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Covid can create paradigm shift for female leaders

23 Jul 2020 | Barbara Bassa The 12th cohort of Advance HE’s Senior Women’s Leadership Development Programme had to be postponed due to Covid-19. In two introductory webinars for delegates, Barbara Bassa explains how the pandemic could facilitate numerous opportunities for women leaders in HE.

Our two additional webinars for Senior Women's Leadership Development Programme (SWLDP) are important curtain-raisers for the main programme. We wanted to ensure that participants remain supported despite the postponement, and that they access leadership tools essential to them right now as they navigate the complex and fast-changing HE scene. We therefore, created an opportunity for the participants to start building and extending their networks with other participants through the Advance HE Connect forum. We are pleased we’ve taken this approach as feedback has been great: the webinar was, “thought-provoking and a useful preparation for the full course”. Dr Cathryn Lewis, Kings’ Collage London

The discussion during the webinar focused on three key aspects: first, the change in leadership paradigm, instigated by current circumstances and opening up new opportunities for women leaders. Second, it was discussed how the unique leadership perspectives that women bring to the table could create a platform for more inclusive, more compassionate yet still able to make tough decisions leadership. The participants mentioned how working online removes many barriers and biases which can open up partnerships and connections not explored or possible before. And thirdly, we also talked about women’s active role in redefining what “normal” means, challenging working arrangements, how and when we speak with people and integrating life more into our working patterns.

Let’s explore this a little more. Creating the future as it emerges in the present moment, requires us to be aware of what is happening in the space. This starts with us. Our intellectual, emotional and physical intelligences need to evolve so that we can access and create new ways of approaching challenges and change. Otherwise, we will be just re-creating what we always did!

Reflective leadership practice can be approached in many ways and can include elements such as reflective writing, actively seeking feedback from colleagues and critical friends, observing the responses what we elicit in others and willingly entering unknown to see what may happen.

Entering the unknown is what we have all been doing for the past few months, and this has created numerous difficulties. Difficulty with planning and strategizing, difficulty with technology and rapid change and the difficulty of mitigating unintended consequences and financial pressures. Self-regulation is a key skill for leaders, particularly in difficult situations and we need to think about techniques we can add to our leadership toolkit.

Despite all this, the crisis can be the starting point for a shift in what we expect leaders to be. The unique leadership perspectives that women bring to the table could create a platform for more inclusive, more compassionate leadership which is still able to take tough decisions is precisely the kind of leadership that will be needed and desired in the uncertain future that will follow.

Women leaders have expressed their belief that working online has removed many barriers and biases which can open up partnerships and connections not explored or possible before.

Women should also have an active role in defining how leadership could be balanced with other commitments. Challenging working patterns to make family and work responsibilities easier to manage, how we communicate with people while physically distant and developing a healthier work-life balance all need to have a female perspective when developing policies.

The next introductory webinar will take place on 9 September and will be exploring how we can manage other people’s difficult responses and successfully influence teams and stakeholders when working remotely. In the meantime, stay connected through our Advance HE Connect Group, LinkedIn and Twitter.

The programme itself is postponed until 4 November and will be delivered online.


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