“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” — Michelle Obama
Gender diversity in leadership has become a priority around the world. Women are starting to take center stage in business, finance, politics, law, and STEM fields. However, women are still only a handful in a crowd of men or the only woman in an entire room. In a world full of social, environmental, and political issues, we can’t afford to keep half our minds and resources on the sidelines. Female leadership is incredibly important and beneficial to our society.
Women comprise half of the global population, however, according to a UN report approximately a quarter of positions in national governments are held by women. In Canada’s Parliament today, only 26% of the House of Commons is female. This proves the underrepresentation of women that exists in our policymaking. Equal participation in decision-making means that all human beings have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Issues in terms of healthcare, labour, business, industry, education, and childcare affect each gender differently. For example, men making policy on reproductive rights for women, while not understanding a woman’s anatomy or issues, is absurd. Women know their issues best, thus it’s important that they have a say on their life. Women must be effectively incorporated into all levels of leadership, especially in government, to ensure representation and justice.
The two-time American Pulitzer Prize winner, Nicholas Kristoff said, “the most effective way to fight global poverty, to reduce civil conflict, even to reduce long-term carbon emissions, is to invest in girls’ education and bring women into the formal labour force,” which highlights the fact that women in leadership helps to create a more holistic and sustainable world. A World Bank study explains that GDP and gender equality are positively correlated as when barriers that prevent women from seeking leadership are removed, the output of productivity rises by 25%. In fact, the 11th World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, said that “the empowerment of women is smart economics.” When women take on leadership roles in development, it assures the fair and effective reallocation of resources to where it’s needed most. Generally, female leaders show leadership by being empathetic, inclusive and open to negotiations. Female leaders bring a diversity of thought that allows for more innovative solutions to be generated.
Furthermore, women also impact the way resources are spent, especially in terms of policymaking. Gender budgeting, such as the Canadian Liberal government’s Budget 2017 or by simply showcasing that women experience issues differently than men, women are able to increase productivity. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development notes, “women typically invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men,” which is furthered by the claim that 80% of household purchasing decisions are made by women. This reinforces the notion that women are usually the primary caretakers of the household, thus are more aware of issues pertaining to families compared to men. Therefore, women are more effectively able to direct change in structural policies, such as parental leave, childcare services, benefits, and pay as these issues predominately affect them.
Not only do women impact family life, but also in operations in fisheries, the automotive industry, national security, the environment, STEM, human resources, and international relations according to an article by Carleton University. In fact, USAID reports that when there is equal ownership of land with women involved “there is over 10% increase in crop yields”. Therefore, women are multifaceted and have so much to offer society when involved in decision-making.
When men and women work together, there is better representation, governance, and economic performance in society. Rather than putting women on the sidelines because of misogynistic views of them being “emotional” due to their biological functions, there needs to be a focus on merit, credibility, and hard work. The push for more women in leadership doesn’t mean that women are entitled to seats at the table, but rather that the table should be bigger. The negativity towards the push for gender equality in leadership always has the same argument; the complete erosion of meritocracy. By promoting women in leadership, there is not an advancement of unqualified over the qualified as women are knowledgeable and proficient. In fact, Statistics Canada notes that 64.8% of working women have a post-secondary education, in which women make up 62% of undergraduates and medical graduates, and 59% of college graduates. Consequently, women are not undereducated, but rather overqualified compared to men in their fields of expertise.
The issues that exist today require the leveraging of human capital by using the diverse skills and ideas from all players, regardless of sex, gender, colour, sexual orientation, abilities or religious beliefs. We need to select our leaders from a large talent pool that isn’t restricted by stereotypes and prejudice. Men cannot effectively drive solutions to every problem, so there is a need for women to change the norms that exist today. We need to support minority groups, push boundaries, start a dialogue, challenge the status quo and be trailblazers by crushing cultural, structural and systemic barriers in order to improve leadership and change the world.
Nonetheless, gender equality is a fundamental human right. The progression and support for intersectionality is a necessity for a sustainable, progressive and inclusive world. We need to collectively support our sisters, mothers, daughters, colleagues, peers, and friends to seek out the roles they want to make tomorrow better for future generations.