Thursday 17th March 2022

Women in Leadership – What’s changed since the pandemic?

The pandemic has refocused a lot of people’s priorities, with a large section of society looking for more meaningful jobs or careers...

Women in Leadership – What’s changed since the pandemic?

We’ve heard a lot about how leadership has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic. Enforced remote working has transitioned us towards the hybrid work model, with more flexibility for many, and a much bigger priority on mental health. It has also refocused a lot of people’s priorities, with a large section of society looking for more meaningful jobs or careers that better reflect their values and sense of purpose.

Leaders have had to learn fast in adapting to remote governance, with those organisations who had already developed a strong culture of trust faring better than those still governed with more top-down, authoritarian approaches. Organisations with empathic, emotionally intelligent leaders made transitions into flexible, remote and hybrid working more fluid and successful for their teams, whilst organisational heads determined to enforce rigid, micro-managed, one size fits all remote or office work patterns found themselves floundering and frustrated that their staff no longer felt motivated or happy.

The great resignation (reset/refocus/insert word here!) has only reinforced the realisation that the new work world in which we operate will never go ‘back to normal’ and things will never be quite the same again, with a fresh approach to leadership and people management becoming vital to not just the success, but for many organisations, the survival of their businesses. But how has all of this affected women in leadership?

The rise of ‘female’ leadership traits

As leadership has evolved, it has become clear that the best leaders who have managed to successfully drive their teams through the pandemic and the new work environment processes possess qualities such as emotional intelligence, empathy, trust, self-awareness, authenticity, and are able to think collaboratively and outside the box. Most of these qualities were traditionally perceived as ‘female’ leadership traits (although now it is widely accepted that all great modern leaders possess a similar skillset), and it has not gone unrecognised that many of the most successful leaders throughout the pandemic are female; however the outcome of the effects of the pandemic on the female workforce has, in contrast, become heavily disparate.

According to McKinsey, women in general have been impacted most throughout the pandemic, with three major groups experiencing some of the largest challenges: working mothers, women in senior management positions, and women of colour. And despite companies’ efforts to support employees during the crisis, women are still feeling the effects more than others, becoming more exhausted, burned out, and under pressure than men, according to the 2021 Women in the Workplace study, due to an imbalance in work, familial responsibilities and household management tasks, which are  being left predominantly on their shoulders. This suggests that companies need to do more to adjust the norms and expectations that lead to these experiences. But also, it shows that society as a whole must recognise that gender bias plays a significant part in this inequality, and must be addressed.

Beating the bias has never been more important

Studies show that gender bias starts right from our very first familial environments, and are reinforced throughout our childhoods and into adulthood, through our educational and workplace settings. Our media also plays a massive part in reinforcing these stereotypes, with representation of women in tv and film roles creating negative behaviour patterns towards females, which is further compounded by women leaders being hugely underrepresented in newspaper, television and radio news shows.

If we consciously tackle the issues surrounding gender bias right from its roots, we can effectively start to challenge and eradicate the disparity and unbalanced negative effects on women and female leaders that have emerged since the pandemic. The global crisis has highlighted what already existed, but in turn, it has also underlined just how valuable to our societal structures visible female leadership is in addressing the challenges we collectively face, and how we must continue to adapt in order to support women in education, in the workplace and in leadership roles.

< Back to blog