International Women’s Day: March 8, 2017

Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030

By ILA’s Women and Leadership Affinity Group 


Chrys EganChrys Egan (cnegan@salisbury.edu)
Associate Professor, Communication, Salisbury University, Maryland, USA
Country of Origin: U.S.A.

For over 100 years, International Women’s Day (IWD) has marked a global celebration and call to action on the status of women worldwide. In 2017, we indeed are living in turbulent times that compel us to reexamine where we have been, where we are now, and where we will lead.  Just one month ago, we experienced simultaneous sister marches around the world in solidarity and support of women’s rights and progressive principles, immediately followed by an “Executive Order on Immigration” to ban natives of seven nations from traveling to the country in which the International Leadership Association headquarters resides. As members of the ILA, we believe that “when we share our unique perspectives, experiences, and knowledge we come up with better, more integrated leadership thinking, practices, and solutions that can positively impact our complex global environment” (http://www.ila-net.org/). In response to recent world events, and inspired by amazing women leaders across the globe, I issued a call for various voices to share the challenges and support for women in their nations as we acknowledge this year’s International Women’s Day.

For more details about International Women’s Day, including a timeline of its establishment, visit the United Nations page at http://www.un.org/en/events/womensday/ or visit https://www.internationalwomensday.com/ for events in your area. What will you do to promote the goals of International Women’s Day?

Carolina Bown

Carolina Bown (cdbown@salisbury.edu)
Campus Director, Nonprofit Leadership Alliance; Faculty, Salisbury University, Maryland, USA
Country of Origin: Chile

As a Chilean with extensive research experience in Ecuador, I can say that this South American nation presents a unique context for female leadership. ​In spite of a legacy of machismo and gender inequality, Ecuadorian women have been historically active in public life. In 1929, they were the first ones in Latin America to gain the right to vote. Today, their presence in executive and legislative positions is close to 30% and 40% respectively, thanks in part to enforced quota laws and also to their strength and determination. In addition, besides women in mainstream politics, there are extraordinary indigenous female leaders who have led important social movements in Ecuador. Some of these Andean women exercise leadership at the grassroots level while others do so at the national level.

Wendy Fox Kirk

Wendy Fox Kirk (wendyfoxkirk@weber.edu)
Assistant Professor, Business, Weber State University, Utah, USA 
Country of Origin: U.K.

Opportunities for access to leadership positions for women in the U.K. are probably better than for most countries in the world, especially if you are white, able-bodied, wealthy, and have strong social networks. However, structural discrimination persists, mainly through the gendered organization, but also through benevolent sexism and subtle, hidden forms of exclusion. Efforts are being made at the highest levels with Lord Davies having been commissioned to increase the percentage of women on the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 boards to 25% by 2015. This initiative was so successful that Lord Davies moved the target to 33% by 2020. Headway has also been made in political leadership, for example 29% of our elected parliament, a record high, is female. 

Faith Ngunjiri

Faith Ngunjiri (fngunjir@cord.edu)
Associate Professor, Ethics & Leadership, Concordia College, Minnesota, USA
Country of Origin: Kenya

Women in Kenya have struggled for decades to get equality in political leadership. In recent years, the devolution of government and changes to the constitution created space for 30% representation of women at various level of political leadership; however, these quotas have been very difficult to fulfill. When women attempt to run for electoral positions, they face overt hostility and more subtle biases in a culture that continues to be extremely patriarchal. In the world of business, women do fare a lot better, though they still remain under-represented at the CEO and corporate governance levels. Organizations such as Women on Boards Kenya are involved in training and preparing a pipeline of women to ready them for board positions.

Fariba Parsa

Fariba Parsa (fparsa@gmu.edu)
Founder and director of Women's E-Learning in Leadership, WELL; Affiliated Faculty at George Mason University, Virginia, USA
Country of Origin: Iran

It is impossible to point out one single difficulty for women's leadership in Iran, since all aspects of life are related. Generally women are excluded or limited as active and equal citizens in public life, such as political, religious, and economic leadership. Three major challenges for women's leadership are: 1) historical/traditional/cultural challenges of a patriarchal society, 2) political challenges concerning discriminatory violence, laws, and practices against women, and 3) women's lack of leadership training in a dominant, undemocratic, destructive, competitive culture. The positive development is that parents support girls to be university educated (65% of students are female) and on the job market. The more the Islamic state tries to control and limit women from the public life, the more women are encouraged to be socially and politically active. Iranian women could create a foundation for political changes if they develop women's leadership education and create diverse, collaborative communities.

Trae Robinson and Daughter

Trae Robinson (trobin25@uwo.ca)
Strategic Patient-Oriented Research Coordinator, The Coaches Training Institute (CTI), Western University
Country of Origin: Canada

I asked my thirteen-year-old daughter what she thought were the challenges facing women in leadership. She responded frankly that it was living with our past. She said that since so few women have had leadership roles, it was discouraging for young women to believe what they are worth. In Canada, this understanding of worth is being called into focus through a “National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” The path for all leaders is to shape our future, but it holds little value if we cannot reconcile and learn from the truths of our past.

Chellie Spiller

Chellie Spiller (c.spiller@auckland.ac.nz)
Associate Professor, Associate Dean Māori and Pacific, Business, University of Auckland Business School, New Zealand
Country of Origin: New Zealand

On 19 September 1893, after a long struggle by suffragists, New Zealand became the first self-governing country to grant women the right to vote. Since then, we have had two women prime ministers. The government has committed to increasing women’s participation from 42% to 45% on state sector boards and committees. The government's goal is for an increase in women's participation on private boards and leadership, but leaves it up to the private sector to determine an appropriate target. Women hold only 15% of private sector directorships and comprise only a fifth of all senior management positions in the private sector. Indigenous Māori women are a strong collective driving force behind Māori language nests and schools, social programs, environmental change, education, enterprise, and political leadership.

Susan Thomas

Susan Thomas (susan.thomas@rmit.edu.vn)
Associate Professor Deputy Head of Centre, Learning & Teaching, Centre of Commerce & Management, RMIT University Vietnam
Country of Origin: Malaysia

I was born and raised in Malaysia, a Muslim country. As a minority race in this country, coupled with gender difference, it takes twice the effort to hold any leadership position in the same arena as men. This comes with sacrifice. My experiences working in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh have shown me the distinctive difference women have in leadership. Women are meticulous and driven by goals because they need to see the bigger picture to ensure tasks are accomplished. We seem to have an inborn instinct to patiently nurture teams to achieve goals. This usually sets us apart from men in leadership roles, which should be embraced. Women do not need to wear the pants to be one of them. We are strong just the way we are.

Melody Want

Melody Wang (melodywjh@163.com)
Founder of Weiyi Lady for Women’s Leadership Development and Career Advancement
Country of Origin: China

The lack of will to “lean in” and lead might be the number one challenge faced by women in China for further advancement. A large number of women give up on themselves the moment they get pregnant, which leads to more discrimination toward this group who are of the right age for marriage and childbearing. The unwillingness is attributed mostly to the social norms and traditional values, such as a belief that women should sacrifice to honor their families. Work-life balance challenges push some of the women off the ramp as well. So far there are very few efforts from the country and the institutional level for support. The newly released two-child policy actually aggravated this problem and women face more bias when they enter the job market. But headway has been made in nongovernmental level support with the spring up of organizations to help women with their leadership development and entrepreneurship building.