Tricky virtues

Despite the addition of the right to gender equality to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, today, 75 years later, the task remains incomplete. There have evidently been important advances, beginning with the most fundamental rights such as the right to vote or the disappearance of the “licencia marital” authority by which Spanish women needed the consent of their husbands to buy with money from their joint assets - rescinded in 1975. Since then progress has been made, little by little and in the right direction, as we have realised that inequality is hidden in the most profound levels of our personal and professional lives. Most of the time we don´t even see it as our society has cast us, given us a role, to both men and women, that is entrenched in all of us.

“Behind every great man there is a great woman”. We have all heard that phrase, even as positive recognition toward women when their husbands are successful, giving us credit for remaining in the shadows. As if it were a virtue to be more discreet than our male partners, disguising the unjust abasement towards women under a cloak of virtuosity or elegance. This idea is a trap and it also exists in the professional world. Men can shout their success from the rooftops, but if a woman does the same it is not taken well. And we know it.

If we add to this disadvantaged starting point the family responsibilities that still fall mainly on the woman - and even when they do not, in business it is often assumed to be the case traditionally - we have a difficult time of reclaiming what we deserve at a professional level despite all of the effort placed on demonstrating our worth.

In this situation, how can we restore the balance? Or better yet, how can we restore it without renouncing our femininity? Clearly, all of the legislative or intergovernmental initiatives are welcome, however in my opinion, a more profound change is needed in the core of our society in order to tear down the mental barriers that we have, both men and women. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and if that is not so “pretty”, then the problem lies with those who judge. Women are an extremely valuable part of the business world and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that, and that we be recognised, in the same way as men are. That is equality. Anything else is unfair and, very simply put, would imply that men have the right to be mediocre while women can only aspire to success through blood, sweat and tears.

It has been scientifically established that gender diversity on the Board of Directors is valuable for a business. Why then do we continue to see numbers far from what would be beneficial and sustainable? Reluctance still exists. That is why legislative initiatives are so important in order to force a change in favour of a meritocracy from an equality of conditions. The famous argument against the quotas, attempting to justify that it is better to rely on people who are more capable, is actually an argument in favour of the quotas. I have no doubt that, in many companies, there are brilliant women that should be in directive positions, but the established homogeneous board (which is undoubtedly more comfortable) prevents them from being where they deserve to be.

The good news is that the road to gender diversity is unstoppable despite the resistance that still exists. And there is nothing to be afraid of. We are not a threat. We reach out to men to form a sustainable alliance based on a clear and just meritocracy. A great man does not have a great women behind him. A great man is not afraid to pave the way in order to have a great women by his side. That is where the greatness lies.

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