In relation to the coronavirus – because at the moment everything is - why are countries led by women having better outcomes?
It’s almost as if female leadership styles – co-operation, risk aversion, listening to a wide range of experts – are more effective than anthropomorphising the virus as a cunning enemy to be defeated. Guess what. You can’t threaten a virus. You can’t bomb it, you can’t sanction it, you can’t bluster at it from a podium, because it’s not listening. It’s a virus.
New Zealand, led by visionary empath Jacinda Ardern speaking directly to citizens from her phone, has now eradicated it. In Taiwan, where 23 million people are crammed into the 17th most densely populated country on earth, there have been seven deaths. Seven. Its female leader Tsai Ing-wen instigated rigorous early testing, contact tracing and isolation, without lockdown. It worked.
Finland, led by 34 year old Sanna Marin, has a tenth of the infections in neighbouring Sweden, and Angela Merkel’s Germany has had significantly lower death rates than France, Spain, Italy, and the UK.
Meanwhile, in the US, a country we once admired, infection is rampant. Leaving aside the abject malevolent stupidity of its current narcissist-in-chief (which is a big ask, but try for a second), look at the country’s macho swagger in response to the pandemic. America is used to doing what it likes, and bombing what it doesn’t like. The coronavirus doesn’t care. It’s a virus.
By not wearing a mask in public, wrote one right wing journalist [David Marcus, The Federalist], Trump is “protecting American strength.” To slap one on “would signal that the United States is so powerless against this invisible enemy sprung from China that even its president must cower behind a mask.” Oh boy.
Meanwhile, Trump, describing himself as a “wartime president”, has called the US having the highest rate of coronavirus in the world (1.5m cases, 92,000 deaths) “a badge of honour.” Boris Johnson has called the pandemic “the second Battle of Britain”, and Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly stated “we are at war.” Brazil’s Bolsonaro dismisses the pandemic as “hysteria.”
Gentlemen. Waffling militaristic hot air to an airborne microbe does not work. Not even slightly. In Ireland we have a doctor in charge, a “badass” according to Matt Damon, as opposed to just an ass, like Trump, Boris et al. Elsewhere, instead of fist-shaking and dithering, female leaders have employed non-warlike strategies: co-operation, clear communication, preparedness and – least macho one of all – caution.
One local heroine – the health minister of Kerala in India, KK Shailaja, an ex-school teacher – has overseen four deaths in the state’s 35 million people whose average annual income is just €2,450. (In the US, it’s €57,000). She was prepared. She literally had the army at the airport. Four deaths.
The pandemic is a but a warm-up act for climate breakdown. Then, as now, we will need the traits of female leadership. Any fool can make empty war noises – during real crises, we need real leadership. We need women.