This article was originally published in LinkedIn.

Coronavirus is a global health emergency and one of the most challenging crises in our lifetime. Not only is it a human crisis with serious threat to life and health, but it is also a threat to our livelihood with potentially lasting socioeconomic consequences. 

I was recently on a virtual meeting with founders of the Aurora Prize, where Dr. David Nabarro, previous Director of the World Health Organization’s Department for Health Action in Crisis and now Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition, stated WHO is looking into the Covid19 impact on the social fabric. If Covid19 is a public health issue then, as that, it is a central element of our social fabric. In my work, women hold our social fabric together. 

Given women’s roles as frontline health workers, Melinda Gates stated that women in healthcare are experiencing exceptional strain and mental stress during this pandemic. Women workers –in hospitals and their households — need to be considered. 

The women in our communities are on the front lines, facing COVID-19 head-on, placing them at a higher risk for contracting the virus. 

According to the Department of Labor, there are 74.6 million women in the workforce and 76% of all healthcare workers are women. Still, the lack of data available on COVID-19 and women is staggering. UN Women is collecting emerging data to bridge the gender gap and provide a more accurate picture of the effects of COVID-19 through a gender lens. 

In times of crisis, women are disproportionately affected. Our leaders and decision-makers are pressured to act fast, but decisions that are non-inclusive of gender perspectives are ineffective. 

Women’s Campaign International worked with women in Liberia during the Ebola pandemic to get the word out on how to protect the community. Women were key players in mobilizing communities to encourage social distancing. Today, women around the world are leading their children’s education while schools are closed as well as women at the helm of delivery of care in hospitals.

The current global pandemic presents many challenges and we can certainly agree that more is being demanded of our leaders than ever before. Leaders need to recognize fully the realities of the situation while still attempting to inspire confidence and optimism in coworkers and families. 

My personal life, professional work, and academic scholarship are grounded on life-altering events with a focus on learning and meaning-making. Through the lens of phenomenology, I wonder how we are thinking about our lives and livelihoods against the backdrop of covid19. Our world will need and require new leaders and leadership. Intentional leadership that considers the collective sense of loss and grief as well as meaning-making and well-being we are all experiencing — globally – and includes women.

Gender-responsive and trauma-informed care are two terms that arise from a growing understanding that women experience the environment and interact in ways that are unique to their gender.

UN Secretary-General Guterres states that “ #COVID19 could reverse the limited but important progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights. Women’s leadership and contributions must be at the heart of coronavirus resilience & recovery efforts.” I agree.

Women are carrying us through this pandemic and yet inequality in a global gender-aware response continues to exist. We cannot afford gender inequity at this time.

Our lives — literally — depend on them (us!). 

Dr. Cecilia M. Cardesa, Women’s Campaign International

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