Lean In in Pak­istan

Southasia - - Contents - By Anees Jil­lani Anees Jil­lani is an ad­vo­cate of the Supreme Court and a mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton, DC Bar. He has been writ­ing for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions for more than 20 years and has au­thored sev­eral books.

The Amer­i­can me­dia is in the habit of gen­er­at­ing in­ter­est­ing de­bates. A few months back, it was Yale Law pro­fes­sor Amy Chua’s book ti­tled `Tiger Mom’ where she de­fended her strict meth­ods of par­ent­ing. This con­tro­versy had hardly died down that now Face­book’s Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, Sh­eryl Sand­berg, has gen­er­ated an in­tense dis­cus­sion by ar­gu­ing in her book `Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead’ that “if more women lean in, (the women) can change the power struc­ture of (their) world and ex­pand op­por­tu­ni­ties.” The 43-year-old COO has fol­lowed the book with a cam­paign, LeanIn.org, a non­profit foun­da­tion. Some now equate her cru­sade with the most am­bi­tious mis­sion to re­boot fem­i­nism and re­frame dis­cus­sions of gen­der since the launch of Ms. mag­a­zine in 1971.

Sand­berg’s cen­tral ar­gu­ment is that stereo­types hold women back, which she calls Catch-22 of women’s suc­cess-lik­a­bil­ity penalty. She says, “As women get more pow­er­ful, they get less lik­able. I see women hold­ing them­selves back be­cause of this.” She is of the view that women face a dou­ble stan­dard: if they turn down an as­sign­ment, they are seen as dif­fi­cult, if they ask for a pro­mo­tion, they are seen as too ag­gres­sive.

Sand­berg has also trig­gered the eter­nal ques­tion of na­ture ver­sus nur­ture since the time women started to work. She says that there are no doubt bi­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween males and fe­males but, ac­cord­ing to her, the de­sire for lead­er­ship, win­ning or ex­celling, is not hard­wired bi­ol­ogy. She ar­gues that we so­cial­ize “our daugh­ters to nur­ture and our boys to lead. We call our daugh­ters bossy and we never call our sons bossy.”

Amer­ica, de­spite be­ing the most ad­vanced and pow­er­ful coun­try in the West, is also one of the most con­ser­va­tive. As a re­sult, there are still few fe­male ex­ec­u­tives in or­ga­ni­za­tions and on the com­pany Boards.

But that is Amer­ica. When we com­pare it with our coun­try and our neigh­bors, the sit­u­a­tion in the West stands in stark con­trast. Women here are con­sti­tu­tion­ally al­lowed to vote; they are given spe­cial seats in our as­sem­blies thanks to the re­forms gen­er­ated by Gen­eral Mushar­raf; they have an ex­clu­sive bank; a few to­ken fe­male po­lice sta­tions and cer­tain other schemes launched from time to time. Be­nazir Bhutto in 1988 be­came the first woman PM in any Mus­lim coun­try. Many of our neigh­bor­ing coun­tries lack all of th­ese. De­spite this, with the ex­cep­tion of Afghanistan, the women in the whole of South Asia are bet­ter off than in Pak­istan.

No coun­try, even those like Saudi Ara­bia, Iran and North Korea, can fight glob­al­iza­tion. Women, par­tic­u­larly the young­sters who con­sti­tute the ma­jor­ity in all South Asian coun­tries, dis­cover daily how their coun­ter­parts in the rest of the world are ad­vanc­ing and pro­gress­ing. The clock of progress can­not be held back. Re­sul­tantly, a sec­tion of our pop­u­lace con­tin­ues to ad­vance. How­ever, an­other big chunk is not just held back but per­haps put in the re­verse gear on re­li­gious and so­cial grounds. My mother used to ride a bi­cy­cle in the fifties dur­ing her col­lege days in a small town in the Pun­jab but it is un­think­able for my daugh­ters to do so even in Pak­istan’s cap­i­tal.

In such a sit­u­a­tion where women can­not even vote and think about driv­ing (as in the tribal ar­eas and parts of Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa), the Amer­i­can de­bate gen­er­ated by Sand­berg about the in­vis­i­ble bar­rier in women’s minds about as­pir­ing to se­nior po­si­tions ap­pear to be mis­placed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.