Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Women in construction: an example for an entire community

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The following article deals with the topic “Implementing Board Diversity,” which will be discussed at the Global Economic Symposium in Rio this October. The author intends to enrich the discussion at the symposium with her personal stories and ideas.

We all grow up thinking in terms of role models, people we think are examples for us — our parents, famous people, teachers, neighbors, writers, etc. We like to follow their steps, observe how they see life and find out what they have to say about our choices, when possible.

There’s a great Brazilian blog called Blogs do Além (“Blogs of Beyond”) that features what famous people have to say about things. And oh, a peculiarity: they are dead people.

Screenshot from Blogs do Além homepage.

The author, Vitor Knijnik, writes as the dead famous people would write on various themes. Nowadays, there are more than 150 “authors”: Aristotle, Marlon Brando and even Michael Jackson.

More than funny or interesting, it’s amazing to imagine how it would be great to read about the new Henry Ford invention, a car that stays still, without moving, or to see Frank Sinatra comment on Brazilians in New York.

Unfortunately, this blog has a sad characteristic: the lack of women personalities. Among 150 characters, there are only 12 women represented: Agatha Christie, Amy Winehouse, Carmen Miranda, Clarice Lispector, Cleopatra VII, Coco Chanel, Farrah Fawcett, Janete Clair, Janis Joplin, Lady Di, Mother Teresa, and Simone de Beauvoir. (It is important to say: also among the 150 personalities are Paul the Octopus and Dolly the Sheep.)

I’m not directly criticizing the blog. However, why only 12 women? For me, the blog represents what we see and learn. How many women did you study in school? How many women are considered heroines? The few women leaders in these categories, when represented, are misrepresented.

Here is where I come back to role models and examples to follow. How will young women nowadays succeed if they (a) don’t know how to do it and (b) don’t know how other women did it? Girl things and boy stuff are concepts built for us. So, when you teach a boy how to play with Legos, he knows that he can build things: toys, cars, buildings. When you teach a girl how to play with a doll or do laundry, she will understand that she can be a mom/maid.

Implementing board diversity and hiring executive women are just part of the solution. Presidents, CEOs and bosses will be examples for many women. They will show them that women can manage people, delegate tasks and demand results. But, also like men, women can be part of the base of the pyramid, where millions of workers are.

In Rio de Janeiro, two young women, both single mothers, are examples of how to escape the maid routine. The story “Women Strive to Build a Place in Brazil’s Construction Industry” was in the Miami Herald, and Jen Swales told us about “Projeto Mão na Massa,” “a pioneering proposal of professional qualification for women in the sector of Construction.” It’s worth reading.

Do you know what I think when I read stories like that? I imagine how empowered these women feel at the end of the day. They are able to feel that they can do much more than clean houses. And, now, they are examples for their children — girls or boys.

They are examples that whoever you are, single mother or not, you can also build an entire building.

Yohana de Andrade Twitter: @RabanadaYohana

Yohana is a Brazilian journalist. Interested in human rights, feminism and anything related to “minorities.” After study globalization issues in Washington, D.C., thanks to a scholarship, Yohana received a degree in Journalism and now is a content producer for internet and new technologies. Her dream would be live in a borderless world.