‘Something’s not working at the moment’
Bridget Christie, comedian
Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are threatening to nuke each other. The UK has had four terror attacks in four months. David Cameron called the EU referendum, lost, resigned, said: “Dum de dum de dum”, then retreated to his £25,000 sheepskin-insulated manshed at the bottom of his garden to eat artisanal cheese. The man who sold me my bicycle refused to put the basket on it because he thought it was a girl’s job.
We don’t know what the world would look like if women ruled it, but something’s not working at the moment. While we can’t say for certain that women would make a better fist of it, or behave any better, what we do know is that when women are in leadership positions, or involved in decision-making, societies work better. There is less violence and instability and more peace.
If women were in charge, I doubt that eight men would have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population. Eight! I’ve had more people on my trampoline at once. When a group of men whose combined wealth equals that of 3.6 billion people can comfortably frolic together on one trampoline, it’s time for a leadership change.
‘Women would never be the victim’
Marina Abramović, artist
If women ruled the world, they would stop being fragile, they would stop being dependent, they would never be the victim, they would never be abused. I want women to be warriors. When women are free and happy, they will know how to rule the world.
‘Reproductive sexual difference remains the villain of the piece’
Rachel Holmes, biographer of Sylvia Pankhurst
Supremacy based on gender has never been an attractive idea and patriarchal dystopias are no longer in an imagined future, or long buried past, but part of our present. Patriarchy makes us equal in one way, though: men are as arrested in their development as women. Given the challenges of being in charge, you’d think they would be more than happy to hand over the headache and see what difference having women in charge makes.
Tory women prime ministers make no difference, because a system that is fundamentally based on the principle of unequal power relationships cannot, by definition, make us equal. Promoting the F-word without challenging the C-word has never worked: it is not possible to achieve the aims of feminism within the capitalist system. Our feminist foremothers warned us of this. Where we’ve got to so far is largely based on a limited agenda of establishing so-called “women’s rights” within stunted liberal democracies.
People take hope – and even experience some freedom – in successfully challenging the pantomime binaries of masculinity and femininity. But reproductive sexual difference remains the villain of the piece. If women are to rule the world and make a difference, we either need to overhaul the social and economic system of reproductive exploitation (on which the system was built), or take control of the re-engineering of human design that is already under way.
We should design a reparations scheme that reorganises parental and family responsibilities in such a way that men have the opportunity to pay women back for the last two millennia – the incentive being the universally agreed cultural value that raising families brings joy. The first job of the woman in charge is to liberate the men.
‘Men kill more people than women’
Shazia Mirza, comedian
There’d be less violence, we’d get things done quicker and we would solve a lot of problems by chatting – instead of bombing. We would think rationally. People think: “Oh, women can’t make decisions when it’s the time of the month” and all that, but I think we’re very decisive. We don’t waste any time and we would do things a lot cleaner and a lot quicker. There would be fewer people dying if women were in charge. It’s a fact: men kill more people than women.
‘Historically, women in power out-men the men’
Louise Doughty, novelist
I’m not a fan of biological determinism, even when it’s working in women’s favour – so I’m not sure I subscribe to the idea that women are innately caring and collegiate and men thrusting and ambitious. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve watched mothers coo over their daughters cuddling baby dolls, praise them for it, then declare that caring skills are instinctive for girls.
Historically, what we’ve seen is that when women achieve power in a man’s world, they often out-men the men. Margaret Thatcher was famous for rarely promoting other women. She got off on being the only woman in the room and didn’t want any competition. Nothing is more depressing than a successful woman who wants to score points for being the only one among the boys – reinforcing, rather than challenging, their views of other women.
So if you really wanted to see whether there is a difference in the way women would rule the world, you would have to have either all-female rulers or a critical mass. But, ultimately, I’m resistant to the idea of lumping us all together on the basis of gender: what about race, class, sexual orientation? Even men I like are fond of saying “women this” or “women that” as if we are all one amorphous mass. I’m instinctively resistant to binaries. Hooray for ambiguity, nuance and complexity.
‘Women are taking their rightful place as equals’
Caroline Lucas MP, co-leader of Green party
Having women in power makes a real difference. As the number of woman MPs has increased in the Commons, we’ve seen major steps forward in tackling gender discrimination. Women leaders in business make a difference too: helping firms embrace modern ideas like flexible working and job sharing.
Green politics has a history of woman leaders, from the inspirational Petra Kelly in Germany, to Vandata Shiva. I’m proud to be part of a movement that’s had women at the top table. Of course, having female leaders isn’t an end in itself. It’s part of a broad movement that sees women taking their rightful place as equals at every level in society.
‘Unseen female executives mobilise other women’
Sarah Sands, editor of Today programme Radio 4
It is often the unseen women, the executives, who have an opportunity to mobilise and encourage other women. Four inspirations from my own career: Clare Hollingworth, the woman who got the scoop of the century about the outbreak of the second world war. I met her when I was deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph, and she assumed I was the editor’s secretary, which amused me. She was a woman of her time, a pioneer rather than a reformer. Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times reporter, was sisterly as well as brave. Genevieve Cooper was deputy editor of the Evening Standard when I joined. I was a 24-year-old single mother and my male boss asked me how I could guarantee that a baby would not interfere with my work. I was so fearful that, when my small son was in hospital, I commuted between his ward and work, inventing excuses to leave the office rather than admit that I had a seriously ill child. Genevieve rescued me. At the Guardian, the late Georgina Henry showed that you could have vision and authority without losing your humanity. She was a top-notch female boss.
‘Oppression will not cease to exist simply because a woman is in charge’
June Eric-Udorie, editor of intersectional feminism anthology to be published by Virago UK and Penguin US in 2018
If you run in feminist circles, you’re bound to have heard someone declare: “Wouldn’t the world just be better if more women were in charge?” What runs through my mind when I hear this is: “Which women?” Are we talking about black women, disabled women, trans women? Are we thinking about the women who lie on the margins and the intersections of the feminist movement, or do we just expect them to continue to have little to no power?
The inevitable reality is that the women most likely to have power in a female-run world will be white, middle class, cis, able-bodied and heterosexual. Power structures and other forms of oppression will not cease to exist simply because a woman is in charge. History will remind us of the ways in which white women have exploited and benefited from the oppression of their non-white female counterparts. Taking a closer look at so called “feminist victories” – such as the birth of the contraceptive pill or the suffrage movement – will reveal pandemic racism, classism, and other forms of subjugation and oppression.
We need to do away with romanticising matriarchal power and dominance – and instead question the ways we can change the problematic and dangerous power structures that operate within society today.
‘In the peace movement, women are not interested in power over others’
Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
The peace movement is the place to find powerful women. But they’re not interested in power over others. Instead, they are empowering, inspiring by example, breaking down barriers to thinking, and taking action. They’re uncompromising, but in a good way. My role models are Pat Arrowsmith, organiser of the first Aldermaston March, who was imprisoned many times for anti-nuclear actions; and Helen John, one of the Greenham Women and an activist at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. The earth shakes when such women move into action!
‘I don’t think anything would change’
Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis
I don’t think anything would change if women had the power. For me, this comes from the idea that men and women are very alike and very equal. I don’t think the notion of empathy or being nice depends ongender at all, because if you consider women to be so much nicer, in a way that’s to say they’re like nice little animals that can’t get angry, and that anger is something for men.
I don’t think women write differently from men, or make movies differently. When it comes to physical effort, there is a difference. But when it comes to intellect, people with the same experiences and same sensitivities end up being the same kind of people, regardless of gender.
‘I am impressed by young women’s energy and competence’
Penelope Lively, Booker-winning novelist
At 84, I want to celebrate a new generation of women. I have three granddaughters in their 20s, so I meet up with – and hear about – plenty of young women in that age group. I am constantly impressed by, and rejoice in, their energy and competence. They work their socks off, and assume working life will reward them, but they are flexible and adaptable.
Their assumptions about the role of women, about what women can expect, are very different from those of my generation, from back in the 1950s. We would have been startled to look ahead and see Theresa May and Angela Merkel. The outlook and the performance of today’s twentysomething women is heartwarming.
‘I can think of some vicious, cruel women who have been in power’
Jane Goodall, primatologist
I thought about this and the answer is I don’t know. It depends which female qualities we’re talking about, because sometimes one finds that the women who become successful are the ones who develop male-type characteristics. If you could pick women with more compassionate characteristics, then there are men with those characteristics too.
I know it’s tempting to say that it would be better if more women were doing this and more women were doing that. But I believe power corrupts absolutely. We can think of some extraordinarily vicious, brutal and cruel women who have been in great powerful positions. To me, it just wouldn’t make much difference.”
‘All my life experience tells me women make a difference’
Frances O’Grady, general secretary, Trades Union Congress
Unlike the popular old song, I can’t promise that, if women ruled the world, every day would be like the first day of spring. From Margaret Thatcher to Marine Le Pen, women’s leadership is no guarantee of kindness or compassion. More women in the boardroom has to be right but, with zero-hours contracts on the up and more real wage cuts in the pipeline, there’s scant evidence of benefits trickling down to the shop floor.
And yet. All my life experience tells me that women do make a difference. In the trade union movement, women leaders have exposed the scandal of sexual harassment, campaigned for equal pay, and made caring responsibilities a workplace bargaining issue. As a result, the lives of millions of women – and men – have changed for the better.
And I like working with other women. Being the only woman in a meeting room full of men, however lovely they are, can feel lonely. Whereas watching other women leaders in action inspires, encourages and strengthens me. As a wise woman once told me, the problem is that women tend to underestimate their abilities – whereas too many men overestimate theirs. A false sense of superiority based on gender, race or class is no way to run a cornershop, let alone the country.
‘There will be no sexual assault, no catcalling, no mansplaining’
Sofie Hagen, comedian
First of all, free tampons, legal abortion everywhere, and actual jail sentences given to 100% of rapists instead of the 5% we see today. And hopefully, with the right head-bitch in charge, there would be some kind of limit to how much a man was allowed to interrupt and mansplain.
I imagine we would call it the Law of Sschhh: if a woman says sschhh to a man, he is bound by law to go home and sit down and shut up. Soon, there will be no sexual assault, no catcalling, no mansplaining, no #notallmen.
We would of course have a list of Dudes Who Are All Right, who would get to suggest laws every once in awhile. Justin Trudeau, Jeremy Corbyn, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sadiq Khan, Channing Tatum. But they’d have to work topless. It’s just the law.
‘Women tend to make more holistic decisions’
Maria Balshaw, director of Tate
Women ask questions from a different perspective, which may be because we’ve been mothers, daughters or sisters. I’ve never been a separatist. I’m an inclusive feminist, but there is really interesting research that shows women tend to make more holistic decisions and I think that’s because the burden of feeding and raising children and looking after the domestic environment falls mostly to them.
Women running the world is neither a utopian nor a dystopian scenario. It really depends on the political thinking that is brought to bear. As women age, our power changes very differently to the way male power changes. As the female leader of a national art museum, I am still highly unusual globally.
‘It would change the presumption there’s someone at home to sort out all the problems’
Athene Donald, physicist
Women ruling the world might change the structure of work because, currently, certainly in the developed world, it is the presumption that there is someone back at home to sort out all the problems – so it’s OK to have MPs debating at midnight, and people being sent on to far-flung parts of the world. Our way of working might change if people realised there isn’t necessarily someone at home to pick up the pieces.
‘It’s about making men and women equally able to succeed’
Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money
I don’t think I would like a world ruled by women, if I’m honest, any more than I would like a world ruled by men. For me, it is about equality. I would much prefer a world that is properly balanced, in terms of the contributions men and women make to society. It’s not about making women the leaders – it’s about making men and women equally able to succeed as leaders. Only 40% of senior roles in financial services are held by women. We definitely need to get closer to 50% to get financial services to a place where they’re going to thrive in a balanced way.
‘Women ensure sustainability for future generations’
Alaa Murabit, UN High-Level Commissioner
I believe that women make more pragmatic decisions and are forward-thinking. They ensure sustainability for future generations. Women at the table will invest heavily in better education, affordable healthcare and access to clean water. Women’s empowerment will produce collateral benefits: LGBTQ rights, indigenous people’s rights, children’s rights, religious freedom. Family-friendly policies will be formulated to enable both parents to enjoy the privileges of parenting. Unfair stereotypes and standards imposed upon men to ensure they fit into an iron scaffold of masculinity will be lifted.
I hope to see a world with greater peace and diplomacy, collaboration and cooperation. Women are less likely engage in wars or violence – as the protection of families and communities is central to their decision-making. They propel their countries – and the world – towards socioeconomic success. And they work to promote social justice and inclusion, climate change management and reduced hunger, poverty and inequality.
‘There are still so many meetings where women are not even in the room’
Harriet Harman MP
It’s not about leaders and role models. It’s about sisterhood and working together. If we only had women MPs, right now Labour would be in government with a huge majority – because we’ve got 119 and the Tories have only got 67. That’s a good reason to have only women MPs.
But what you really want is a balanced team of women and men. There are still so many meetings where women are not even in the room. Although Donald Trump feels like a threat to turn the clock back, I think there is an irresistible force for further change all around the world.
“Women are essential to building and sustaining peace. Today, nearly half of peace agreements fail within five years in no small measure because half the stakeholders are excluded,” writes Dee Dee Myers, political analyst and former White House press secretary.
Here an interesting essay in BBC News Magazine “What if women ruled the world?” by Dee Dee Myers, discussing the various views and advantages of women’s participation and leadership in public and private sector.
The viewpoints given in the essay support the analysis and work of Cordaid Women’s Leadership aimed at promoting women leadership in key decision making processes around peace and security, by starting with the simple fact that women experience life differently which affects the way women see problems and think about solutions. By including women in decision making processes, you bring in different ways of looking at the world, analyzing problems and offering solutions, leading to more sustainable decisions and solutions. As Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, puts it: “Diversity is absolutely an asset.”