It seems like we hear the word, “empowered” a lot these days. We see it on commercials, at work, and in everyday life. But do we really know what it means?
The word empower is derived from the root “power,” which, in turn, comes from the Latin potere, which means to be capable or strong enough to do something. The English word empowerment has been around for quite a while, but it wasn’t really until the 1980s that it became so prominent in our language. Now it applies to just about everything.
A move toward “shared leadership”—the belief that everyone’s input is valuable and that all voices should be heard—no doubt helped create a sort of bill of rights for employees. The right to be heard, to have one’s needs considered, and to enjoy a certain level of autonomy in decision-making are now hallmarks of the American workplace. Employees are now considered empowered if they can do their jobs free of unnecessary control.
The ability to make decisions about one’s own health is an integral part of our contemporary medical system. Access to information, freedom to choose among different treatment options, and the availability of financial support (in the form of health insurance), are mainstays of the patient-oriented medical culture we enjoy today. It’s expected now that people be entitled to play an active role in their own healthcare, rather leaving it completely to providers who used to make all of the decisions.
Unlike the public school system that once followed a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy, the classroom today—virtual and physical—is mindful of the different ways individuals learn. Students, from kindergarten through college, are now empowered to learn through different instructional methods, various technological aids, and through self-discovery techniques. It’s a far cry from the teacher-oriented, top-down educational model that dominated our classrooms for so long.
The Empowerment of Society
From the Black Power movement of the 1960s, through the gay marriage debate of the 2020s, marginalized groups in society have claimed the right to their identities within the very society that once silenced them. Demographic subcultures based on age, race, sex, gender orientation, religion, and political ideology have worked hard to make their rightful contribution to a more understanding culture that now celebrates diversity. Let’s hope that trend continues.