Let’s summarize what is at issue and where we are going. The St Lawrence Women’s Leadership Challenge raises the issue of women leaders and how to focus on fundamental issues that truly affect a majority of the world’s women, not just those with western upper middle class backgrounds. What are some other examples of global problems affecting women? Flip the UN’s Declaration of Universal Human Rights around and you will find global problems that have disproportionately affected women throughout recorded history regardless of their culture, race, religion, etc. Biological factors are in play for all these global issues.
The skills you learn during “The Challenge” can be used to understand all sorts of global problems, not just issues involving national and global security. Global problems exceed in scope any problems you have ever had to face. But your life experiences will serve as the starting point. Our focus will be “survival” cultures. A family that tolerates spousal abuse, a violent inner city, violent border towns, and Afghanistan are all examples of survival cultures. The only significant difference is the scale of the culture.
We began our journey into complexity theory at the personal level. We talked about the mental models, beliefs, theories that filter our understanding of the world around us. We will use the word “script” to signify these mental models. We mentioned the television producer’s attempt to get all IWRTW program participants to follow the same script. The producer apparently wanted to convey a unified message of what issues women ought to address if they had significant global power. Presumably the target audience for the documentary was western, educated, middle class women. No doubt the producer and most of the participants thought the program was a success from that perspective. But we mentioned other perspectives, global perspectives that are not in their script. The term “veil” will signify the way our mental scripts make it difficult to see other perspectives if the other perspective is outside our experience. As Atticus Finch said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
ACT II discussed how we might react if we encounter threats to “scripts” that are especially valued by our ego. These scripts serve to define who we believe we are, our identity as a human being. In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs these scripts fulfill a need for “Esteem”, a need to feel significant. An “esteem” script, even if entirely secular in nature, is a “sacred” script. We talked about the primal, visceral reaction one can have if your sacred script is threatened by data, facts, or logical arguments that contradict it. The thought of losing a script, a way of looking at the world that you have invested the time of your life believing, is extremely painful. And if you are a public figure, a famous advocate known for defending your flawed script you are likely to defend it to the death. If you are forced to confront a view of reality incompatible with your sacred script you tend to believe there are very few options. You can fight, you can flee to a safer environment, you can convert or you can give up fighting altogether, perhaps commit suicide. Younger scientists, and college students like you, still have an open mind and are able to accept new ways of thinking without having an existential crisis.
What is “The End” or goal of the script for the St Lawrence Women’s Leadership Challenge. The end we seek is an encompassing global vision of why the scripts of so many cultures view women as inferior leaders. But before we get to that point we must understand why so many cultures, historically, have considered women as “Other” than fully human, as somehow, in essence, inferior to men. The end of the Challenge is to teach you how to see farther, how to bring the facts of the whole world into the scope of your mind’s eye when addressing problems that are global in scope.