By Michelle King
Leading a nation or business through a global pandemic is no easy task. Now more than ever we need leaders who can manage disruptive change, offer comfort and support and provide inspiration to get through this difficult time—attributes that women leaders have in abundance.
While it may be too early to definitively conclude that women world leaders are more effective than men at handling the national responses in countries like New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan and Norway have been highly effective to date and these countries all have one thing in common—women leaders.
Women leaders tend to adopt a more relational leadership style, by demonstrating greater empathy and compassion. This approach enables women to build trust, alleviate fears and manage the unknown, all of which makes women more effective in managing crisis situations.
While women have the skills to lead during a crisis, they are often not afforded the opportunity to do so, as currently women make up only 7% of heads of state. But despite the lack of leadership opportunities, women are stepping up their relief efforts. For example, Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, recently launched the Halo Fund, a new multi million-dollar charitable initiative created to support COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts. The fund includes an initial $100,000 donation to support research, front line healthcare workers, public health resources, and to provide food and medical support for families and individuals in need.
Women in particular need this aid, as they comprise the majority of health and social care workers, which places them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and yet they also continue to earn 11 percent less than men in the same field. “COVID-19 is shining a light on the problems we have in the world that are affecting people in undeserved communities. Women who are not paid what they deserve to be paid, and yet they’re on the front lines putting their lives at risk. We need to help support them. We need to find ways to make sure they’re paid, what they deserve. We need to give back,” says Elting.
The lack of leadership diversity limits the effectiveness of relief efforts, as women don’t have their interests or needs represented at the leadership table. Currently women only comprise 25 percent of senior leadership positions in the healthcare sector, despite making up 70 percent of the workforce. Consequently, the response teams, tasked with managing the crisis are predominantly male as the majority of the United States Coronavirus Taskforce is male and the United Kingdom Task Force is entirely male.
“I find these times of great adversity are incredibly revealing from the very first days of the outbreak to just this week, we’ve seen leaders across the globe fail to rise to the occasion and the stakes couldn’t be greater and in a global health crisis like this, insufficient leadership is deadly,” she says.
Originally posted on Forbes