Accelerating women’s progress via EI investment

Accelerating women’s progress via EI investment

By: Dr. Jessica Francis

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8th, it’s an opportune moment to reflect on the journey towards gender equality and the pivotal role of emotional intelligence (EI) in empowering women worldwide. This year’s theme, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” underscores the importance of fostering environments where women can thrive, lead, and contribute their unique talents to society. At the heart of this endeavour lies the recognition and cultivation of women’s EI—an invaluable asset that holds the key to unlocking their full potential.

The concept of EI as we understand it today is relatively modern, emerging in the latter part of the 20th century. However, the idea of understanding and managing emotions has been discussed in various forms throughout history.

Around the time of the ancient Greeks, philosophers like Aristotle discussed the importance of understanding and managing emotions for personal well-being and social interactions. For instance, Aristotle’s writings on ethics and virtue often touched upon the notion of temperance and self-control, which can be seen as early precursors to the modern concept of EI.

Similarly, in Eastern philosophical traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism, there are teachings on mindfulness, compassion, and emotional balance, which are akin to aspects of EI.

While the specific term EI may not have been coined in ancient times, the underlying ideas and principles related to understanding and managing emotions have certainly been explored across different cultures and historical periods. It wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that psychologists such as Peter Salovey and John Mayer began to formalize the concept of EI in their research, and it gained more widespread recognition with the work of Daniel Goleman in the 1990s.

EI in essence, encompasses a range of skills essential for navigating the complexities of modern life. From self-awareness and self-regulation to empathy, social skills, and relationship management, EI plays a central role in shaping how individuals understand and interact with themselves and others. For women honing these emotional competencies is not just a personal pursuit but a pathway to empowerment and leadership.

Women have long been recognized for their natural aptitude in areas such as empathy, intuition, and emotional resilience. These qualities, rooted in the fabric of their lived experiences, enable women to forge deep connections, build strong relationships, and navigate diverse social contexts with grace and empathy. Whether in the workplace, the home, or the community, women’s EI catalyses collaboration, innovation, and positive change.

Investing in women’s EI is not merely an act of altruism; it’s a strategic imperative with far-reaching benefits for society. Research has shown that organizations with diverse leadership teams and inclusive cultures tend to outperform their peers, driving innovation, creativity, and sustainable growth. By cultivating environments that value and nurture women’s EI, businesses, governments, and communities can tap into a vast reservoir of talent, creativity, and perspective, driving progress and prosperity for all.

However, despite the inherent strengths of women’s EI, they continue to face barriers and biases that hinder their advancement. Gender stereotypes, workplace biases, and systemic inequities often undermine women’s confidence, limit their leadership opportunities, and perpetuate cycles of inequality. To truly accelerate progress, it’s essential to dismantle these barriers and create pathways for women to fully leverage their EI and leadership potential.

This International Women’s Day let’s commit to investing in women’s EI at every level of society. Let’s create inclusive workplaces that value empathy, collaboration, and diversity of thought, where women can thrive and lead authentically. Let’s advocate for policies and initiatives that promote gender equality, closing the gender pay gap, expanding access to education and training, and removing barriers to women’s leadership and advancement.

Moreover, let’s recognize the critical role of education in nurturing EI from an early age, instilling values of empathy, resilience, and inclusivity in future generations of women and girls. By equipping them with the emotional skills and tools they need to navigate life’s challenges, we empower them to become confident, compassionate leaders who can drive positive change in their communities and beyond.

In conclusion, investing in women’s EI isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s a strategic imperative for building a more equitable, inclusive, and prosperous world for all. This International Women’s Day, let’s recommit ourselves to championing women’s empowerment, celebrating their achievements and accelerating progress towards a future where every woman can thrive, lead, and make her mark on the world. Together, let’s invest in women and unlock the full potential of half of humanity.

The author is a Dental Lecturer at the Department of Paediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya. She may be reached at [email protected]

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