Rwandan Women Rising
Discussion Guide

Do women need to adopt “male” characteristics for their voices to be heard?

Alphonsine Niyigena at an event where she made a speech. Niyigena is a businesswoman, the deputy president of the Private Sector Federation, and a board member for Bank of Kigali.

 Book Excerpts

“From the time you’re born, you’re told not to speak when men are present. When I go to my village and talk, they know me. They know I was a minister, and I am a senator, so I can speak; I am considered as a man. But if another woman gets up to talk, they say, ‘What about that one? Who is she to talk?’ But slowly, slowly things will change.”

—Legislator Odette Nyiramilimo, in Rwandan Women Rising, p. 322

In the past, when women fought their way to the top of organizations, they often had to adopt a “masculine style,” violating the social norm of female “niceness.” Now, however, with the information revolution and democratization demanding more participatory leadership, the “feminine style” is becoming a path to more effective leadership. In order to lead successfully, men will not only have to value this style in their women colleagues, but will also have to master the same skills.

Joseph Nye, When Women Lead (2012)

Discussion Questions

  • How do we transform society so that a woman’s voice is accepted as legitimate? And not just the voice of a woman who is perceived as a man?
  • Can women, as Joseph Nye suggests, start to lend their feminine traits to leadership instead of adopting masculine styles, as they have in the past?

June 2017 | Duke University Press