WOW | Ed Page

Are there not enough qualified women to talk about various issues beyond gender

Taking a pledge against all male panels is a group of strong women who have worked tirelessly for gender equality in the country. I am all for what they are trying to achieve however blankly boycotting events that have all male panels just doesn’t do it for me. I also believe that panel discussions must have people who are qualified to be on it based on a mix of what they bring to the table – education, expertise, experience, communication skills, personality among others. I believe any position offered to an individual should be based on meritocracy rather than tokenism. I also believe that we cannot infringe on the rights of the organizer to have whom they please on the panel – to attend or not to attend is our prerogative of course!

Looking at most panels of national level importance, it does strike a raw nerve that it is mostly represented by men. The question it raises then is: are there not enough qualified women to talk about various issues beyond gender. I am certain NOT. But then what is stopping women from reaching out and being a part of important discourses in the country. I feel somewhere it begins with our social conditioning where a woman with a voice (read opinion) is not encouraged. It’s also about women not feeling comfortable in their voice, fearing that what they have to say is not good enough. And then there is the fact that women choose not to take the front seat in decision making processes, being able to bear the heat of hostility and dissent. Finally it’s also about women not raising the bar for themselves – not taking interest in politics and economics and mathematics, spirituality, geography and arts. Most of these are self imposed restrictions; if you want to be heard, you can be heard and it’s been proven time and again by the thousands of women who are respected and recognized for their work and opinions. Here I would also like to add that it is also absolutely okay to be someone who perhaps does not ever want to be on a panel. It’s okay not to be a part of a collective, it’s okay to be happy with what you are and have, it’s okay if your spouse and your family alone give you your sense of identity and meaning in this world…it’s okay because you chose it and there should be no reason for anyone else to tell you that it’s not okay.

A policy may correct the gender equality campaign but what I would strongly also recommend is that while fixing panel parity, we also shine the light on the need for identifying new faces and voices–especially of the younger generation – to be heard, seen and felt.