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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 16:45 GMT
Are women better negotiators?
"The potential contribution of women to peace and security remains severely undervalued", Kofi Annan said, urging the Security Council to appoint more women to top jobs.
Women bear more than their fair share of the suffering in conflicts, he said, adding that those who knew the price of conflict so well were often better equipped than men to prevent or resolve it.
Is he right? Is it because of women's empathy or because they would use different negotiating tactics? Would the Middle East, for example, be better off with a woman negotiator?
This debate is now closed. Your reaction:
I agree that women should play a greater role in negotiation/ conflict management BUT this is different from arguing that women are better/ worse than men in this field. Negotiation requires both natural and learned skills - communication, problem-solving, developing creative options to satisfy interests, etc. Negotiators are not born. Whoever has the capacity to learn has the capacity to become an effective negotiator and that has nothing to do with gender.
S. Huntley, England
Why do we always have to categorise? Some women are compassionate and good at negotiation, likewise some men. Forget gender (or indeed race, age or any other category) let's just have the person most suitable for the job.
A very dear business-lady once told me, "You men are so stupid; you even have rules for war".
Are women better negotiators? Only when negotiating against men.
Besides Albright, all qualified women
would be fine for me. They are more
likely (I hope) to consider the humanitarian
aspects when dealing with issues.
It would be a risk-free experiment to have women resolve conflict, considering the miserable record men have established.
It is true that women may be better problem solvers in familial matters, but once the affairs of the world and conflicts between countries are concerned, a protocol is followed that is based on the socio-political traditions of the countries involved regardless of whether the peacemakers are men or women. Would we have a less violent world if all the world's leaders were women and all peace negotiations were conducted by women delegates? I think not!
Mandhoj Tamang, Canada
I feel that men and women both have the same capabilities of good negotiating. But I have had male and female managers and see no difference at all. I do think, however, that if the negotiator is a parent or has a vast experience of people, this seems to help greatly.
Of course women are better negotiators than men. Women are sensible and more practical, whereas men are just concerned about their ego.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland
Surely it all hinges on what the issue is?
I really do wish people would get off this gender thing. The only victim is common sense.
Mr Annan is probably right that the value of women in resolving problems is underestimated, however, I do not think this would provide better progress in the Middle East situation because of the position of women in the religion of the Islam. This is one of the problems that has created many problems, and in this case I don't think it can be solved better by women.
My wife agrees. She says she is always right and that I just don't listen.
Females are still taught the (devalued) virtues of femininity from a young age. These include, among others, compassion, co-operation and interdependence. It would seem, then, that women would make better negotiators for peace. However, in order for females to succeed in a political/ economic system built on the premise of the virtues of masculinity (i.e. competition, individualism) they must adopt these guiding principles in order to 'reach the top'. Thus, it is not a sex or gender question; the whole political/ economic issue is just lop-sided in terms of inherent values.
I agree that women are generally better at resolving disputes than men, but this isn't always the case. I've known women to occasionally goad men into fighting each other, rather than trying to stop the dispute.
David Hazel, UK
I think what really needs to be addressed is that the number of women is lower than the number of men in conflict resolution situations. It is unfair to play the sexes against each other. All those affected by conflict need to be present at the table when negotiating the end to a conflict. That means not only women and men but young and old and majorities and minorities.
Women inherently are prone to settling arguments in an amicable way. They also seem to possess better skills at approaching rapprochement and are better at resolving conflicts. Could it be because they realise that the alternative (bloodshed and violence) results in a loss of their children/brothers/husbands? Maybe.
Sexist rubbish, or rather that this is the sort of question that can not be asked in a PC world, just like; are men better athletes than women, are women too emotional, are men less sensitive? These questions will only be answered in terms of what is currently politically correct, therefore the answers are subjective and meaningless.
Women can be great negotiators as Margaret Thatcher showed with her decisive result in the Falklands.
Phil Eadie, UK
I don't think women are better than men in solving problems.
Women are both creators and destroyers. I know many success stories of men and women who have acted wisely to resolve crises in different situations. I don't know whether any proper study has been conducted to know whether women can resolve conflicts better than men. Whoever listens to others and understands what others say can be good at negotiating. What is very essential is one should be objective and impartial. Women are equal to men. There is no sex called weaker sex.
What appears to be under attack here is masculinity - those traits such as determination, power, assertiveness, reason, single-mindedness and strength etc - in favour of those feminine traits of passivity, emotion, gentility and compromise.
Men and women possess and use both these personality traits in abundance, it is very patronising to suggest that because you are women you only possess passive and compromising feminine traits. Can anyone remember Maggie Thatcher backing out of a conflict?
Women? Men? Next what? Transvestites? Transsexuals?
When are we going to stop focussing on gender and rather focus on the person and his/her capability?
These sweeping generalisations, littered with the usual politically-correct and asinine rhetoric, have no place in our modern society. It is the best PERSON for the job that counts, whether that be a Madeleine Albright or a Tony Blair. The sooner we start thinking this way, instead of adding bogus attributes/ handicaps to the gender of competent individuals, the sooner we'll all grow up.
Imagine the outrage if you suggested legitimacy by asking; "Are men better natural leaders than women?" Reverse sexism allows this question to be asked in a sober and respected forum. You would have none of it if the shoe were on the other foot and you suggested the possibility of men actually being better equipped for something important than females.
Generally speaking, I think women are better at resolving conflicts, but not always. Generally girls aren't goaded into the "I've got something to prove" mindset, and they're usually more willing to compromise. They're not taught that willingness to compromise is equal to backing down, and losing face. I know from experience, women make better bosses.
Completely unqualified statements of this kind irritate me in the extreme. Has a study been conducted? I very much doubt it. Then where did this come from?
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