Women leaders the common link in countries with best responses to coronavirus

From Germany to Taiwan, women in leadership roles provide blueprint for male counterparts to deal with pandemic

Social Desk April 16, 2020
Clockwise from top left: Germany's Angela Merkel, New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern, SIngapore's Halimah Yacoob, Taiwan's Tsai Ing-wen, Iceland's Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Denmark's Mette Frederiksen and Finland's Sanna Marin

At a time when major word leaders including American President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Philippines Rodrigo Duterte and Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro are under fire over their response to the novel coronavirus crisis, women leaders are providing a stark contrast.

From Germany to Singapore and from New Zealand to Taiwan, women can be seen stepping up to show the world how to manage a world being reshaped by a deadly pandemic. Small countries like Finland, Iceland and Denmark too, highlight how female leaders are gifting us an alternative way of wielding power.

With only 10% of the world being led by women and insufficient data to identify meaningful trends, it is fairly difficult to conclude whether gender differences actually result in differences in leadership styles.

However, a string of publications and articles shed light on how women, as heads of state, seem to be better equipped to deal with the situation.

A recent report by Forbes broke their leadership techniques into four broad categories.

Truth:

As media prints pages on how prominent leaders like Donald Trump live in oblivion, Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel was quick to tell her people that the virus would infect up to 70% of the country's population. “It’s serious,” she said, “take it seriously.”

Her honesty made the people of her country enter quarantine before the rest of the world. Under her watch, Germany jumped right over the phases of denial, anger and disingenuousness and began testing right from the get-go. The country’s numbers are far below its European neighbours, like Spain and Italy, and there are signs it may be able to start loosening restrictions sooner than the rest of the world.

Decisiveness: 

While most leaders and premiers of the world struggle to find a balance between the closure of businesses and imposing lockdowns, Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan was one of the first leaders to foresee the destruction of the new illness.

Earlier in January, after observing the initial signs of Covid-19, Tsai introduced 124 measures to block the spread without having to resort to the lockdowns that have now become common world over. Tsai managed what CNN has called 'among the world’s best' responses to coronavirus pandemic, keeping the epidemic under control, reporting only six deaths. Tsai is now sending 10 million face masks to the US and Europe.

New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern too, locked her country down earlier than the rest of the world and was crystal clear on the maximum level of alert she was putting the country under. She also imposed self-isolation on people entering New Zealand when there were just 6 cases in the whole country and banned foreigners entirely from entering soon after.

Her decisiveness is the reason New Zealand has only four deaths from the virus. And while other countries talk of lifting restrictions, Ardern is adding to them, making all returning citizens quarantine in designated locations for 14 days.

Technology: 

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland is offering free coronavirus testing to all its citizens. While most countries have limited testing to people with active symptoms, Iceland is taking no chances. In proportion to its population, the country has already screened five times as many people as South Korea has, and instituted a thorough tracking system, due to which they did not have to lock the country down.

Sanna Marin of Finland became the youngest head of state when she was elected last December, and it is her tech-savvy age that made her employ social media influencers as key agents in fighting the corona crisis and spreading awareness on social media on how to manage the pandemic.

Love:

As cliched as it sounds, a display of love by heads of states is a humane way of interacting with people in times of crisis.

Norway's Prime Minister, Erna Solberg used live broadcast to talk directly to the children of her country. Solberg's dedicated press conference was only for children, and no adults were allowed. She responded to kids’ questions from across the country, taking time to explain why it was alright to feel scared.

An exhibition of empathy and care is how Solberg tried to tackle the growing fear of the virus among the children of her country.

Similarly, the response of Singapore has also been praised by World Health Organisation for its all-government approach to contain the virus and its early efforts to trace cases.

While Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is leading the country's response, President Halimah Yacoob's role has also been lauded.

In contrast, with their blame-games and authoritarianism, male leaders of the world have come underfire for a lack of display of humaneness amid this global pandemic.

Consider the bluster of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson during the early phases of the pandemic. Their reluctance to accept the severity of the crisis has been cited as a reason for the sudden surge in the number of cases in the two countries, with US currently accounting for the highest number of deaths and cases globally. Johnson, meanwhile, contracted the virus and had to be placed in intensive care.

Similarly, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed the virus as a 'little cold' to the chagrin of the people of the country. Philippines Duterte went even further, issuing 'shoot at sight' orders for those violating the lockdown, with at least one death reported due to the highhandedness.

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