In a patriarchal society that tells women that they cannot be leaders, women ought to listen to and get inspiration from Sheerah, according to SMMS Academic Dean, Dr Rowanne Marie.

Dr Marie was presenting a paper entitled Experiences of Women in Leadership – Paradigm Shifts towards Femininity, during the Inaugural Leadership Development and Investment Symposium, organised by the Black Methodist Consultation (BMC), on 19 October.

In 1 Chronicles 7:22-24, Sheerah is said to have built three cities: Lower and Upper Beth Horon, as well as Uzzen Sheerah, which she named after herself.

Dr Marie said, “Ancient Israelite culture was very patriarchal. Genealogies and histories were traced through male descendants of male ancestors. But here we have Sheerah who was slipped into this genealogy. This had to be for a good reason. Sheerah was a woman of distinction. Only a powerful and influential woman would have the means to build, not one, but three cities.”

She said the name Uzzen Sheerah means “listen to Sheerah,” and urged women aspiring to leadership positions to “listen to Sheerah” who, in spite of the prescribed gender roles and the odds staked against her, persevered to build her cities. She added that they will be asked all sorts of questions to discourage them but urged them to “listen to Sheerah” who shrugged off all criticism and discouraging remarks.

“What makes you think you can build a city? What city was ever built by a woman? You are not meant to be a city builder. It cuts against your femininity. Builders are meant to be men. This does not fit into your femininity; it does not connect with your gender roles. Everybody knows your background and the people you come from. You cannot do it because it is not a role meant for women. Your culture tells you so, tradition tells you so, religion tells you so, and your gender constructs tell you so. But stop and listen to Sheerah!” It did not matter if nobody else understood her. It did not matter what the other people were saying,” she said.

Dr Marie said leadership is not easy because there are many obstacles on the way but urged women leaders to draw inspiration from Sheerah who never gave up.

She said, “Building a city is hard work. Sheerah did not quit when it got hard, and yes it got hard. Maybe she had to go back to the drawing board, over and over again. I see her tying up her hair, rolling up her sleeves and doing the work with her own hands. When you are giving birth to a vision, when you are making your own dreams come true, when you are doing what God called you to do, you do not mind getting a little dirty, even if it does not go with your femininity – you do not mind putting in the hard work and long hours.”

She urged women leaders, like Sheerah, to have a work plan and follow it in their work. She added that they ought to delegate tasks because they cannot do it all by themselves.

“I hear Sheerah saying: ‘I have got work to do. You do not just build a city, whether you are a woman or a man, with no planning or preparation.’ Sheerah chose the sites for her cities, taking into account water and other natural resources with an eye to defence. Maybe she had to make or commission architectural drawings. She had to build her cities in the right order. She had to choose which buildings would be built first. She could not start with the wallpaper and the flower arrangements. She had to start in the dirt. I may not know exactly how she did it, but I do know that she planned her work and she worked her plan.

“She could not be everywhere on the construction sites, so she had to mentor others to share in the responsibility. She had to hire and supervise contractors and subcontractors. She had to manage and lead her workforce,” Dr Marie said.

Because women leaders have a vision and a calling, God will be on their side and answers their prayers, like what God did to Sheerah.

Dr Marie said, “Sheerah had a dream; she had a plan; she had a vision; she had a calling; she had a commission. She was born to do this work; it was in her bones and in her blood, in her heart and in her hands. God listened to her hopes and prayers for her cities and the people in them and when Sheerah’s cities were in trouble, God came to the rescue. God saved Sheerah’s cities. God’s saved Sheerah’s work.”

Like Sheerah, she said, women leaders should transcend human made constructs and limitations and refuse to be bound by perception. Rather, they should live out their reality, she said.

“Would you choose to remain in subjection, bound by limitations of your gender or would you emerge into a builder – and as you do so you will positively construct a new femininity based on your reality rather than on perception and pave the way for generations to come in our plight for constructing a feminine tomorrow today?

“When perceptions say no, reality says yes, when perceptions say you cannot, reality says you can, when perceptions say that is it impossible, reality says that it is possible, when perceptions says that this does not align with your femininity, you say ‘I too can do this.’ This is our paradigm shift from perceptions to reality,” Dr Marie concluded.