In the Washington Post, Zoe Marks writes: In a global emergency, women are showing how to lead. Among the countries that have seen early successes in the fight against the covid-19 pandemic, female leaders stand out.
Germany under Angela Merkel boasts one of the lowest fatality rates in the world and is gradually reopening. Women-led Switzerland and Norway have both launched multimillion-dollar multilateral relief funds — alongside their own preventive measures — to support poorer countries’ pandemic recovery.
And what do success stories such as Denmark, Finland and Iceland have in common with Hong Kong and Taiwan, halfway around the world? They’re all run by women.
The public response to their efforts is striking. Merkel gets high marks for “reasoning rather than rousing.”
New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern earns praise for her “clarity and compassion.”
Commentators commend Canada’s numerous female chief medical officers, who have taken the lead on health policy while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in quarantine, for their calm and consistency.
Such perceptions owe a great deal to gender stereotypes, which affect both how people perceive women and how women behave.
Decades of research show that female leaders are more likely to be democratic or participative — and less autocratic — in their leadership style, meaning they invite subordinates to participate in decision-making.
Equally, women more often lead through motivation, engaging followers’ shared interests, while men tend to rely on incentives.
Some comparisons are illustrative. On March 13, President Trump addressed the nation in the Rose Garden. As Trump stressed deals with countries and corporations, Vice President Pence called companies “synonymous with communities.”
Three days later, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg convened a very different news conference, directed at children, not shareholders: “It is okay to be scared when so many things happen at the same time,” she said.
Then, she went on to offer simple and straightforward answers to questions, still ostensibly aimed at children, that many adults are also confronting as the disruptions to their lives multiply: Can I visit my grandparents? How long does it take to make a vaccine? What can I do to help?