Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World
To call a woman, the weaker sex is a libel; it is a man’s injustice to woman. If by strength it is meant moral power, then a woman is immeasurably man’s superior. Has she not more self-sacrificing, has she not great powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women.Mahatma Gandhi
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. It is an occasion marking a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. Collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity are what makes International Women’s Day impactful. Celebrate women’s achievements and raise awareness about women’s equality.
It all started in 1908 with 15,000 women marching through New York City demanding better working conditions and voting rights. The Socialist Party of America declared the first National Woman’s Day a year later and was celebrated for the first time in 1911. Initially, women’s day was celebrated on February 28 in the US and then on the last Sunday of February until 1913. From 1914, International Women’s Day is being observed on March 8. It was equivalent to February 23 in the Gregorian calendar, on the day women agitated for their rights in Russia. The UN started observing the day in 1975. In 2001, internationalwomensday.com, a platform launched to celebrate and make the achievements of women visible while continuing the call for accelerating gender parity. Purple, green, and white are the colours of International Women’s Day. Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolises hope, and white represents purity.
Societies are witnessing a significant change and attitudinal shift in women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality. Unfortunately, women are still not paid the same as their male counterparts, not present in equal numbers in business or politics. It is interesting to note that only 21 countries had a female head of State or Government. The proportion of women in senior management roles was a mere 29%. The theme of this year’s session of the Commission on the Status of Women, “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls“. Women’s leadership is essential if we want to move towards more just and sustainable societies. In the recent years, we have seen progress and the women’s movement reach an unprecedented scale. Taking oath by Kamala Harris’s as Vice President of the US saw the first female, first black and first Asian-American US vice president.
Yatra naryastu pujyante ramante tatra Devata,Where Women are honoured, divinity blossoms there, and wherever women are dishonoured,
yatraitaastu na pujyante sarvaastatrafalaah kriyaah!
all action no matter how noble it may be remains unfruitful.
Ancient Hindu scriptures indicate women’s importance in society: their ability, intelligence, and patience (Karaneshu Manthri, Kshamayeshu Dharitri). Reverence to women has always been professed, and women kept at the top, recall: “Matha Pitha Guru Deivam” (“Mother Father Teacher God”). Unfortunately, despite all these, discrimination is rampant in India. Preference for a boy child leading to female foeticide, discrimination by family members, sexual exploitation is all there to see.
Our scriptures depict women’s power, their importance and the reverence bestowed on them, but you see things drifting.
Gender equality is essential to achieve peaceful societies and sustainable development. Empowering women leads to enhanced productivity and economic growth. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to achieve full equality of rights and opportunities between men and women. Efforts must be made to end the multiple forms of gender violence and ensure equal opportunities in access to employment and positions of leadership and decision-making at all levels.
COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical role women researchers played in different stages of the fight against COVID-19. The pandemic also had a significant negative impact on women scientists —the most affected being those at the early stages of their career. The data from UN Women revealing the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality.
I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.Mother Theresa
The fight for gender equality is more than a hundred years. One cannot help wondering whether the world would ever see gender parity! With the multiple roles women play, some bestowed by nature like childbearing, playing an essential part of the workforce, one need to wonder whether achieving gender parity is flawed. What we need is to celebrate women for what they are and respect them. Poverty, violence, sexual abuse are harsh realities haunting humanity and what we have made the world to be.