Are women leaders better at fighting coronavirus? It’s complicated.

Chancellor Angela Merkel began her March 18 speech to the German people by acknowledging their pain.

“The coronavirus is currently changing our lives dramatically,” she said. “Our understanding of normality, of public life, of social togetherness – all this is being tested like never before.”

Then she called on Germans to work together to protect each other.

“I am confident that we will manage this task if all citizens see it as their task,” Merkel said. “This is serious. Take it seriously.”

Meanwhile, around the same time, President Donald Trump used to be blame the media and Democrats for retyping the “situation”, promising that the problem “go away, “And trumpet his own actions in tackling the crisis while using a racist name for the coronavirus. On March 18, the same day Merkel gave her speech, hey bragged, “I have always treated the Chinese virus very seriously and have done an excellent job from the beginning.”

There are, of course, many differences between Merkel and Trump – for example, she is a trained scientist, while advocating injecting disinfectants – but one in particular has been noticed by many commentators in recent weeks: their gender.

Indeed, women leaders around the world, from Merkel to Jacinda Ardern from New Zealand to Tsai Ing-Wen from Taiwan, have won praise for their approach to the crisis. They, along with other women in power around the world, have not only communicated effectively with their constituents in an unprecedented public health disaster – they have also responded quickly and decisively, reducing the number of deaths and deaths in their countries than in those countries. from their neighbors. For example, Germany had about a quarter as many deaths as France at the end of April, although both countries were severely affected by the virus.

Female leaders can share some traits that make them particularly well-prepared for the moment, some experts say. For example, they are not under the same pressure to appear hypermasculin and tough in the face of the pandemic – a pressure that could prompt Trump and other male leaders, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, to downplay the severity of the threat. “Men will certainly be more hit if they are considered weak at a time like this,” while women may have less judgment if they admit that they are vulnerable to themselves and others to the virus and ask their constituents for help, Farida said. Jalalzai, a professor of political science who studies female leaders, against Vox.

At the same time, experts warn that female leaders, such as female voters, are not monoliths. Some female heads of state, such as Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, have been criticized for tackling the pandemic. And within the US, politicians’ approaches to the crisis may be more influenced by their party than by their gender, Kelly Dittmar, an assistant professor of political science and scientist at the Center for American Women and Politics, told Vox.

For example, while Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has placed severe restrictions on fighting the virus in her state (and has been wrathed by some conservatives for that), Republican governments. Kay Ivey of Alabama and Kristi Noem of South Dakota are “among the governors who have not closed the case,” Dittmar said.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was outraged by conservatives for her response to the corona virus.
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

And while the success of female officials in managing the pandemic is worth acknowledging in a world where the majority of political leaders have traditionally been male – and could ultimately support a global movement to empower more women in positions of power – emphasizing gender to the exclusion of other factors may also lead to women being held higher than men.

Making the generalization that women are always better at dealing with crises like the coronavirus essentially risk falling for female leaders – they are expected to outperform men, so if they do it right it is just business as usual. And if they get into trouble, be it the pandemic or some other challenge, “The criticism of them could be greater,” said Dittmar, “because they are expected to be better than the boys.”

Women all over the world are praised for handling the crisis well

Few success stories amid a pandemic that, the World Health Organization has warnedis far from over. May 20 marks the largest daily increase in global cases since the outbreak of the disease.

But many women-led countries have performed well when it comes to controlling the virus and reducing its most devastating effects. For example, Germany has a much lower mortality rate than Great Britain, France, Italy or Spain Amanda Taub reported to the New York Times. Part of the reason is an extensive testing program that Germany rolled out early, when the U.S. was still far behind testing its citizens, Vox’s Jen Kirby reported. Merkel also worked closely with officials in the 16 states of Germany on lockdown protocols.

The Chancellor, a former research scientist, has also been praised for her clear and effective communication with her country – and the world. Her March 18 speech “was direct, honest, and deeply empathetic”, Justin Davidson wrote in New York magazine. “She exposed not only the test we all stand for, but also the comfort leadership can provide.” Davidson’s headline: “The leader of the free world makes a speech and she nails it.”

Meanwhile, New Zealand is currently one of the few countries in the world that has that essentially eliminated the spread of the coronavirusinstead of just checking it. Ardern, the country’s prime minister, led an early and aggressive shutdown when the island nation had very few cases, and thanks to those efforts, companies and schools reopen without the terrifying risks and compromises seen in the US – at least for now.

Ardern also spoke directly and intimately with New Zealanders during the crisis. After the country closed in March, the prime minister addressed “the country through an informal Facebook Live session she held on her phone after putting her toddler to bed,” Taub reported. “Dressed in a cozy-looking sweatshirt, she empathized with citizens’ concerns and apologized to anyone startled or alarmed by the emergency call announcing the order to shut down.”

She has also gone to great lengths to reassure the children of the country, make an announcement in April that both the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny are essential workers. Trump, on the other hand, was the opposite of reassuring, telling the Americans that more illness and death is needed to get the economy going again.

“Are some people affected? Yes he said at an event the beginning of May. “Are some people hit hard? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open quickly. ‘

Meanwhile, Taiwan has managed to subdue the virus through aggressive testing, tracing, and isolation without resorting to a full national lockdown, Taub reported. The country acted quickly and began testing on December 31, Jason Wang, director of the Center for Policy, Results and Prevention at Stanford, told Vox in March. And regular government press conferences informing citizens about the virus helped prevent a nationwide panic, Wang said.

Meanwhile, some male leaders have been actively spreading disinformation and encouraging others to ignore public health rules. The Brazilian Bolsonaro, for example, recently posed for photos with children contrary to social distance guidelines. He also falsely claimed in April that the World Health Organization, a major global source of information and guidance on Covid-19, encourages children to masturbate.

Taiwanese Tsai, who was just initiated for her second presidential term, is currently enjoying a 61 percent approval score, a all-time high and a 54 percent increase after her reelection in January, Austin Wang, a political science professor who studies Taiwanese politics Vox said in an email. The increase can be attributed to her treatment for the pandemic, he said.

Are women leaders better at fighting coronavirus? It’s complicated.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has an all-time high approval rating, largely because of her approach to the corona virus pandemic.
Walid Berrazeg / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

They’re not alone – other female leaders around the world, such as Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway and Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland, have also been praised for their response to the Covid-19 crisis.

“From Germany to New Zealand and Denmark to Taiwan, women have survived the coronavirus crisis with confidence, “said Jon Henley and Eleanor Ainge Roy wrote in The Guardian in April. Numerous countries with male leaders – Vietnam, Czech Republic, Greece, Australia – have also done well. Few women leaders have done badly. ‘

Meanwhile, in the United States, female leaders such as Whitmer and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot are also praised for their responses and for communicating with the American people.

Whitmer has been exceptionally emotionally candid in her public statements about the virus, saying “she was stripped to make a certain decision” or “her heart was shattered,” Democratic strategist Tracy Sefl told Vox in an interview in April. “She relies on the emotionality of the work in ways that Trump may not be able to do, making it all the more a contrast to see a governor do that.”

Women may have some benefits during this time, experts say

Many factors play a role in each country’s experience with the coronavirus, experts warn. For example, Taiwan and New Zealand are small countries where measures such as universal testing and border closures are easier to implement than in larger countries, Jalalzai said.

Still, female leaders may have entered the current crisis with a few advantages over men. In some cases, male leaders seem to feel the need to appear “super-masculine and super-strong and unyielding” in the face of the pandemic, Jalalzai said. For example, Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is in control of the Covid-19 crisis and has sometimes attempted to demonstrate that control in ways that both violate public health advice and set a harmful precedent, such as when he fails to wear a mask at public appearances or talking about taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug proven not to work against Covid-19, to prevent it from becoming infected with the virus.

Are women leaders better at fighting coronavirus? It’s complicated.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is praised for her response to her country’s coronavirus pandemic.
Dom Thomas – Pool / Getty Images

However, women may have less of a need for crisis management expectations based on traditional – even poisonous – masculinity. Instead, they may feel more comfortable sending the kinds of messages of empathy and common support needed to get their citizens to accept difficult and severe restrictions on everyone’s well-being. Women leaders may be better off saying things like, “This is a time we need to get together and we need to take care of each other,” Jalalzai said. “Maybe they allowed that because it’s more in line with those traditional ideas of what a female leader would bring to the table.”

In recent years in particular, women have been in office “expanding the types of traits and qualifications valued in executive leadership,” Dittmar said. As women, they ‘already disturb the image’ of what a leader looks like. “So if they broaden the beliefs of leadership, they can bring in these traits and qualities that unfortunately have not been appreciated before, but can be really useful at such a time,” Dittmar explained.

Women can also bring life experiences to the table that can inform their response to a crisis such as the pandemic in which women are affected facing most of the job losses and makeup the majority of the essential workers on the front lines. Michigan medical director, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, is a black woman who has spoken out about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on color communities in the state, Dittmar noted. “She’s coming from a different perspective than the traditional white person,” Dittmar said.

And in general, women, and women of color in particular, may be more attuned to the disproportionate impact of the virus on marginalized communities than people who have never thought of marginalization before. “If you’re not someone who is part of that marginalized group or experienced things differently, you’re less likely to address that as a problem,” Dittmar said.

But women are not monoliths and ideology matters too

Despite the benefits that some female leaders may have right now, it is important to note that there is much more at work in a politician’s response to the pandemic than to their gender alone.

For example, while Whitmer has acted aggressively to curb the spread of the virus in Michigan and issued strict restrictions leading to protests, Republican women governors have taken a different approach. Alabama’s Ivey, for example, allowed her state to give birth at home expired on April 30, with store reopening – cases of coronavirus in the state have since risen. Call in South Dakota never implemented a home order in the first place. And Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa began reopening her state on May 1, even as things continued to rise.

In addition to whatever influence their gender could have on their governance, these leaders’ also have to deal with both their own ideology of government involvement and pressure, as they have a president and head of the party who continue to take a different view of the moment , “Dittmar said. “Even in this moment of crisis, we must recognize that elected leaders in particular are elected by partisans and informed by their partisanship.”

Politics are also likely to influence the coronavirus response of female leaders abroad. Hong Kong lamb was criticized for slowing border crossings as the number of cases increased, and some said she acted out of reverence for China, Elaine Yu reported to Vox. She only ordered a quarantine for travelers after the medical strikers were discontinued.

And if we focus too much on gender as a predictor of success in dealing with the coronavirus, “we risk maintaining a higher bar or higher standard that women are held as leaders,” Dittmar said. If female leaders are considered more ethical than men, they will be punished more severely when faced with scandal, she noted.

For Jalalzai, the focus on how female leaders deal with the coronavirus could give more visibility to the need for more representation. At the most basic level, “People are now more aware of women leaders around the world than before.” And in general, she sees more conversations about women in power. “We are at this point where we question the status quo and question politics as usual, and we are aware of and disagree with gender barriers,” said Jalalzai.

But it’s also true that female heads of state around the world are still seen as a novelty, Jalalzai added. And they are still seen as representatives for their gender in a way that men are not. When tripped, they can be held up as examples of a woman’s inability to rule – something that never happens to men.

Jalalzai gave the example of Brazil: “Bolsonaro is a terrible president and every decision he seems to make when it comes to Covid is bad,” she said. “Would that mean Brazilians would be reluctant to vote for a male president?”

For women, “It may be helpful to be a novelty depending on the circumstances,” said Jalalzai. “But it can’t help to be a novelty if the decisions you make are somehow not perfect.”

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