Leadership characteristics of empathy, compassion, emotional intelligence and self-sacrifice are more commonly displayed in women leaders.
The most important thing I need to acknowledge up front is that I can't ever fully comprehend the importance of International Women's Day or the context around it. The privilege of my context, and the filters that come with it, make it impossible for me to fully understand. However, I am listening better and working to understand more and more.
What I can speak to is my experience of the role of leaders, who happen to be women, throughout my 20 years of international development work.
A few years ago, I was at an international development conference and the presenter referred to this oft used development illustration. "We've all heard the adage," he said, "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Give a man a fishing rod and he'll eat for a lifetime." He went on to add to it, "Give a man a fishing rod and he'll sit around fishing all day drinking beer. Give a woman a fishing rod and the family will eat for a lifetime." Beyond the obvious humour, is an even more obvious truth.
From my home to homes around the world, this is one day to recognize what women do 365 days a year. This is a day to recognize and honour that women play a predominant role in community development and poverty alleviation. When I think of my 20 years of experience in 40 countries this is simply the reality.
Leadership characteristics of empathy, compassion, emotional intelligence and self-sacrifice that are absolutely vital to community relief and development are more commonly displayed in women leaders.
Gender bias in education, rights, opportunity, and leadership is not only a waste of human potential for half of the world's population; gender bias results in greater levels of unnecessary suffering and underdevelopment for ALL of the world’s people.
Recognizing international women's day is only a start. More important than recognizing a day are our efforts to contribute to these global goals. None of the rest of the goals are possible unless gender equality is as important as the others. It's in addressing and changing these oppressive power systems, just like Jesus did, that the world will experience the kind of development that will be evidenced by the eradication of needless suffering.
There is a lot of work to do.