Is it ever okay to be the “best woman”?

This is a bit like that question which asks – “is it ever okay to love two women”. Defensively, the average attached man will so no, until you remind him of his two daughters! And so it is with the question of women’s awards – they sound okay, until you think about it.

If you’re a golfer, a swimmer, a weightlifter, tennis or rugby player, perhaps even a lawn bowler (though personally I think that’s questionable) – the answer is undoubtedly yes. Being the best woman in your field is the pinnacle of sporting success.

For in sport, we find many endeavours where women cannot compete with men on an equal footing – and that’s okay.

No question that it’s appropriate to have a Women’s Rugby World Champion Team, a women’s trophy at the French Open Tennis. Yet even in the sporting world, there are some sports where this is not true. Men and women compete equally in equestrian sports, for example – though this is one of very few examples I could summon!

The natural inference of all this is that having separate men’s and women’s competitions is an inherent admission of inequalities (generally, in terms of strength when it comes to sports).

So why then do we think it’s okay to have women’s awards in business, in entrepreneurship, in life in general. And why then are there no equivalent men’s awards?

Every time I hear that there’s a women’s award, I cringe – well, actually, I die a little inside, knowing that there is still a huge hill to climb before equality is no longer a goal, but simply IS. Being the best woman scientist, the best woman in tech, businesswoman of the year is not an award, it’s an insult – a veiled message that you’re good, but not good enough for the main stage. That you’re the supporting act, one of the sub-categories.

This may sound harsh – and I don’t mean to undermine the obvious achievement of the ‘women’s award’ winners – but think about it. The only place we routinely have a best man is at a wedding – and even there, he’s not there to be celebrated! Why then do we celebrate the best woman?

Ladies – it’s time to take a stand. No more women’s awards – except, of course, where you accept that men and women are inherently unable to compete with each other!

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