International Women's Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.
In this framework, COLORS interviewed Josephine Bakhuis a Vice President i.o. Global Women's Affairs at International Third World Leaders Association and renown attorney, politician and motivational speaker. During our conversation Mrs Bakhuis shared her thoughts about women and leadership, women’s role in national development, the (in)famous glass ceiling, and power & authority.
Women and the Glass Ceiling
Although there are women who succeeded in becoming successful leaders, there is still work to be done for women to be accepted as capable partners in leadership. In general, it is not accepted for women to climb the corporate ladder. Societies do not oppose the woman while toiling to feed her children but opposition starts, when she starts working in ways that will make her powerful.
There are different reasons for women not to reach the glass ceiling. One of them is that women are hindered by the perception that they can't lead. Role models for women leaders remain few.
It is hard for women to know what they can be unless we actually see it. Women are very well capable to lead. They are generally better listeners than men, have passion, ideas, focus, persistence and resilience. When a woman finds a cause she deeply believes in, she is willing to fight for it all the way.
On Empowering Women
It is important to provide a mechanism to use in the empowering of women with potential leadership qualities and the next generation of leadership.
Although in our nation (Curaçao) we have a tradition of outspoken strong women leaders, there is still a struggle for acceptance of women in leadership positions and the main reason for this is because too many women believe they are not capable to lead. This is not only so in Curacao but in almost all the nations of the world.
I think that on the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles women have a strong role. The society is a matriarchal one as there are a lot of single parent households; which creates a lot of power for the women. Nevertheless there is still work to be done with respect to eliminating the gap between male and female leaders and stimulating women to strive for and reach higher positions.
Even if we are convinced that there are innate, biological determined behavioral and psychological differences between males and females, we should investigate how we can make optimal use of our distinctly feminine psychology in the service of mankind in general and of our nation in particular.
Women and Emotions
Many women believe they can lead only based on their emotions, which is surely not true.
As a young adult I was already aware of the fact that women are often led by emotions and that emotions can create obstacles for someone to really unleash his/her potential. Actions based on emotions will hinder you from truly leading others through influence and inspiration. This awareness did not harm my leadership but helped me to deal with difficult situations in a non-emotional way.
Women as Leaders in National Development
In the Netherlands Antilles we have had three female prime ministers: Maria Liberia, Suzy Camelia, & Emily de Jongh. A remarkable achievement. That being said, political involvement is not the only way of involvement in national development.
A woman cannot be involved in the development of her nation if she scales down her expectations of herself and makes choices that compromise the development of her intellect, power and authority and if she pays insufficient attention to the opportunities and assignments for her involvement.
I wish women defined great meaning in the scope of their world, a world they create for themselves, defined by the people whose life they touch; their family, friends and all those who will be affected by the sharing of their views and values.
If you're a teacher, your world includes the children of your classroom, but also their parents, their neighbors, their friends. If you're a nurse it includes the patients and their world, if you're a journalist it includes your readers and all those they share their thoughts with. The size of your sphere of influence is proportional on the impact you have been able to have on one single life.
What Drives Women:
The force behind the feminine drive is to affiliate with others. This drive has been focused through history to promote the welfare of the family and to a lesser degree one's immediate community. Nevertheless, women -when they are deeply motivated by affiliate needs- are able to channel this energy, lead and serve their nation. From the need to connect, support and protect others, women draw the motivation to take risks and the vision to find and solve unique problems. It is time for every woman to determine their unique sense of being.
On her Vision & Mission
At a very young age I developed a vision to be a leader in my country and also help third world people in the world.
I needed to experience a paradigm shift in my way of thinking, my attitude and my way of acting. I had to learn to think as a winner and not as a loser. This change of mind automatically results in a change of attitude. I realized I had to take control of all obstacles and situations that hinder me from releasing my full potential.
I understood that my mentality has to be one of a ruler and a leader and that according to that mentality I had to develop an attitude towards everything that occurs to me.
When certain difficult circumstances came up I started to look at them as opportunities and not as defeat. As a former member of Parliament I encountered several obstacles in my job that I had to face with self-confidence. The attitude of a winner helped me to be successful in the different areas of my life.
Power & Authority:
You miss it when you think that authority is the exercising of power over others in order for them to follow you. A true leader must be able to inspire and empower others. He/she earns the respect of others through being an example and his/her position of authority is the position from which he/she serves his gifts and talents to others.