Updated: Feb 27
Women in leadership roles and how they can change the world
The value of having women in leadership roles was especially highlighted during the height of the pandemic. Countries with women as heads of state such as New Zealand, Finland, Germany and Slovakia have been praised for their quick and effective responses to the pandemic. All of these women were proactive instead of reactive in their responses on how they were going to protect their people during a global pandemic, and cleverly relied on experts to inform their health policy decisions.
The benefits of women’s leadership don’t end in politics. A study by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, found that companies, where at least 30 per cent of the directors were females, fared better than corporations with all-male boards.
How are women beneficial in leadership roles?
1. Think differently - Women think differently than men. Women in leadership roles think of the issues and concerns that affect women, such as gender-based violence, reproductive health services and childcare, among so many others.
2. Bring compassion - Women tend to be more patient and compassionate, and in leadership, this leads to better policy making that more accurately reflects the needs of the people.
3. Collaborative Leadership - Women leaders provide mentorships to other women and think about inclusion, not only with gender but also with race and sexual orientation.
So why aren’t there more women in leadership roles? Perhaps one of the most significant barriers is the outdated mindsets and social structures that take the unpaid work expected from women for granted. Globally 42 per cent of working-age women cannot maintain a job because of their unpaid care responsibilities such as childcare, and housework and elderly care, which in monetary terms is a total of $10.8 trillion a year.
It makes perfect sense to change this by having more women in leadership roles. Women in government drive policy for women, whether it’s policy around gender equality in work, childcare, gender-based violence or reproductive health. Women are more aware of the needs of other women and more likely to advocate for them.
Let’s look around the globe to see how women leaders have made a difference.
Liberia - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Not only was Sirleaf the first female president of Liberia but also Africa’s first female president. In 2011 she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for women's safety and rights to full participation in peace-building work.
Mauritius - Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
Gurib-Fakim was the first elected female president in Mauritius in 2015. During her tenure as the African country’s president, Gurib-Fakim advocated for innovative policies that would help to eliminate gender inequality in the workplace. She is also an accomplished scientist and advocates for more women and girls in the STEM fields.
New Zealand - Jacinda Ardern
New Zealand was the first country where women won the right to vote. Under her leadership, there are more women and indigenous MPs than ever before. Ardern sees the value in diversity in her cabinet of 20 people, out of which eight are indigenous people and eight are women.
Iceland - Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Finnbogadóttir was the first female president of Iceland and the first woman in the world to be a democratically elected president. Her motto was “Never let the women down,” She worked to promote girls' education.
Singapore - Halimah Yacob
Yacob is the first female president of Singapore. She has advocated for companies to embrace gender equality, especially in the fields of entrepreneurship, science and technology. She also advocates for people who are often overlooked by policy, such as the elderly and people with mental health conditions.
How can you support women in leadership roles?
1. Encouragement - The best way to support the women in your life is by encouraging them in their goals and sharing opportunities that arise. Mentors are significant, especially in building self-confidence. Consider offering your mentorship to a woman in your field. You may be surprised by how much you can both learn from each other.
2. Listen to them - Studies show that men tend to interrupt business conversations more often than women. Interrupting leads to less productivity and less camaraderie in the workplace and beyond. Make sure you are taking the time to listen instead of interrupting.
3. Be aware of internal bias - Stereotypes often negatively affect women in the workplace, so it is essential to be mindful of your own internal biases, such as believing that women are more emotional, less rational, or that their being in a high position was not gained by merit.
I can’t stress more that if we want a more accountable and balanced world, we have to organize and engage more women in conversations and decision-making roles. As women, we must connect more with each other, inspire, support - and, in Michelle Obama’s words, “become.”
The tenacity of women will win the war for a more balanced world, a kinder world that I envision will be less brutal and less violent, a world more hopeful for our children. However, here is still a lot of work to do and a long way to go. Patriarchy still stands in the way.
113 countries do not have laws to ensure equal pay for equal work among men and women
104 countries make specific jobs off-limits for women
29 countries restrict the hours women can work
18 countries allow men to prohibit their wives from working
17 countries limit when and how women can travel outside the home
Through the stories in ‘From Women to the World’ I hope we can contribute to dismantling the outdated patriarchal systems that keep women constrained and behind. Together we will start the “New Century.”