Nations with female leaders had "systematically and significantly better" COVID-19 outcomes.

By Kimberly Truong
Aug 19, 2020 @ 11:55 am
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Though nations around the world continue to fight against ebbing and flowing waves of the coronavirus pandemic, the countries that have seen the most success in curbing COVID-19 cases have one thing in common: women leaders.

Since the pandemic began to spread widely earlier this year, many have pointed to the relatively favorable outcomes from Germany’s Angela Merkel and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, but a new study seems to prove a real difference between countries led by women and those led by men.

The Centre for Economic Policy Research and the World Economic Forum has published analysis of 194 countries that suggests countries led by women had "systematically and significantly better" coronavirus outcomes than those headed by men. The research found that female-led nations had half as many COVID-19 deaths on average as those led by men, as well as fewer cases, thanks to preventative measures such as earlier lockdown measures.

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In Germany, Merkel was praised for her effective communication with citizens about the pandemic's dangers. The country’s hospital system also began freeing up intensive care beds and pushing back elective surgeries to make space for a potential flood of COVID-19 patients early in March, meaning hospitals weren't overwhelmed later on and were even able to treat patients from other countries like Italy and Spain, where critically ill people were airlifted in.

Meanwhile, New Zealand was able to lift all restrictions in June following 102 days without active COVID-19 cases. When four cases of coronavirus surfaced in the country in August, Ardern acted quickly to shut the country down once again and delay a scheduled election to stem the spread.

But authors of the study said that even without clear positive outliers such as New Zealand and Germany (and the U.S. as an example for male leaders), the case for the success of female leaders was only reinforced.

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In Taiwan, for example, Tsai Ing-wen has been lauded for her clear plans, quarantine measures for travelers, and for making sure there wasn't a mask shortage in the country.

The study's researchers said they analyzed differing policy responses and subsequent total COVID-19 cases and deaths until May 19 and looked at factors such as total population, the proportion of elderly residents,  annual health spending per head, openness to international travel, and level of gender equality in society in general.

Professor Supriya Garikipati, one of the authors of the research, said that while female leaders "were risk averse with regard to lives," they were "more willing to take risks in the domain of the economy."

"Our results clearly indicate that women leaders reacted more quickly and decisively in the face of potential fatalities," Professor Garikipati said. "While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries."

So moral of the story? Elect more women.