The coronavirus pandemic has hurt all countries, but different states have been able to cope with the coronavirus in their own way. Have countries led by women leaders really dealt with COVID-19 better? Of course, this question is difficult to give a definite answer to, and different people will have different opinions on this issue. However, COVID-19 emerged when, for the first time in history, the world has a large enough sample of countries to compare, run by men and women, writes the Financial Times.
Looking at the examples of countries headed by women – New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Belgium, Taiwan, and Scotland, we can conclude that the data is ambiguous, but it certainly inspires thought.
The calculations on the incidence rate, testing mechanism, and severity of quarantine measures in the “club of developed countries” are indicative. Women-headed countries did not impose overly tight quarantine restrictions, such as school closures and travel restrictions, while male-headed states, on the contrary, in most cases resorted to hard lockdowns.
But it appears that countries with women leaders have done better in the fight against the pandemic than countries that are ruled by men.
At the end of November, New Zealand had a cumulative death rate of 5.1 per million, one of the lowest. And in Iceland, Norway, and Finland, the number of deaths per million of the population did not exceed 100. In Denmark and Germany, the figure was less than 250. This is much better than in countries that are headed by men: in the Netherlands, France, and Sweden, the death rate was over 500. in Italy, Great Britain, and the United States – more than 780. in Spain – almost 950. The exception to the “gender structure” was Belgium, where until September 2020 the prime minister was a woman, but the country’s death rate from coronavirus was 1360 deaths per million population.
It is also known that countries led by women are thoroughly testing their own populations for the presence of coronavirus. If you look at the average number of tests carried out per confirmed case, the number was 244 in women-led countries in June, compared to 155 in men-led countries.
Perhaps trust in government should be ruled out as one of the determining factors. In New Zealand, 77% of the country’s population trusts the government’s use of scientific advice. High levels of trust in government are also observed in other women-led countries such as Germany, Norway, and Denmark. However, male-headed countries such as China, Argentina, and the Netherlands also have high levels of people’s trust in power, but their success in tackling the pandemic is different. In the United States, the level of public confidence in the government is only 18%.
The link between “female leadership” and low mortality rates, of course, may not be direct. The presence of a female leader is more of a “symptom” rather than the cause of factors helping the country to fight COVID-19. One of the reasons why there are many women leaders in Scandinavian countries is that these countries are more progressive in every sense. And such progressiveness reflects education because these countries bring up a willingness to believe in science and listen to the advice of the authorities.
It also helps that the Scandinavian countries are smaller and more “equal”, and this, in turn, causes a greater cohesion of the population and a willingness to accept joint sacrifices. The same goes for New Zealand and Switzerland.
Thus, it is possible that the situation with the coronavirus in the country depends not so much on the “gender factor” as on the specific personality traits of the leader.
One of the necessary qualities is the absence of arrogance and a willingness to listen to scientists. Another trait is a tendency towards empathy. It is these properties that are more inherent in women.
Success in combating the pandemic can be achieved not by tough lockdowns as by changing the behavior of the population. If autocratic regimes can bring about this change through coercion, then democracies need to be more persuasive. This is easiest to achieve for a leader who shows enough empathy to speak to people in a language they understand. This is perhaps the biggest weapon of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, along with many other female leaders.
Do male leaders demonstrate this most important combination of empathy and humility? Yes. Joe Biden, who will become the new president of the United States, made empathy a key part of his campaign. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also often shows empathy. Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been trying to show empathy lately.
But after the world finally defeats COVID-19, it will be interesting to see if this concept of leadership has changed as a result of the crisis. And whether the number of countries ruled by women will grow in the world, sums up the publication.
The views and opinions expressed in this opinion article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eastern Herald.