Amber Rudd says the Government would be making ‘better decisions’ if more women were in senior positions. The former home secretary reckons the pandemic would have been handled much more efficiently with a few more females at the top. So is she right? We asked a selection of Femail writers if women are, indeed, better in a crisis and what they would do differently if given a seat at the top table.
Here’s a new slogan – Don’t be so silly!
By Rachel Johnson
There is, as we say, a familiar narrative developing. Though women are often lauded for being ‘the stronger sex’, when it comes to any of the big decisions right now, those with a double X chromosome are being firmly ‘packed away’.
There are two sides to every story, of course, but let us avoid any hysteria and be led, as ever, by the data. It has become almost a cliché of the pandemic to point out that many of the leaders having a ‘good war’ are women.
Countries with some of the lowest mortality rates (Germany, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Finland) are led by women. You might conclude, then, that women are making good decisions and men should listen to them as if their lives depend on it. And you would not be wrong!
Though women are often lauded for being ‘the stronger sex’, when it comes to any of the big decisions right now, those with a double X chromosome are being firmly ‘packed away’
Amber Rudd pleaded that women should at least be in the room when decisions are taken, and I could only give a mirthless cheer. After all, who would decide that you can’t see both parents together, or go to the hairdresser for more than three long months, but several middle-aged men?
Chaps who have held several of the great offices of state but have never been in charge of running a household with school-age children, extended family and their own fridge, let alone kept on top of all the birthdays and barnets?
Easily my favourite letter to a national newspaper during this sorry nightmare was from a woman who became an instant national heroine to many for this pithy suggestion:
‘As men are more vulnerable to Covid-19, has anyone considered allowing women and children out of lockdown first?’ wrote Sarah Moss. ‘We could run the country for a few weeks and see how things go while men stay at home baking banana bread and clapping.’
If I was running the country, this would be my manifesto:
I’d match the power quartet pound for pound with at least four middle-aged, sensible, sandwich-generation women with responsibility for children and elderly parents, and give them equal authority with the men in the No 10 Covid ‘war cabinet’.
They would together win the trust and thanks of the British people as they unlocked the country step by logical, careful step and rolled out this simple three-word slogan that even the nation’s knuckle-dragging Covidiots would understand: Don’t Be Silly!
Let’s get down to business
By Nicola Horlick
The question Amber Rudd raised is as crucial as the ones I have been asking in boardrooms my whole career. Thankfully, as in the world of business, women have been making progress in politics.
There are 220 female members of the House of Commons, representing 34 per cent of the total number of members. This is an all-time high and a good thing.
As women make up 51 per cent of the UK population, all organisations should be aiming to have at least 50 per cent of women at all levels. That should include the Cabinet making decisions about the country post Covid-19.
The question Amber Rudd (pictured) raised is as crucial as the ones I have been asking in boardrooms my whole career. Thankfully, as in the world of business, women have been making progress in politics
As we plan to come out of lockdown, we need some pragmatism and the common sense that the Prime Minister is fond of mentioning, but which seems to be lacking with decisions being taken by him and his close circle of power.
The ending of the lockdown will bring an unprecedented challenge for Britain’s small businesses, many of which are run by women. Our country has seen a blossoming of female entrepreneurship over the past two decades and it’s vital we retain this momentum.
As it stands, women running their businesses are being expected to work from home while balancing the extra weight of home-schooling their children yet not have a proper say in what the ‘new normal’ will look like afterwards.
In 2008, when Lehman Brothers went bust, Labour’s Harriet Harman famously said that it might have been a different story if it had been Lehman Sisters.
The lack of any female influence at the top of government currently is extremely worrying.
Given that women form an important part of our economy, my Covid manifesto would be that I’d like to see a business taskforce to help steer small businesses through the post-furlough time and half of the members must be women.
After all, some of us are rather good at running things when given a chance.
Women are much more pragmatic
By Hilary Freeman
Men may protest but women are generally more pragmatic. We tend not to panic or to make rash decisions, only to change tack. Rather, we think through all the possible consequences and outcomes first. It really is true that we’re better at multi-tasking.
So when it comes to juggling the competing needs of different sectors of society and the economy, I believe a woman is the best man for the job.
Controversially, I went against the grain and took the decision to send my four-year-old daughter back to school, part-time, three weeks ago. Pictured: Stock picture of children in school
If I were leading Cabinet right now, my priority would be getting the schools open. The Government’s mixed messages have sent parents into a frenzy of fear. They need to be reassured.
Any woman knows you can’t just tell a child, or in this case voter, that there’s a monster under the bed and walk away.
Controversially, I went against the grain and took the decision to send my four-year-old daughter back to school, part-time, three weeks ago. Having calmly and systematically reviewed all the scientific evidence available, I felt it would be in her best interests.
As a one-person limited company, with no government help, for me it was a choice between earning enough to live or home-schooling and caring for her.
Stuck together in a small flat all day, with no proper outside space, my mental health, and hers, was suffering.
Since returning to school, her sleep has regularised, she’s happy, and her progress in reading is back on track.
Other parents have told me that their four-year-olds are depressed, becoming uncommunicative and addicted to screens. Something needs to be done.
If we had a universal basic income, I wouldn’t have had to push to send my daughter back, and other parents wouldn’t be faced with a perceived choice between keeping their children safe at home or keeping a roof over their heads.
It would be more equitable too — because the burden of care wouldn’t be falling only on women. As men not having to handle the childcare, Boris and his top team don’t understand what many women are going through.
If we’re going to help everyone through this crisis, the female perspective needs to be at the forefront of decision making.
WE NEED FEMALE BRAINS … now!
BY Kate Lenz
As a neuroscientist, I can confirm what most people will already know: Men and women think differently — especially under pressure.
Decisions that are made from purely one perspective, are, intrinsically, designed to fail.
Men’s brains tend to get fired up with testosterone when under stress.
This makes them more ready and willing to fight.
Women’s brains tend to get filled up with a chemistry of connection that makes them more likely to take a compassionate view.
This is Mother Nature’s way of getting the best out of both sexes, especially in a crisis.
And we certainly need the best of the differences right now, as Amber Rudd quite rightly points out.
So why does it appear the male decision-makers are shutting women out?
Neurological research shows us that when there’s a panic on we are more likely to want to stick with people we think are ‘like us’. It makes us feel more comfortable.
It also leads to an unbalancing of thinking.
Life after Covid-19 will not be the same as before, so we need to make sure that while it is different, it is also better in many ways.
We need more women’s thinking at the centre of the crisis team for that very reason.
The new normal needs to be a fairer place, where men and women have equal chances at work, where brain differences get respected. The model of working we have now is simply not up to the task.
Covid-19 has forced us to stop and think.
That in itself is a gift.
So my manifesto message would be: We must not miss this chance for serious change.
Let’s start by involving the female brain. We don’t have time to waste.
Kate Lanz is a neuroscientist, and author of All The Brains In The Business, Macmillan, 2019.
A woman ‘gets’ financial impact
By Emily Hill
‘Never send a boy to do a man’s job’ the proverb states. But to me it’s clear we need women in charge if we’re ever going to sort out the coronavirus crisis.
A lot of us are sitting at home silently terrified by the fact we’re unable to earn our wages and wondering where on earth Chancellor Rishi Sunak is getting it from and how the hell we’ll pay it back.
Any woman brought up by a mother who kept a close eye on the household budget will understand such fears.
Growing up in the Eighties, I was taught exactly what we could afford and what we could not — just as I’m now aware you can’t buy single cartons of milk and the price of flour is soaring.
If my mum were Mayor of London right now she would not be taking the same decisions as Sadiq Khan, raising the congestion charge in Central London at a time when everyone is being asked to avoid public transport.
If my mum were Mayor of London right now she would not be taking the same decisions as Sadiq Khan, raising the congestion charge in Central London at a time when everyone is being asked to avoid public transport. Pictured: Stock photo of the North Action tube station in May
Like most of the powerful men in Boris’s Cabinet, Sadiq — on a salary of £152,734 — probably doesn’t appreciate that paying £15 extra a day might have dire consequences in terms of the weekly food shop.
My advice to Boris? Right now, we should look to the supermarkets, which have had to deal with massed crowds throughout the crisis and now have all the measures in place for us to shop safely. Surely other businesses should be encouraged to reimagine themselves and open again?
Female ingenuity and radical rethinking; this is what we need to work our way out of the predicament caused by Covid-19.
Emotions should be championed
By Esther Rantzen
Do we need more women involved in crucial decision-making surrounding the current pandemic? You bet we do.
I have always found that there is a difference between men and women in the workplace. Women are three-dimensional, and that third dimension is emotion.
Men feel emotion, too, but they compartmentalise their lives — and work is where issues are discussed, not feelings. Women can deal with issues, too, but they bring their whole life experience into the office, and the boardroom. And very often that emotion is the crucial missing part of the jigsaw.
When I worked on the BBC’s That’s Life! we had a lot of senior women on the team — and I’m convinced that’s the reason we had such great success in running life-saving campaigns.
From encouraging people to wear seatbelts, to boosting transplant donation and making playgrounds safer, we persuaded our audience with emotional stories, then facts. We didn’t rely on slogans.
The (male-dominated) Government’s response to the pandemic has been the opposite. From the beginning, I believe they were frightened of creating fear. That’s why they reduced us all to columns on a chart.
But, actually, what we needed to do was to change our behaviour. And to do that we needed truthful, clear information, and not to be scared of emotion.
We should have been aware that this was not a mild disease. If it had been, then yes, herd immunity would have been fine. But ‘herd immunity’ meant old people struggling to breathe. When the virus takes hold in the lungs, it is agonising, and it can be fatal. Those are emotional words — and ones that women would not have been frightened of saying.
Care homes were ‘compartments’ where frail older people with underlying health problems were kept, and if they died, well, they’d have died soon anyway. No woman would have underestimated the horror of that idea.
To a woman, an elderly person in a home is still a treasured member of our family. When older people are too vulnerable to live independently, we delegate our love and care to the dedicated underpaid staff in care homes.
Perhaps if there been more women at government’s top table they would have noticed the threat to care home residents a lot sooner. Sadly, the men in charge seemed to remember them only when their statistics were threatened.
P.S. What does our (male) Downing Street Doyen have to say?
By Simon Walters
Trouble with women is nothing new for Boris Johnson. This time, however, the issue does not concern the women in his private life, but those in his public life as Prime Minister.
Or rather the lack of them in the team leading the Government’s fight against the coronavirus.
There have been mutterings of discontent from the six women Cabinet ministers since it emerged earlier this month that Johnson has appointed an all-male Cabinet Covid-19 ‘quad’ to help him make key decisions on the pandemic.
Now, they have found an outspoken champion in the former home secretary Amber Rudd — a woman who famously once said she wouldn’t trust Johnson in a taxi ride home.
She says that No 10 is too ‘macho’ and that the Government would have made better decisions on the crisis if women ministers had been listened to more often
She says that No 10 is too ‘macho’ and that the Government would have made better decisions on the crisis if women ministers had been listened to more often.
Boris would not get away with this jobs-for-the-boys approach if women with a stronger political voice and personality were sitting round his Cabinet table — women such as the forthright former business secretary Andrea Leadsom and the no-nonsense Liverpudlian and ex-housing minister Esther McVey.
The trouble is that he got rid of both of them in his last reshuffle.
The danger to the PM is that this macho approach to government is deeply unattractive to women voters — as well as counterproductive in that it can end up with bad government. But the culture in the House of Commons makes change difficult.
Ms Rudd told me how, early in her Commons career, she was in a queue of Tory MPs waiting to see David Cameron while he was carrying out a ministerial reshuffle.
‘I was behind a male Conservative MP when I realised I was running late for another meeting. I asked if I could go ahead of him and he said haughtily: ‘You aren’t in the Cabinet!’
Labour MP Sir Frank Field, who happened to be nearby, slapped down the male chauvinist Tory, saying: ‘Your Cabinet needs more women, not less.’ Ms Rudd said Field went on to recount a similar exchange with Margaret Thatcher, with whom he formed a close, albeit unlikely, alliance in her Downing Street heyday.
‘He said when he told Maggie she should promote more women, she replied with horror: “Have you seen my (Conservative) women?”
‘To which Frank retorted: “Have you seen your men?” ’
Ms Rudd explains: ‘People say the same today: Tory female MPs aren’t good enough. It is not true.
‘And frankly, when you see how poorly some of the men have performed, they deserve a chance.’
She says past advances in promoting women politicians are in danger of ‘going backwards’ under Johnson.
‘From Johnson and Dominic Cummings downwards, No 10 has become more macho. Boris expects devotion and unquestioning loyalty from his ministers.
‘He is more likely to get that kind of allegiance from men than women.
‘That is not the best way to get it right on the big decisions.’
And it is not the way to keep the faith of half the electorate.
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How we women would solve the coronavirus crisis: As Amber Rudd says the chaps at Westminster need more feminine intuition, we ask leading female voices to reveal how they would handle the pandemic have 3154 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at May 19, 2020. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.