Brand women as leaders today

Gina Panayiotou,the founder of Oceans Arena, writes for Splash on International Women’s Day.

In 2015, the United Nation came together and agreed for the first time on a set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to sustain and save the planet; or rather agreed on a set of common global challenges. Celebrating International Women’s Days 2021, today is the day to emphasise the importance of SDG 5 – gender equality and how the Covid-19 era, despite the myriad of destruction it created, has in one unique way, brought about a positive note for the SDG 5 mission; It showcased the female leader as the most effective when it came to handling a crisis. In fact, from a survey conducted in 194 countries, it was proven how infection and fatality rates, especially in the first three months of the pandemic were lower in female led countries.

SDG 5 created a ripple effect of initiatives across the world and especially within communities where women are underrepresented, such as the maritime industry. For example, the 2019 World Maritime Day International Maritime Organisation (IMO) theme was ‘Empowering women in the maritime community,’ raising awareness and acknowledging why gender equality is a crucial element of sustainability.

The question yet remains, if 193 counties have committed to gender equality and are making great efforts to make it happen, is this sufficient to step up to this challenge? If we think about what drives results: motivation, effort, persistence, commitment. Surely, all of these are part of the success recipe, however the most impactful driver of all is the ability to visualise.

So, let’s start with another question: Picture a leader, is she a woman? This is actually the title of a TED talk, based on a New York Times article that reported how when we are asked to draw a picture of an effective leader, both men and women, would draw a picture of a man. That is not surprising, given that the Fortune 500 reports only 7.4% women CEO s of these companies in 2020. What is surprising though, is that when it comes to education, women earn 60% of all master degrees and 50% of all law and medical degrees.

While we cannot help but wonder what or who is to blame – society, teachers, parents, men – it does not really matter. What matters is that we act now. Initiatives and campaigns are amazing in raising awareness, a huge step forward, yet if we want to see significant progress, we need to step up for the women of this industry and all women of this world.
We need to brand women as leaders. We need to create those triggers, where girls, women, men and boys have an imagination that allows them to see females as leaders, see them in these roles.

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2021, do one thing, empower women, via networks, role models or whatever it takes, to visualise themselves as leaders. Start branding women as leaders today.

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