COVID-19: Women better equipped to provide leadership, says don

Women are better leaders on the basis of their twin attributes of empathy and resilience, a renowned university lecturer has said.

Speaking at an international summit hosted by the Movement of Women in Lagos State Institutions for Good Governance (MOWLAS) in Lagos during the week, Prof. Bolanle Iranloye said the nation stands a better chance of weathering the negative impacts of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic if women are assigned more leadership roles in critical sectors of its political economy.

At the summit, whose theme is “Leadership Paradigm Shift and Role of Women in the Realities of Covid-19,” Iranloye, a professor of Physiology at the University of Lagos College of Medicine, argued that the myth of male superiority no longer holds water in view of the realities of the day.

She said: “Before now, it was often said that leadership was only for the male gender. But the outstanding performance of women in leadership has created an awakening in us that drives us towards a paradigm shift.”

The event, which drew 90 participants from Nigeria, Canada and United States of America, was convened and moderated by former Acting Vice Chancellor, and Director, Directorate of Advancement, Lagos State University, Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, mni.

Speaking further, Prof. Iranloye identified women folk as the gender who can better multi-task even in stressful situations.

She cited New Zealand, Taiwan, Germany, China, Norway and Finland as countries where the women folk have proved their leadership mettle during the Covid-19 challenge.

She however lamented that the situation was different in Nigeria which has just one woman out of the 12 members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19.

Her words: “Women have proven to be master multi-taskers and highly collaborative. They possess certain leadership attributes such as empathy, resilience, intuition and sensitivity.

“Empathy and resilience make them great leaders.”

She listed the Late Dr. Stella Adadevoh, the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mrs Ibukun Awosika and Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa as worthy examples of those who have excelled in various sectors, and concluded that in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, women are best positioned to lead their organisations out of the woods.

“When there is crisis, call a woman; when there is need for efficient leadership, call a woman,” she said.

Iranloye’s sentiments were echoed by another speaker, Dr. Oluseun Popoola, Head of Department and Chief Lecturer, Department of Science Laboratory Technology, Yaba College of Technology.

Speaking on the topic: “Women as Good Navigators in the Realities of Covid-19 Pandemic (Home front and Career)”, Dr. Popoola, a lab scientist, observed that in spite of their huge potentials, women ‘s careers have always been hampered by combining career and family, slowed by the traditionally assigned responsibility of managing the home, and characterised by interruptions, exits, and biological realities.

“Women have been most affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic; it has aggravated their economic realities, has disproportionate effect on their employment opportunities and heightened existing problem of social and economic inequalities,” she said.

She encouraged women to explore flexible and remote working conditions provided by the Covid-19 to balance career and home front in the new normal, adding that women must avoid falling victims of Covid-19 associated stress and maintain their resilience.

Another speaker, Dr. Medinat Osundiya, corroborated Dr. Popoola’s position, adding that by virtue of their sex, women have been at the receiving end of Covid-19 pandemic, citing the increase in domestic violence as a pointer.

She said women must play an active role in the new normal.

“In the health sector, women make up to 70% of the total global workforce and they have been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19,” she said, adding that “there is need for pro-activeness in investing in the health sector and the health caregiver at the community, primary and secondary health facilities respectively, to improve the quality of health care delivery.”

She stressed that personal hygiene is “essential to containing the spread of Covid-19 and many other infectious diseases.

“Overcoming health challenges can only be achieved with strong sanitary measures.”

On education, Osundiya said: “Covid-19 has brought unprecedented disruption in educational settings, forcing the closure of school for a long time.

“Reopening of schools will witness rise in school drop-outs occasioned by surge in teen pregnancies and early marriage. Women must be part of the entity that will combat the rise in school drop-outs.”