Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

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Why is it all about the ‘Empowered Woman’ and not the ‘Empowered Man’?

At 24 years old, I decided to label myself as an ‘Empowered Woman’. People asked me what this meant, and I echoed stereotypical sentiments about being strong and self-focused. One day, I was having a coffee with a friend who was in a slump about some struggles at work. In an attempt to console him I willed him to be an ‘Empowered Man’. He laughed at me as if I had made a joke, and I didn’t understand why.

Why is it invigorating to want to be an ‘Empowered Woman’ but farcical to desire to be an ‘Empowered Man’?

I am not challenging a man’s drive to be successful, but more highlighting the fact that the term ‘Empowered Woman’ is far more common and seems to have more impetus than ‘Empowered Man’. This could simplistically be due to the struggles women have faced in history. The struggle for female suffrage and education have undeniably made a huge impact to my life in the 21st century. They are the reason I go to vote at every election, despite having only a faint interest in politics, and the reason why I never turned away from an educational opportunity. Nevertheless, the difficulties women have faced in the past are not the reason why I strive to be successful. This all comes from me, my ambition and my aspirations for the future.

On the flip side you can argue that because men cannot match this age-old struggle, they do not draw motivation from gender history. There is no dispute that women have had to smash through countless glass ceilings in the workplace and many of these still exist. But everyone endures some form of personal struggle which they use to drive themselves, arguably more than historical struggles. The dictionary definition of ‘empowered’ is to ‘make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights’– a direct pathway to success. However, when ‘empowered’ is used as an adjective to describe a gender, the pathway of personal success is overshadowed by a bigger crusade. Women are no longer a secondary group in UK society, they are on the same personal empowerment pathway to success as men.

The male presence may dominate the technology industry, with women only accounting for 15% of roles in STEM fields, however this is not due to men marginalising women. This is another debate within itself, but more needs to be done at school level to encourage women to aspire to a career in technology. A point to note here also, is that being empowered does not equate to being powerful. Control holds great importance; not of others but of yourself, your work and your future. From personal experience working for a testing consultancy which is male dominated, the men I work with have always encouraged me to be the best I can be as much as the women. Maybe this is naïve at my age, but I believe misogynism in the workplace is becoming an antiquated notion.

It shouldn’t be about the ‘Empowered Woman’ or the ‘Empowered Man’. It should be about the Empowered Person. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but we should all strive to bring out the best in each other regardless of our gender — it should not be used as a reason to be successful. Our ambition and strength should be enough, and it is.