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Leadership to Empower Women Decision Makers in Developing Countries: Lessons From the Field

Tue, June 18, 3:45 to 5:00pm, 1440 Multiversity, Redwood Auditorium

Short Description

The editor and two author-leadership from ILA’s BLB 2018 volume Leadership and Power in International Development: Navigating the Intersections of Gender, Culture, Context, and Sustainability will tell their stories of how they led transformations in development organizations and developing countries that empowered women decision makers to play more significant roles in their economies and polities.

Detailed Abstract

Leaders in international development work on the cutting edge of the global order, striving to create a world where everyone can live a life of dignity with access to resources and services to meet their fundamental needs. Such leaders rarely have the chance to tell their stories. How they lead most effectively in various contexts and cultures has not often been told, nor have the qualities and approaches they employ to achieve success been systematically studied. The purpose of this volume, then, is to fill this gap by sharing these stories and proposing a tentative theory of leading in this context. In addition, the volume offers an innovative practitioner/scholar collaboration model for generating new knowledge directly from the stories and anecdotes of leaders.

The ILA BLB 2018 volume Leadership and Power in International Development: Navigating the Intersections of Gender, Culture, Context, and Sustainability provides 18 leaders from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America working in various aspects of international development the opportunity to describe their challenges, successes, and failures in leading change in different countries, different sectors, and at various levels, including national, local, and individual. Three women leaders in international development who were authors in this volume will tell their stories in this Interactive Roundtable Discussion of how they helped women in developing countries play a stronger role in their economies and polities.

Author 1 spent much of her career pushing for the inclusion of women in the developing world as key actors in private sector development and thus as significant decision-makers in their economies and polities. She will briefly present her leadership lessons for facilitating this change process. Exemplifying passion and perseverance, Author 1 successfully argued for the provision of private sector finance for women in diverse roles while a diplomat in the New Zealand Foreign Ministry and later as Deputy Secretary and head of the Development Agency, as inaugural National Manager, Women in Business for Westpac Banking Corporation, founder of the Global Gender Unit at the International Finance Corporation, and Lead Specialist for the GAD Group in the World Bank. Author 1’s career-long leadership in changing the policies and practice of major development organizations vis-à-vis women has resulted in some of the most significant changes in international development since its inception post-World War II.

Author 2 will present the notion of “leadership repertoire” as a sort of tool-kit to guide her leadership in various situations. As a Filipina, the Philippine cultural norm, kapwa [shared humanity] is a key value in her leadership repertoire. Her notion of leadership involves a value-laden perspective that includes “why” and “how.” As she writes “(a) the why of leadership involving a combination of having purpose and meaning, achieving impact, and giving back; and (b) the how of leadership focusing on relationships, values, and self-awareness, self-transformation, and self-transcendence.” Author 2 stresses the importance of understanding the local culture and context and of stakeholder consultation. She compares USAID’s social soundness analysis with cultural practices of consultation, such as the Liberian palaver referring to a public meeting to bring issues forward; the Afghan practice shura, which is a consultation with those affected by a decision; the Setswana kgotla, public meeting, community council, or traditional law court. Consultation, local ownership, and leadership, along with clarity on assistance to be delivered, lead to effective development assistance. Author 2 concludes that learning to lead in different cultures requires recognizing and differentiating the emic, the insider’s perspectives from the etic, the outsider’s perspective, and trying to bridge the perspectives so various stakeholders can see the whole picture. Generally, we as outsiders need “to rely on that part of a culture that is visible” and only “make assumptions about underlying values which are mostly invisible.” Based on these assumptions, we need “to adjust to cultural norms that do not call into question my integrity and my authenticity” in the countries in which we work.

Author 3 will briefly discuss leading the transformation of the child welfare system and reproductive health systems in post-Ceausescu Romania. She describes the change process as being a highly collaborative and inclusive one in which her team facilitated the development of the new system through identifying Romanian women decision-makers and change agents in key positions where they could use their power and influence to lead the change. Author 3 describes her leadership as “intuitive leadership,” because she sifted information that she gathered analytically through her intuition. She took steps and made decisions guided by her heart and from the perspective of the entire group that had formed a sort of collective intelligence and conscience. She suggests that the success of these system transformations was due to high-level governmental support, key change agents within the system who conceived of a vision them- selves, training that provided necessary knowledge, adequate funding to support the new approaches, a highly committed collaborative team, unified donors, and the conditionality provided by the European Union.