From Adversity to Opportunity

In the midst of a crisis lies great opportunity,” said Albert Einstein and the COVID-19 crisis has reminded us of this. Women in leadership roles have proven that they are better equipped to handle a crisis. The coronavirus recovery efforts in women-led nations are greatly acknowledged world over and several reports recommend that there has been a significant increase in the progress on women’s rights and gender equality, which has been brought forward to the international forum.
Around 19 million people and countless families have been affected globally, yet it is fair to believe that catastrophes expose the otherwise inevident opportunities and in this situation, the glimmer of hope is the greater attention towards women, given that women’s role in the current crisis is being considered essential. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations also acknowledged the need for women’s contribution and leadership as being central to COVID-19 recovery and resilience efforts. Through his report, he indicated the possibility of progress in women’s rights post COVID-19. 
A Reshaped Leadership Perspective
Lately, the role of effective leadership to curb the transmission of the virus has been taken into consideration. Even more important is the appreciation of female leaders and frontline healthcare professionals who are working round the clock to deal with COVID-19. Throughout human history, women have consistently demonstrated their distinct abilities, but it is now that their role is being recognized more than ever. From managing the house to offering healthcare services, women are playing an outsized role in keeping their communities resilient and safe during the pandemic. To praise such painstaking efforts of women around the world, UN women including Hadeel Dabaibeh and Amal Al Mahayrah joined hands and thanked them for their efforts.
Several high profile narratives further validate the point that various female leaders are outperforming male leaders. Given that all the variables remain the same, it has been revealed that due to women's unique characteristics and aplomb, and leadership style, women-led countries fared better than male-led countries during the crisis. This is also clearly echoed in Hillary Clinton’s speech in June, where she praised women for demonstrating the kind of empathetic, inclusive, and rational leadership that should be promoted across the world. Leaders like Jacinda Arden, 39-year-old Prime Minister of New Zealand, are worth mentioning, who at such an early stage had gotten its shores rid of the virus. Another prominent female leader is German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has won high approval ratings due to her astute response to COVID-19. The aforementioned efforts of female leaders support the fact that women are coping with the pandemic better than male leaders. 
Further, due to the challenges of the current century, a reformed leadership style contrary to the previous control and command is in demand. This new type of leadership role similar to feminine management demands empathy, courage, flexibility, resilience, collaboration, caring, and recognition of collective participation. 
The role of women at the grassroots and their representation makes it evident that women can lead the next wave of political leaders. Undeniably, women are leading the fight against COVID-19, it might well be the global pandemic that would eventually make us acknowledge the capabilities and talents female leaders possess.
Attention Towards Gender-Based Inequality
Previous slow-paced progress in addressing gender parity may get fast forwarded during the pandemic. Though there is a high risk of widening the gender gap and reversal of the long accumulated gains in women’s economic empowerment, concerns demonstrated at various international forums on the matter of women rights indicate otherwise. Specialist forums, international press, and think-tanks have published several writings on the subject concerning gender-focused sensitivity. The approaching threat is also being timely addressed by various projects of the World Bank Group. In the first week of April, the UN Secretary General issued a call for peace against domestic violence, which escalated alongside the pandemic. UN agencies are also currently working with the member states to ensure that domestic violence prevention and response are part of national COVID-19 plans. The UN is shifting its resources to the civil society organizations on the frontline, supporting organizations aimed to help women to deliver public health messages in communities, working with governments to inform gender-responsive stimulus packages and ensuring that vital sexual and reproductive health services remain accessible to all women. Also, the Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan (PHRP) for COVID-19 addresses and outlines the interventions by UN Women for economic recovery solutions to facilitate Pakistani women nationwide. 
Further, the fact that women-led countries are managing the pandemic effectively can be attributed to the entire society where there is a greater presence of women in various positions of power, in all sectors. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, ranks women-led countries high on the list during the pandemic. In such egalitarian countries, power is enhanced by its distribution amongst both genders. In other societies, COVID-19 is exposing how inequalities of all types have hollowed out the societies, institutions and systems, making them more vulnerable to health, climate, economic and human security threats.
The pandemic has, therefore brought into light the long-term opportunities for female empowerment and gender equality. The illumination of gender gaps and related issues has led the governments and organizations to realize that gender-balanced representation can lead to better policy outcomes, whereas the lack of women's contribution can undermine it. 
The Bottom Line
It is imperative that the consequences of post COVID-19 economic slowdown for women be acknowledged and minimized. For this, female leaders must be brought together for dialogue and decision-making during the response efforts for the COVID-19. Moreover, organizations need to diversify their human capital as much as possible, giving priority to gender, and hence, deconstructing the stereotype of men being better suited for leadership roles. With greater participation of women and a broader perspective on the crisis by a heterogeneous group, a better consensus on solutions could be reached. HH

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