BEG: Womens’ efforts must be recognized amid pandemic

Prime+Minister+of+New+Zealand+Jacinda+Ardern.+Photo+via+Flickr.+

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern. Photo via Flickr.

It starts with the first person to identity the coronavirus, June Almeida, a woman from Glasgow, Scotland. Almeida entered the Common Cold Unit in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1964 where she was asked to examine samples of a flu-like virus from a sick schoolboy. It was there that Almeida with her famous electron microscope technique, identified the bacteria from the boy, and produced the first ever clear images of the newfound virus.

Almeida noticed the virus had a halo-like structure around it. It was with that information that Almeida deemed the newly founded virus the “coronavirus,” corona being the Latin word for crown.

This discovery went widely unrecognized by the scientific community. Almeida continued to make profound discoveries, such as helping produce some of the first high quality photos of the HIV virus and carve the path for her generation of scientists. Unfortunately, her well-deserved work continued to go unrecognized. Now, her discovery is more relevant than ever. Almeida died in 2007, but her legacy continues to help progress new discoveries for the pandemic.

Almeida’s story is just one of the many efforts of women overlooked during this pandemic.

The world is continuing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as it faces 2.97 million cases in 213 affected countries, areas and territories as of April 27. The United States is still the most impacted country with 928,619 confirmed cases.

With these extreme numbers, certain people have needed to step up more than others to keep their countries running.

Health care workers and essential employees, such as grocery clerks, garbage collectors and gas station owners, are truly the United States’ backbone during such a turbulent time. These workers continue to battle and persevere, despite risking their own health and the health of those around them. They continue to keep this country afloat and should be receiving much deserved recognition.

A group that should be receiving more recognition are women, who are at the front lines of this pandemic task force. Women anywhere from world leaders to hourly-wage workers are putting in the difficult yet necessary efforts that should be followed by others in order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Nationwide, women constitute the majority of the nursing workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up 91% of the nursing field. Not only that, but one in every three jobs held by women are considered an essential occupation in the U.S.

The New York Times says, “From the cashier to the emergency room nurse to the drugstore pharmacist to the home health aide taking the bus to check on her older client, the soldier on the front lines of the current national emergency is most likely a woman.”

Currently, more than 48 million women considered essential employees are working hard for the sake of others and their communities. Women make up 73% of U.S. health care workers infected with the coronavirus since the outbreak began. This crisis has made women at the center of the workforce, which makes them extremely vulnerable to contracting the disease at this time. 

Men do hold important roles in this country, but the fields which are usually deemed vital and are comprised of mostly men, such as the construction sector, public utilities and law enforcement, are currently on hold until the country becomes safe again. The vast number of women in the workforce still employed are the ones ensuring our country can return to that safety.

This does not mean to, in any way, invalidate or brush off the work of all the men health care workers providing the country their efforts. Twenty-eight percent of male workers are still deemed essential and are working on a daily basis. Their services should still be appreciated and celebrated as well.

Still, some men though can learn a thing or two from strong women who have risen to the occasion. These men include world leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson who denied the severity of the pandemic that is killing thousands of people.

Numerous countries with female leaders have worked tirelessly towards sustained efforts that are helping their countries not face such extreme consequences by the coronavirus.

Countries like New Zealand, Taiwan and Denmark that are run by female leadership show great success in combating the pandemic.

For example, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern managed to not only slow the spread of the virus, but decreased the number of cases to single digits. She quickly took to action after the first case of the virus was confirmed within the borders, shutting down the country and closing the borders. She forced the country to go into a very strict lockdown for a couple weeks. The daily growth rate of the virus is measured to be less than 1%. Even after easing up on the strict lockdown, Ardern continues to urge the country to stay cautious and alert.

Taiwan, with its female President Tsang Ing-wen, is another example of a country that had to completely close all businesses and services to stop the spread. As of April 26, the country has been able to sustain the number of cases at fewer than 500 total with just under 10 deaths through heavy travel restrictions and effective health checks.

These women leaders conducted themselves and their countries in a serious, vigilant manner. They ensured that their publics were aware of how dire the situation is and what must be done to fix it. They made hard, yet necessary, decisions to keep the people safe during this time while giving detailed and fast descriptions of what needs to get done.

There is no scientific correlation between the two variables of women leadership and successful response to the coronavirus, and other factors like size of country size, country wealth and type of government influence the response to the virus. At the same time, the efforts of these women leaders are remarkable enough to give them the respect and acknowledgment they deserve. Other leaders can employ similar useful skills that could allow their country to experience much less chaos and destruction.

Women from the president of Taiwan to the grocery clerk at the corner store can be inspiration to others around the world aiming to do their part to mitigate the disease. The significant roles they play cannot be forgotten and instead should be celebrated. Without their work, we could not imagine what the state of this country or others would be.

In order to acknowledge their hard work, the rest of us can do our part to follow the guidelines recommended by experienced health professionals. We must truly practice social distancing and quarantine ourselves at home. Only then, can we see an eventual end to this chaotic disaster. We can appreciate not only the women in our own lives, but the women that doing their part every day to help the rest of us live another day.

This story was written by Aminah Beg. She can be reached at aminah.beg@marquette.edu.