In The Driver's Seat
Hilda Solis was the daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants to the USA. She studied in a largely Hispanic school. When she was graduating from high school her counsellor said to her, “College is not for you, Hilda. Why don’t you become a secretary or something?” She listened to him. Today she is the Secretary of the US Department of Labour.
The stage was full of women like Hilda Solis at the Biennial of Americas conference, asserting Women as the Drivers of the New Economy. The women had been told by their father that they should get married because they were not smart enough to make it to college, women who had been told their good grades would never be useful to them so why study so hard, and these women spent 12 years in night school, worked 8 hours a day to pay for their own education, and today were foreign minister (Vilma Martinez), Treasurer to the US State Department (Rosa Gumataotao Rio), Nobel Laureates (Rigoberta Menchu Tum), and presidents of their nations with 82% approval rate from it’s people (Martha Beatriz Merino Lucero).
There was no one better than these women in the driver’s seat of their own countries, to emphasize that women were the drivers of the new economy.
During the recession male employers fired 1 million employees, and female entrepreneurs hired 70,000 people!
Although women engaged more in micro-enterprises and therefore didn’t have much visibility as compared to men dominating the giant corporate sphere, when cumulated women owned three times as much of the entrepreneurial space than men.
In the disaster relief camps in Haiti women have already started opening restaurants and beauty parlours, showcasing their entrepreneurial spirit. One theory is that their biological drive to protect and their children and families pushes the to pick p the pieces after a disaster and start reconstructing their lives. This would explain why after the Rwandan genocide women took their reigns of the country in their hands and 57% of the Rwandan government is constituted by women.
But these successes did not delude the panelists to think that women were treated equally in the
new economy. They were painfully aware that women still earned 79cents to every $1 a man made and that every successful woman had had to work ten times as hard as any man to get where she is. Daniel Saint-Lot, member of Vital Voices Global Leadership Network, Haiti, blamed the existing gender inequality on the fact that women are “ghetto-ised” in policy. A line is thrown in at the end of every policy saying, “In addition we will address minority groups like women, the disabled…” Women are not a minority! We are 51% of the world’s population. To bring about gender equality women should be included as an integral part of every policy and not be kept on the fringes.
Rigoberta highlighted the flip side of the issue by saying that women themselves become the harbingers of gender discrimination by seeing themselves as victims. She advocated that if she could watch her family bring raped and murdered in front of her and rise from the ashes to bring about peace in Guatemala, then every woman should see herself as a protagonist and not a victim.
To bring about gender equality and truly recognise women as the drivers of the new economy we need to train both our sons and daughters the value of women beyond their bodies, the value of women as intellectual forces driving the market, because the future of the world will be determined not by what kind of world we leave to our children, but by what kind of children we leave to the world.