When you were a kid and you were asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” did you ever answered: “I want to be the Mayor of my city, the President of my country or the Prime Minister?”
If you are a woman, probably not.
After one week of learning, building a vision of the urban future, connecting and having intimate talks with political leaders from all around the world at the Urban Future Global Conference, I am more inspired than ever to continue working for the achievement of sustainable and just cities that will improve the quality of life of everyone living in them. Many lessons are still in my mind and my heart, but there is one that I believe is relevant for this moment where we are seeing increasingly divided societies and distrust in traditional political structures, that lesson is: we need a different kind of leadership or as Fabian Dattner says way better than I do: “At the very least, get leadership and behaviour change on the agenda of every strategic conversation and every conference about our future. Innovation has never really been difficult for humans. Self awareness, on the other hand, thinking about what it’s like to be on the other side of our own faces (impact on others), is a very big thing we hardly scratch the surface of”.
One particular type of leadership which is not being addressed as much as I’d like is female leadership. Women’s perspectives and voices are significantly under-represented in urban leadership, as globally, women make up only 5% of capital city mayors, 6.1 percent of mayors in cities with over 1 million inhabitants, and only 20 percent of city councilors worldwide. Expanding women’s access to decision making and to positions of power within cities is crucial to ensuring sustainable change for all groups equally and is key to making sure that certain issues faced by excluded groups are at the forefront of urban policy and planning.
I was privileged and had the opportunity to talk with inspiring women who have been city representatives, business leaders, Councillors or Mayors of their cities; however, I wish that this wasn’t a privilege but a normal situation, a situation where citizens from all backgrounds and characteristics could see themselves reflected in their leaders. I wish I could tell every girl or woman out there that it is okay to dream of becoming leaders of their cities and nations and that their barriers to achieve this dream, will not depend on their gender or their social background but on their skills and abilities to engage others and help others. I wish we could be a movement big enough so that our challenges and our barriers as political leaders were listened and we could say #Metoo, I have been excluded from the political sphere, but #Metoo, I will stand for my rights and my dreams and lead the society in the way it’s needed?
But why not listen to that message from a person who has actually achieved this dream and who is working for others to achieve it?. This is a message (recorded in my poor phone’s camera) from the Mayor of Stockholm and director of Eurocities, Anna König Jerlmyr, which I hope, is empowering for many girls and women, so that they also can say “I want to be the leader of my city or my country when I grow up” .
I hope you are as inspired as me to continue leading change, I hope that you achieve your dreams and goals and I hope that if you like this message, you share it with everyone in your network.
Lastly, please comment in the section below your answer to the question at the beginning of this post and your comments about it.