May 8, 2020 | Helene Wolf

Let’s create a “new normal”

Almost exactly a year ago, I committed to bring the newly founded organisation FAIR SHARE of Women Leaders to life, together with others dedicated to women empowerment in the civil society sector. I had quit my job, took about a month to re-charge and then in early May spent a few days with some of the co-founders of FAIR SHARE in the countryside to think about our vision and strategy how to advance more women leaders in civil society. Under “normal” circumstances, this would be the time to reflect on our first year, celebrating our successes and looking at what’s next. But it is May 2020, the year when a global pandemic questions what is “normal” and especially what is “normal” for women around the world.

I write this after two months of closed schools and day care. After two months of juggling work and home schooling together with my partner, which put our family model of shared parenting and careers really to the test, I feel exhausted and continuously frustrated by the impossibility to live up to the demands of my family and my job at FAIR SHARE. This is the super-privileged version of the consequences of COVID-19. Millions around the world are currently struggling to keep their job, feed their families, take care of their kids on their own or fighting the virus at the forefront in hospitals, elderly homes and communities. We know that women are affected disproportionally by this pandemic than men as they deliver most of the paid and unpaid care work, keep supermarkets running, carry the main bulk of household work and face increased domestic violence and abuse while families are locked in.

Yet, their voices are largely missing from the public debates. Most of the experts and decision-makers are men and the crisis is being used already as an excuse why we cannot focus on issues like women leaders, diversity and inclusion. “The crisis requires fast decision-making and a focus on real problems like saving the economy” has become yet the newest narrative to explain why expert panels, talk shows, taskforces and other decision-making fora are dominated by men. The patriarchy is definitely alive, and it looks like it will seek this opportunity to secure its existence.

There is still a lot to celebrate about our first year of FAIR SHARE and I am so incredibly proud of what we built together since then.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the many people who believed in our shared idea, contributing their time, intellect, skills and network to move us forward: the Chief Advisers, members and board of FAIR SHARE, the Action Circle, team and volunteers. And we couldn’t even have started this journey without the financial support of the visionary, feminist philanthropist Ise Bosch and other donors who supported our Germany campaign and the work of the Action Circle, like the Heinrich Böll Foundation. I was overwhelmed many times by the trust, support, energy and encouragement of this growing community.

The good thing about the end of “normal” is the chance to create a new “normal”. So as we enter the second year of FAIR SHARE I re-commit to work hard on a new “normal” around gender equality, women in leadership positions and feminist leadership. Let’s do it together!