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Coronavirus during women’s month

The coronavirus (COVID-19) hit its peak here in the middle of the Women’s Month of March. Women must now take a leadership role in combating this pandemic.

Why? Because women are specially talented in crisis situations. Some will argue successfully, using research-based studies, that women are generally better than men in selected specific areas. This is specially important today. In addition to leadership and communication skills shown effectively by women, such as Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, COVID-19 is affecting more women than men.

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In her article “How Coronavirus Affects Women,” Elizabeth Ralph states: “As we all lumber down to weather the coronavirus pandemic, let us remember that women are going to bear a large share of the load. Women’s dominance in the service fields expose them to the danger and higher rates than men.” A World Health Organization (WHO) report states: “Women are more exposed than men to infectious agents.” Because COVID-19 affects women significantly, they must take a leadership role in this crisis. But more important are the unique and often superior skills they can bring to this important battle.

During Women’s Month, let us take a flashback in history. On the occasion of the groundbrea­king 1996 Beijing World Conference on Women, Philippine representative Sen. Leticia Ramos Shahani gave this speech to women leaders around the globe: “During the Industrial Age in the 1900s, physical strength was needed. So men took over. But for the 2000 millennium, the Information Age, a different set of skills is needed. This includes multitasking, sensitivity and emotional intelligence, and discipline and focus. In these three skills, studies have shown that women are superior to men. So men should step aside and give women a chance, because women should have a much more significant leadership role in the 2000 millennium.” However, on the eve of World Women’s Day last March 8, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said: “Twenty five years after 189 countries adopted a 150-page roadmap for achieving equality for women, a new report by UN Women states that women still face poverty discrimination.” In the Philippines, while the women are now better placed in the urban areas, this is not true in the provinces. The Pambansang Kilusan ng nga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), with 426 organizations in 42 provinces and one of five coalitions that form the Agri Fisheries Alliance, provides information on the ongoing discrimination against rural women: Less than one fourth have access to seeds, calamity assistance, trading and extension services; and less than one tenth have access to production capital.

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Since COVID-19 has already reached the provinces, this discrimination against women should not be allowed to continue, specially when it comes to dealing with this dangerous pandemic. In fact, since the 1986 speech of Sen. Shahani, more studies have shown women’s superiority to men in several skills needed to combat this virus.

In the Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman wrote that, based on an analysis of thousands of interviews, women outscored men in 17 of 19 management capabilities. These include “taking initiative, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty.” In Replicon, the Time Intelligence company, it identifies “17 Reasons Women Make Great Lea­ders.” What is significant is that for most of these reasons, expli­cit mention is made of research studies that showed women were superior to men for a given area.

Searching the internet for items such “women in crises,” “women leadership” and “women leaders compared to men” will show several research-based studies that will justify women taking leadership roles alongside men. This is specially important in combating nationwide the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this crucial time, our government must therefore have a policy of including women in leadership positions at the national and provincial levels. Only with them working alongside men can we get the optimal combination of skills to successfully defeat COVID-19. This will be accomplished in the quic­kest possible time with the minimum damage to our citizens and our nation’s well-being.

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of Presidential Programs and Projects and former undersecretary of Agriculture and Trade and Industry. Contact him via [email protected]

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TAGS: coronavirus (COVID-19), women’s month
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