Countries with female leaders world over, from Angela Merkel in Germany to Tsai Ing-Wen in Taiwan, have displayed an astounding response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is reflected through the number of cases and mortalities and easing of lockdowns. Plenty of countries with male leaders – Vietnam, the Czech Republic, Greece, Australia – have also done well. But few with female leaders have done badly. A new report by Supriya Garikipati and Uma Kambhampati reflect on the systematically better COVID-19 outcomes in female-led countries and also the markers of this difference.

The dearth of female leaders

Worldwide, only 19 countries are led by women as compared to 174 that are led by men. For the study, each female-led country was paired with a neighbouring male-led country with similar indicators for the economy, population, level of healthcare, population age distribution, etc. And this analysis, confirmed that women-led countries fared far better in the number of cases and deaths. When matched by a gender equality measure it was found that, even after matching for gender-equitability indicators, female leadership provides an advantage. These results are contrary to popular beliefs that women leaders fare better only in ‘rich’, ‘smaller’ and ‘less populous’ countries.

Women have been at the forefront of the pandemic, antithesis to the notion of global crisis, and the ‘few good men’ that avert them. Around 70% of the world’s health care staff is women. However, they are still disproportionately represented in decision-making capacities in national and global health bodies.

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Why are Female-led countries doing so well?

Observing the response of leaders worldwide, it was noted female-led countries have shown leadership styles starkly different from those by other countries. Women-led countries went into lockdown significantly earlier – with fewer deaths and number of reported cases. This has been credited to a more risk-averse leadership style. Economics note, Women leaders tend to display more risk aversion in matters concerning public health, in contrast to economies- where they are more risk-seeking. There is also a gendered difference in leadership styles. Women-led board tend to be more democratic and participative involving a much higher degree of communication. On the onslaught of the virus, women leaders displayed much more clarity, decisiveness and altruistic policy response. Tsai Ing-wen introduced 124 measures to block the spread of COVID-19 without imposing the lockdown.

Angela Merkel has been commended for providing scientific and logical backing at the introduction of each regulation amidst the pandemic due to which Germany has fared much better than other countries in Europe. Even Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has been lauded for including children in conversations about the pandemic. To address children’s concerns and questions about the virus, Solberg took up a unique step of organising a press conference with the Minister of Education and Minister of family and children, especially for children.

Also Read: Women Leaders acting as game Changers in Combating COVID 19 

Strong female leaders have proven themselves outside of the pandemic. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, several reports suggested that financial institutions and cabinets with higher female representation did much better in the global economic crisis. This highlights the importance of female leadership, and more importantly, diverse leadership, without which policy measures remain elusive to diverse concerns. Women have been commended for their scientific and pragmatic approaches, but also, for the empathy that they have displayed.

Anureet Watta is an Intern at SheThePeople TV.

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