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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

On International Women’s Day

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UTG Medical Students’ Association

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By Caroline Barbine Mendy 4th year medical student (UTG)

As radiant as the rays of the summer sun are, as bright as the stars shine the radiance of your smile outshines them all. You are strong, beautiful, full of life, amazing and above all you are unconditionally loving. You are an inspiration to many; your unbreakable personality is commendable and nations celebrate you.

IWD is a global holiday celebrated annually on March 8th to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic   achievements of women. It is a focal point in the women’s right movement, bringing notice to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women. In some parts of the world, international women’s day still reflects its political origins, being marked by protests and calls for radical change, in other areas particularly in the west, it is largely sociocultural and centered on a celebration of womanhood.

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Brief history of International Women’s Day (IWD)

The celebration originated from labor movements in North America and Europe during the early 20th century. The earliest version was a celebration organized by the socialist part of America in New York City February 28th, 1909. This inspired German delegates at the 1910 international socialist woman’s conference to propose a special women’s day organized annually. The IWD became a mainstream global holiday following its adoption by the United Nations in 1977.

International Women’s Day 2021 and the impact of Covid

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Every year the UN chooses a theme for this day. This year’s theme is: women in leadership; achieving an equal future in a COVID 19 world, highlighting the impact that girls and women worldwide had as health workers, caregivers, innovators and community organizers during COVID19 pandemic. Women’s full and effective participation and leadership in of all areas of life drives progress for everyone. Yet, women are still underrepresented in public life and decision making, in the UN secretary’s recent report, women who  are heads of states or government in 22 countries, and only 24.9 per cent of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among heads of Government will take another 130 years. Women are also at the forefront of the battle against COVID19, as front liners and health sector workers, as scientist, doctors and caregivers, yet they get paid 11 % less than their male counterparts. This year’s International women’s day celebration is by far the most devastating period in every entrepreneur’s life. Women are overrepresented in many of the industries and businesses hardest hit by COVID19 such as food service, retail and entertainment. The financial impact on hospitality alone has been so staggering. Globally, 58% of employed women work in informal employment, and estimates suggest that during the first month of the pandemic, informal workers globally lost an average of 60%of their income.

Women and leadership

Leadership is a research area, and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual, group or organization to lead, influence and other individuals, teams or entire organization. Others have challenged the more traditional managerial view of leadership which believes that it is something possessed or owned by one individual due to their role or authority, and instead advocate to their complex of nature of leadership which is found at all levels of the institution, both within formal roles. In Africa, women are mostly limited to being guardians of their children’s welfare and have explicit responsibility to provide for them materially. They are the household managers, providing food, water, health, education and family planning to an extent greater than elsewhere in developing countries.

Barriers to female leadership

Many reasons contribute to barriers that hinder the entrance of women into leadership, this varies according to many cultures. Despite the increasing number of female leaders in the world, only a small fraction come from non-westernized cultures.

∑  Research and literature: Although there have been many studies done on leadership for women in the past decade, very little research has been done for women in paternalistic cultures. The literature and research done for women to emerge into a society that prefers males is lacking. This ultimately hinders women from knowing how to reach their individual leadership goals, and fails to educate the male counterparts in this disparity.

∑  Society and law: Certain countries that follow paternalism, still allow for women to be treated unjustly. Child marriage and minor punishments for perpetrators in crime against women, shape the society’s view on how female should be treated. This can prevent women from feeling comfortable to speak out in both a personal and professional setting.

∑ Glass ceilings and glass cliffs: Women who work in a very paternalistic culture or industry, often deal with limitations in their careers that prevent them from moving up any further. This association is often due to the mentality that only males carry leadership characteristics. The glass cliff term refers to undesired projects that are given to women because they have an increase in risk of failure. These undesired projects are given to female employees where they are more likely to fail and leave the organization

 Misconceptions about leadership

∑  Leadership is innate: According to some, Leadership is determined by distinctive dispositional characteristics present at birth (intelligence, ingenuity) However, evidence have shown that leadership also develops through hard work and careful observation. Thus, effective leadership can result from nature as well as nurture.

∑  Leadership is possession of power over others: Although leadership is certainly a form of power, it is not demarcated by power over people rather it is power with the people which exist as a reciprocal relationship between a leader and his people. A leader is expected to use his powers to serve his people and stand by his people and not exploit them.

∑ Leaders entirely control group outcomes: In western cultures it is generally assumed that leaders make all the difference when it comes to group influence and overall goal attainment. Although common, this romanticized view of leadership ignores the existence of many  other factors that influence group dynamics such as ,group cohesion, communication patterns among members , individual personality traits, group context, the nature or orientation of the work, as well as behavioral norms and establish standards influence  group functionality in varying capacities. For this reason, it is unwanted to assume that all leaders are in complete control of their groups’ achievements. 

How do we empower women to take up leadership positions?

∑ Address women’s leadership challenges and needed competencies by ensuring that female leaders have the experiences and the resources to learn what they need most through coaching, mentoring, and workshops or programs.

∑  Take full advantage of the power of choosing: women need to be intentional about their careers and development as leaders. Encourage them to exert greater influence on the choices they make, take lead in shaping conversations about their career and take greater ownership of their career choices.

∑ Rethink systems and challenge assumptions by looking for ways that unconscious bias in the organization affects opportunities and motivation for women. Scheduling, opportunities for networking and mentoring, social norms, and talent management processes are some areas for rethink.

∑  Consider a women-only leadership development experience.

∑  Create the right networks, the right relationships, and ties are an asset in getting access to information, earning promotions, and gaining opportunities

Reasons for women’s need to lead

There are countless reasons why women should be given leadership roles and some of them are:

∑ They value work-life balance: It’s easier to approach a female leader with personal request, or a sensitive question. They care about their team and well-being.

∑  They are empathetic: Most women are naturally empathetic and value relationships. This enables them to have a strong understanding of what drives and motivates people and how to acknowledge different people for their performance

∑   They make great listeners

∑  They are nurturing: The key aspect of leadership is the ability to help other people nurture their skills and talents and women have proven fit for this task.

∑   They focus on team work.

∑   They are good at multitasking

∑   They are motivated by challenges.

∑   They are strong communicators

∑   They handle crisis situations well

∑ They have high emotional intelligence

∑   They are flexible


This year’s theme is a very important part of our development as a nation and women deserve to choose what they do, where they want to be and who they want to be. Let us empower our women today and make them successful women who can build themselves a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown.

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