Viewpoint: What if women ruled the world?

Dee Dee Myers outside the White House

Not so long ago, the idea that women might rule the world seemed slightly ridiculous - like something out of science fiction. But in an essay to mark International Women's Day, political analyst and former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers argues it's now a topic that can be seriously discussed.

Women clearly lacked the intellectual capacity and emotional fortitude to make the difficult decisions that leadership required. It wasn't bias, it was biology - it was just the way women were made.

But that was then. In recent decades, attitudes and ideas have changed - and fast. That's not to say that every corner of the world has welcomed women moving from the traditional and private into the modern and public. But move they have.

So what's changed? A lot. As a huge and growing body of research and experience makes clear, empowering women makes things better. Not perfect. But better.

About the author

Dee Dee Myers with Bill Clinton in 1995

Dee Dee Myers, a political analyst, was White House press secretary for the first two years of Bill Clinton's presidency.

Business is more profitable. Governments are more representative. Families are stronger, and communities are healthier. There is less violence - and more peace, stability and sustainability.

Why? Well, it starts with the simple fact that women often experience life differently. And that experience affects the way we see problems - and think about solutions.

"Diversity is absolutely an asset," says Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

"With diversity you bring different ways of looking at the world, different ways of analysing issues, different ways of offering solutions. The sheer fact of diversity actually increases the horizon and enriches the thinking process, which is critical."

Both women and men often say that women communicate differently, that they listen, encourage dialogue, and build consensus.

Christine Lagarde: 'Women should not imitate men'

Studies also show that women also lead differently than men. They're more likely to be collaborative, inclusive and team-oriented, all characteristics that tend to be effective, particularly in today's less-hierarchical, fast-paced, innovation-driven world.

"I think it's fair to say that women are a little more collaborative in their approach overall, and a little less driven to conflict as opposed to driven to working out problems," says Janet Napolitano, the US Secretary of Homeland Security.

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, says that women also bring an inter-generational perspective to their work. "We need to take decisions now that will make for a safer world for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and I think women are more likely to do that when they come into positions of leadership."

Acknowledging that men and women bring different qualities and different skills to public life is critical. For too long, women were expected to think like men and act like men if they wanted to succeed.

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But increasingly their differences are seen as a source of strength rather than a weakness to be overcome.

Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to serve as Speaker of the US House of Representatives, tells women to simply be themselves. "You are the only person who can make your unique contribution. Your authenticity is your strength, be you."

That's not to say there aren't obstacles, there are. Women have long been judged by a double standard. Study after study shows that their accomplishments are just a little less valued - and they have less margin for error.

Sometimes it's women who hold themselves back - they don't own their own value, raise their hands for promotions or ask for more money.

Despite these ongoing challenges, the benefits of empowering women are undeniable. Women are the engine driving global economic growth.

Condoleezza Rice: 'Societies need women to prosper'

Last year, women were responsible for $20tn (£13.3tn) in spending, and by 2014, that number is expected to increase to $28tn (£18.6tn). And when women have more cash, they spend it differently. They feed their families healthier diets and send their children to school. They invest in clean water, better schools, education and health care. They start businesses and hire other women. The entire community prospers.

As a result, investing in women has become more than good public relations. It has become a strategic imperative for companies around the world.

Women are also essential to building and sustaining peace. Today, nearly half of peace agreements fail within five years in no small measure because half the stakeholders are excluded.

When women are at the table, they help bridge the gap between different groups and ensure that a broader range of issues, from food security to sexual violence, are addressed. As a result, peace is more likely to take root.

Former US Secretary of State Dr Condoleezza Rice says she has learned first-hand that you need women to participate in the peace process.

Find out more

Dee Dee Myers' documentary was broadcast on the BBC World Service

"First and foremost women are often the guardians of the village, the family, and are therefore the ones who suffer most in conflict zones. They're often the target of marauding forces, the target of those who would rape and maim and if you can engage them in the process, then they also can help the society to heal."

So empowering women isn't about political correctness, it's about improving outcomes. It's about investing in stronger economies and healthier communities - it's about ending conflicts, and sustaining peace. It's about improving the quality of life for people all over the world.

Empowering women isn't just the right thing, it's the necessary thing. And because women are increasingly ruling, the world is changing for the better.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    Argentina- Chile- Pakistan-India- Bangladesh- South Korea-- UK- Australia- Germany- Denmark- Norway have all done it! A mixed handbag- (sorry) and a mixed result.
    Keep trying!
    Venezuela it´s your turn!

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Over all, I would say YES, but of course it depends on the particular women. Some have worked with alpha males for so long that their feminine aspects have literally been crushed.
    It's women who bear the children killed/maimed in war;
    it's women most hit by these austere economic times.
    It's women who could bring loving compassion to a world filled with aggression & greed.
    It is women who

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Forget ruling the world, we all need to look a bit closer to home. Since it has been made necessary for both partners to work to feed their families, more children are being neglected/put in front of the TV, more divorces are happening and the nucleus of the family is being destroyed. I don't care which sex is the hunter gatherer, we need to be able to build solid foundations from the bottom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Im afraid that the modern day women getting power would turn us men into nothing better than thier pet poodles. They have already since the 60s and going on to Thatcher, turned the people of this nation into a lot of politicaly correct zombies who are almost afraid to get out of bed in the morning. Even in history John the babtist may have died with his head intact were it not for a woman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    @ 216. " What story will the BBC be running on International Men's Day ?..."

    Let me tell you.They will tell men how to please women, be servile to them, give up their freedom, sacrifice their lives, stay stupid to promote harmony in marriage, do badly in school and not enroll for higher studies (then they can be oppressed easily), eat junk und drink alcohol (will die soon, less males), etc...

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    If I was a woman, I would find this article offensive. i do not except the negative stereotypes of woman and I do not except these absurd generalisations either! the only evidence in this article suggests that women spend alot, I didnt realise the BBC had become Hello magazine. allowing women equal opportunities has and will continue to improve society! end of!

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    I personally think the social fabric of society is breaking down because of too much "equality"More incentives need put in place to encourage women to stay at home.Not because women are less but because the children deserve it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    It wasn't until I started working with female engineers from Japan, that I realised just how wrong the UK culture gets it. These engineers ran circles around most of our so called engineering team.
    Young girls in the UK are largely bought up to beleive that anything remotely technical/intellectual is for men and anything else is sexist. Being stupid is socially encouraged/acceptable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    There would be no more wars. Just one country saying to another 'we need to talk'. And then going all huffy and not talking. ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    In this modern age do we need to be 'ruled' by anyone? The stuffed suits in parliament should be reminded on a daily basis that they are elected to serve the population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    The name Thatcher appears in a pejorative sense on here like some deep meaningful point is made. She won elections with massive majorities, took us to a just war and won it, she gained respect for the UK which after the winter of discontent was badly needed, cometh the hour cometh the women. You have to have lived thru the pre Thatcher times to realise how she was needed and what she achieved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.


    "How about we are all just people? Our differences are fewer than our similarities and gender predicts very little at an individual level."

    It's a shame that I'm only allowed to +1 this once....

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Green Man
    Women are automatically more caring & empathic, less prone to following dogmatic ideas at the expense of practicalities, and more likely to seek consensus response rather than adopting the 'my way or nothing' attitude.
    Just look at Mrs Thatcher
    You'll find that there's a typo at the very end of your text.
    Or perhaps things are different on Mars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    As a poster on HYS I am required to avoid being sexist - it is a shame the same standard is not required of columnists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    This question shouldn't even exist if the Male Population would actually equal things out with the Female Population. As a Male, you would be surprised to hear that I have zero objection to Women ruling. Us men should be ashamed of ourselves if anything, for leading ourselves to believing that the men rule the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    It is not necessarily women that will secure desired change;- think of Mrs Thatcher who had a more male dominated thinking pattern than any of her cabinet colleagues.

    It is the rediscovery of the 'yin' values in us and its contribution to life, rather than the currently dominant 'yang'. We all have both within us - but seldom understand nor use 'yin' - to our overall detriment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Didn't Condoleeza Rice play a big part in the fantasy war on Iraq. Good start! Just like Tony Blair made peace envoy to the Middle East, when he should face war crimes along with Bush. We must all follow our own paths. I can only say that people who put their careers above everything else are likely to be absent from their relationships. Children need to grow up knowing who their mother is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    @216. Well, get off your backside and show the world what potential men do have rather than assuming someone else will rubbish the male argument. It doesn't have to be said for you, you can say it for yourself. But don't be one-eyed and believe it's just the men who have contributed. We all have; men AND women.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    No! but it certainly would not be worse either!

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Interestingly enough, certain male dominated religions of today, including those with more than a billion followers, used to have women running their places of worship in their earliest days. It's not so much letting women in for the first time, its booting the men who flout the original ideas of that religion out.


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