We should empower women. This statement used to be a profound one. Today, it is almost meaningless. Everyone seems to agree with it and have their own interpretation about what the phrase means. In March 2017, Saudi Arabia launched a much-touted Girls’ Council. It was all about empowering women and girls. All thirteen people present on the stage were men. A couple of months prior, Donald Trump signed a policy on “empowering” women to weaker reproductive rights, flanked by a dozen of his closest advisors, not a woman in sight.
The concept of empowerment has been hijacked, and not only by men. Female CEOs ensure us that there are no systemic problems around, and it’s all a matter of the woman just “leaning in” in conversations and being more assertive. Female TED speakers explain that it’s all a matter of finding and using your power pose and people will listen to you. In my everyday experience, in many organizations, women in leadership benefiting from the status quo are happy to equate women empowerment with their own empowerment. Some women in traditionally male but highly paid industries, say finance, are happy to be tokens of diversity.
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