Is Beyoncé Girl-power Anthem Wishful Thinking?
Beyoncé’s much-anticipated lead single, “Run The World (Girls),” from her upcoming album, is out. The lyrics affirm, emphatically, “girl power”. They give the erroneous impression that women are marching out of the kitchen straight to the boardrooms of leading multinationals or the presidencies of powerful countries.
I’m sure Beyoncé had in mind Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia), Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and 20 other women currently in power around the world, when she wrote the lyrics.
That’s not enough women leaders to significantly change the world for the better for women around the world. The UN’s World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics report paints a sad global situation for women.
• Violence against women is a universal phenomenon.
• Women are subjected to different forms of violence – physical, sexual, psychological and economic – both within and outside their homes.
• Rates of women experiencing physical violence at least once in their lifetime vary from several per cent to over 59 per cent depending on where they live.
• Current statistical measurements of violence against women provide a limited source of information, and statistical definitions and classifications require more work and harmonization at the international level.
• Female genital mutilation – the most harmful mass perpetuation of violence against women – shows a slight decline.
• In many regions of the world longstanding customs put considerable pressure on women to accept abuse.
• Households of lone mothers with young children are more likely to be poor than households of lone fathers with young children.
• Women are more likely to be poor than men when living in one-person households in many countries from both the more developed and the less developed regions.
• Women are overrepresented among the older poor in the more developed regions.
• Existing statutory and customary laws limit women’s access to land and other types of property in most countries in Africa and about half the countries in Asia.
• Fewer women than men have cash income in the less developed regions, and a significant proportion of married women have no say in how their cash earnings are spent.
• Married women from the less developed regions do not fully participate in intrahousehold decision-making on spending, particularly in African countries and in poorer households.
On power and decision-making, the stats aren’t encouraging either:
• Becoming the Head of State or Head of Government remains elusive for women, with only 14 women in the world currently holding either position.
• In just 23 countries do women comprise a critical mass – over 30 per cent – in the lower or single house of their national parliament.
• Worldwide on average only one in six cabinet ministers is a woman.
• Women are highly underrepresented in decision-making positions at local government levels.
• In the private sector, women continue to be severely underrepresented in the top decisionmaking positions.
• Only 13 of the 500 largest corporations in the world have a female Chief Executive Officer.
It’s still a man’s world and that needs to change.
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