“They wanted to be you…” she heard a voice say as she walked towards the conference hall.
In her dreams, she would wear her power suits and walk on air while making changes in the world. She would have a crew of others like her up there, on top of the world. They would be so great and nobody would doubt them. The best part of that dream was the love. She dreamt of the love that would come flooding into her life. That love would be a safety net and an armory waiting to fight for her. Back then, her dreams were crafted from little rainbows to shield minds like hers from reality. Reality came in with brutality and painful truths. That love would be rare and the company scarce. She could remember the first time she had felt that love. Simply because it was so rare that she had to hold on to the moments when it was there.
Two years after being appointed into office they celebrated her great work and leadership. They dubbed her the future of leadership and for a moment she believed they meant it. Unfortunately, it was conditional love which went out the window instantly when word got out that her husband had filed for a divorce.
As she stood on that small podium with camera lights flashing harshly against her face she could see the judgment in their eyes. The rumors about how she used bottom power to get ahead were back on people’s minds. The coincidental blood relation to an important man yelled from shut lips. The truth they had been keeping locked up behind cordial smiles was out in the open. She stood before the unkind masses and all she could feel was the loneliness. A few years back she had stood on the same spot with a dozen people (board members) all who were very excited to show her off. She knew they did not really want her there but her presence was ‘ good for business’. In essence, it was the smart thing to do as organizations had figured out that supporting gender balance would get funding, revenue, investors and in some cases re-election. The idea was to play along with the gender quota share and soon enough benefits would show themselves. An affirmative action was the only reason she had made it to the top as her hard work and ethics could only get her so high in any organization. When she got nominated into a legislative committee she took the job from the half-hearted hand offering it.
Half, a decade later, she was disappointing the system by actually doing a good job. Her presence burned the motives the system had built and they hated her guts. It was only a matter of time before her work woke the world from its discriminative slumber. This fear made everyone hostile to her. She was threatening the norm, daring to pass a different message, daring to go out of the status quo. Being a successful woman in politics was a threat so many people could not take.
They called her divorce a scandal said it made her unfit for office. How could she run a country’s affairs if she couldn’t run her own home? The emergency board meeting was brief. They had a lot to say and she was expected to do most of the listening. They wrote her a nice little resignation speech and sent her out to the wolves.
claiming she was ashamed of embarrassing her country and that she needed to focus on being a better woman sent her out to the more obvious wolves.
She held on to the podium and looked down at the perfectly scripted speech handed to her by a PR expert. She was expected to apologize to her people, state that she needed to focus on her duty which was to be a woman and ‘gracefully’ resign. A sigh escaped her lips and echoed through the public address to the whole room. She couldn’t bring herself to say the words on that speech. The job she was bigger than she was. Her dream belonged to many other women and she knew she had to fight even in that last moment.
“The sad truth is that it is lonely at the top…” she started her speech with a sad truth and continued to tell the truth that most people would have preferred to stay hidden.
Today, women are still having a hard time getting into positions of power. Women are still the underdog whose success seems possible only through affirmative actions and quota laws on gender representation. The worst part is that when in power, a huge number of people want to see their fall, every move they make is met with harsh criticism. The number of women in politics being forced to resign over the slightest mistakes is constantly rising while on the other hand their male counterparts are constantly fed second and third chances. The message this passes is not only logically flawed but also discriminatory. The rules should not change based on the biological composition of the leader. At the same time, we need to learn how to separate women’s personal lives with their professional lives as we have been doing for men for centuries now.
Getting to the top should be something women look forward too without the fear of loneliness and looking behind their shoulders for the first small mistake that will throw them out. We need to support our female leaders, to be at their side and make sure it doesn’t get lonely at the top, to motivate more people to question the status quo. We need to work towards a future where we will not speak of female leaders but simply leaders.
Testosterone does not make great leaders: character does.