Women in Politics: How we should ‘build back better’ from Covid-19 – Liberal Article
There is an increasing number of women in leading roles throughout international society. The global political empowerment gap was the most improved dimension to gender equality coming into 2020; a year which is proving to be a tipping point for social and environmental sustainability. We need to follow good examples as we stabilise institutions post Covid-19.
One aspect that can’t be overlooked is how female leadership is leading the recovery from Covid-19. Not only are women holding over 70% of frontline care roles, but also countries run by women, such as New Zealand, Germany and Taiwan, have some of the lowest death rates per capita.
Coincidence? Maybe. However, this trend cannot be ignored. Particularly considering the fatal consequences of poor leadership during this time of crisis!
Whilst men and women are neurologically similar, our experiences within society are influenced by our sex. Thus, our way of relating to others and consequently our styles of leadership are different.
Feminine traits such as empathy and cooperation have traditionally been devalued in leadership roles. However, the effectiveness of countries’ responses to Covid-19 shows the importance of care and kindness in social protection. It isn’t just ethics of rights that are important in politics, we need ethics of care.
The UK and US, run dominantly by conservative white men, have simply done too little, too late. Covid-19 demanded a quick and pragmatic response, which these men failed to do. The difference between the sexes ability to deal with times of uncertainty is never going to be binary, nothing ever is. Women, in general, handle uncertainty on a more frequent basis; women’s bodies are constantly undergoing change.
As the primary caregivers, women globally face more unpredictable situations that demand collaboration and calmness. Additionally, when given the opportunity, such as after the Rwandan Genocide or during the World Wars, women have proven more than capable of stabilising societies. Whether due to socialisation or not, women respond effectively to unpredictable circumstances.
Furthermore, unlike their male counterparts who walk into an institutional structure designed for them, women need to accommodate for it, not just follow ‘the rules’. Therefore, women have the incentive to keep the status quo! This must change to secure future justice!
The speed of reaction also demonstrated clear prioritisation of health over the economy. Herd immunity was never an option for Jacinda Ardern or Silveria Jacobs, both of whom demonstrated a no-nonsense approach when addressing the public. It wasn’t a matter of pleasing the electorate but a matter of keeping people safe. This is something undoubtedly women have typically spent a disproportionate amount of time doing considering their traditional gender roles.
Despite their assertive approach, female leaders demonstrated the importance of building personal and empathetic relations with the public. Erna Solberg directly addressed Norway’s children, acknowledging and reassuring their anxieties. Whilst Jacinda Ardern continually used Facebook live to further enforce a sense of togetherness.
In the UK, the collective national effort was undermined by Johnson when he defended Cummings actions that had put people within a 300-mile radius at risk of Covid-19. It mocked any sense of unity.
Finally, one of the most important factors when it comes to leadership, particularly in the context of uncertainty, is accepting and following expert advice. Few female leaders showed any scepticism towards scientists throughout this crisis, and the results are significant. On the other hand, Boris Johnson overlooked the importance of expert advice by missing five Cobra meetings. It has resulted (unsurprisingly) with one of the highest death rates in Europe.
Could this difference be rooted in the fact that women’s voices have traditionally been undermined, their expertise questioned? Thus developing a modest, collaborative approach in leadership?
Admittedly the contextual factors surrounding a government’s ability to deal with Covid-19 are extensive. However, it is a fact that women have disproportionately responded better.
To ‘build back better’ requires a complementary approach between feminine and masculine traits in the future of leadership.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Abby Milnes
Point of Information
Diversity is the way forward – a Labour response
I agree with Abby. This is a very interesting article which highlights the importance of diversity at all levels in society.
It has been both sad and encouraging to see how well women leaders have dealt with this crisis. Sad, because I am not living in one of those countries that has almost bested the virus, and encouraging because they show a more optimistic version of the future.
As my Liberal colleague says, gender is not the sole determinant in how well a country has responded to the coronavirus. However, the few success stories in the world show that women in power have great potential to do exceptional things.
More empathy, cooperation, care and kindness in our politics would improve it greatly. Especially in times of such unprecedented suffering and hardship. Once we get through this, these skills will be invaluable in building a more understanding, tolerant society which works for more people.
I cannot wait for there to be more of us in power, along with many other marginalised voices. More voices from different backgrounds are an obvious way forward to improving politics.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Freya Jhugroo
An argument more of leadership style than of gender – a Conservative response
The premise of my colleague’s article is fundamentally important. Even with a global pandemic in our midst, the sexist power disparities aren’t disappearing. In fact, they’re more present than ever. Highlighting the trend of exemplary success by female leaders throughout Covid-19 is paramount when beginning to evaluate responses to the pandemic.
At the same time, it is unsound to say that all female leaders perform better than their male counterparts during all times of crisis. Such a position is too generalised, just as is a sexist, blanket statement like, “male leaders are better than female”.
As a woman, I understand well Abby’s point about engaging with uncertainty on a more frequent basis. The female body is too frequently unpredictable and loves to throw us surprises when we least expect them. Having said this, to compare the hormonal changes of a woman’s body, ones which too often repeat periodically, to the diversity and complexity of a country’s socio-economic systems and international relations is untenable.
In reality, this is an argument about leadership styles. It is not that women leaders are dramatically better in leadership roles. It’s just that ‘strongmen’ are doing worse. Trump’s political playbook, one that promises certainty in uncertain times by delegitimising and demoting the opposition is now being used against a respiratory illness. Covid-19 does not read Twitter.
The success of these women, whether it is Angela Merkel, Sanna Marin or Jacinda Arden, in protecting their nations has proved to the world the value of compassion and pragmatism in politics; a leadership style that will undoubtedly be prioritised in the future.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Emily Taylor
Hello, I’m Freya. I am going into my third year at Exeter, studying International Relations and Spanish. My main areas of interest are the environment, societal injustices and foreign affairs.
I am a first year student reading Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. After completing my degree, I wish to go on to study Public Policy at a postgraduate level.