The Impressive Legacy of the Woman Join the women-for-women initiative
Alone, we hold power. Together, we change the playing field
– Carreen Schroeder, CEO, GIM Writing Services
Women. From birth right through our lives, they comfort us, teach us, encourage and inspire us. When we are children, they are likely the first people we see when we rise in the morning and the last person we see when we close our eyes at night. They teach us everything there is to know about self-dignity, respect, bravery, and perseverance against all odds.
I happen to be one of these women, and I have a fairly strong suspicion that you are too, or if not, you at least have intimate knowledge of one – if not several – who fits the bill.
I’ve raised and nurtured three young women, and I continue to unequivocally believe in our unity, in our collective power, and in our innate ability to rise above all obstacles. We do this, not as lone wolves, but as a community. When one woman rises, we all rise, even if just a little. We believe in each other. We act as role models for one another. When one hurts, we all hurt, and when one falls, we all fall. No matter our age, no matter our walk of life, we are all role models, and this is not something to be taken lightly. This is an honor but it should also be our collective responsibility.
A Legacy of Strength, Wisdom, and Determination
The road women have traveled has been anything but easy. And yet, there is a legacy of feminine strength, wisdom, and determination that dates back centuries.
Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Macedonian Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, is probably the best known warrior queen, who ruled Egypt for 20 years. She had an impressive intellect, was highly educated for her time, and fought hard to keep Egypt both strong and independent. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband and became the beloved ruler of Russia, conquering lands and implementing new laws in the name of education and social reform. Elizabeth I of England reigned for an impressive 45 year span, defeating the Spanish Armada from invasion in 1588. Never married, Queen Elizabeth promoted England’s international political presence, strengthened their economy, and fortified the country’s reputation as a place of great intellectual accomplishment.
In Nigeria, Queen, Amina was a great military leader who not only united surrounding lands, but opened trade routes to the south, enriching her country’s economy. Queen Mbande Nziga of Angola was known for her great resistance against continued Portuguese advancement. She organized a guerrilla army to halt invasion. In the end, though she thought it more wise to enter into a peace treaty, she never once paid tribute to the Portuguese king.
Agustina de Aragon was shocked to see the Spanish army retreating from that of Napoleon’s during the Spanish War of Independence. As history would have it, she single-handedly ran to the battle ground, loaded the cannon and lit the fuse, forcing Napoleon’s men to temporarily retreat. Joan of Arc, a French heroine, dressed in warrior clothing, bravely led Charles VII’s army into battle against the English. She cut her hair off, put on a suit of armor, and captained troops against the English during the 100 years’ war.
Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, became Prime Minister herself in 1966. Indira ruled India with an iron fist and a tender heart. She commandeered her Indian troops against an alleged Sikh terrorist threat which would in turn, end her life. Golda Meir emigrated from the Ukraine to Israel in 1921. She was a key player in the labor movement and rose in political positions. Meir became Prime Minister in 1969, and will forever be regarded as a pioneer for Israeli women and for women worldwide.
The Denial of the Feminine Principle
Up to the present day, women continue to lead by example. In politics, business, finance, sports, entertainment, literature, and more, women continue to inspire and pave a path forward. So, how is it then, with such an impressive legacy, that women still face an uneven playing field in just about every aspect of their lives? Perhaps Eckhart Tolle has the answer in his book, “A New Earth”:
The suppression of the feminine principle especially over the past two thousand years has enabled the ego to gain absolute supremacy in the collective human psyche … If the balance between male and female energies had not been destroyed on our planet, the ego’s growth would have been greatly curtailed … “
Tolle makes the compelling argument that a human, regardless of gender, is innately equipped with both the feminine and masculine genius, yet somewhere along the way these innate qualities became unbalanced. It is this loss of balance, this loss of the feminine “self” that has led to an uneven playing field in business, in leadership roles, in government and politics, and in virtually every aspect of a woman’s life.
It’s time to bring back the balance
Under-representation in Language Services
Being that I focus a great deal of my time and energy devoted to all-things-language-services, I thought I’d delve a little into this space and examine leadership roles among the top language services providers in three main regions:
- The Americas
- Asian-Pacific Region
North America, Europe, and Asia combined, currently comprise just over 97 percent of the global translation industry. That amounts to one heck of a lot of opportunities for those pursuing a profession in this field. But, regardless of experience and education, how many women are represented in top leadership roles within the language services sector? How many men dominate these positions? Is it fairly even?
The language services industry touches practically every field, and language specialists are now required in any number of disciplines. From IT, technical writing, life sciences, and government services, to media localization, video game localization, and healthcare, there is a growing need for language services. Not only are more and more LSPs required to meet the language service demands of a growing global market, but many domestic laws and regulations now require companies to ensure language access is provided to the clients they serve. In short, LSPs are needed – everywhere – and that means business is booming, right? With plenty to go around for everyone, male and female alike? But that’s just it. The playing field is still far from even.
When I compared head positions for 67 LSPs in the Americas, 79 percent were occupied by males. In Europe, out of the 66 companies examined, 86 percent of the leading roles were held by men, and in the APAC region, 88 percent of head positions were male occupied – a somber reality indeed.
Not surprisingly however, there are more women than men employed in the language services industry. In fact, Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research) conducted a quantitative survey on gender and family that involved just under 2,200 respondents in 71 countries. The survey found that roughly two-thirds of language professionals are women – and no, contrary to popular belief, this isn’t just referring to the number of interpreters, linguists, and translators.
The CSA Research survey found that women hold 52 percent of positions with “localization” in the title, and that women “often outperform men in localization.” Since localization can often be the “most engineering-centric portion of the language services industry”, women holding these positions likely specialize in any number of technical skills.
The survey’s findings also revealed that LSPs run by women are “significantly more productive.” In fact, they claim that female-led LSPs bring in nearly 40 percent more revenue per employee. CSA’s research points to two possible reasons, stating that women CEOs:
- Tend to be more experienced in operations than their male counterparts
- Are generally more educated than their male counterparts, and have a “greater knowledge of the technical side of the field”
So, why are women then, so underrepresented in senior positions and lead roles within the language services industry? Arie Lommel, a Senior Analyst with the CSA research team, likely hits the nail on the head:
… it is socially acceptable for men to take on extra work responsibility to deal with family problems, but women feel pressure to cut back and stay in the home during such times. As a result, women often find themselves excluded from many leadership roles and their percentage decreases as they move into executive and senior management positions, even though they outperform their male peers in these roles.”
Women For Women Might Just Be The Answer
To anyone reading this article, there is likely nothing written here that has been overwhelmingly shocking, and that’s disheartening. It’s almost as though we, as a global society, have somewhat normalized gender inequality. Yes, this topic has been covered before. It has been examined in any number of ways. But still, the imbalance continues. It’s time for another discussion. It’s time to promote the women-for-women initiative.
Women CEOs are beginning to recognize and promote the skills, talents, and work ethic of other women in their profession. They are opening up opportunities for women to advance in their careers. Women who have traditionally been passed over for promotion are finally being recognized for their invaluable contributions to their respective field of expertise.
Perhaps it is a combination of shared experiences and the awareness that without support, the under-representation of women in leadership positions will continue. It is through this collaboration that all women grow stronger together. It is through our mutual support that we begin to rise above the cultural and gender stereotypes. And it is because of our solidarity, that we all rise.
Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient and a true pioneer, championing gender equality, wrote an amazing article entitled, “Power of the Pack: Women Who Support Women Are More Successful”. Not only do I want to shine a spotlight on some of these women, but I’ve added a few of my own. This Mother’s Day, I give great respect to women pioneers who have carved the path forward, and encourage all women to continue the legacy. This Mother’s Day, I promote the women-for-women initiative. Won’t you join me?
We rise, when we rise TOGETHER
Do you have a woman in mind whom you’d like to honor and recognize? Contact CEO of GIM Writing Services, Carreen Schroeder, and help me promote my women-for-women initiative.