Women in Politics and Public Leadership
Create a society that’s more forgiving and more empowering
When women take leadership in politics and public service, what changes do we see? What are the attributes of women who do make it through? Why are there still so few women in public leadership positions? And what can we do to change the tide?
What an inspiring session led by two highly accomplished women! Miwa Kato, facilitator of this panel and the Asia Pacific Regional Director of UN Women, interviewed Maya Morsy, President of the National Women’s Council of Egypt.
Ms. Morsy began the discussion with interesting data concerning women’s quotas in parliament both in Egypt and on a global scale, with Ms. Kato adding her take on whether quotas should be implemented or not. The consesnsus was that some form of quota and positive action are useful in bringing about major leap in empowerment. Ms. Morsy then moved to education for youth and outreach programs to local municipalities. She stressed the importance of incremental rather than sudden change.
Both women greatly encouraged the use of social and behavioral change campaigns to promote societal revolution. Ms. Kato spoke of the value of transformative change within a society, saying that it’s important to “Create a society that’s more forgiving and more empowering, that gives people an opportunity to fail and learn from experiences.”
Ms. Morsy shared many stories from her homeland of Egypt concerning the development she has seen in women’s empowerment, engagement, and leadership over the turbulent recent years, highlighting the most important attitudes, beliefs, and qualities of those who successfully climb the ladder, even against all odds. Ms. Kato interjected to stress how important personal mastery is in reaching the top; ultimately, no one will get you there but yourself. And often women are socially conditioned to have more self-doubt than men and stop ourselves from taking on the next step. Ms. Morsy encouraged the audience saying “Being a woman, you are powerful by yourself. There is a secret in you, and you have to believe there is this strength.”
Ms. Kato also inspired us to change our own relationship with the public sector in order to change realities we do not like; politics and institutions are shaped by the people and therefore the change begins with us. Ms. Morsy shared her leadership secrets; how to create change by engaging methods to efficiently manage men and women of all ages.
In the dynamic Q&A session, Ms. Morsy recalled her early days landing a job at the UN as a receptionist 25 years ago and shared her frustrations and struggles as she rose through the ranks. She shared a moment that inspired everyone; in her work as a secretary, she met a high-ranking UN official who told her that she was not a mere secretary, but a “secret-keeper.” Being encouraged, she worked extremely hard and over the next six months their conversations continued and then he hired her as a political advisor, proving that with the right mindset, anything is possible.
Ms. Morsy also displayed the same “Act Positive” attitude in the Q&A. Answering a question about how to increase the percentages of women in managerial positions in Japan, Ms. Morsy said, “Help the nation grow to achieve equality in youth leadership, and put the right men and women in the right positions.” On the topic “does being a woman mean you must represent women?”, Ms. Morsy provided two perspectives. As the session closed, she offered some parting words of wisdom to the younger audience on how to succeed despite the odds stacked against them, and encouraged all women to consider how to display their strengths, starting from gestures and postures and many other signals that generate respect. The audience showed their deep appreciation with loud and hearty applause.