Western males can change global mindsets

Written by Shombit Sengupta | Updated: Feb 10 2013, 06:04am hrs
When we label countries as developed, we first refer to their economic and industrial power. Next, we benchmark the human qualities they command: lower infant mortality, better healthcare, higher survival rate, better education facilities, less unemployment. Developing countries imitate their living comfort too: better infrastructure, transportation, hygienic living amenities, superior science and technology, and structured systems for political, legal, social and industrial rights. In emulating these positives, developing countries willy-nilly follow their gender balance initiatives, which can be quite appalling.

Thats obvious from how womens suffrage was delayed. Men got voting rights in Greece since 1864 while women voted in parliamentary elections only from 1952. Similarly in Norway, men got voting rights in 1898, women in 1913; in the UK, men in 1918 and women in 1928. In France and Switzerland, men exercised suffrage from 1848, but women from 1944. Other Western women voted only in 1940-50s; Italy1945, Belgium1948, USA1965. How did men get so empowered

It all boils down to physique. The genesis of male superiority comes from mens physical strength. As hunter-gatherers they secured home from animal intruders. As warriors, theyve fought wars to defend land. Womens physical frame is crafted to ready the body for procreation. It begins from puberty, the monthly period, conceiving a baby, carrying it for nine months and then menopause sets in. Men just cannot fathom these subtle facets of women, what it ultimately means to take responsibility for continuance of the human race. So the huge gender discrepancy remains.

Men have usurped control to subjugate them with corporeal power since primitive times. Even slaves for physical labour were always men. Women slaves were used elsewhere. Gladiators were never women. When not enough men returned from war, polygamy further thwarted womens spirit. This physical aspect is evident from the Olympic Games originating 776 BC in Greece. Only men athletes competed in the games. Women entered modern Olympics in the 1900 Paris Games. Women now participate in all Olympic events with the introduction of womens boxing in 2012.

Their physical protective aspect influenced society that men are super-duper decision makers. So, they grabbed the upper hand in modern society, outnumbering women in all areas of authority. Extreme male empowerment is highly prevalent even in international bodies committed to gender balance. Of the 185 highest-ranking UN diplomats, only seven are women. As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg lamented, Women are not making it to the top. Of 190 heads of state; nine are womenpeople in parliament in the world, 13% are women; in the corporate sector, women at the top at C-level jobs, board seats, tops out at 15-16%. Women fought and got voting rights; theyre battling for equal representation now. In USA, Females with bachelors degrees earned $35,408 in 2000, compared with $49,982 for males. The European Business & Professional Women group has highlighted an average 16.4% gap in womens pay compared to men in Europe. UN statistics reveal that women work approximately twice the unpaid time men do. To get equal pay for work of equal value, women in several European countries observe Equal Pay Day protests.

Developing countries benchmark developed nations on lifestyle, lifestyle products, education system, business style. The Western influence has penetrated mostly by occupying developing country markets. They sell expensive Louis Vuitton luxury products, democratise taste buds through McDonalds that tweaks taste for every countrys palate, and excite customers with technology brilliance as Apple has done. Its about time advanced societies collectively share the responsibility of bringing gender equilibrium, not mere style and eating pleasure.

Violence against women is another disgraceful male act. In the West, abusive swear words like I f...k your mother are proof of the masculine raping mentality. Women rarely utter such violent words. One of six American women experience an attempted or completed rape. As per UN statistics, about two million girls suffer female genital mutilation every year; worldwide 20-50% women face some domestic violence during marriage. Primary war victims today are civilian women and children, not soldiers, as rape is used as a war weapon. In this digital age, sexual perversity is available at the touch of a finger in a mobile phone. Even porn filmmakers may lose business because any individual couple can upload their own perverse act in front of a camera to earn easy money. It would be difficult to prohibit such technology advancement and societal freedom as its totally open-ended. Only education on rape prevention can bring respect to women. The analogy is similar to countries having nuclear weapons, but being under tight international compulsion about not using them.

To help women assume stature, education is a starting point. Currently, two-thirds of the worlds one billion illiterate adults are women; two-thirds of 130 million out-of-school children are girls. UNs Commission on Status of Women is meeting in New York next month. Can it accelerate gender parity progress United Nations and developed countries should focus on universal education. How to live in mutual respect with women has to grow in mens psyche. It cannot happen overnight. It requires education that psychologically implants itself in mens brain and behaviour.

Through past centuries men have exhibited their overwhelming power to run society. So its clearly the responsibility of men in developed countries to actualise the Western democratic principles theyve framed of liberty, equality and fraternity. This translates to achieving gender equality thats missing in every country. Irresponsible human behaviour can definitely be changed. In the past 50 years, fatal road accidents in developed countries have drastically reduced due to collective effort of implementing stringent rules, fines and rewarding incentives. Just as the West is taking action to correct environmental damage theyve caused, developed country men should take the initiative to frame regulations to provide the unconditional support and respect theyve denied to women for so long. Only then can male behavioural change start to happen; and womens emancipation become a global priority.

Shombit is an international consultant to top management on differentiating business strategy with execution excellence (www.shiningconsulting.com)