There’s not a woman in the running for the upcoming U.S. presidential election, but people might be wishing there was one. According to a new study of almost 200 countries, published by the Center for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum, countries led by women appear to have dealt with the COVID-19 crisis better than those led by men.
“Our findings show that COVID-outcomes are systematically better in countries led by women and, to some extent, this may be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy responses adopted by them,” wrote the researchers.
Countries with female leaders include New Zealand (Jacinda Ardern, shown below), Germany (Angela Merkel), Taiwan (Tsai Ing-wen) and Finland (Sanna Marin, shown above).
Speaking to The Guardian, study co-author Supriya Garikipati, a developmental economist at Liverpool University, said, “Our results clearly indicate that women leaders reacted more quickly and decisively in the face of potential fatalities. In almost all cases, they locked down earlier than male leaders in similar circumstances. While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries.”
So why were female leaders quicker to lock down? The researchers believe that there are basic gender differences in attitudes toward risk and uncertainty, but they added in their analysis that, “this basic hypothesis has to be nuanced to highlight that women were less willing to take risks with lives but were more willing to accept risks in relation to the early lockdown of economies.”
Germany has had a far lower COVID-19 death rate than Britain, France, Italy or Spain (all countries led by men). Finland has had fewer than 10 percent as many deaths as nearby Sweden (also led by a man). Thanks to strong testing, contact tracing and isolation procedures, Taiwan managed to avoid a full national lockdown.
As for New Zealanders, they recently celebrated 100 days without community spread of the coronavirus. And though they subsequently experienced a new cluster of cases, there’s no reason to believe that Ardern’s rapid testing, tracing and quarantine response won’t stamp out COVID-19 a second time.