Amy Dwyer discusses the need for more female representation in positions of leadership.
It has been well documented by various women’s charities and advocacy groups that women have been significantly impacted by the current pandemic. However, female leaders across the world have stood out as those handling the pandemic with the most compassion and effectiveness. Jacinda Ardern, Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, Tsai Ing-wen are just a few of the inspirational female leaders going above and beyond for their constituents during the pandemic.
Jacinda Ardern implemented strict restrictions on New Zealand and as a result of her decisive action, New Zealand’s death rate has been one of the lowest and the country is now coronavirus free. Alongside successfully managing and containing the pandemic within the state, Ardern has also taken a 20 percent wage cut in solidarity with New Zealander’s who have lost their jobs or businesses as a result of the lockdown and economic downturn. Her leadership has stood in stark contrast to other states governed by men, such as the United Kingdom, Brazil and the United States, the states that were slow to act and are now the states with the three highest coronavirus deaths respectively. Now clearly this is not simply due to the fact that these state’s are led by men, yet it does pose the question of why those states with female leaders have seemed to handle this public health crisis much better. Perhaps it is due to fundamental differences within those societies where women are given more of a voice and represent more positions of power, in a variety of industries.
Another clear example of strong female leadership during the coronavirus comes from Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan who has managed to keep the virus under control, which is no easy feat especially considering the proximity to mainland China. Since the beginning of the outbreak, she implemented measures to control borders and internal travel. These measures have been incredibly successful, and as not only has the country only reported six deaths but it is also now in a position to be able to send 10 million face masks to America and Europe.
Successful female leaders are also apparent in Denmark, Finland and Norway, where their female leaders were cautious from the outset and have reported deaths in the low hundreds. Their strong and direct leadership has meant that children are now returning to schools safely. Sanna Marin, the prime minister of Finland is also the youngest female state leader, yet is demonstrating that this is no obstacle to protecting her citizens, something which male leaders with much more experience are struggling to do.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a clear example that female leadership does not have to come from state leaders. Several within her New York district have noted that she is personally reaching out to constituents to check on their wellbeing and if they need help getting anything in case they are shielding. Compare this to Boris Johnson’s regular absence from national coronavirus updates and from political leadership in its entirety for much of this crisis. Women across the world are demonstrating that they are formidable alternatives to the male-dominated political world.
These women are an inspiration to global leadership, not only are they normalising women in positions of power but they are serving as proof that women are just as good as men at leading. With better political education in national curriculums and an increasing proportion of women in higher offices, we can usher in a new generation of girls who believe it is normal for women to be state leaders and that there are no longer challenges for women to take opportunities to reach these positions.
This should serve as the final nail in the coffin in the argument that women are more emotionally fragile but is instead a clear indication that women are well-suited to political leadership. Women in every country should be encouraged to seek careers in politics. If all we hear are male voices in politics, then we are missing the perspective of half the population. This crisis has shown that women should and need to be leaders and hopefully, we will see more of this in the future. If it is societies with more women at all levels, in all sectors that manage crises most effectively, then surely this invalidates any remaining misogynistic views that leadership should remain a male-dominated space.
Amy Dwyer is studying for an MA in Politics and is an ambassador at 50:50 Parliament.
She tweets at @AmyDwyer23