“Women Leaders Have Best Response to Covid-19!” This great story has been covered by several journalists. The responses show how inequality works.

Dolly Theis, 50:50 Parliament Director, 27 April 2020

Did you see the great Forbes article about how the countries with the best COVID-19 responses all had women leaders? It has 7.2 million views and is a powerful testament to the importance of the 50:50 Parliament campaign, which inspires and supports women in standing for elected office.

It may not be objective analysis, but I thought it was an incredibly positive story, and one that sparked many thoughtful and fascinating discussions with friends, family and colleagues. 

This is an opportunity to shine a light on everyone celebrating the work of our women leaders globally. 50:50 Parliament is immensely proud of the leadership women have demonstrated at this unprecedented time and we hope that ultimately it will inspire millions of women and girls around the world to consider standing for election. 

However, over the weekend I was contacted by my friend Zehra Zaidi who is a relentless BAME and intersectional feminism activist, who told me that a young BAME French writer called Charlotte Seck (left) actually wrote an article about women leaders’ COVID-19 responses before the Forbes one by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox was published. 

Seck has since taken to social media accusing Wittenberg-Cox of plagiarising her article and alleges that Wittenberg-Cox modified it. I investigated to find out what happened.

10th April: Tomas Chamorrow-Premuzic’s article “Are Women Better At Managing The COVID19 Pandemic?” is published in Forbes, an American business magazine. It gets 22.4k views. Jonathan Ford posts a meme on Twitter saying “These are leaders leading there country and have the best coronavirus response. Oh! They’re also all women.” It gets 513 retweets.

11th April: Charlotte Seck’s article “Covid-19: Women heads of government have better management of the epidemic!” (translated on Google Translate) is published in Amina Magazine, a French women’s magazine aimed at African and Caribbean women. It gets 14.3k views.

13th April: Avivah Wittenberg-Cox’s article “What Do Countries With The Best Coronavirus Responses Have In Common? Women Leaders” is published in Forbes. It gets 7.2 million views.

25th April: Jon Henley and Eleanor Ainge Roy’s article “Are female leaders more successful at managing the coronavirus crisis?” is published in The Guardian. Views unknown.

I spoke to both Wittenberg-Cox and Seck to understand their sides of the story. Seck maintains that she feels her work was plagiarised and says in a video posted on Twitter “It is high time for the entire world to stop thinking that it is ok to take black people’s mind, black people’s intelligence”. Wittenberg-Cox maintains that she was completely unaware of Seck’s article until Seck contacted her directly on Instagram on April 23rd, after her Forbes article was published. Wittenberg-Cox said “I have spent my life promoting and defending the interests of ALL women. It is therefore deeply hurtful to be so falsely accused by another woman. I will publish a full rebuttal today, and let people judge once they have heard both sides, which I hope anyone attached to the truth will do.” Both Seck and Wittenberg-Cox have confirmed that Wittenberg-Cox offered Seck a collaboration but Seck refused it. 

Rather than embarking on a witch-hunt and speculating about who is right, I want to highlight the problem of inequality that exists even among feminists. Three journalists (Tomas Chamorrow-Premuzic, Charlotte Seck and Avivah Wittenberg-Cox) came to the same conclusion, independently, and published an article but each received very disproportionate responses. Chamorrow-Premuzic and Seck received tens of thousands of views, while Wittenberg-Cox received millions. 

Reading through the reactions on Twitter reveals a deep frustration that BAME women often receive much less recognition for their work than their white peers. I hope we can use this opportunity to not only highlight Seck’s work equally to Wittenberg-Cox’s, but also ensure that going forward, equal notice is paid to the BAME community. Little has been said about the fact Chamorrow-Premuzic’s article was published before both Seck and Wittenberg-Cox, so the same goes for the men out there championing women. May we give them the equal recognition they deserve too. 

Thank you to Tomas Chamorrow-Premuzic, Charlotte Seck and Avivah Wittenberg-Cox for celebrating women leaders and please ask all the fantastic women you know to consider standing for election!

@5050Parliament.
50:50 Parliament helps women get selected and elected with our #AskHerToStandand #SignUpToStand campaigns. In the 2019 UK general election fifty of the women standing were part of 50:50 and nine went on to win seats in the Commons. 
We work with all the political parties to empower women into politics. 
When women #SignUpToStand via www.5050Parliament.co.uk we help them build their Personal Political Profiles and allocate “buddies” building a New Girls Network, women supporting women, along the path to Parliament.
50:50 taking action now to have more women at Westminster after the next general election.