Amid Crisis, Women Leaders Earn Higher Marks
The coronavirus pandemic might have lessons for business sectors such as the AEC industry that struggle with gender diversity. According to several new studies, women in the public and private sectors have provided more effective leadership than men during the crisis. A Journal of Applied Psychology study concluded that states with female governors had fewer COVID-related deaths than those with male governors in the pandemic’s initial months. According to the study’s authors, women governors demonstrated greater empathy and concern for the public’s wellbeing, which engendered greater compliance with public health directives.
A global finding
Similar results have been found around the world. A study published in the online journal BMJ Global Health that analyzed the speeches of global leaders during the pandemic found that men employed more war analogies and fear-based language while women expressed more concern about social welfare and individual impacts when talking about the virus. According to another study, countries governed by female leaders—such as New Zealand, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Taiwan—experienced fewer COVID-related deaths per capita and lower peaks in daily deaths. “Most women-led governments were more prompt at introducing restrictive measures in the initial phase of the epidemic, prioritizing public health over economic concerns, and more successful at eliciting collaboration from the population,” the study reported.
Researchers have identified the same trend in board rooms. According to a study published in the December 2020 Harvard Business Review, women were rated as more effective leaders before the pandemic, but that gap with men has only widened during the crisis. When assessing the effectiveness of 820 leaders during the pandemic’s first wave, researchers found the 3.3-point pre-pandemic advantage for women grew to 5.7 points. Out of 19 leadership competencies, men rated higher on just one—technical/professional expertise. The competencies most valued by direct reports during a crisis—such as collaboration, relationship building, inspiring and motivating others, and communications—are all ones on which women scored the highest.
The studies underline the need not just for greater gender diversity in leadership ranks but also for a more relational leadership style, regardless of gender. Leadership built on empathy, sensitivity, and understanding has proven more effective than an autocratic, command-and-control style, particularly in a crisis. What is needed, according to a January 2021 Bloomberg article, is a leadership approach that is more “take care” than “take charge.”
the Road Warrior
Could Vaccine Passports Be a Ticket to Fly?
Many road warriors have been grounded for more than a year, but vaccine passports—also known as digital health passports—could hold the key to the return of air travel. Vaccine passports are smartphone apps or digital health certificates that can verify a passenger’s negative COVID-19 test result or inoculation record. While the handwritten cards issued to vaccine recipients by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are subject to loss or forgery, vaccine passports offer more secure ways to confirm that passengers are safe to travel.
Prove it all right
Data privacy is the biggest concern surrounding vaccine passports. Travel Pass plans to use blockchain technology and no central database, while VeriFLY will rely on biometric authentication in order to secure data. Christel Cao-Delebarre, global head of privacy for travel management company CWT, is among those advising that companies avoid requiring digital health passports until doing due diligence on the data security of various options. Firms mandating their use could face liability in the event of any data breaches.
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