The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated, once again, the critical role of women in society. Apart from women making up the greater percentage of frontline workers worldwide, women researchers have led many crucial breakthroughs in the fight against the pandemic – from understanding the virus and controlling its spread, to developing diagnostic tests and vaccines.
Despite all of this, women continue to face so many barriers, challenges, and stereotypes at home, work, and the public life. Women and girls are expected to behave, look, and express themselves in a certain way as dictated by various societies. In some cultures, and societies, girls are not encouraged to study at all, in others they are frowned upon when they enroll for certain educational fields of study which are considered ‘as unsuitable professions for women’. Many families, especially in less established communities, are still reluctant to invest in girls’ education as they believe they will not get a “return on their investment”. This is despite the great strides and waves that women continue to make globally.
These gender stereotypes and gender-based inequalities continue to prevent many girls and women from taking up and remaining in certain careers and leadership roles across the world. Globally, women are facing increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment and poverty.
Although women make up the majority of front-line workers, there is still disproportionate and inadequate representation of women in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces. As if that is not enough, there is growing evidence that the pandemic has hit women harder than men, for example as a result of the unbalanced distribution of unpaid care and domestic tasks. All too often, women take charge of home schooling, elderly care, and other work created by stay-at-home orders, at the expense of their own employment and/or advancement.
It is in light of this that the 2021 theme for International Women’s Day celebrations is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”
Women leaders and women’s organizations have more than ever before demonstrated their skills, knowledge and networks to effectively lead in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Today there is more acceptance than ever before that women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table, and make irreplaceable contributions to decisions, policies and laws that work better for all.
Research indicates that the majority of the countries that have been more successful in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, are headed by women.
It is without a doubt that, upholding women’s rights and fully leveraging the potential of women’s leadership in pandemic preparedness and response, the perspectives of women and girls, in all of their diversity, need to be integrated in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes in all spheres and at all stages of pandemic response and recovery.
In order to advance women leadership and more importantly equality, there is a need to step up efforts to close the prevailing gender gaps in leadership and to address the norms and stereotypes that create and preserve expectations of limited career paths for women and girls.
This is by no means ‘a one sided effort’ required from women or women’s organisations. The role of male allies is very important and cannot be ignored in this process. It is without a doubt that in most societies and especially in patriarchal societies, men are very influential with their economic, political, and social power and resources. Without the support of men, the achievement of success in gender equality will continue, albeit in a slow progression. Without the support of men, women will achieve success to a certain degree, but the progress will be slow and littered with unnecessary barriers, however with the support of men an equal progressive generation can be achieved much faster.
To be truly transformative, gender equality policies and programmes need to eliminate gender stereotypes through education, change social norms, promote positive role models of women and build awareness at the highest levels of decision-making. We need to ensure that women and girls are not barred from participating in any field of study, but are empowered to lead and innovate, and that they are supported by workplace policies and organizational cultures that ensure their safety, consider their needs as parents, and incentivize them to advance and thrive in these careers.
All of us have a role to play in this important campaign. It starts with the following important actions that we all can take, namely:
Subsequently, every year on the 8th March, women’s achievements are celebrated globally. International Women’s day is a day to spread awareness, among the people, regarding women’s rights and gender equality. This day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a day that is used to highlight the prevailing inequalities, prejudices and barriers faced by women to this day, with a view to eliminating these. Despite the trials faced by women and the room for improvement in relation to women’s rights, this day is intended to encourage the women out there that no hurdles can stop them from accomplishing their dreams.
Join us as we continue to stand together, support, encourage and celebrate women of all ages. Let us all advance women in leadership and work towards the achievement of an equal and progressive future for all, more especially within the retail motor industry.
Keep a look out for exciting activities which will be rolled out by MISA in the transformation of our industry.
The article contains information from unwomen.org