Leadership for women today takes many forms. It can manifest through barrier-breaking as women earn new seats at the table.
With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, women — who have long been leaders — now deservedly have earned increased roles in the community. A combination of societal recognition that women have been under-represented and undervalued along with leadership voids stemming from the devastating consequences of COVID-19 have led to women serving greater roles in the communities. That is likely why the United Nations themed International Women’s Day, which was March 8, as “Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”
Women lead in many roles — doctors, nurses, mentors, wives, mothers, breadwinners, community organizers, mayors, all the way up to the vice president of the United States. Because of our various roles in society, women are often tasked with balancing multiple leadership roles.
Personally, serving as an ICU nurse practitioner, a front-line employee — while working during the pandemic pregnant and during post-pregnancy — proved both challenging and rewarding. Staying up to date on the latest guidelines to provide the best care possible to patients is integral and requires continuing education geared at lessening mortality and morbidity. Being proficient at my job while simultaneously serving as a role model for others wishing to join the profession is very rewarding.
As a nurse educator and mentor, I teach final-semester nursing students in the BSN program at Lincoln University. This affords me the opportunity to actively contribute to future women nursing leaders by way of empowerment and life skill lessons, while nurturing them to overcome obstacles and persevere in the face of adversity — laying the foundation for the future so women can continue to take on leadership roles in and beyond those of our community.
Beyond occupational leadership roles, I have other duties and responsibilities as a leader. Being a mother and nurturer of three boys, I am responsible for the wellbeing of my children emotionally, physically and spiritually. Comforting my three boys is of paramount importance, especially during these pandemic times of social isolation, while still teaching and guiding them with respect to societal norms and expectations in the world they will too soon have to face. This means monitoring internet and social media use, watching out for peer pressure and negative influences, scholastic and athletic encouragement, normal hygiene and chores in the midst of remote learning, all while attempting to provide a sense of normalcy and appropriate social interaction with their peers.
Women are expected to fill all of these roles by default, in addition to occupational ones and other demands.
Although I have the world’s most amazing husband who is my biggest cheerleader, a marriage is still a commitment requiring time and effort. As a wife — something that can be as demanding as an occupation — I still have to make sure my husband and I engage in a true partnership. We try to spend time together watching a movie, oftentimes with multiple interruptions if not spread over a span of a few days. We make sure our family has food to eat, a safe place to sleep, a comfortable roof over our heads and all bills are paid on time. This is especially demanding during this time of great financial uncertainty created by the pandemic. Making difficult decisions in order to keep our family safe resulted in a shift to a single-income family to meet the demands of virtual learning and raising an infant.
The changing dynamic during the pandemic resulted in continued virtual learning and child care responsibilities many women must juggle while still providing for their families. This type of balancing act often comes at the expense of self-care or adequate sleep, and pressure to perform professionally as a leader under seemingly inequitable standards remain constant.
Despite juggling all these roles, women oftentimes provide the seamless illusion of multi-tasking perfection. They perform the caregiver role, maintain obligations in the community and provide leadership in the workplace, sometimes with two jobs, all while finding time to mentor others on a day-to-day basis.
Steveny Grieve is a nurse practitioner certified in Family Practice and Acute Care. She is an alumna of Lincoln University and is employed as a clinical instructor for the graduating class in the BSN program.