Celebrating Women’s Agency

The Association of Women in Business (AWiB) is celebrating women’s agency in the month of May. Specifically, on May 17th at the UNECA, in a forum designed to encourage management level professionals to confidently lead their professional and personal lives. But what exactly does agency mean? And specifically what do we mean by women’s agency within the context of our forum?

In explaining agency, numerous definitions of the term indicate that firstly choice is a key guiding principle in our capacity to act as agents, be it at an individual and/or group level. Meaning, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, the ability to make effective choices and transform these circumstances into the end results we aspire for, determines our capacity to exercise personal agency. Exercising one’s agency therefore also entails that at a basic level, we recognize the choices available to us and our individual capacities to act upon them effectively.

Similarly, world renowned social learning theorist and psychologist, Albert Bandura, explains that a key feature of personal agency is “the power to originate actions for given purposes”. In taking the role of originator of such actions, we understand the second key guiding principle to be intentionality – which pertains to an act committed on purpose or with particular intention. Bandura further supports this definition by explaining that “to be an agent is to intentionally make things happen by one’s actions.”

So when we condense these two key guiding principles of choice and intentionality and refer them to the female domain, we refer to women enabling themselves to play a great part in their self-development and renewal process. From an AWiB perspective, women exercising agency or “agentic” women are engaged and actively seek processes, mediums and platforms that position them as “agents of experiences rather than simply undergoers of experiences”, to borrow Bandura’s phrase.

As “agentic” women, the messages we tell ourselves and transmit to our daughters, sisters and female workers and colleagues through our actions carry the spirit of personal activity towards making conscious contributions to our professional success and personal fulfillment.

Agentic” women:

  • exercise their ability to make effective choices
  • are invested in self-transformation
  • invest time, and energy in their personal growth and that of others
  • continually self-evaluate and monitor against personal standards
  • understand their worth and never sell themselves short of what they deserve. e.g negotiating for better pay
  • transform NO’s to YES’s
  • pave paths for others rather than block them because they recognize the power of the collective; and
  • are self-directed rather than norm and consensus bound

In celebrating women’s agency on May 17th, AWiB is therefore bringing to focus women’s ability to influence their own lives by engaging in self transformative activities. We believe that women actively engaged in equipping themselves with knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to excel in their specific environments, influence many aspects of their own well- being tremendously because they are operating from a place of possibilities. As well, they also positively influence their immediate environments and society as a whole when acting on both an individual and collective level.

Indeed we ask all our forum participants, men and women, to Expand Your Mind – Change Your World – Celebrate Women’s Agency!

~ Association of Women in Business (AWiB)

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