By Dr Ian Clarke
The most famous politician in Europe, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor of 16 years, is leaving office and will be replaced by a man. The interesting part is that most commentators do not feel that there is any man running for that office who will be able to fill her shoes. While I cannot say that women are better than men, they have certain strengths that are often lacking in your average man, and in Uganda, I have found women to be very effective managers.
The difference probably comes from how boys and girls are brought up, with the girls being taught to do household chores from an early age, while the boys are treated like little kings to be served. This gives girls a head start in life because they develop a work ethic and learn how to manage a household at an early age. In Uganda, we have women occupying very powerful positions, including that of the Prime Minister, the Vice President, the Minister of Energy, and many others in the political arena.
The previous speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, was a very powerful woman, while internationally we have Winnie Byanyima head of UNAIDS and Julia Sebutinde at the International Court of Justice. While there is no doubt that women can also be ambitious and combative, as a generalization they are builders rather than breakers: they are homemakers, and I believe they are nation builders. The difference in management style between the current President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, and President Magufuli is striking. Of course, power can go to the head of any human being, but there is often a steadiness of purpose in women, which makes them more reliable than men.
There are some Ugandan men who view women purely in terms of their gender, i.e. a woman can be their sexual partner and bear their children, and that is how they want their women to behave. Such men dominate women as the ‘weaker sex’, but this view of women is far short of what they actually have to offer. It is often the insecurity of men that makes them want to keep women subservient, and it is not uncommon for girls who have risen in the business or professional hierarchy to find that they have priced themselves out of the market of potential husbands because their competence makes men insecure.
Many men want to marry a wife for the sole purpose of being the mother of their children, so they are looking at women in a very narrow way. Girls should learn to appreciate themselves, not by being objectified by men (though I note that there are a number of Ugandan girls who are making a very good living by being influencers on social media, using their looks to sell themselves). Girls should appreciate that they can be better than men at certain jobs, and should not be intimidated by chauvinistic attitudes.
Women are generally very good managers, and a large part of having a good business is who one puts in management positions. As an entrepreneur, I am good at developing businesses, but then I need people to run them, and women are often (though not always) the right choice. Of course, this all goes back to character, which is inculcated in our upbringing by our parents, so if a child is brought up to have a work ethic, to look after her younger siblings, and to be honest, these values will stand her in good stead since no business owner will knowingly entrust his business to someone who is unreliable or a thief.
Although men do not have a monopoly on dishonesty or corruption, and there are some notable cases of powerful women who have milked the system, the numbers of men convicted on charges of corruption far outweigh the number of women. So the message is that girls and women should be more confident of themselves, and appreciate the gifts and talents they have to offer outside the realm of sex.
They should refuse to acquiesce to the stereotypes put upon them by men and grasp the opportunities that arise in business and the professions. As a generalization, women should appreciate that they are more reliable, steady, honest, and loyal than men so they have an advantage. This is not to put down men (who still overwhelmingly occupy the top positions in business and the professions), but men should stop stigmatizing women and girls simply because they are female, and appreciate that the fact they are female may make them even more qualified for the job.