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Why We Need Women in Leadership

Gender diversity in leadership has now become a priority around the world. Women are starting to take centre stage in business, finance, politics, law, STEM fields, and so much more. However, women are still usually just a handful in a crowd of men or even just the only woman in an entire room. Female leadership is incredibly important and beneficial to society. If we take a step back and look around, our global community is facing many issues and keeping half our brains and resources on the sidelines, is something we just can’t afford. We need all the help we can get.

On March 8th, International Women’s Day, we celebrated the dramatic progress women have made around the world for equality, by tirelessly fighting for women’s rights with intensity and sacrifice. However, it also reminded us of all the work that is still left to do.

Women comprise of half the global population, however, according to an UN report approximately only 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 just proves the underrepresentation of women in our own policy making. The ideal of equal participation in decision-making is that all human beings have the right to participate in decisions that affect their life. Issues in terms of healthcare, labour, business, industry, education, childcare, and training affect each gender differently. For example, having men make policy on reproductive rights for females, while not understanding a woman’s anatomy and women’s issues, is completely absurd. Since women know their issues best, it’s important that they have an equal say to be effectively incorporated into all levels of decision-making. Furthermore, based on the same report, women across all sectors and occupations still earn less than men in most countries. To top it off, according to the World Economic Forum, it could take another 118 years to close the income gap. In fact, in Canada alone, women make 87 cents to a man’s $1. This just shows that women not only hold a minority of decision-making positions in public and private institutions, but also don’t have social justice.

Incorporating women in leadership helps to create a more holistic and sustainable world. It’s just common sense to have parity. Women bring diversity of thought as well as a different set of skills and leadership styles to the table. The 11th World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, said that “the empowerment of women is smart economics”. The World Bank study explained how GDP and gender equality are positively correlated as when the barriers that prevent women from seeking leadership are removed, the output of productivity rises by 25%. A 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 typically to invest in girls’ education and bring women into the formal labour force”. These two men, couldn’t be more right! When women take on leadership roles in development, it assures the fair and effective reallocation of resources to where it’s needed most. This is because women leaders usually — not always — show leadership by being compassionate, empathetic, inclusive and open in terms of negotiations. Obviously this isn’t true for all women, as we all have different leadership styles, but this is just a common trend that has been identified. With that said, the diversity of perspectives that women bring, allow more innovative solutions to be generated.

Furthermore, women also impact the way resources are spent, especially in terms of policy. This occurs either through gender budgeting, such as how the Canadian Liberal government has done with Budget 2017, or simply by showing how women experience issues differently than men. Usually, women are able to help direct change in structural policies, such as parental leave, childcare services, benefits and pay. As noted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, “women typically invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men”. To further this claim the New Zealand’s Ministry for Women says that 80% of household purchasing decisions are made by women, thus reinforcing the fact that women are the primary caretakers of the household and know more about issues pertaining to it compared to men. Also, a Canadian study done at Carleton University, says that women not only have an impact on family life, but also on “programs and operations, such as in fisheries, the automotive industry, national security, natural resources, the environment, science, human resources, and international relations.” Lastly, in terms of industry, USAID says that when there is an equal ownership of land, “there is over 10% increase in crop yields”. Women are multifaceted and have so much to offer society.

Therefore, it can be concluded that when men and women work together, there is better representation, governance, and economic performance. Rather than putting women on the sidelines because of misogynistic views of women being “too emotional” or “a hassle” because of their biological functions, there needs to be a focus on merit, credibility, and hard work. This 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 to the push for gender equality in leadership always has the same argument; the complete erosion of meritocracy. By promoting women in leadership positions, there is not an advancement of unqualified over the qualified. Even the notion that women are unqualified is quite bizarre. Statistics Canada, says that 64.8% of working women have a post secondary education, which is 1.4% more than men. In fact, women make up 62% of undergraduates in university, 62.2% of medical degree graduates, a majority of highschool and college teaching professionals, and 59% of college graduates. More recently, in 2011, only 27% of employed men held a university degree, whereas 40% of women had a professional job as well as a degree. Women are not undereducated. In fact, many women are overqualified compared to men in many fields according to another Statistic Canada study.

Lastly, the issues that exist in today’s society, require the leveraging of human capital. It requires us to use the diverse skills and ideas from all players, regardless of sex, gender, colour, sexual orientation, physical or mental disabilities or religious beliefs. In order to get the very best leaders to lead us to a more prosperous, and positive tomorrow, we need to select leaders from a large talent pool. By restricting who can and cannot be in the pool based on stereotypes, prejudice, the lack of support, as well as other barriers, there is a failure to exploit the talent that exists in the world. Men themselves cannot effectively drive solutions to every problem. There is a need for women to change the norms that exist today. They need to push boundaries, start dialogue, promote and support minority groups, challenge the status quo and be trailblazers by crushing cultural, structural and systemic barriers in order to improve leadership and change the world. Women need to be the change they wish to see by showcasing true diversity and reflecting and representing all of humanity. In order to achieve peace and prosperity, we need all of our talents’ contribution.

Nonetheless, all things set aside, 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 our future generations.

*Disclaimer: Featured image is not mine. Retrieved here.

Gursimran is a fourth year student at the University of Windsor pursing a BSc in Biological Sciences and a minor in Psychology. Gursimran spends much of her free time volunteering in her community, spending time with family and friends, travelling and writing for her personal blog. She aspires to be a lawyer and eventually dive into the world of Canadian politics. Gursimran is passionate about human rights and bringing positive change to the world. She is an active citizen and aims to inspire and empower the youth to get engaged in global issues and be young drivers of change. Follow Gursimran on Instagram and make sure to check out her blog, Sincerely Simran!
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