In times of crisis, who are you going to trust to lead you into a more positive and stable future? Historical evidence suggests that women have proved themselves to be better leaders than their male counterparts during crises, names like Simira Bandaranaike, Isabel Martinez de Peron and Indira Gandhi come to mind. In the latest pandemic to grip the world, COVID-19, countries where women are in charge, have shown up those led by their male counterparts. Countries such as Taiwan, Germany and New Zealand have, through quick and decisive action based on scientific evidence managed to control the rampant spread of the Coronavirus. These measures include large scale testing, easy access to medical treatment, tenacious track and trace of persons who have come in contact with infected people and stringent social distancing rules as well as travel bans. Furthermore, the level of insight, empathy and care shown by women leaders during their communications with their citizens have proven more acceptable than the authoritarian and egotistic tones adopted by male leaders.

So then it begs the question, why aren’t there more women are in charge? In fact, there are only 7% of world leaders who are women. It is interesting that all the countries run by women are multi-party democracies with high levels of public trust in their governments. Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-Wen instituted stringent track and test facilities as well as the increased production of personal protective equipment (PPE’s). German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and her New Zealand counterpart, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have both implemented social distancing and travel bans, the provision of large scale medical facilities to cope with infected patients. Four out of the five Scandanavian countries led by women have had far lower death rates than elsewhere in Europe thanks to their quick and decisive action.

On the other hand, countries with male leaders such as Donald Trump (America), Stephan Löfven (Sweden), Boris Johnson (UK), Giuseppe Conte (Italy) and Xi Jinping (China) through their initial denial and downplay of the pandemic have ensured that their countries have been overwhelmed by widespread infections and catastrophic mortality rates.

While it is still early in the cycle of this pandemic, evidence suggests that women leaders have succeeded where their male counterparts have not. Yet in 2020, there are only 10 out of 152 female elected heads of state. This disparity points to the fact that gender equality and diversity needs to be a critical consideration in global leadership, security and health.

Dr Ashika Maharaj

Dr Ashika Maharaj

Dr Ashika Maharaj is a Senior Lecturer in the disciplines of Human Resources Management and Industrial Relations, School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, UKZN

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