I had a chance to hear Ms. Bando speak recently to a group of international graduate students. She gained some notoriety with the publishing of a book called "The Dignity of a Woman" which she claims was written to help Japanese women get ahead in a male dominated society but some readers felt it focused too much on maintaining the traditional role of women in Japan. I figured that she would talk about her book and being the equal opportunity kind of headhunter that I am, I was prepared to scoff at her old fashioned views. I ended up walking away with some specific ideas on how to help my 5 year old daughter grow up to be a more competitive candidate in her job search. A pleasant and encouraging surprise.
Bando's message for the talk was that women need to become global players and leaders in the world, their jobs, their communities, and their homes. Her research and focus is mainly on the situation for women in Japan but I think there are enough similarities globally to make her comments applicable to other countries around the world. Women are often pushed towards the "nursery" or the "kitchen" and therefore the focus of their thinking can be narrow and limited to domestic issues. Reinforced, this image develops into one where society (including the women themselves) believe that women are good at managing a limited, micro environment like the home but are not suited for the larger, macro responsibilities of business or government. You can see how this might affect a young woman's confidence as she prepares for a job interview with a big company?
Bando added to this need for more global thinking by pointing out that women have underlying strengths that they should not give up. It is not necessary for them to become a man to compete with men. Her comments reminded me of the Gallup book, "Now, Discover Your Strengths" which suggests that it is more productive to build on what you are good at rather than spend too much time trying to fix a weakness.
Sitting there listening to her discuss how society raises its girls, I recalled a TV commercial I had seen back in 2002. Thanks to the magic that is Youtube, now you too can enjoy it! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbKsC4GCT5k)
So, what can I (we) do to encourage my 5 year old to think more about the outside world? The world outside of the kitchen and nursery? And, by becoming a more global minded, young woman, have more confidence in herself and be able to get the job she wants (whatever that may be). Bando did not have too much specific advice but since I am fairly creative I came up with a few ideas of my own. I would say that most of these are gender neutral:
- Like the video suggests, fight the urge to answer questions with a cute answer. If you don't know then look it up.
- Encourage an interest in the world. Watch the discovery channel together, as they get older maybe CNN.
- Mix up the bedtime reading. Instead of Fancy Nancy or Princess Sophia every night, throw in some Pippy Longstocking.
- Expose them to different cultures. Friends, TV, books, travel, etc.
- Treat sons and daughters fairly and try not to discriminate. I do think age has its privileges at home but gender should not.
If you have any other thoughts on this topic please share in the comments below.