What do New Zealand, Germany, Finland, and Taiwan all have in common? For one, they’re all places I’ve never been before. More importantly, they’re the nations that are leading the world in managing the global pandemic caused by covid-19. They’re the nations that have experienced the fewest deaths, even in comparison to similarly-sized countries. New Zealand is already preparing to lift its lockdown, while Taiwan didn’t even require a full national lockdown because of the speed and scope with which it addressed the virus. Oh, and also they’re all nations led by women. A fact that is very likely to have had a positive impact on how they’ve addressed the disease.
An article in The New York Times, which drew attention to the reality that women-led nations are doing best in managing covid-19, points out that while a handful of success stories might not be enough to make the sweeping conclusion having a woman leader is a sure-fire sign a country will weather the storm successfully, it certainly isn’t a coincidence women-led nations are succeeding either.
Whereas many men in leadership positions, like, oh, I don’t know, the president and vice president of the United States, have spent their days giving the metaphorical finger to the scientific community and humanity as a whole by refusing to set an example and wear a mask, for fear that it will apparently make them look weak, women leaders have been better able to manage their response without being bogged down by the fatal belief that bullish masculinity will somehow save anyone. While Trump in the U.S. and Boris Johnson in Britain have attempted to rhetorically personify the virus as some kind of war figure to be battled, in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has done her best to deescalate the country’s fear, humanizing herself and the people, not the virus.
In addition to being trapped inside the invisible prison they’ve built for themselves, otherwise known as masculinity, the other downfall men in leadership face while addressing covid-19 is their proclivity for groupthink, finding themselves stuck in an echo-chamber of similar voices, refusing to engage with outside perspectives. Whereas Angela Merkel in Germany sought out data and perspectives from sources outside her own administration to great success, male-led countries have relied on internal advisement, which doesn’t lend itself to a variety of perspectives.
Of course, while having a woman in a leadership position is more likely to signal and invite a diversity of perspective, which is likely to lead to better outcomes in the long run, it is not always a guarantee. According to The Times, partisan politics in the United States led Republican governors, both male and female, to be slower in responding to covid-19.
I’m not going to wax-poetic about what could have been, but with this information in mind, it’s hard not to be a little sad about what we almost had. Sure, having a woman in leadership might not be a 100% guarantee things would have been better, but anything would have been an improvement over whatever the hell we’ve got leading us right now.