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Let’s stop counting the women who count

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Sara Badawi
WVoN co-editor

Claiming that she wants to change the world, Susan Bulkeley Butler certainly does not lack ambition.

The question is whether her book, “Women Count”,  takes her any closer to her goal. Sadly, the answer is probably no.

That’s not to say that the book is not worth a read.

But her premise – that there’s no point in just simply counting women (such as tallying the number of women in boardrooms and so forth) but that it’s time to become “women who count” – is easier said than done.

She encourages us as readers to create and join a new “movement” to help propel women into leadership positions in corporations and governments.

But she never really spells out what this new movement is that she wants us to create and join.  Given her background (she was the first female partner at global management consultancy firm Accenture), my guess is that it’s unlikely to be too radical.

In any event, isn’t that exactly what myriad women’s organisations around the world have been trying to do for decades – get more women into senior positions in corporations and governments?

The issue for many of us is not what we need to do, but how and she doesn’t ever spell that out. True, she provides us with some interesting success stories of different female leaders to show that women can achieve change, but that’s hardly rocket science.

So her narrative is good (and often interesting) but telling us stories of corporate success does not necessarily explain why so many other (good and talented) women fail. Unless she’s suggesting that we all become corporate clones which seems to rather defeat the sentiment behind “Women Count”.

The book is also primarily aimed at an American audience –   a fact made explicitly clear when Butler  explains that the gender imbalance in organisations must be redressed to ensure that America continues to be the greatest country in the world.

Despite all that, the book is well written and much of what she writes is quite interesting. It’s just all so cursory at only 124 pages.

And  although she encourages women to take their rightful place, presumably like she did, it’s a pity she doesn’t go on to tell us what she thinks we should do differently to get there.

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