“What do countries with the best coronavirus responses have in common? Women leaders.” – Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, Forbes magazine
Without doubt, the pandemic has tested us; as professionals, mothers, women, leaders and people. It has been a transformational and evolutional process, for women and wider society, with everyone having to adjust to new ways of working. The health crisis and resultant lockdown measures – the home office, online education and caring for children because nurseries and schools are closed, coupled with no household support – has dramatically increased the demands put upon women at home. These additional responsibilities compete with work roles and numerous specialists warn about the effects this new situation has on women.
Such huge routine changes motivate women to become more efficient leaders, better at planning and more disciplined. In order to fulfill their professional responsibilities, women have become even more productive and this is now the ’new normal’. This ‘new normal’ has transformed their working conditions with greater inclusion, power sharing, leadership and involvement in decision-making.
Although only 20 of the 193 UN member countries are currently led by women, their work, management and responsiveness, defining strategies and policies in the face of this global health crisis, is remarkable. Numerous international media outlets and organisations have accredited these women globally. Discipline, leadership, eloquence and empathy towards the most vulnerable are among the outstanding characteristics these leaders possess, while endeavouring to address the pandemic.
However, there are still important challenges to face in terms of gender equality in many areas of the workplace; women require environments with better working conditions, they want to be more involved and they want stability. These underpin personal and professional well-being.
In Mexico, for example, one in four households depends entirely on the woman’s income, who in addition is responsible for the children, often without subsidies, day care, financial support, healthcare provision and income services. Add to this, no access to a good education, which surprisingly today in many countries, remains a privilege.
The UN regional director, Maria Noel Vaeza, says: “The health crisis powerfully confirms that female leaders have the capacity to distinguish themselves through their transformative, far-reaching, transparent and empathetic leadership.”
Certainly, our world will not be the same after COVID-19 and we must assume it will be better. Encouraging greater equality for women is an integral part of the solution to the many challenges we face in terms of health, the environment and economy, technology, science, politics and fundamental human rights. The global crisis demonstrates women have the capabilities to achieve more and empowering them to participate fully in all sectors, at all levels of economic activity, is critical for the growth of businesses, construction of robust economies and through education, the building of stronger societies.
In future, women want improved education; they want to extend their knowledge and technological expertise and have access to better decision-making roles. And the public and private organisations they work for must take action to improve women’s working conditions and create the right balance between professional development and personal well-being.
This ‘new normal’ ultimately is here to stay and it will transform the world we know today. It requires a readjustment of values and beliefs, giving greater visibility to women who can build more empathetic, supportive work teams that focus more on the common good and less on individual success. This will help create a fairer future and more humane societies.
“The lesson to deal with this crisis is clear: women are an extremely valuable human capital, and an essential asset when dealing with crises.”
Forbes Mexico – Women on board to design the new normal