There is no doubt that being a woman in the 21st century is much easier than it used to be in the past. Women traveled a long and arduous path until they managed to express their voice and obtain the rights they have today. Since the post-Industrial Revolution period, the well-known “suffragettes” have claimed their rights. The struggle for the female vote was the first step to be reached on the feminist horizon.
Great Britain, 4th June, 1913. This was the day that Emily Davison, a feminist activist, died in support of her beliefs, by throwing herself in front of King George V's horse at the Derby Epson Downs. This is just one example among several other episodes of the fight against sexism that have marked history, and today is even portrayed in films and books.
However, despite having achieved so much, the struggle continues. The reasons are different, but the struggle is the same.
"A menina é filha de quem?" (“Who is your father?”) is the title of a book by Rita Ferro, Portuguese journalist and author, that makes me reflect on the idea - erroneous and sexist - that a woman needs to be someone's daughter, granddaughter, niece or wife. As if we weren’t enough. Several women prove that we don't need to be associated with a male figure in order to be recognized for our merit. You probably know the American magazine "Time". Since 2004, the magazine has published the list of the 100 most influential people in the world and, in 2019, for the first time, almost half of the names were women! Among these names are actresses like Sandra Oh and Emilia Clarke, pop singers like Ariana Grande, sportswomen like Alex Morgan and political figures like Michelle Obama, who, despite being first lady, today is much more than the former US president’s wife.
The question doesn’t arise in terms of competence, productivity, talent and merit. It is more than proven that women can be equal to men in this aspect. However, the numbers don’t reflect this equality. Women earn annually, on average, less $10k than men for the same number of hours or more (WEF). In Portugal, leadership positions continue to be held mainly by men, as only 16.2% of women belong to the companies' board of directors (WEF). Given this reality, unjustified explanations for these differences shouldn’t be accepted, such as the issue of women becoming pregnant and needing more extensive maternity leave. I know, and I believe that, many of you must also know cases of women who were automatically excluded for certain positions, simply because they intended to have children in the future.
Another thing that shocked me a while ago was the idea of creating school books for boys and girls, with distinctions of colors and themes to encourage children to choose activities associated with their gender. For example, boys would be encouraged to play football, to play with strollers and dinosaurs, while girls would be the target of the usual stereotypes: the universe of the home, the duty to help the mother with household chores, the idea that they should be delicate and authentic “little princesses”. As if that weren’t enough, some of the exercises proposed in the books, although identical, would be much easier to solve for girls! “Are you crazy!? Is this the kind of mindset people want to pass on to children? ” - That’s what I thought immediately. Doing so would be a setback. It would be returning to the time when the woman's place was at home, taking care of her husband and children. Fortunately, the idea was just that, a mere idea, that was never approved by Porto Editora.
As I said, there is still a lot to be done to achieve equal rights. The goal is not to reach a society where roles are reversed and now women are in charge. That's not it! Just as we are not supposed to completely cancel out our differences, as they enrich society. The aim is to overcome injustices in terms of meaningless rights and beliefs such as the idea that girls cannot wear blue and boys cannot wear pink. It is to overcome the idea that women are less capable than men and, therefore, shouldn’t lead. It is to extinguish the thought that it is a shame for the husband to receive less than the wife. It is to end the question "A menina é filha de quem?".
Fun fact: when it comes to startups, according to Forbes, a recent study from Boston Consulting Group shows that for 1 dollar investment female-run startups generated 78 cents in revenue, whereas male-run startups generated only 31 cents. First Round Capital also showed that female-founders performed 63% better than the all-male founding teams it had funded. Adding even more credence, research from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that women-led teams generate a 35% higher return on investment than all-male teams. Even though, looking at our ScaleUp Portugal Report, there are only 4 women leading startups at the Portuguese TOP 25 startups (scaleups).
Finally, I would like to end this text with an inspiring quote said by singer Jennifer Lopez in an advertising campaign for the brand “Coach”:
“What do I think when I hear the word #girlboss? I think: take out de ‘girl’ and just be a ‘boss’”.