Women: The Most Powerful Humanitarian Force In The World

Aug 21, 2020 5 Min Read
Women comprise 78.1% of the healthcare and social assistance labour, and therefore our primary humanitarian force.

A toast to women everywhere

August 19th marks World Humanitarian Day. It is a day when ‘the world commemorates humanitarian workers killed and injured in the course of their work, and we honour all aid and health workers who continue, despite the odds, to provide life-saving support and protection to people most in need.’ 

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, women comprise 78.1% of the healthcare and social assistance labour force. It is one data point that underscores women are the world’s primary health workers, and therefore our primary humanitarian force.

The bottom line: by and large, we owe our gratitude to women. Rather, we owe our lives to women. 

No longer ‘seen but not heard’

Women are also emerging as the most galvanising orators of our time. The Development Academy has “analysed more than 100 hours of footage from press conferences, assemblies, political events and other public appearances over the last 12 months to rank the most eloquent world leaders based on their communication and public speaking skills.” 

Jacinda Adren on the right.

The top three on the list are women:

  1. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand
  2. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and
  3. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

As I write this, the United States Democratic Presidential Nominee, Joe Biden, has announced Kamala Harris as his running mate as Vice President. His historic choice was a black woman.

The reality is that women run the world. Men just can’t admit it.  

Men are taught to apologise for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.

Years ago, my latemother, Lois Wyse, who was a pioneer in business advertising andaNew York Times best-selling author, wrote:“Men are taught to apologise for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.”

I think the world has arrived where women no longer have to apologise. In fact, on World Humanitarian Day – we must thank them.  

In the United States, the true beginning of power for women began 100 years ago this month. The Nineteenth Amendment’s adoption of a women’s right to vote was certified on August 26, 1920. It was the culmination of a decades-long movement for women’s suffrage.

Referencing, healthcare, while 78% of the U.S. healthcare workforce is made up of women, fewer than 20% hold key leadership roles.

While women were empowered with the right to vote in 1920, oddly enough, the first woman elected to the US Congress preceded it. Jeannette Rankin of Montana was elected in 1916 and sworn in as a member of the House on April 2, 1917. More than 300 women have served in Congress and there are currently 101 women serving, with Nancy Pelosi being the current,and first,woman Speaker of the House.

We have come far, but we have further to go yet

While we have gained ground in recognising women, we are less than halfway there.  
Referencing, healthcare, while 78% of the U.S. healthcare workforce is made up of women, fewer than 20% hold key leadership roles. It was reported in 2019, that only 19% of hospitals and 4 per cent of healthcare companies are led by women.  

Women have had all the responsibility with limited authority. The world is at a pivotal moment. Women are rising up from years of misogyny and denigration.

As I write this, I hear the voice of poet Maya Angelou,reciting Still I Rise. Her words encapsulate the equal rights struggle of women and Black Lives Matter.

As women rise, we must stand up for them, and in doing so, we stand up for ourselves.

Our future looks promising with women like Jacinda Ardern leading the way. The reason may be in a recent study, entitled ‘Women leaders are better at fighting the pandemic.’ It was conducted by Supriya Garikipati, Associate Professor in Development Economics, University of Liverpool, and Uma Kambhampati, Professor of Economics, University of Reading and has to do with being risk-averse.
An excerpt from the study noted the following: “…female leaders being significantly more risk-averse in the domain of human life, but more risk-taking in the domain of the economy.” 

My interpretation is that men have a proclivity to risk lives ahead of money; versus women who put human life above all else.

Happy World Humanitarian Day to women everywhere

As we think about our new world with a pandemic, the newly sung heroes are women. Forever, the unsung heroes have been women.

I am on the board of a theatre company in New York, New York Theatre Barn,a non-profit theatre company that serves as a home for new culture shifting musicals during incubation.Our founding president,Sheilah Rae, is an extraordinary woman, actor, writer, composer, and more. She and her writing partner, Debra Barsha, wrote a song,Turn it all around (an anthem for women to vote). 

When we are born, it is women who bear and nurture us. Based on the bulk of front-line healthcare workers, it is likely that women care for us in the end. And in between, the constant champions of our lives and the world are women – making them our greatest, most powerful humanitarians.

Share This


Tags: Women & Leadership

Rob Wyse is an expert in brand storytelling and president, North America of Berkeley Communications. For thirty years, he has guided senior leaders in creating compelling story arcs that connect brands to customers. At the heart of his storytelling has been the management of issues/policy to drive market opportunity. Issues include AI, climate change, the future of work, diversity, and healthcare.

You May Also Like

leadership and development

Digital Marketplaces and Leadership and Development – Supplier Quality and Social Proof (Part 2)

By Arun Nagarajah. Read here how digital marketplaces provide social proof to help leadership and development professionals select high-quality training providers.

May 24, 2023 6 Min Read


Raise Your Game: The Future Of Workforce Starts Now

Joshua Yee and Awatif Ghapar of Leaderonomics Campus share their thoughts on what’s required to prepare the workforce of the future.

Jan 11, 2016 22 Min Podcast

spot the gorilla

Be A Leader: Spot The Gorilla

In this episode of Be A Leader with Roshan Thiran, we dive into the world of gorillas and explore an experiment where people fail to spot the gorilla even when it is right in our midst. This happens all the time in life. Watch to find out more

May 17, 2013 5 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader