Monday, 9 March 2009

You can’t be what you can’t see

I came to the UK from The White House Project (WHP), based in New York. Their work focuses on transforming culture and changing perceptions surrounding women’s leadership. Their goal is to create a world where women and men lead alongside one another in all sectors – a world of genuine equality, where we move away from any attempt to level the playing field being dismissed as “political correctness” or “neo-feminism”. A key strategy of their work in the realms of media, politics and business, is developing a pipeline of women leaders on all levels to support and pave the way for others. Marie Wilson, President of the WHP, and her team travel across the country to inspire, equip and inform women on the tools needed to lead a political life. One of the key messages she leaves with her audience is that “You can’t be what you can’t see.” For example, until someone like Hillary Clinton runs for President, other women cannot envision doing it themselves. It is for this reason that they have spearheaded effective campaigns, such as SheSource.org, a database of over 500 female experts for journalists, producers and bookers. They have even worked with the toy company Mattel, to develop a “President Barbie,” showing that no aspect of American culture should be ignored.

In the UK as well, we need to up the ante. Jane Merrick’s article “A whole generation of women is lost to politics” in the Independent yesterday sums up the current situation for young women considering a future in politics. A report out yesterday found that young women feel that they are “outside politics” and do not have adequate information and training to become engaged the sector. Organisations like Girlguiding UK play an important role in building a new generation of women leaders, by encouraging young girls to gain leadership skills through extracurricular activities and networks.

We need to raise the visibility of women leaders as we begin to transform politics, and other aspects of society. Many thanks to Jessica for starting this blogging community, as it is a great first step towards doing just that.

Additionally, and apologies for the quick plug, several women in the communications sector have started a group called WICI (Women in Communications Inc). WICI specifically focuses on shared experiences and what women can gain from each other. Their programmes include training seminars and workshops focused specifically on the challenges we face each day in our public lives. If you are interested in learning more about WICI, email rsvp@wicilondon.org.uk.

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