Instrumentalizing Women for the Sake of Profit

8469337827_2119a4508b_zHow 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

  2 comments for “Instrumentalizing Women for the Sake of Profit

  1. Jay
    October 8, 2015 at 14:39

    Thought provoking article. Cheers Nicole.

    “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?”

    the answer is simple; our collective societal agreement suggests that literally everything has been reduced to a “resource” for consumption. This mindset is even passed on from mother to daughter in a very innocent way.

    WE learn from experience, observation, and information. Hence there are many ways in which men and women dis-empower themselves and in doing so, future generations.

    For example, each time a daughter observes her mother saying “yes” (per her actions or verbally) to living or working in a dis-empowering situation it reinforces the idea in the mind of the child that the job, or the money, or the security are more important than the person.

    Needless to say this is a complicated issue. One which tends to exceed the necessary understanding or value system of a typical “for-profit” organization. However, within in the mind-set of each and every one of us lies the opportunity for change and the ability to act.

    There are but two obstacles: IGNORANCE and COMPLACENCY

  2. Natalia
    October 8, 2015 at 22:01

    Thank you Nicole, always pleasure to read you.
    But at the same time, it is good to be hired and feel valuable like this, it depends on the persone and one’s worldview.
    It reminds me of the TV programme about women monastere en France, where the journalist made interview with bonnes soeures, and asked them how does it feel not be useful as a wife or mother and leave everything for the name of God ? And one of them answered with very beautiful comparison : Do you see this field with flowers ? Are these flowers useful ? No, they don’t, they are just a joy for your eyes, but can you imagine how sad will be this field without them ?
    Another exampe is a good book of Sheryl Sandberg “ En avant toutes” les femmes, le travail et le pouvoir, préface de Christine Lagarde. Sometimes it is a choice of the woman herself to be a great untapped resource, to make career sacrificing her personal life and maternity time, be ambitious and happy like this.
    Totally agree about social entrepreneurship is the only entrepreneurship worthy, but human egoism and the way economy works put it behind.
    I think most of the human being on the earth think they do something meaningful, following their convictions or religion or values. The meaning of something meaningful can be different from one individual to another. We all have our own way, choice, but not a choice to be irresponsible .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *