By Beth Redmond
Liberal feminism tries to persuade us that increasing the number of women in powerful positions and leadership roles can transform our movement and our society. Although the underrepresentation of women in all ‘public sphere’ areas of society is a problem that needs to be tackled, NUS’ priority campaign of “Women in Leadership” has an uncomfortable focus on the importance of women occupying powerful and ultimately oppressive positions in society.
Capitalism has created a layer of “powerful” jobs and positions which, regardless of gender, are harmful to the lives of working-class women. If we reject the notion that women are inherently more caring and compassionate, then in a society where wealthy women have an equal or larger amount of power than wealthy men, can we really expect an increased number of women in power to create a fairer society?
Councillors cutting funding to childcare, rape crisis centres and jobs in areas which are predominantly occupied by women are a few examples of how austerity is hitting us the hardest. Just because a woman is making the decision it doesn’t make the rest of us who are negatively affected by it feel better.
Women who are CEOs of large corporations take home millions of pounds each year, but often don’t pay staff who work for the same company a sufficient living wage. Women Vice-Chancellors who either actively or tacitly endorse rises in tuition fees whilst cutting pay.
Women in power and leadership is not real tangible change to huge numbers of people, as power with women at the top of society does not mean that power is redistributed and shared amongst working class women, and those whose living conditions constantly worsen as the divide between rich and poor continues to increase.
Just because a woman is in charge doesn’t mean women workers are benefiting. Aiming for more women in leadership can cover up symptoms of sexism but will never eradicate it.
This article is taken from the bulletin distributed by NCAFC Women at NUS Women’s conference, March 2014 (NCAFC-Women-Bulletin)