In the face of global challenges such as climate change, growing inequalities, pandemics and backlash against women’s rights, it has become increasingly important for us to reflect on what changes are needed to ensure that the gains made towards gender equality are not lost. Evidence has shown that increasing women in leadership positions is central to advancing equality. However, in this piece, Srilatha Batliwala argues that strategies aimed at gender parity alone are not truly transformative, as we risk reproducing discriminatory power dynamics that perpetuate the very inequalities we are working to overcome. Rather, to be truly transformative, she argues for the need to change the principles and values of leadership and how it is practised, regardless of gender identity.
In this think piece, Srilatha provides:
- a conceptual framework for feminist leadership
- an overview of critical steps to transforming organisations and leadership based on feminist principles, and
- examples of transformative feminist leadership in practice.
Srilatha Batliwala is Senior Adviser, Knowledge Building, CREA, Senior Associate, Gender at Work, and Hon. Prof. of Practice, SOAS, University of London.
You can also watch our webinar replay of Transformative Feminist Leadership In Global Health: From Rhetoric to Action.
Podcast Episode 1: The Power of Feminist Leadership: From Rhetoric to Action
This mini-series explores the power of leadership and in particular feminist leadership as a way to advance global commitments towards gender equality and health equity. There is a growing discourse highlighting the importance of women in leadership as central to advancing gender rights which has translated into increased calls for gender parity in leadership positions. However, evidence has shown that to ensure sustainable transformation, we need to move beyond parity as a tick-box exercise to leadership that tackles patriarchal and oppressive power structures. It is not just the gender of the leader that matters — the values and principles that underpin that leadership are essential. Feminist leadership is committed to creating alternatives to hierarchies and transforming oppressive norms internalized by individuals and organisational cultures and structures. As such, feminist leadership can take different forms, adapting to particular contexts, representing an ongoing process of individual and collective learning and unlearning to develop more just and equitable organisations that meaningfully work towards health equity and gender equality.
About our guest speakers:
Srilatha Batliwala, Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action (CREA)
Rudo Chigudu, Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network
Lucy Kombe, Zamara Foundation
Gagan Sethi, Janvikas and Oxfam India
Bettina Baldeschi, International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA)
Geetanjali Misra, Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action (CREA)
Listen to episode one here
In this episode we engage with ideas from the think piece authored by Srilatha Batliwala and hear from panellists striving to put transformative feminist values into practice. Join us to learn more and gain a better understanding of what feminist leadership means and looks like in a practical sense to advance global health equity and gender equality goals.
“Feminist transformation is not only concerned with changing society or the world at large, but begins with the self and the spaces in which we work and live. It involves recognising that we, and the spaces, organisations and structures we occupy, are important sites of change.”