Who stops women?

Do you also have a hundred projects in the back of your mind that you would love to do and in the end only time and resources for about 5 or so? Ok, here is another one that I would find really interesting but at the moment neither have the time nor the funding to do. So please, pick up the idea and do it, if you want to (but please tell me, if you did and share what you found out…).

When living in northern Ghana I met some very successful women, both in business and in local politics. And then I met a lot of women who were just scraping by and seemed rather disempowered in the communities they lived in.  I would like to know a number of things.

Before I even go further, I would like to know: Is my perception of a “powerful woman” or a “successful woman” the same as what local people would perceive as successful or powerful? After assessing that, I would want to find out: Why do some women make it, while others don’t. I know, it has a lot to do with individual factors (personality, education etc.) but I am also convinced that in these highly connected societies the networks of these ladies had a lot to do with their ability to achieve what they did.

So if they could draw me a network telling me: Who were all your supporters to get where you are? Who were those who tried to stop or slow you down? How are they linked? How influential were/are they in terms of your success? What were their motivations? What were crucial bottlenecks, turning points, threats?

Wouldn’t that give us an exciting whole new understanding of the role of women in these societies (Ghana is just one example…)? Wouldn’t it be inspiring for everyone who wants to facilitate that more women can actually make it? Wouldn’t it be a great way of avoiding a lot of the misunderstandings that come with good intentions but lack of understanding of the inner logic of the social system?

2 Responses

  1. Really interesting idea! When you mentioned to use the Ghana woman example I first think of how interesting it would be to do that for myself. It would be a good exercise to try (like the network maps requires for the KS workshop currently running). I often think about my own path and how much of it is own merit, positive thinking, just luck, good contacts or else? Never though about a network map to analyze it. Good to do when I have time, just to brain storm it…
    Regarding the Ghana example, it would be much more complicated than it sounds as often language as well as concept barriers can make communication quite difficult, if you want to understand the whys and ifs that are behind current situations. But surely something to think about in any further social study.
    Alexandra

  2. Dear Alexandra,
    If you do draw a map for yourself and how different people helped and stopped you in the process of becoming who you are as a female professional, it would be great if you wanted to share your experience with us. I enjoy having guest posts on this blog and I think we could learn a lot.

    During my work in Ghana I saw that a lot of things that we find normal or generally human are actually cultural and that you have to be extremely careful with your own assumptions if working in a different context. On the other hand I also saw that breaking the question down to two simple elements (Who are the actors, how are they linked) works in very different cultural settings and allows people to actually bridge the gap of inter-cultural misunderstandings.
    Cheers
    Eva

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