Updated: Nov 9, 2020
A female leader is not a new sight, but a rare one in the higher rung of any political or corporate structure. ‘Rare’ points to the drastically low probability of a woman to be at a higher leadership position as compared to a man. This is the result of very few women being able to break the “glass ceiling” in the system and rise above the “broken rung”. The stark difference between the positions held by the two genders emanates from disparity of opportunity. This disparity of opportunity is a result of the social construct of gender. Historically, women have actively been refrained from being involved in public or worldly affairs and as a result, they have been restricted only to the private sphere of life i.e. homely affairs. This practice of dividing the public and private sphere of life has created a void in the opportunities available to women. This divide has had resonating effects on the power struggle between men and women and lack of redressal and continued discrimination has led to a state of anarchy.
The Mckinsey report of Women in the Workplace 2019 (https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/gender-equality/women-in-the-workplace-2019) clearly states that there has been no real change in the count of women seeing gender as a barrier to their advancements in past five years. It can be deduced from this fact that there is stagnation in growth towards eradicating discrimination in the workplace and especially in high level leadership positions. In fact, a certain trend has come to light wherein less number of women are being hired at managerial positions. All of the above appears to be the result of considering females as the weaker gender and an inferior political agent as compared to their male counterparts. However, all such notions have been countered and dismissed irretrievably by an impeccable display of leadership by women in the times of the COVID - 19 crisis.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand has exhibited extremely successful and wholesome leadership in this fight against this novel pandemic. Her bold and unambiguous plans and strategies have resulted in the eradication of Corona cases in New Zealand. A unique aspect of her leadership style is to maintain constant direct contact with the citizens of her country. She used to be featured live on television every single day at 1 p.m. so as to relay the situation of the pandemic in the country as well as to pacify and sympathize with the masses. This is an interactive form of leadership which encourages citizen participation and increases government accountability (https://hbr.org/1990/11/ways-women-lead). Interactive leadership also allows leaders to contain their subjects and ensure that all rules and plans laid down are followed through.
It has been noted that female leaders engage in transformational leadership, which is motivating one’s subordinates such that their personal interests are aligned with the task at hand, whereas men tend to indulge in a transitional form of leadership which is to command one’s subordinates and expect a follow-through. The transformational style of leadership has been particularly helpful in the current times, since a battle against the COVID- 19 demanded community awakening and prioritization of community interest.
Other than New Zealand, countries such Germany, Taiwan, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark are also led by female political leaders and have exhibited remarkable combat mechanisms. The decisive and prompt nature of the leaders of these countries has been a major factor in their schemes and plans against COVID- 19.
In a survey conducted by Eagly and Johnson in 1990 reviewing leadership studies, it was concluded that women were more democratic, encouraging participation, and men were more autocratic, directing performance (https://www.apa.org/research/action/bos). Thus, women leaders have established that there is massive potential in female styles of leadership.
Current circumstances all around the world are indicative of a huge economic breakdown. Here, women's leadership might have the potential to revive the economy. It has scientifically been proven that a women’s brains work in a more interconnected manner as compared to a men’s. (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/male-and-female-brains-really-are-built-differently/281962/). This is an outcome of interconnected hemispheres in women’s brain, which help in the multitasking and approaching or attacking a matter in a more wholesome and all- encompassing manner. The economic crisis post COVID -19 will not be a normal crisis but one with its own peculiarities and would thus demand holistic planning. Female leadership has proven to be more compassionate and empathetic than a male’s. In the present scenario, compassion and empathy should specially be inculcated within the economic revival plan in order to support families which have suffered loss of loved ones or/and financial sources.
Thus the COVID - 19 crisis has marked an important turn in women's leadership history across the globe, proving female leaders to be efficient and successful, thus shattering the common narrative of females being the ‘second sex’.