Women succeeding in a man's world

Kanisa George  -
Kanisa George -


Before the 2020 US presidential election, I seldom put thought to how much women dominated the world, especially the world of politics. I had some appreciation for the many struggles women endured that enabled my generation to succeed, but that understanding didn't transcend to full comprehension. I speak for many women when I say a fire was lit under many of us when the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar became the first female Prime Minister. It triggered an undeniable pride that isn't always easy to identify. By way of representation, she and other women of Caribbean heritage broke the patriarchal mould and bulldozed a clear path for other women to follow. But no matter how much we speak of representation, we fail to admit that it is variable impacted by the media, the powers at be and public opinion. What I didn't at all appreciate was how much my limited knowledge of woman's success was linked to the unavailability of unsolicited data, the negative preconceptions surrounding women in power and the gender data gap.

The narrative that feeds and recognises female success has struggled to take hold over the last few decades, with mainstream media opting to focus on the potential of women in power to exhibit overemotional behaviour. Nicknamed the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher came under extreme condemnation during her time as the prime minister of the United Kingdom, a perception that might have differed if she were a man. For many years, she, along with a slew of other women have dominated the sphere of politics, science and finance but arguably fail to get the recognition that men in the same position would have garnered. Had it not been for the film Hidden Figures, I would still be ignorant of the fact that women were partly responsible for putting man on the moon.

When we take away the control of the media and the overarching patriarchal power, what remains is a society that from all appearances is open to women taking on influential roles but has made this feat near-insurmountable because of societal standards based around the average man. Is it because we live in a society built and tailored for men?

The concept known as the gender data gap highlights that most of the world's available data is based around the male body and the typical male life pattern. In principle, the concepts explore the fact that society has been designed for men to succeed. But how much of the world is structured for the benefit of man?

When research and development first used crash dummies in the 1950s to test the safety features of vehicles, they were made to replicate the male body. In Europe, motor vehicle safety standards require that the standard crash test dummy used is five feet, nine inches tall (175cm). When compared to women in the UK whose average height is five feet, four inches tall (162cm), an alarming disparity is presented. The result, women are 17 per cent more likely to die in a car accident because of safety tests that don't equally represent us.

Feminist Criado-Perez found that women have been dying from misdiagnosed cardiovascular problems for decades because while we don't tend to have the same heart attack symptoms as men, men's symptoms are used as the classic symptoms of a heart attack.

Something as mundane as trying to reach the top shelf has now taken on a new meaning, mainly in part to that fact that these measurements are based on a man's height.

The gender data gap, according to researchers, is both a cause and a consequence of the type of thinking that conceives humanity as exclusively male. It has become so embedded in our way of life that in the minds of most women, there is a male default language that prevents us from internalising and normalising female success.

Have you ever wondered why women are the first to complain about office temperature? Well, that's because the formula used to determine standard office temperature was developed around the metabolic resting rate of the average man.

Even in those unexpected areas, the male perspective is the standard perspective. Voice recognition software is more likely to recognise a male voice, and gadgets such as smartphones and watches are built for a one-size-fit man.

Insignificant to some, the gender data gap affects reproductive health, childcare, and overall equality, and this skews our view on success or a woman's ability to attain it.

A woman's ability to attain great success in a society arguably engineered to guarantee a man's must never be trivialised. We must look beyond the walls that restrict our view and become acquainted with the women achieving remarkable things despite the standards society obtrusively set. Let's find a way to break the mould and bridge the gap.


"Women succeeding in a man's world"

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