While reviewing over the weekend the most recent reports and data on the COVID-19 epidemic around the world, my wife Mili injected an interesting question: who is doing better in managing this emergency of a pandemic —men or women as heads of government? I did not know, so I went to find out. And here are some data and observations on this gender leadership issue.
The table below has the most recent data as of 25th April 2020 for 10 comparable countries, 5 of them led by males and another 5 led by females. All 10 countries are well-developed and flourishing democracies, with the USA being the biggest by far. The 2 groups of countries are compared in terms of 6 performance criteria: number of total (confirmed) cases of COVID, total cases per 1 million of population (1 M pop), tests administered per 1 M pop, total recovered as percent of total cases, total cases as percent of total tested, and total deaths per 1 M pop.
The results are clearly impressive in favour of the female-headed governments. The average rates for the male-led governments are as follows:
• total cases per million are more than 3 times higher than that of the female-led countries
• tests administered per million are almost twice higher, as the number of infected surged
• total recovered is less than half, as healthcare facilities were under great pressure
• total cases as a percent of those tested is almost 4 times, plus more (about 20%) never tested
• total deaths per million in the population is more than 9 times higher.
So how did the female leaders manage so well? Most of the difference is explained by their swift, smart and bold actions to contain and suppress the pandemic. For the women leaders, their decision-making criteria and multi-tasking prowess were more about health of the people and less about the health of the economy, more about being science-led and less about politics, more about action and less about just talking, and more about cooperation and less about personalities. Male-led governments wasted valuable time at the beginning of the pandemic, for example, allowing football matches in Spain and Italy, the UK with its “herd immunity” policy, and the US with the hoax conspiracy.
Clearly, if governments, even before the onset, had taken action in earnest, i.e. proper hygienic practices, wearing masks, physical distancing, testing and contact tracing, banning large gatherings, and even complete lockdowns, if needed, a very high pay-off surely would have come in the form of less suffering of the people, less public expenditures and less negative impact on economic growth. And more than that, the countries who took such early actions are better prepared for re-opening the economy and getting the people back to work, and better prepared for a possible second wave of the pandemic. Respect to the great women leaders!
I inserted the same data for Belize at the bottom of the table. Although we yet have to feel the real brunt of COVID-19, one can observe from the table that we are doing well. Being a small country, we do have some advantages for rapid mobilization, but there is room for improving our rate of testing and the rate of those recovering from the infection, to reach the level of superior performance of the female-led governments. No additional comment is merited here other than to note that although the Belize government is male-led, our overall performance puts us in the good standing of the female-led grouping.