Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Be man enough and give women space

Published:Tuesday | April 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Shavell S. Skeel, Guest columnist

Shavell S. Skeel, Guest columnist

As a woman aspiring to make a worthy contribution to the Jamaican society, I found the article titled 'Are women natural leaders?' (Sunday Gleaner, March 30, 2014) quite disheartening. I must, however, thank the writer for making his views known. His response to the proposal for gender equality has highlighted the fact that there are still men and women out there who believe women are not capable of leading.

I must also point out that while he made some noteworthy points, I am led to presume that his arguments were more about blaming women for "dysfunctional families, the degradation of societal mores ... perversions" and not what the implementation of a gender-equality quota would entail.

The Government of Jamaica proposed to use temporary special measures such as quotas to endorse gender equality as a means of fulfilling its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The administration signed the agreement on September 3, 1981 and it came into effect on October 19, 1984. The Government has endorsed the need for quotas as outlined in the National Policy on Gender Equality. I say this to point out that gender equality is nothing new to the Jamaican society.

Gender perspectives

Quoting the 51% Coalition (the organisation which successfully lobbied for maternity leave in Jamaica), "Quotas which lead to increased numbers of women in decision-making and to the inclusion of gender perspectives in national policy are critical." I believe that we have some excellent male leaders. I also believe that a qualified woman in Parliament is better able to represent my views, especially on issues which affect women, in a different way than they affect men.

The naysayers are quick to point out that quotas are against the principle of equal opportunity for all since women are given preference over men. They will also argue that quotas imply that politicians are elected because of their gender, not because of their qualifications, and that more qualified candidates are pushed aside.

In rebutting these arguments, it must be said that the proposal is not to have women take over the positions of men, but to allow women the same opportunities to serve their country in decision-making positions. I must also point to the fact that there exists a quota in our GSAT system, which is in favour of male students.

The writer was quick to point out that women have been able to assume leadership roles outside the home. According to him, this is based on academic achievement and these women are unable to effectively balance family life and careers.

In 2010, Professor Keith Laws, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, led research on whether women are better at multitasking than men. He and his team found that women are able to take on different duties at the same time and produce excellent results. Scientists believe that the results show that females are better able to reflect upon a problem, while continuing to juggle their other commitments, than men.

Right to equal representation

Quotas for women do not discriminate. Instead, they compensate for actual barriers that prevent women from their fair share of the decision-making seats. Women have a right as citizens to equal representation and women's experiences are needed in political, business and all areas of life. Women are just as qualified as men, but women's qualifications are downgraded and minimised in a male-dominated political system.

If women are represented in the legislature, they can help remove some of the barriers that prevent women from being elected. Also, they are better able to advocate on behalf of the women of Jamaica.

I encourage the writer to start his male-lobby organisation. I also stand in support of his statement, "The real man is fast becoming an endangered species." As a 20-something looking forward to success in family life and career, I would really appreciate seeing more men like my father who are not threatened by the success of women but rather, stand by her side as her equal. Men who have confidence in "their manhood" could never be described as "spineless".

I stand in support of the senator and members of the 51% Coalition as I see the need for gender equality in Jamaica.

Shavell S. Skeel is a third-year law student. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and shavellskeel102@gmail.com.