Women leading the way as inspired communicators during COVID

March 8, 2021

By Janine Allen

With so much struggle and strife over the last year, it’s been hard to identify the bright spots – the moments that make us smile, give us something to hold on to, and keep us going. Great leaders rely on strong communications skills to help guide those who are looking to them for information and insight.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, from far away to here at home, we wanted to highlight 5 leaders who stand out for their communications over the past year.

  1. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is an easy pick for strong leadership on a global stage. The pandemic has put immense pressure on the communications skills of political leaders and not all have fared well. In a crisis, leaders must communicate clearly, frequently and decisively. But more so, great leaders are realistic, yet hopeful. Early in the pandemic, Jacinda Ardern acted decisively, telling people what they needed to do and what the goal was: Stay home to save lives. She’s led with clarity, empathy and hope, while instituting one of the strongest lockdowns and responses in the world.

  1. Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States

As the first woman and woman of colour to become Vice President of the United States, there’s already an incredible amount to respect and admire about Kamala Harris. She’s an advocate and a champion of women of all races and backgrounds and her ability to inspire and influence draws in part from her communications style. She seamlessly blends authority and strength with empathy and warmth. In tough situations, this has allowed her to speak about difficult subjects and sometimes deliver bad news, without losing the confidence of her audience.

  1. Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia

This may be a controversial pick for some, but Dr. Bonnie Henry deserves to be on this list for her effective communications in a crisis. She delivers bad news honestly, but not harshly and good news with selective caution. In a difficult time, when confusion dominated the news and internet, Dr. Henry took and communicated decisive action – and British Columbians listened. Her confident and clear words are leading BC out of lockdown.

  1. Frances Donald, Chief Economist, Manulife Financial

We’re getting closer to home now. I met Francis Donald for the first time at a Women in Capital Markets Macroeconomic Outlook event in January 2020. I’m sure she doesn’t remember me, but she left a lasting impression for her no-nonsense, plain-language approach to economics. We didn’t know then, that just a few months later, her economic outlook would be turned upside down by COVID-19. When it comes to explaining what was happening to our economy over the last year, in a way people could understand, it’s hard to find a better example than Francis Donald. She’s much admired by our team.

  1. Paula Allen, Global Leader and Senior Vice President, Research and Total Wellbeing, Morneau Shepell 

I should start by saying, with transparency, that Paula Allen is a client of ours. But when I was pulling this blog together and talking to the team, she was one of the first names to be mentioned. Paula Allen identified a significant need at the beginning of the pandemic; conversation and data around mental health. At a time when so much of the focus was physical health, she advocated for attention to mental health, which has a significant longer-term impact. Throughout the pandemic, she’s provided timely, informed and data-backed information on the mental health crisis in Canada and what organizations can do to help their employees.

So many other women could be on this list; women on smaller stages who have inspired and impressed with their strong communications in a year in which we truly needed trusted leaders of all kinds across all professions and industries. So today, and every day, we celebrate the women who pave the way for the next generation of great leaders.

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