Women Leading Change: Crisis, Disruption and Systems Change

I was part of the Women’s Intensive Leadership panel yesterday to discuss Women Leading Change during the COVID19 crisis, and some of the ways this has impacted women. Along with some of the ways we need to change the system and our own behaviour to make sure it’s not leaving people behind.

Here are the panelists & moderator we were joined with:

Belinda Clemmensen – Founder of Women’s Leadership Intensive.

Stephanie Dei – access the Women’s Empowerment Principles Brief  here. Learn more about the WEPs:  https://www.weps.org/about

Nancy Wilson- join CanWCC for three months for just $1! Sign up on the  Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce website and use the promo code: 1for3CanWCC

Ellen Duffield – learn more about her work and her books on her website.

And myself, representing Parkdale Centre for Innovation 🙂

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels
  • What are the ways Covid 19 has specifically and particularly impacted women?

This pandemic has definitely intensified inequalities in ways many government and social structures did not anticipate. There is definitely a gendered impact on women during this pandemic, and it’s also important to remember that there are other factors that add to these inequalities, such as economic status, race, language, culture, and other intersecting elements that add to one’s identity.

Front-line women workers now have it a lot harder by being on the front lines and being exposed to COVID19. Childcare is also a huge issue that many women have to deal with. If she’s a front line worker, she will have to navigate this with likely a lot of barriers. Working from home, with childcare also puts an added level of stress on both the moms and the kids, and if one is a single mom that adds another layer of complexity.

Stats show that gender based violence has heightened since everyone’s being asked to quarantine and social distance.

Good news is that our government is paying attention to these issues and have been working hard to announce different assistance programs that can help to alleviate the impact this pandemic is having on women.

  • How can women lead through the transitions we’re experiencing in the short term?

I think first and foremost we need to assess our priorities, have they changed since the pandemic started? If so, re-evaluate what they are, and focus on those that matter the most. Ensure that you’re not spending extra time and energy on things that are no longer a priority, or even relevant.

I told Women in Leadership participants that they should plan their next 6 months out. A lot has changed and will continue to be different over the next little while. Perhaps it’s time to think about expanding your business to online or national, maybe the business model will have to change a little bit to accommodate the current climate. Whatever it is, it’s important to plan the next 6 months at least, so you’re not fighting a losing battle. Having a strong plan in place can help to alleviate a lot of the stresses, and more importantly, you’ll have a few goals to work towards achieving over the next while.

Last advice is to also be flexible and go easy on yourself. This isn’t normal, and everyone is dealing with this change. It can be hard to digest and deal with, especially when we have a lot of other priorities in our life (kids’ learning, dealing with sick family members). Your number one focus should be your health and well-being and then that of others.

  • How can women take a lead in shaping more equitable and just systems and structures in a post COVID society?

I think one of the number one things that we could do as women leaders is to provide and open up opportunities for each other. It’s important that we work to dismantle the power structures that are in place that work to gate keep women, and women of colour to access networks, opportunities, and capital.

When we say “lift each other up” we think of this as a cliches, but we know that cliches carry a lot of truth. We could lift each other up by the simple things:

  • Share, like and follow women’s business ventures and initiatives on social media. It doesn’t cost anything, and will help them gain some much needed support.
  • Don’t be afraid to introduce another woman to a great connection you have built, it won’t take away from your success, in fact, by amplifying other voices you’re showing true signs of a resilient leader.
  • Offer to support someone else who’s starting from Step 1, and share your experience with them. You don’t have to provide advice, and tell them what to do or what not to do, because that also affirms these power structures, but sharing your story and experience can be a valuable learning moment for them.
  • And understand that biases, stereotypes, and discrimination is real. The more you reconcile with this fact the faster you’re able to reflect on your environment and how you could make a change to become a more equitable and just leader.

Tune in for the rest of the Women Leading Change Panel Event Series happening throughout May.

How has this crisis impacted you?

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