Women from Iceland, Taiwan, Germany, and more are showing the world how to manage the COVID-19 outbreak in order to save more lives, explained Avivah Wittenberg-Cox of business news Forbes. While we can’t deny that they are doing an excellent job at containing the virus, these women are also giving the public an alternative way of holding power in political offices.
Women In Leadership Roles (2018)
Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Ruth Igielnik, and Kim Parker of think tank Pew Research Center found that 59% of US adults said there are too few women in high political offices and in top executive business positions in the country today. More women (69%) than men (48%) said there are too few women in high political offices (versus 48% of men and 70% who said there are too few women in top business executive decisions).
Meanwhile, 49% of adults said gender discrimination is a major reason why there aren’t more women in high political offices (versus 54%). More women (59%) than men (36%) shared the same sentiment (44% of men and 62% of women).
45% of the respondents said that men and women are basically similar with regard to the leadership styles of people in top positions in business and politics, while 57% said they are different. Of the latter, 62% said neither is better, 22% noted that women generally have a better approach in leadership, and 15% stated that men have a better approach.
43% said women in top executive positions are better in creating a safe and respectful workplace (versus 5% who said that men are better and 52% who answered “no difference”). 35% said women are better at valuing people from different backgrounds (versus 3% and 62%). 33% of respondents also believed that women are better in considering the societal impact of business decisions (versus 8% and 58%), as well as mentoring young employees (versus 9% and 56%).
61% noted that women in high political offices are better in being compassionate and emphatic, 42% said they are better in working out compromises, and 41% of said female political leaders do a better job of serving as role models for children. 34% believed that they are capable of maintaining a tone of civility and respect and 31% said women are better at being honest and ethical.
Among women age 18-49, 68% believe that gender discrimination is a major reason why there are fewer women than men in high political offices (versus 50% of those aged 50 and above) compared to 35% of men of the same age group (versus 38% of men aged 50 and above).
74% of women said it is easier for men to get elected to high political offices compared to 60% of men. 61% said women have to do more than men to prove themselves, which is a major reason there aren’t more women in high political offices. 52% said women get less support from party leaders, 49% noted that women face gender discrimination, and 45% believed people are “not ready to elect/hire women leaders.” 42% said women are not encouraged to be leaders from an early age and 38% cited sexual harassment as a barrier, making it harder for women to succeed.
37% believed that women are held to higher standards than men, 36% answered that family responsibilities make it harder for women, and 27% said that not as many women are interested in these positions.
Action Plans Executed By Women Leaders
Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, informed the German people that COVID-19 was a serious bug that would afflict up to 70% of the population. Testing began right away, allowing Germany to overcome feelings (and phases) of denial, anger, and disingenuousness. Merkel encouraged Germans to take the pandemic seriously.
Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, launched 124 measures to curb the spread of the virus without implementing lockdowns. This happened when the first sign of a new illness appeared back in January. Taiwan is donating 10 million face masks to Europe and the US.
New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern implemented lockdown, explaining the rationale behind it calmly and clearly. Ardern also imposed self-isolation on individuals entering the country early, when there were only six cases. New Zealand even banned foreigners from entering the country. Another measure taken by Ardern was mass testing.
Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir offers free coronavirus testing to its citizens, which will be a key case in the study in the true spread and fatality rates of the virus. Iceland has screened five times as many citizens as South Korea has, in proportion to the Nordic country’s population. Iceland has also instituted a tracking system, which means they do not need to lock down or shut schools.
In Finland, Prime Minister Sanna Marin spearheaded an action plan that involved using social media influencers as key agents in combatting COVID-19. Not every citizen reads the press, prompting the Marin to invite influencers of different ages to disseminate fact-based information on how to manage the outbreak.
Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg leveraged television to talk directly to children. Solberg dedicated a press conference where no adults were allowed, allowing her to respond to children’s questions. The conference enabled Solberg to explain why it was ok to feel scared during the pandemic.
Does That Mean Women Make Better Leaders Than Men?
Arwa Mahdawi of British newspaper The Guardian emphasized that correlation is not causation. Being a woman does not mean she is better at dealing with a pandemic or being a better leader. This only reinforces sexist beliefs that women are innately more cooperative and compassionate. However, it can’t be denied that women have to be better to become leaders, as they are held to higher standards than men. Women also have to work twice as hard and twice as good in order to be taken seriously.
But Some Leaders Implement Authoritarian Measures
There are also world leaders who are doing an exceptional job at handling the crisis such as Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He was lauded for his aggressive testing and tracing campaign, keeping the country’s number of infections below 1,000 since the beginning of the pandemic, reported Zaheena Rasheed of Al Jazeera, a media company in Qatar. His secret? Transparency.
Lee stated in an interview television channel CNN, “We are transparent - if there is bad news, we tell you. If there are things which need to be done, we also tell you.” Sadly, not everyone approaches the pandemic appropriately. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uses a state of emergency to authorize intelligence services to ramp up surveillance of the public to shut down Israel’s courts ahead of his trial due to corruption charges.
Being a woman does not mean she is a better world leader or is more skilled in handling the COVID-19 outbreak. Being a leader involves charisma, compassion, and resourcefulness. Other leaders should emulate those who were able to effectively contain the virus.