Why We Need More Women in Leadership Roles!

By Kellie Hale

I would not be where I am today without Linda Crerar, Director of the Center of Excellence – Homeland Security Emergency Management (HSEM). I met Linda 12- years ago as a young and naïve student at Pierce College looking for an internship position. With the help of my instructors (all women) and Julie Cargill, they pointed me in the right direction. Linda is the kind of mentor I wish everyone could have in their education and career journey.

Linda was willing to take me under her wing and guide me. As I became more immersed in the Center, I wanted to give back somehow. The idea of planning a Women in Leadership Forum came to me while attending a McChord Air Force Base summit. As I looked around the room, hardly any women were in attendance; it was primarily male-dominated, from the presenters to the audience members. It didn’t sit right with me. So, I leaned over to Linda and told her, “I want to put on a Women in Leadership Forum.” And, of course, Linda responded, “Go right ahead!”

From 2015 to 2018, the Center put on four Women in Leadership Forums centered on different topics from HSEM, Criminal Justice, Information Technology, and Politics. After taking a break for six years, the Center will once again host a Women in Leadership Symposium on May 15, 2024, at Pierce College Puyallup. In the years since the last Forum, many things have gone on in the world that have shaped us for the better or worse. The COVID-19 pandemic left a considerable mark (some might say stain) on all of us. Unfortunately, the pandemic had disproportionate impacts on women across various aspects of their lives, including employment, caregiving responsibilities, mental health, and economic security.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing gender inequalities and highlighted the need for policies and interventions that address the specific challenges faced by women, particularly those from marginalized or vulnerable populations. Fortunately, the pandemic highlighted the unique strengths and qualities that women bring to leadership roles, including their ability to manage crises effectively, communicate with empathy, foster inclusive decision-making, prioritize social welfare, and demonstrate resilience and adaptability.

The importance of having diverse leadership, including more women in decision-making positions, for several reasons can result in:

  1. Empathy and communication: Women leaders have been recognized for their empathetic communication styles and ability to connect with people during times of crisis. Their compassionate leadership approach has helped to reassure and mobilize the public, fostering a sense of unity and cooperation in adhering to public health guidelines and measures.
  2. Focus on social welfare and well-being: Female leaders have often prioritized social welfare and well-being in their policy responses to the pandemic, including measures to support vulnerable populations, enhance healthcare systems, and address economic inequalities exacerbated by the crisis. Their emphasis on empathy, compassion, and equity has helped mitigate the pandemic’s social and economic impacts on marginalized communities.
  3. Resilience and adaptability: Women leaders have demonstrated resilience and adaptability in navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic, effectively managing crises, and making difficult decisions under pressure. Their ability to remain calm, composed, and flexible in the face of uncertainty has been instrumental in guiding their countries through the crisis and charting a path toward recovery.

Women bring different life experiences, viewpoints, and problem-solving approaches to leadership positions, which can lead to more innovative and effective decision-making. When diverse voices are represented at the leadership table, organizations can better understand and respond to the needs of various stakeholders. Research suggests that companies with more gender-diverse leadership teams outperform their less diverse counterparts. This is often attributed to the diverse perspectives and ideas that women bring to the table, leading to better problem-solving, enhanced creativity, and more effective decision-making processes. Creating an inclusive workplace where women have equal opportunities for advancement can help attract and retain top talent. When women see other women in leadership positions; they are more likely to aspire to those roles and feel valued and supported within the organization.

Having women in leadership roles is a powerful form of representation and role modeling for future generations. It challenges stereotypes and societal norms about gender roles and demonstrates that women can excel in leadership positions across various industries and sectors. Increasing the representation of women in leadership roles is a crucial step toward addressing gender inequality in the workplace and society. It helps to break down barriers and biases that may hold women from advancing in their careers and achieving their full potential.

Overall, having more women in leadership roles is a matter of equity and social justice and a strategic imperative for organizations looking to thrive in an increasingly diverse and competitive global landscape.