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Why Women Make Better Crisis Leaders

While many factors are shaping outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic, leadership is undoubtedly one of the most important. It should surprise no one that, by and large, it is the leaders who have already had to prove themselves who are the most effective.

LONDON – While many countries continue to grapple with escalating COVID-19 outbreaks, two have declared theirs effectively over: New Zealand and Iceland. It is no coincidence that both countries’ governments are led by women.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Icelandic counterpart Katrín Jakobsdóttir have both received considerable – and well-deserved – praise for their leadership during the COVID-19 crisis. But they are not alone: of the top ten best-performing countries (in terms of testing and mortality), four – Estonia, Iceland, New Zealand, and Taiwan – have woman leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen have also been commended for their pandemic leadership.

Women account for less than 7% of the world’s leaders, so the fact that so many have distinguished themselves during the COVID-19 crisis is noteworthy. But that’s not all. Some of the worst-performing countries are led by unapologetically old-fashioned “men’s men.” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s entire persona channels a retrograde masculinity and a patriarchal view of women. Accordingly, he has called the virus a “measly cold,” boasting that he “wouldn’t feel anything” if infected.

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