Episode 8 of the BeNext Radio Show features a conversation with Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific at UN Women and Representative in Thailand and a Lighthouse Keeper Speaker on the BeNext Gender Balance: Promoting Women Program.
For women across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the ‘perfect storm’ of economic, social and health impacts. Before this crisis the majority of recessions were either 'mancessions' or affected men and women equally. This time around, however, there has been a disproportionate effect on women.
The BeNext program on Gender Balance: Promoting Women addresses these issues and more. Running July 12th — 13th August 2021, this program is designed for women leaders committed to accelerating their career growth within their organization, and learning critical skills for heading up teams. The aim of this program is to help identify opportunities to overcome obstacles and speed up the realization of your own potential and the potential of others.
In this insightful conversation with People Matters, Mohammad discusses how the events of the last year and a half have affected existing gender inequalities and what might be some of the challenges for women to achieve equity with men going forward.
Women & Insecure Labor
One of the main reasons COVID-19 has had such a huge impact on women is their disproportionate representation in frontline and insecure labour. “The impact of crisis and pandemics are never gender equal. The COVID pandemic has exposed existing inequalities and brought to the forefront issues that were not necessarily taken seriously before,” Mohammad outlines. “Women and girls are playing a disproportionate role in responding to the disease, such as frontline health care workers, carers at home and community leaders and mobilization across the world. Women are also suffering from job losses as they disproportionately work in insecure labor.”
Think Manager, Think Male
A central theme of the Gender Balance: Promoting Women program is the persistent stereotype of men as somehow better suited to leadership roles. In 1973, organizational psychologist Dr Virginia Schein conducted a study of the negative impacts of gender stereotypes on the “entry, success and advancement” of women in corporate life. This study became known as ‘Think Manager, Think Male' and is used to describe how certain traits are inherently or automatically associated with both men and leaders to the detriment of women’s advancement.
Mohammad discussed this idea with People Matters further, sharing that “the notion of leadership and management is very stereotypically male-dominated. There is also observation that many women take up an approach similar to their male peers when they reach leadership positions,” pointing to the example of Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, who once said she was never taken seriously by her people.
Mohammad added that: “We really need to move away from equating leadership and management with volatility and with being able to make ugly decisions. We need a wider definition of leadership to encompass these notions like kindness, compassion, empathy, relativity, an all-rounded definition of leadership,” to bring out the elements of all genders that complement one another.
A Better Tomorrow
In the face of all these startling statistics, it can be easy to feel there is no hope for a better world, or that things are tipping backwards in terms of gender balance. As someone who has spent their life working towards improving the status of women and girls around the world, Mohammad himself admits to moments of pessimism:
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I feel deflated,” he says. “The issues continue to exist and with COVID, we do see regression on many of the fronts, especially on the rights of women and girls in so many parts of the world, something that we have fought for for so many decades.”
However, Mohammad is inspired by the actions and mindsets of young people who are still striving for transformation. “And then I pinch myself when I say no, you cannot do that, because we have to continue to be hopeful. And when I connect with the younger generations - men and women and all genders - and I get from them this zest for life and this passion and compassion and energy, I get assured that tomorrow is better than today. Look at these young people who are still hoping for a better tomorrow and who are working for a better tomorrow. And let us join them. And let us follow their steps.”
Play your part in working towards this better tomorrow and enrol in the Gender Balance: Promoting Women program. For more information, click here.