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on minorities in leadership positions

08/09/13 , , , , , , , , , ,

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first, this bit from princeton professor anne-marie slaughter‘s interview with the european (via thesmithian):

The European: What do you expect from female leaders like Angela Merkel or Christine Lagarde? Do you want them to participate actively in the debate [on women’s issues], not as politicians but as women?

Slaughter: First-time women never make an issue of it. Margaret Thatcher never talked about it, just like Indira Gandhi or Golda Meir never did. The first women in power have to act like men. Angela Merkel has been an inspiration for women all around the world. Considering how difficult it was to become the first female chancellor of Germany, I do not expect her to talk about women’s issues. I think as women become more accepted, they become much more free to be who they would otherwise be. Hillary Clinton was the third Secretary of State; she was also the first woman to make women’s issues a core part of her agenda as Secretary. If she had been the first woman in that position, I doubt she would have done that. I don’t think it’s fair to ask female pioneers to be both the first woman in a position and a champion for women’s rights. They are champions just by the fact that they have made it.

The European: So women have to adapt to this man’s world in order to succeed?
Slaughter: The first ones. It is well known that you need to establish a critical mass before people are comfortable being themselves. If I am the only woman in a room full of foreign policy guys, I’m not going to push a woman’s agenda; I am just going to be a foreign policy expert. If, however, there are six to seven additional women in that room, the dynamic changes. This is not only true for women but for every group that is not the dominant group. The first people, who succeed, make it by conforming to the people around them.

what do you think?

  • specifically about the need for minority leaders to conform + the stated differences between the “1st woman in” vs those that follow?  
  • women are the focus of the discussion above, but think about how it works with other kinds of minorities as well (as i was reading that part of the interview, pres. obama and how he handles racial issues while being the 1st black american in the oval office came to mind immediately).
  • how do these views compare to your personal expectations of a leader coming from a shared minority group?
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