Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world

International Women's Day is here and this year's theme is #ChoosetoChallenge.

For this important campaign our founder Valerie Brandes would like to draw attention to the challenges for women-owned and women-led companies who are, statistically, less likely to be awarded investment funding. Just 2% of venture capital funding went to female-led businesses in 2020, according to venture capital and private equity firm, Astia.

 "The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While it is fair to say that all of our lives have been affected, and for many permanently altered by the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing challenges of lockdown, studies have shown clearly that it is women, now confined to the home, (whether they have held jobs outside the home or not), who have borne the brunt of childcare, homeschooling and housework. It's the women working in industries particularly hard hit by the virus, it's the women entrepreneurs running micro-business relying on small cash injections and it's the high numbers of the women working in unpaid care roles within their families and the community. 

It has been shown that an enormous number of women have lost the jobs that they held prior to the pandemic and these jobs are unlikely to return without massive intervention by western governments. This threatens, for many women, a return to the shadows, the margins of social and cultural life. The effects of this marginalisation on the prospects of the entire family and community are multitudinous and potentially disastrous. If women are to shape the present to achieve an equal future through the recovery period of the pandemic we cannot allow this to transpire. 

For gender equality to work we need social equality to work, and for social equality to work, women need to be seen. We need to take up space wherever we are, and we need to make noise and be bold. Financial inclusion is key. Women can't be seen as second class or second best when it comes to funding, investment or securing loans from financial institutions, equal access to opportunities is vital and it means meeting women where they are; not necessarily in the boardroom, but in the classroom or the living room. Women, in particular Black women, are educating themselves for the workforce at a faster rate than any other group and yet consistently find ourselves excluded. Women are already there and already showing up. For gender equality to be achieved we need to be met with the same level of commitment and passion we give daily to our work and families. 

Just as the world joined together to achieve a scientific first with the development and rollout of vaccines, let us think that this pandemic will extend the same level of willingness to bridging the gaps and differences for women to finally be fully included and on par with men, globally."

- Valeries Brandes, Publisher and Founder of Jacaranda