How often have you read the sentence: “women are a great untapped resource”? Or perhaps “hiring more women is good for business”?
How do you feel as a woman when you read this? How do you feel as a man living amongst “untapped resources”? Do we like to think of ourselves as resources? A bit like oil and gold and money… Something that can conveniently be used for someone else’s agenda.
Don’t we prefer to think of ourselves as beautiful multi-faceted human beings pulsating with life? Human beings who are creative and innovative and loving and have the capacity to give our gifts to the world and to each other.
So what’s the problem here? Why is it that the mainstream discourse of people who are genuinely fighting for gender equality has reduced Woman to a resource?
Again and again – on this and other topics – I hear the argument that it is necessary to use the logic of the existing system to achieve change. In other words, to use the logic of profit to justify the fact that companies should give women the same opportunities as men (in promotion, salary, etc).
This argument assumes that the decision-makers who head these companies (be they men or women) are so narrow-minded that they will not make any decision that is unrelated to profit. Are they really? How about we give them a chance?
And, more importantly, what this argument also implies, is that women are unworthy in and of themselves. We need to “prove” their worth, that they are “good enough”.
Is that the world we want to believe in? Is it the one we want to create? Because if we reinforce that narrative, we are obviously not going to get very far. And in the end we will all become nothing more but income-producing resources, stripped down from our capacity to even imagine a different reality.
So how about aligning our discourse with the world we do want to create. A world where we are not locked into our conditioning regarding gender roles and how the economy works. And even if that is our starting point, a world where we have sufficient clarity to take off our blinders and start a massive transformation in the way we value things, how we make decisions, and even in the raison d’être of our companies. Wherein social entrepreneurship becomes the only entrepreneurship worthy of our time, energy and respect.
What if the goal was not to convince companies to hire more women to make more profit. But rather, to transform existing structures in such a way that they become appealing to human beings who long to do something meaningful in the world.
We all do. Even if we are quite good at pretending we don’t. Why should we deny ourselves that potential?
The times are changing. And so must our discourse.
Photo Credit: Mario Mancuso