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When it’s time to step up, women step aside – #BeBoldForChange

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The recent Recognition of Graduates Ceremony of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus has stimulated much public commentary about the large disparity in the number of female graduates compared with men.

At the ceremony at the Methodist Church Hall on February 24, fifty-seven of the 62 graduates who crossed the stage to receive their diplomas were women, prompting many to ask, ‘Where are the men?’

We submit that the men are right where they always have been – at the very top.

Despite women entering and graduating from educational institutions in record numbers, far outnumbering men, those men who do participate in programs of higher learning have a much greater chance of getting into leadership positions in their respective fields, than do women with the very same qualifications and experience.

And why is this so? We are not sure, but it could be that women have themselves to blame. In many instances, when it is time to step up, women step aside. On the job, in church, or in civic or social organizations, many women run away from opportunities to take leadership roles or speak publicly, even though they are the ones who do the work to ensure that the organization functions well. There are also many cases where women write speeches or papers stating a group’s position, but when it comes time for the public appearances, the men either assert themselves or are pushed ahead.

Take the recent ceremony held by the UWI Open Campus, for example. Even with there being more than 11 times the number of women to men, the valedictorian, the person awarded the honour to speak on behalf of all the graduates because of his grades, involvement in the activities of the University over the period of study, his confidence and willingness to make the valedictory speech, was a man. What are the odds of this happening? One would say slim, based on the raw numbers, but in reality, not unusual, because of the self-limiting behaviour many women exhibit. When opportunities to take leadership roles come up, many shy away, pushing their male colleagues ahead.

Even in the public and private sectors with so many highly trained female employees among their ranks, the percentage of women who make it to the top is far smaller than should be, given numbers in the particular workforce.

International Women’s Day is tomorrow, Wednesday, March 8 and the theme is #BeBoldForChange, calling on women to step up to challenges if they want to bring about change.

That glass ceiling, though cracked in millions of places, still needs to be broken. Let’s #BeBoldForChange.

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