How can women interact productively with men whose mindsets are still entrenched against women as leaders?
“If I have a problem with a man I’m working with, I don’t say, ‘Oh, men.’ If I say that I’m lumping together the whole constituency of men. I try to identify the specific problem with that particular person and address him as one man, so that the others who maybe don’t share that problem will not be brought on board unnecessarily. Then the rest of the team will actually help us out of it.
That builds trust.
I’ve had situations where I had to choose between my pride and my country. In the case of that man, I need to make him comfortable, to let him realize it’s not about his manhood but about an issue. Often when there’s a dispute, it’s about the person feeling challenged by a woman. Or maybe how we’re discussing it. I may need to go a bit lower, so that he has space to come up. Then I must make sure that when he’s starting to come up, I don’t let others pull him back down. If I make it a specific issue and the rest get on board, we all come up.
I always pray to God that I never, ever think I’m indispensable, because that will be the beginning of my failing. I’m part of a team. Sure, important, but not indispensable. So however tough that man might be, he’s actually working to make me better. I see a lot of opportunity in that. On the other hand, there are so many other men around me who are out to help me, whom I may not see if I’m defensive. Ultimately, it’s about my attitude.”
—Kigali mayor Kirabo Kacyira in Rwandan Women Rising, p.336
- How can women working in a predominantly male environment use Kirabo’s philosophy to operate more efficiently?
- How can changes in women’s attitudes help to normalize their presence and contributions to these environments?