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While female leaders of countries during COVID-19 have made headlines, besides stellar leadership, are other factors at play? Let’s dig deeper.
I’ve seen a few articles on how female leaders have excelled in handling the pandemic.
There’s a lot of discussion around countries such as Taiwan, New Zealand, Germany and Iceland and how well they have handled the COVID pandemic. Over the past few months, these countries have come to be known as shining examples of female leadership in times of crisis.
From measures such as their prompt action to shut down borders, their creative use of celebrity influence, their application of technologies such as Facebook Live, or even just their level of care and authenticity – as a world, we’ve stood up to take note of the female traits demonstrated by the female leaders.
The purpose of my article is not to take away from any of the very well respected leaders of these countries but to draw attention to other factors, besides gender, that might be at play here. We might still conclude that it’s all down to gender yet i’m sure it’ll be valuable to see a bigger picture.
My aim is also to provoke some thought on this compartmentalisation between female and male leaders and how that might impact our very definition of leadership for what it is.
I wonder how these distinctions between male and female leaders serve the core belief that we’re all in this together?
There’s little doubt that the female leaders in these examples have done exemplary work and everything in their capacity to lead their country well and keep its people safe.
Yet, let’s take a moment to delve a little deeper before we conclude that it’s all down to gender.
The team at Eurasia Group developed a methodology through which they assessed key country responses across three areas: healthcare, politics and financial policy.
The highest performing countries in this list include Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Germany, Iceland, UAE, Greece and Argentina.
Many of these countries are led by Women. Namely, Taiwan, Germany, Iceland and Greece. There’s no doubt that the percentage of female leaders in this list is extremely high when compared to the percentage of female leaders of countries across the world.
But let’s take a closer look to see what other factors might be at play.
Let’s begin with Taiwan.
The Government here has played a key role in handling the crisis.
Yet, in celebrating just their primary leader, are we forgetting to celebrate key contributors such as vice president Chen Chien-jen who is a Johns Hopkins-trained epidemiologist and an expert in viruses. By dual hatting between political and scientific contributions, Mr Chien-jen has also played a key role in the pandemic.
Lessons from the Past
Other countries at the top of the list include those such as South Korea and Singapore, which, like Taiwan, have learnt lessons from the past given previous SARS experience and the 2015 MERS epidemic.
Both these nations don’t have female leaders but have been incredible in their effort to contain the pandemic through quick, disciplined, consistent and relatively convenient measures such contract tracing, testing, isolation where required.
The Complexity Such as Health Care Systems
Many of the countries in the list have also benefited from factors such as single pay health care systems, which the likes of United States do not have.
Diversity is important and acknowledging it is definitely the right thing to do. But does every debate need to be centered around it?
Or do we need to train ourselves to read beyond catchy-headlines to ensure that we dig deeper and be humble enough give credit where credit is due?
There’s often more to a story than an attention grabbing headline and we need to make time to think.
I believe good leadership comes from having strong leadership traits and powerful teams which leaders can trust and that no one gender is more entitled to leadership than the other.
We truly are in this together so let’s all act like we are.
Picture credit: KOBU agency
I am Vinita Ramtri and I live in London. You can reach me via
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