the covid 19 pandemic and female leadership

By Angelo Balagtas, GLOBUS Correspondent

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 (AKA Coronavirus) Pandemic, an article written by Supriya Garikipati and Uma Kambhampati hassparked a debate regarding the relationship between gender, leadership and the containment of covid: That is – as the article is titled – ‘Does Gender ‘Really’ Matter’ when it comes to the management of the coronavirus outbreak? The article used data from 194 countries and showed that, as a general trend, countries with female leaders, tended to have fewer cases and deaths compared to their male counterparts.  

Of course, there were a few exceptions to this rule. For example, it could be argued that Singapore managed the outbreak effectively under the leadership of male Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Long, whereas Bangladesh struggled comparatively under its female Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. As part of their study, there were also many considerations to be made, including, but not limited to, the healthcare systems available in the country, the country’s current economic status or a country’s openness to tourism etc. These would have profound effects on the number of infection cases, as well as deaths caused by the Covid-19 virus.  

However, perhaps expectedly, Garikipati and Kambhampati were able to account for these differing valuables in their methodologies. They used a ‘neighbour matching method’ whereby they compared countries with similar characteristics (GDP per capita, population, population in urban agglomerations and number of elderly dependants), with the substantial difference being the gender of its main leader. In addition to that, they further tested against other variables that would affect the Covid-19 impact. 

They even went as far as to remove high profile countries, in the event that these were  affecting the results. In all of these cases, it was evident that the impact of Covid-19, in terms of the number of infections and deaths were better managed in female-led countries, significantly so when it came to the latter. The researchers found that ‘Covid-19 outcomes are systematically and significantly better in countries led by women and, to some extent, this may be explained by the proactive policy responses they adopted’. The media’s coverage may very well have been right in stating that women  ‘leaders  outperform men’ when it comes down to looking after their own people and taking decisive action.  

This being said, the article did explore the differences in values that were associated with different genders. Whereas the women were more willing to sacrifice the state of the economy for the well-being of their citizens, it was almost the complete opposite in the case of the male leaders. The researchers go deeper into the different leadership styles between the two genders, noting that female leaders have the ability to use a management style that was deemed ‘male’ and the same was true vice versa.  

 But to ask whether one gender is better than the other is perhaps to ask the wrong question. Instead, perhaps we should consider what one can learn from the other gender and thus apply to their own style of leadership. Arguably, the headlines (sensationalized or otherwise) which have been praising women for being better leaders than men are more divisive than helpful.  

Regardless, if the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there is something we can all learn from others. That, though it remains a sad truth that many of our leaders are male, there are certain values they can adopt in order to ameliorate the systems and teams with which they operate. Though it remains to be seen whether their decisions and actions during this crisis will be advantageous in the long run, one cannot deny the victorious efforts that our female leaders have championed.  

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

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