PARIS and NEW YORK, January 28 /PRNewswire/ --
- WOMEN-omics Founder Avivah Wittenberg-Cox Proposes New Strategy for Peace Negotiations
It's time for some fresh perspectives on the Middle East. While Sarkozy joins the fray and Obama appoints his Special Envoy, George Mitchell, WOMEN-omics dares to weigh in with its own Dream Team for the Middle East.
I know it's not politically correct to imply that men and women are deeply different. We are supposed to say, in respect of equality, that the world's female political leaders now in power are just leaders like the rest (if not the best) of them.
But times are desperate. And maybe some last resorts are called for. It's been decades of men trying to sort out this mess. And look how far we've come. It is time for women to take over the task.
Women are so often seen as the problem - as the helpless victims of war, discrimination, abuse. But not a voice has been raised to decry the dearth of women at the negotiating table. Enough already.
Is it perhaps time to add a new perspective? To see women as a potential solution to some of the most pressing challenges facing our planet? The 21st century is benefiting from the talents of a tsunami of educated, ambitious women. They are one of the 20th century's finest (if least celebrated) achievements.
Now, we actually have a unique combination: a female Secretary of State in the U.S. and a potential female Prime Minister in Israel. Is it naive to suggest that if we could ask these women to sit down in a room together, they might come up with an alternative strategy to decades of unsuccessful peace efforts? True, getting a woman who has credibility with the Palestinians might be a bit tougher. But no man has managed. Maybe it's time for a revolutionary shift in tactics.
Silly? Sexist? What have we got to lose? Repeatedly, in my work with corporations, sex-segregated analyses come up with different ideas, different perspectives, and different proposals. I'm not even arguing that one is better than the other. Usually, the two approaches are both different and complementary. The Middle East has been cruelly lacking women's voices - not to mention their economic, social, and political contribution. A glimmer of light at the peace table might open all kinds of other possibilities. Let's forget the glass ceiling a moment and focus on the real walls standing in the way of opportunity, fairness, and basic civil rights.
A Different Kind of Dream Team
Here's a proposed line-up of those who can effect a new strategy in the Middle East:
- Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State - Tzipi Livni, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel - Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian spokesperson - Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany - Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Relative Leadership Strengths
Recent studies from McKinsey and INSEAD show that women outperform men in a large number of leadership traits. The areas where women appear to be strong seem particularly useful to the task at hand include: envisioning; energizing; designing and aligning; rewarding and feedback; team building; outside orientation; tenacity; and emotional intelligence.
Can the best peace-makers please stand up?
INSEAD's Herminia Ibarra and Otilia Obodaru's article in Harvard Business Review (January 2009) concludes that women outperform men in 7 out of 8 leadership competencies. This is an astonishing outcome. Even more astonishing is the authors' focus on the single attribute where men seem to outperform: vision. They explain the relative dearth of women in senior levels with the lack of this single, hard-to-define quality.
It boggles the mind. That such confirmed outperformers are left by the wayside for any reason seems silly enough. But to try and explain it by pointing to a single potential deficiency is unfortunately representative of women - always focusing on what they may be short in rather than on their colossal and growing strengths.
Yet perhaps a lack of vision is exactly what the Middle East needs today. Would that a bunch of energizing, team building, and emotionally intelligent women walk in with no agenda and no grand master-plan of reorganizing everyone into neat, communicable strategies. One can almost see Sarkozy waiting to plant his personal (as well as national) flag at the center of his triumphant vision. Maybe we can move from designing visions to delivering results.
Studies have shown that companies with more women at the top outperform companies with none. DAVOS this year, with the theme of Shaping the Post-Crisis World, has almost no women in attendance. Are we really after peace, performance, and sustainability? Or are we in a blind reshuffle of past performers and power games?
How about a dose of all those things at which these studies say women excel? Instead of focusing in on the process, the vision, and the brokers, we may finally be able to mutter modestly in unison and craft a semblance of sustainable peace for our children - all of our children.
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox is Founder and Publisher of WOMEN-omics (http://www.women-omics.com), the first Website making the business case for gender balance and exploring the growing economic impact of women on companies and countries. Ms. Wittenberg-Cox is an expert in corporate gender bilingualism (getting companies to speak the language of both men and women), CEO of 20-first, one of Europe's leading gender consultancies, and co-author of the bestselling Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution (http://www.whywomenmeanbusiness.com/view/0/index.html) (Wiley, 2008) with Alison Maitland.
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