269 women versus 261 men.
17. Women dominate social media. There are 99 million more female visitors than male visitors to social media sites each month. Women tend to spend 30% more time on social media sites than men, and 55% of mobile social media use is by women. Some of this has to do with the way we socialized before the Internet. We have always socialized in groups such as coffee klatches, ladies auxiliary groups, quilting bees, sewing circles and the like. Social media and blogging sites give women a more powerful voice in all areas, but especially in the area of politics.
18. More and more women are starting and running businesses. One report estimated that 187 million women worldwide run a business, and that in the United States, women are starting up new businesses at 1.5 times the national average. Women make up 51% of working professionals, and many women earn more than their mates.
19. Women tend to agree with men on priorities in life, contrary to common belief. 92% of men and 96% of women want to stay healthy. 74% of men and 81% of women think it's important to be financially secure. 73% of men and 72% of women think it's important to have a fulfilling job. Having children is a priority for 60% of men and 66% of women. (Those who think that all women must want to have children are going to be shocked at that statistic.) The biggest difference between men and women is the priority placed on religious faith or a spiritual path. 58% of men and 68% of women thought this was important.
20. Women are essential to making peace in the world. When the negotiation teams include women, issues such as food scarcity and sexual violence are more apt to be addressed. With their penchant for bridging gaps and building consensus, they make great peace negotiators.
What are some of the qualities that women in general can offer? According to Susan Nelson-Hoeksema, author of The Power of Women, women have four main areas of strength. Their mental strength is flexibility and creativity in finding solutions to problems, and a focus on getting the job done, rather than having things done their way. Women are more comfortable trusting their intuition when making decisions.
Women's identity strength comes from their ability to maintain a strong sense of themselves and their values. Their sense of themselves has to do with who they are, rather than what or how much they have. Women deal easily with change and uncertainty, because they do not view changes as a threat to who they are.
Women's emotional strengths are more well-known these days. Women tend to understand their own feelings and the feelings of those around them. They are able to anticipate the emotional consequences of life situations, which makes them uniquely able to make major decisions, because they tend to take the long-term view.
Finally, women's relational strengths are important not only in the home, but in business and other areas of life. Women are better than men in connecting with people and forming strong social networks that function as their emotional support. They are good at communicating to their colleagues in business settings the values, purpose and importance of the organization. They are good at inspiring, encouraging, supporting, mentoring and empowering others. They are good at getting the respect, support and loyalty of their colleagues, and they are strong in developing consensus and working toward the common good. Also, women tend to multi-task naturally.
It is critical now that women begin to "step into their power and call the world into balance," in the words of Marianne Williamson and Jeanne Houston, authors of The Hero and the Goddess: The Odyssey as Pathway to Personal Transformation. How can we do this? One way is to enlist the support of men by letting them know that empowering women is not a losing scenario for them, but a win-win scenario for everyone. All we want is a society where the sexes are equal but not necessarily the same. Women are looking for ways to share our strengths with men in a complementary fashion. Here are some other ways to empower women.
We can insist on better health care for pregnant women, and encourage young women to eat right, because we know that good nutrition produces healthier, smarter children.
We can see to it that girls finish high school and that they have opportunities to extend their schooling if they wish to.
We can support women's businesses whenever possible.
We can support women who are running for government office, whether locally, at the state level, or nationally. (If you're conservative, join the Susan B. Anthony List. If you're liberal, join Emily's List.)
Women can learn to be financially stable. There are all kinds of classes about managing money. Check out Suze Orman or the many organizations now dedicated to helping women start new businesses.
We can volunteer to be mentors for girls and young women.
We can buy products made by companies that pay their women workers fairly.
at serrv.org, kiva.org,
and tenthousandvillages.com. Also check out the Fair Wage Guide at
We can use our blogs, our Facebook posts, and our Tweets to tell our friends about initiatives that empower and support women. (That's why I wrote this blog entry.) :-)