Strong Women Rule
Or ought to. The past and the present are telling us something
“Did they hear me, would they listen, did they pity me supplicating?” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1864
As an observer, it astounds me how hard women have to fight to be treated equally.
And he backed it up with data:
International companies with more women on their corporate boards far outperformed the average company in return on equity and other measures. Operating profit was 56% higher (McKinsey & Company)
New studies find that female managers outshine their male counterparts on almost every measure (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
Women are rated higher in fully 12 of 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership (Harvard Business Review)
And yet, companies are still slow to embrace that (the Timely links section below for subscribers has a potential solution for this).
In many instances in history, it took a crisis to land a woman in a leadership position; such was the case of Boudicca (alternatively spelled Boadicea) in ancient Britain.
The Romans first invaded the island in 43, and Boudicca’s husband Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, was an independent ally of Rome. The Iceni lived in what is present-day Norfolk, to the northeast of London.
Prasutagus died and left his kingdom jointly to Rome and to his two daughters in his will. According to Tacitus in The Annals, this was
“an act of deference which he thought would place his kingdom and household beyond the risk of injury. The result was contrary — so much so that his kingdom was pillaged by centurions, his household by slaves; as though they had been prizes of war.”
Boudicca was flogged, her two daughters raped, and the leading men of the Iceni had their land stripped from them.
So, driven not only by the need for personal vengeance, but the need to make it clear that her people wanted independence, Boudicca led a rebellion against the Romans from 60–61. The result was some 70,000 to 80,000 Romans and Roman-supporting Britons, before Boudicca’s forces suffered defeat and she poisoned herself.
The lesson here is not only this fierce fight for independence and Boudicca’s ability to work with the Iceni toward a mutual goal, but also this: given her defeat, Boudicca’s story might be lost to history if it weren’t for those who took the time to call out her heroism.
Those like Tacitus, who lived 100 years later, and Tennyson, who wrote the poem “Boadicea” 1800 years later (quoted above and below), or Thomas Thornycroft, whose statue Boadicea and Her Daughters was placed on Westminster Bridge in 1902.
The last two of these — Tennyson and Thornycroft — lived during the reign of Queen Victoria, another powerful woman and a prominent figure with a reign that spanned six decades. Her influence and power were reminders that women play important roles in our society, and they should not be overlooked.
Even today, strong women bring out the irascibility and churlishness of insecure and resentful men — men who seem to think the world is a zero-sum game in which someone else’s success is their failure.
We see it playing out before our very eyes as conspiracy theorists, professional hatemongers, and keyboard troglodytes attempt to belittle, besmirch, and badmouth Taylor Swift in the lead-up to the Super Bowl.
“There the horde of Roman robbers mock at a barbarous adversary.
There the hive of Roman liars worship a gluttonous emperor-idiot.” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1864
Ultimately, it’s all just silly. We ought to be celebrating the success of others and cheering on their happiness.
And in particular, we ought to pay attention to the skills, judgment, and competency that women have, giving them every opportunity to show us how to improve our world.
There’s so much to learn,
In the links below, you’ll discover:
- ’s look at skilled women in aviation history from
How to eliminate gender gaps in leadership roles
What female friendship looked like in 1898 (with photographs)
Who the most chilling women in history were