“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”- Rosalynn Carter, former US First Lady
Hong Kong has been weathering the coronavirus storm with resilience and solidarity. However, the end date is still unknown and in the past week we have seen an upsurge in COVID-19 cases which is concerning. The global outlook is even more grim – 197 countries are now reporting cases with a wide disparity in how, and to what extent, governments are implementing containment measures. We hope you are coping with the ongoing stress and strain that this situation places on all of us. TWF is aiming to stay positive and inspiring women around the world are helping us to do that.
Now that COVID-19 is escalating beyond Asia, female leaders of nations in other parts of the world are coming into focus for their decisive and empathetic response to this crisis, which has helped to limit its spread. Leaders like Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand and Sanna Marin, Finland’s Prime Minister who leads an all-female coalition, have been praised for making tough and timely decisions around health, travel restrictions and finance for their countries.
Ardern, in particular, is known for her ‘politics of kindness’ and her outstanding communication skills, which have seen her guide New Zealand and the world through previous emergencies in her relatively short tenure as PM, including the Christchurch terrorist attack and the volcanic eruption, all while publicly juggling the responsibilities of being a new parent.
Demonstrating highly empathetic leadership, Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg and Ardern both held press conferences for children, aiming to reduce the anxiety and uncertainty young people are currently facing.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, currently in self-isolation and working from home, responded later to the pandemic than others, but she displayed her trademark calm and no nonsense approach at a press conference last week. She was commended for her authoritative speech, announcing strict social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus, and for her transparency during the crisis.
These salient characteristics that are leading us through this pandemic can be developed and adopted by leaders of any gender and any sector. TWF is instilling some of these valuable models of leadership in our Mentoring Programme for Women Leaders and is hosting a session for the current cohort this week on “Leading with Courage”. This approach focuses on developing a mindset for success that includes excellence, inclusivity and self-compassion.
We are also inspired by women who have been confronting this virus on the front line. In Hong Kong, according to latest statistics, over 85% of registered nurses are women. Women also make up the majority of supermarket staff and cleaners. Women in Hong Kong make up 67% of workers in elementary occupations and this persistent over-representation is reflected in studies around the world. These jobs are generally low wage and often insecure, lacking the security and benefits of higher status employment. Alarmingly, many of these workers are not given enough protective supplies, despite being on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.
Let’s celebrate all the women working to keep the world a safer place in this very uncertain time. Let’s also continue to practice good hygiene and physical distancing, but strengthen our compassion and connection with each other.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org.