There is no better time than a global pandemic to truly see how capable certain world leaders are. It comes as no surprise that the countries with the best Covid-19 responses have female leaders. This is not to say that all male leaders are doing terribly, but it is clear that women are truly paving the way to beat this virus. Whilst some attribute this to the female instinct of nurture and care, a better explanation is that female leaders tend to be far more qualified than men due to the structural inequalities that hinder them pursuing leadership roles. Nevertheless, it is clear that in the face of crisis the ladies are miles ahead.
From the very beginning, female leaders were taking the virus seriously. Germany’s Angela Merkel urged the population ‘it’s serious’ and began with mass testing. During the initial stages of the virus, Germany’s government agency reported that more than 170 labs across the country were already doing a combined total of over 15,000 tests a day and that 400,000 had been completed since February. The UK at that time had not even reached a cumulative 40,000. This was a decisive factor in early tracing of the virus, resulting in Germany having fewer 8,000 deaths out of 175k confirmed cases.
Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen also had a rapid response to the virus, capturing its early spread. She introduced 124 measures to block the virus’ spread without having to impose a lockdown as seen elsewhere. New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern’s clarity and decisiveness has been marked as one of the best responses internationally, imposing self-isolation for foreigners as early as six confirmed cases.
Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, Silveria Jacobs, recognized the potential severity of the virus on her small nation, which welcomes 500,000 tourists a year, having onto two ICU beds. Her national address was blunt and to the point, saying: “Simply. Stop. Moving,” she said. “If you don’t have the bread you like in your house, eat crackers. Eat cereal. Eat oats. Eat … sardines.” The stalled response of most male led countries have been immersed in delay and denial, prioritizing the economy over the health and safety of their citizens.
Technology has also been a key factor in exceptional policy responses to covid-19. Iceland, under the leadership of Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, is continuing to offer free testing to all citizens to encourage early detection. The key downfall of many other countries has been that testing is only provided for people with active symptoms, making detection rates much slower and the spread more pervasive. Through this, Iceland has developed a tracking system which allows contact tracing rather than having to impose a lockdown. Even the world’s second youngest leader, Finland’s Sanna Marin, has recognized that not all citizens read the press, so has used social media influencers as a tool to spread political messages and advice to control the virus. This has stopped the spread of fake news and facilitated better communication between the government and the public.
Female led states have not only had the best coronavirus responses due to their quick and efficient policy, but also the humane way they have dealt with hysteria and anxiety during such a challenging time. Norway and Denmark’s Prime Ministers Erna Solberg and Mette Frederikson have held frequent press conferences exclusively for the children of her nation, where she takes time to answer children’s queries and concerns about the crisis. New Zealanders have been urged to help their community, placing the emphasis on shared responsibility to ensure no one feels isolated whilst social distancing measures are in place.
The combination of smart policy decision and altruism has made female leaders’ response to coronavirus so successful. The female stereotype attributes this to the inherent nurturing qualities in women, but this is inadequate when the true qualities behind these policies is intelligence and strategy. Patriarchal dominance has made male dominated fields almost impenetrable for women, making only exceptionally qualified women able to pursue leadership roles. From this logic, the average female MP is far more qualified, explaining why under the immense pressure of a global pandemic, women have the best policy responses.