I am attempting to clarify what I really meant in my post on Women-in-engineering style groups. To get it straight, I absolutely believe in empowering women. I think women should fully well pursue their professional dreams and paths and never feel limitations imposed by the gender. There are some natural (and physical) impediments that gender brings, but none whatsoever that will limit women in accomplishing what they wish to in many professional careers. To that end, I am always willing to extend help and mentoring in getting women to reach those goals.
What I particularly encourage women to NOT do is to impose artificial constraints on themselves by imagining or positioning gender as a limiting factor in the equation. If you look around, you will find that the portion of male professionals who are not strong enough to be leaders or who do not have the confidence or charisma or will or personality to pull off what is needed for outstanding professional leadership is not statistically insignificant. I have encountered a number of men, many of them technically brilliant, that simply cannot connect the dots and accomplish the transference into a brilliant vision that it takes to make good leaders. So, why do we then see so disappointingly few women in top leadership positions? The problem very much resides in the fact that so few women actually decide to take up professional careers. That combined with the perception that women are emotionally weaker is a real problem. There are cultural and traditional outlooks to change and overcome to really empower women at the fullest, no doubt. But, the first step towards that is to empower them to start the journey on this road to professional endeavors. As more women take this journey, the community gets more samples to dispel the myths and correct the incorrect perceptions.
The destinations will come. Opportunities are rarely given, they are more often created. Once you begin the journey, you will see what branches can create the right opportunities. But, a road not taken remains mysterious and intimidating.
So, for all the women out there, don’t be afraid to start the journey. Know that you know as much as an equally qualified male next to you. Know that speaking up is not only not bad, it can also be good. Consider and assert yourself as an equal and you will find soon enough that you are treated as one!