Around the world, women have found themselves severely under-represented in leadership positions in both the public and private sector. Even here in New Zealand, where we were the first to give women the vote, and are currently under the leadership of our third female Prime Minister, gender inequality in the workplace is still a genuine issue. While this discrimination is due to many factors, one of the key reasons is the idea that women lack the qualities needed to be strong and effective leaders. However, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that this idea is simply not true.
Is there a female leadership advantage?
Based on Covid-19 responses alone, reports have shown that countries that have been the most resilient have one key thing in common: female leadership. In fact, new organisational research suggests that the qualities female leaders were once discriminated against for actually provide them with a unique advantage. Skills like empathy, collaboration, relationship building, and communication have helped female leaders be more effective, especially in crisis times. All of these skills have been demonstrated over and over again by our very own Jacinda Ardern, making her the perfect example of the advantages of female leadership.
Jacinda Ardern leading with kindness
The simple mantra of “be kind” is one of Jacinda’s leadership style’s critical features and one that has brought her the most praise. In a recent interview with NewsHub, Jacinda explained that her decision to stick with this style goes back to the simple lessons we are all taught as kids:
“If you ask someone what they want for their kids when they’re older, often we revert to those values: we want our kids to be happy; we want them to feel loved and supported; we want them to be treated well by others, and we want them to treat others well. If those are the values that are so important to us that we teach them to our kids, then we should expect those same values from our leaders.”Jacinda Ardern
This kindness is not to be mistaken with weakness, however. Jacinda has proven that fairness, strength, and compassion; in fact, go hand in hand through her exceptional response to the recent pandemic.
Jacinda’s ability to show kindness while producing practical results has been praised around the world. She has been named as one of the world’s top thinkers for her refreshing approach to leadership, and a recent poll found that she is the country’s most popular leader in 100 years.
Her proactive, “Go Hard, Go Early” government response was built with intelligence and empathy, focusing on decisive action that protected New Zealand’s most at-risk communities. These policies helped to stamp out infections early on and have meant that life in New Zealand has been able to get back to normal much quicker than in other places overseas. As well, her effective daily communications and collaborative “Team of 5 million” approach helped inspire and unite the country to combat Covid-19 together – all essential skills that are reflective of the unique traits women bring to leadership roles.
Backing Women’s Rights
Breaking through the glass ceiling is nothing new to Jacinda Ardern. As only the third female prime minister of New Zealand, the second youngest, and the first to give birth while in office, Jacinda has shown that neither gender nor motherhood is a barrier to success.
Before she even stepped into power, Jacinda campaigned for pay equality for women, and since being in office has successfully passed the Equal Pay Amendment Bill in July 2020, which helps to prevent discrimination based on gender. Under Jacinda Ardern’s leadership, the Ministry of Education also has begun providing free period products in schools for those who need them. Starting with 15 schools in the Waikato in 2020, this program will expand to all state and state-integrated schools on an opt-in basis in 2021.
Responding to Christchurch Mosque Shootings
Another key event that highlighted Jacinda’s compassionate and decisive leadership was her response to the Christchurch Muslim community’s March 15 attacks. This was the first time in modern history that New Zealand had seen such an act of terror. Fifty-one people lost their lives as a result.
Jacinda acted swiftly to condemn the shooter and addressed the Muslim community with care and support. “They are us,” she said of the victims.
“New Zealand has been chosen because it was safe because it was no place for hatred or racism. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it.”Jacinda Ardern
Addressing the shooter, she said: “You may have chosen us – we utterly reject and condemn you.” She then moved quickly to tighten New Zealand’s gun laws. Military-style semi-automatic firearms were banned just six days after the attacks, and over 62,000 prohibited firearms were removed from circulation.
Launching New Zealand’s first Wellbeing budget
Alongside Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Jacinda delivered a world-leading Wellbeing Budget in 2019. Unlike Budgets of the past, this new approach puts the health and wellbeing of citizens at the forefront of all government decisions in a way that is both economically responsible, and kind. It prioritises creating jobs, helping business transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy, lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, reducing child poverty, and supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders.
Following the positive reception the 2019 Budget received, Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson went on to deliver the second Wellbeing Budget in 2020, which focuses on Covid-19 recovery.
With so many successes already under her belt, there is no doubt that Jacinda is an effective leader. Not only have the uniquely female skills of empathy, compassion, and collaboration helped her bring New Zealand out of the Covid-19 crisis, but they have helped her set the country on a course towards improved quality of life for all, proving once and for all the female leadership approach is not to be underestimated.