We must all work to undo the structural barriers and outdated stereotypes that stand in the way of women entering public finance leadership roles, wrote Amujae Leader Malado Kaba and Einar Gørrissen in an op-ed for The Hill.
Despite a clear link between high economic performance, good governance, and women’s leadership, women remain vastly underrepresented in public finance bodies, with less than a third of all heads of national audit offices being women. Looking at the initial handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors cited several examples of women-led countries that fared better than those run by their male counterparts.
The authors noted that women leaders’ adeptness at handling crises may be attributed to their strong “interpersonal skills—such as communicating effectively, inspiring others, and displaying empathy—leadership competencies that are ranked most important when times are tough.”
If women have proven themselves to be good leaders in times of crisis, why, then, do they have so little representation in “institutions that are critical for an accountable and inclusive recovery—such as finance ministries and audit institutions?”
The reasoning may lie in “outdated and tokenistic approaches to representation that pigeonhole women into specific leadership roles,” wrote the authors. One such prejudice is the perception that women do not excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics:
“There is mounting evidence that gender discrimination is rife in the economics field. This has a direct impact on the leadership pipeline. Women feel less supported to stay in economics and other mathematics related fields early on in their studies and profession, and as a result there is less retention of female talent that can be groomed for leadership.”
Women’s “double duties”—the unpaid care work that they take on outside of their career-related responsibilities—must also be taken into account, and organizations should implement “measures that support the redistribution” of this labor, in order to “level the playing field” for women’s advancement in the workplace.
Only by challenging and dismantling gendered stereotypes will countries be able to achieve equity, fairness, and the best possible leadership to drive their COVID-19 recoveries, concluded the authors.
Ms. Kaba, a member of the inaugural cohort of Amujae Leaders, previously served as the first woman Minister of Economy and Finance of the Republic of Guinea. During her tenure, she helped her country achieve record macroeconomic results and was instrumental in leading key strategic negotiations to secure funding for Guinea’s ambitious infrastructure program.
Einar Gørrissen is Director General of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Development Initiative.
Read the full op-ed here.