An interesting trend is emerging as researchers consider what type of leadership style best prevails when it comes to leading a nation through a health crisis.
Countries that are headed up by women tend to fair better when dealing with the coronavirus pandemic than those led by their male counterparts.
One of the reasons, that we speculate for this to be so, is that female leaders tend to be more empathic towards the citizens that they are accountable to and demonstrate important levels of care and compassion for the sick. A pandemic is after all about people falling ill and is a time for heightened levels of national mothering and concern.
Germany, led by Angela Merkel, has had a far lower death rate than Britain, France, Italy or Spain. Finland, where Prime minister Sanna Marin, 34, governs with a coalition of four female-led parties, has had fewer than 10 percent as many deaths as nearby Sweden. And Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, has presided over one of the most successful efforts in the world at containing the virus, using testing, contact tracing and isolation measures to control infections without a full national lockdown.
Unlike the behaviour demonstrated by leaders like New Zealand's Jacinda Arden, female leader's male counterparts just see 'war-like conditions' that carry collateral damage in the form of death numbers, but their primary concern is 'the economy' and making sure that the 'engines of industry' are up and operating again as quickly as possible.
In typical male-bravado type behaviour, people like Donald Trump and Mike Pence appear in public without the protection of a face mask, because real men aren't afraid of a virus; behaviour which is not only childish and demonstrates very one-dimensional thinking, but also incredibly stupid.
What this really demonstrates is that situations that are fraught with complexity require holistic, whole-brain thinking - a style of thinking that tends to occur with more regularity in women than in men.
Varied information sources, and leaders with the humility to listen to outside voices, are crucial for successful pandemic response, Devi Sridhar, the Chair of Global Health at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, wrote in an op-ed in the British Medical Journal. “The only way to avoid ‘groupthink’ and blind spots is to ensure representatives with diverse backgrounds and expertise are at the table when major decisions are made,” she wrote.
Having a female leader is one signal that people of diverse backgrounds — and thus, hopefully, diverse perspectives on how to combat crises — are able to win seats at that table.
A health crisis affects people's health first and the effective treatment of a virus requires a very sincere human response, in addition to more direct policy interventions. So far, male leaders have been shown to be left wanting in this duel role.