The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the key role played by women for our society and economy. On 8 March 2021, AGE wants to shine a light on and encourage all women in leadership, young and old, who shape a more equal future beyond the pandemic.
AGE also reminds the triple toll that the pandemic is putting on older women.
As the theme of this years’ International Women’s Rights Day is women in leadership, AGE wants to highlight the invisible leadership women of all ages play during the pandemic. The disruption of care services led mostly women to take an even larger share of unpaid care work. The European Institute for Gender Equality notes that home-schooling has created a new form of unpaid care; yet, while men’s time spent on care increased during the pandemic, women’s share increased.
Women also make up by and large a majority of front-line workers, leading the response to the pandemic. In the field of long-term care and support, a large share of workers actually are older women. However, women are disproportionately and inadequately represented in national and global COVID-19 policy spaces, as 85% of national Coronavirus task forces in the world are led by men.
Becoming global leaders
Despite the persistent social and systemic barriers to women’s participation and leadership, all over the world, women of all ages are gaining power and influence with courage and determination.
- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (66 years old) has recently been elected the new chief of the World Trade Organisation – triggering news coverage that was simultaneously ageist, sexist and racist
- Aung San Suu Kyi (75 years old), Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, was re-elected head of government of Myanmar in the last elections of November 2020 before being arrested by the military in February 2021;
- Mary Robinson (76 years old), former President of Ireland and UN High-Commissioner for Human Rights, is still active in developing international human rights law and fighting climate change.
These women are only a few examples of inspiring older female leaders who show that skills have no gender nor age.
Teaming up with younger female leaders
Among the network of AGE Platform Europe, we gave the word to a few of the many older women committed to advancing equality.
Older women across the world continue to inspire and encourage me to ensure that our voices are heard and our human rights upheld wherever we are active – at local, national or international level. To be seen and counted is very important whether it is on the streets of Myanmar, among the farmers in Delhi, or getting the hang of ICT to combat isolation and loneliness, storytelling with grandchildren, making new friends or learning new skills on line!
— Elizabeth Sclater, UK
I am as an MP in Sweden fighting the combination of discrimination based on chronological age and sex in all sectors of society. Older women should be seen as a resource in working life, in civil society not the least because of the life experience they have.
— Barbro Westerholm, Sweden
I don’t know if I contribute much to equality – but I’ve always tried to encourage other women. Especially young female students who were often unsure whether their work was good enough. And I am incredibly happy to see today, after a few years, how successful these young women have now taken their place.
— Heidrun Mollenkopf, Germany
Sometimes we grew up with the idea that others were more suited to leadership roles, but I have been an academic, run a business (research) and run an NGO (50plus Hellas) but could have done none of these jobs without help and support from others. I am grateful to them.
— Liz Mestheneos, Greece