Battle of the sexes: leadership edition

By: Dina Usanovic

After COVID-19 emerged last spring and sent the world into a tailspin, people around the globe began comparing each country’s response to the pandemic. It came as a surprise to most that women led the countries faring the best. One can write this off as simply a result of the country’s previous economic state and resources that aided them in surviving the pandemic better than most; however, I feel that the leadership played a key role in their successes.

Forbes addressed this phenomenon in April 2020. The article attributed the remarkably successful responses of Germany, Taiwan, Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, and Norway to characteristics commonly found in women. Among these characteristics are truthfulness, decisiveness, empathy, and care. In each country, the leaders immediately addressed the seriousness of the virus publicly, created a plan and stuck to it, and responded to citizens with empathy. 

While some of these countries are smaller, more remote, and may have special circumstances that contribute to their successes, Germany is a central European country. It did far better than its neighbors and countries similar to it. Along with that, other small, remote areas have fared far worse than Taiwan, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, and Norway. In fact, Sweden and Norway are incredibly similar countries, yet they had vastly different responses to COVID-19. The major difference between the two nearly identical countries is the gender of leadership. A woman leads Norway, while a man leads Sweden. In Sweden, the country remained open initially, with virtually no restrictions. Norway entered a lockdown almost immediately.

Women are extremely successful leaders, as evidenced in the consequences resulting from COVID-19. There has been a history of painting women as weak, indecisive, and unable to handle the stress and responsibility that accompanies leadership. Clearly, this narrative is simply not true. It is imperative to note the success of women leaders and allow them a fighting chance in other countries that may need their help.

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