2020 started off with a bang- and not the good kind. It seems as though the 20/20 vision we all claimed to have in the new decade blurred quite quickly. Wherever you look, the entire world is descending into apocalyptic chaos- Wildfires, World War 3?
These W problems, raise W questions- What the hell is happening? Where did we go wrong? I would like to present a W solution: Women.
While watching the news talk about Trump and the situation in Iran, I couldn’t help but wonder whether we could have ever reached the brink of another potential World War if there weren’t egoistical power-hungry men making pivotal decisions on both sides. Trump ordered the killing of a highly regarded Iranian military general, Qasem Soleimani, in retaliation to what he and his administration considered an “imminent threat”. Iran immediately counterattacked by firing missiles on U.S. bases in Iraq.
It’s almost as if leaders on both sides were engaging in a dick measuring contest- forgetting the high stakes at hand. As though they were truly willing to risk it all to win a petty playground fight- each kid taunting the other with “my weapon is bigger than yours”. These kids didn’t care about ruining everyone else’s fun as long as they got to have their own. Imagine if one of these leaders (on either side) had been a woman. Would tensions have escalated to the same extent? Would either party have felt the need to put their egos on display? Would the approach to the conflict have been fundamentally different?
I do not believe that girls come into this world inherently more or less aggressive than boys, however the way we are socialized makes us navigate the same space differently. By now, we’ve probably heard the phrase, “boys will be boys” used to justify certain deplorable actions; rarely do we hear “girls will be girls”. Girls are often socialized to be more empathetic, and less physical.
Boys who display traditionally masculine attributes such as strength and athleticism are more popular than those who don’t. While great strides are being made to undo such social constructs, we are often still guided by them. We carry these influences into adulthood. For example, most of the world’s leaders are men. Unfortunately, many men are attracted to politics for the power that comes with it and not for the platform it gives them.
Too often our countries are ruled by egos, and not by people. The war of egos becomes a never-ending one, which takes more lives than it saves.
Through studying International Relations, it is clear that in engaging with other countries, leaders need to be strong communicators and emotionally intelligent as well as informed risk takers. A study conducted by the Korn Ferry Hay Group using data from 55,000 professionals across 90 countries found that in 11 out of 12 “emotional intelligence competencies”, women outperformed men. If you compare the way a woman responds to “how do you feel?” to the way a man does, you’ll probably understand those results better. But, it’s interesting to see that these results were similar in different cultural contexts as well.
Women across cultures have been trained to be more effective at understanding and communicating emotions: a highly important yet severely undervalued skill in diplomacy. The ability to understand who we perceive as “the other” is far more constructive than the ability to determine how we will destroy “them”. Negotiations between world leaders are simply sophisticated arguments; ones that require emotionally intelligent participants. Moreover, women are less likely to take risks than men are. It has been found that women generally apply to jobs they perceive to be 100% qualified for while men apply if they think they are around 60% qualified. The fact that Trump is president should suffice as proof of this finding.
Coming back to our initial question, if there was a woman on either side of the recent confrontation between Iran and the US, would tensions have escalated to the same extent? I would argue, no. A woman, who is less inclined to take risks, more emotionally intelligent and possesses a stronger propensity towards a peaceful approach, would not have let the situation escalate to the same extent. I would argue that while many men have done great things in power, the world would be a different place if women had played a more influential role thus far.