A display screen flashed, shifting from the Sustainable Development Goals symbol to images of three women. Above their heads was the title “Power Players: Women & Global Leadership.” Barkha Dutt - Television Journalist, Dr. Joyce Banda - Former President of Malawi, and Helen Clark - Administrator of the UN Development Programme, walked onto stage, taking their respective seats on the white sofa placed in front of hundreds of people. They were here to talk about women, gender equality, power and ambition at the 2016 Social Good Summit.
Barkha Dutt took the lead, with a rich set of questions to ask her fellow leaders. One of the most important questions she brought up was to Dr. Joyce Banda. She squared her shoulders, straightened her spine and drew her hand in front of her as she asked, “Dr. Banda, I am in the television industry, which is a competitive field. You have to have self-confidence. You have to believe in yourself. A lot of people perceive an ambitious woman as a negative thing. But I want to be ambitious. I want to climb the ladder. How do you think we can change this perception?”
Dr. Joyce Banda, an evergreen image of patience took a moment to answer, as if remembering several events in her own career during which she faced this very attitude of negativity towards women climbing the career ladder. She finally explained that when President Bingu wa Mutharika died and she faced the choice of accepting the position of the President of Malawi, she had received many suggestions of resigning and giving up her seat. Countless advisors recommended that she step down for her own safety, that she would be facing danger as the first female president of Malawi. However, she stated “If I had resigned that morning, I would’ve let down my people, every man, woman, and child of my country. I could not do that. So I stayed, and I fought.”
Helen Clark stepped in and expressed the importance of women sticking together during the journey towards the Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality and even beyond it. Having a support system is important. Unity is key for any sort of development. There is a deep, world shifting power in numbers. For women, this unity is the utmost, essential thing necessary for gender equality.
“When you get to the top, don’t drop the ladder. Allow other women to climb as well.” – Dr. Joyce Banda.