Written by the team at Whytematter.
Society (employment) was changing for the positive because of increasing female representation in business leadership. Unfortunately, the pandemic has negatively affected this trend. Therefore it is more important than ever to promote women in leadership because of their valuable traits.
When Covid-19 hit in March 2020, the reality of the workplace changed dramatically, and possibly forever. All of our preconceived ideas about what it meant to ‘go-to-work’ disappeared overnight and demanded workplace flexibility in its greatest form. The last 2 years have been about survival, and also about great leadership.
The concept of great leadership changed overnight too with the focus becoming more people centric. Sales, profit, and process became replaced with flexibility, inclusivity, and communication. The qualities and characteristics of a great leader became less about gender, and more about personal attributes and the ability to adapt.
Undeniably, those qualitative traits tend to be more inherent to females. And while the data now tells us that women are rated higher than men when it comes to the majority of good leadership characteristics, they still remain massively underrepresented.
While we have all felt the challenges of the pandemic, it is clear that the effect of the lockdowns have been particularly difficult for female leaders and particularly those who are working mothers.
Due to the nature of society, women tend to carry the burden in terms of domestic responsibilities and childcare, which can feel like a second full-time job after a full day in our career roles. But during the pandemic this had a huge effect on many women’s ability to juggle their time, resulting in them having to make a choice between a career and their children.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, by May 2020, mothers were 1.5 times more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit since March, and were more likely to have been furloughed. The Fawcett Society also found 35% of working mothers have lost work or hours due to a lack of childcare support during the pandemic.
Gender equity researcher Equileap found that in 2021, women made up only a fifth (20%) of executive team members in the UK, and as a result of the pandemic there are now fewer female leaders in employment. As women we need to manifest the unique values and traits of our sex to excel in our careers and lead in big business.
Female leaders are great in a crisis
It was widely reported in the media towards the start of the pandemic, that female leaders globally, managed the Coronavirus crisis much better than their male counterparts, responding faster and communicating better which is testament to their ability to act fast in a crisis. An example being Jacinta Ardhern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, who led her country while having a toddler at home.
Female leaders are adaptable
In life things do not always go to plan. The ability to multitask, be flexible and adapt in almost any given set of circumstances becomes second nature to females and is a core skill when it comes to leading a company.
Female leaders have empathy
Our innate female desire to nurture and empathize may sometimes be mistaken as weak, but it can be used as a powerful business growth tool, to engage staff, behave with more compassion and emotional intelligence, and create an inclusive workplace. As women we have an ability to develop a team-orientated, collaborative, and inclusive leadership style. The ability to sit down face to face with staff, to problem solve and develop long-lasting and meaningful professional relationships.
Post-pandemic this approach to business is more important than ever. So, as women, we just need to remember that we possess unique and valuable qualities that we each need to utilize to our own advantage to be successful leaders right here, right now.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of the Sync NI magazine. You can download your FREE copy and sign up to receive future digital editions here.