What Does the COVID-19 Response by Seven Women Leaders Tell us about Female Leadership?

Women Leaders Tells us about Female Leadership

Responses to the new coronavirus pandemic vary from country to country, but there is something they have in common: they have occurred in nations led by women.

From Europe to Asia, seven nations led by women stand out for two things: their early intervention, and their ability to properly test and isolate patients.

According to periodic data from Johns Hopkins University, there are seven countries in which a low number of deaths from Covid-19 is registered (in proportion).

In recent days, CNN or Forbes magazine published a report based on data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control that the responses from these countries were the “best” in the face of the pandemic.

“Women in leadership positions are doing a disproportionately large job of managing the pandemic, why isn’t there more?” Reflected sociologist Leta Hong Fincher, who has written on feminism for the New York Times and Washington Post, and is the author of several books on the phenomenon of “surplus women” in China.

The fact that there is a woman at the forefront in these countries is striking in a world in which less than 7% of global leaders are women, according to statistics from the Inter-Parliamentary Union published by the United Nations in 2019.

But who are they and what defines the success of your strategy?

1. Germany

Germany’s Angela Merkel, a physicist by training and chancellor in her country since 2005, acted long before her European neighbors.

They population tested before other nations in the world. The result is that the death rate in Germany is much lower than its European neighbors. One of the keys would have been in the early identification of the virus carriers to stop the spread of the disease.

Her management in the face of this health crisis has reinforced Angela Merkel’s image and has even positioned her at the top of the world ranking in the fight against covid-19.

2. Denmark

Some media, such as the French channel France 24, speak of Denmark as the “European exception”. Danish Social Democrat and former Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen, who has served as the country’s prime minister since 2019, also reacted swiftly, closing borders before her neighbors.

A brief press conference -only three minutes- in which the president answered questions from boys and girls in the country, following Norway’s example, also attracted attention.

Earlier, Denmark reopened kindergartens and schools. It is the first country in the European Union to do so, but Frederiksen pointed out that it will be done in a “controlled” and “prudent” manner.

3. Finland

The reaction of the world’s youngest prime minister, 34-year-old Finnish Sanna Marin, has also been widely applauded.

According to national data, the approval rate among his compatriots for his management of the pandemic, with only 72 deaths (as of April 16) among a population of 5.5 million inhabitants, is 85%.

And the fact is that the pandemic did not catch Marin off guard.

One of the keys was the supply over decades of the National Emergency Supply Agency, which faced all kinds of crises, which allowed it to have the medical supplies and equipment necessary to treat patients.

The country announced it is ending the isolation in the capital Helsinki region after three weeks. However, it continues to advise its citizens to avoid traveling and not rule out reintroducing measures if necessary.

4. Iceland

Iceland has so far kept the coronavirus at bay thanks to a strategy that, according to the Icelandic epidemiologist Kristjana Asbjornsdottir, a professor at the University of Washington, in the US, is “unique in the world.”

Its Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who is also president of the Left-Green Movement, offered free tests to detect the new coronavirus to all citizens.

This is what the World Health Organization (WHO) advises: “Tests, tests and more tests.”

The island nation also established a system to locate and isolate those infected, avoiding closing schools.

5. Norway

The keys to managing Finland’s Scandinavian neighbor are, again, foresight and good time management, deploying a systematic action-plan to control the spread. 

The Nordic country was one of the first in Europe to react to the pandemic since it detected the first national case, on February 26.

One of the most original actions by the Prime Minister Erna Solberg was a press conference where she answered questions from children.

“It was an innovative idea,” Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of the Global 20-first consultancy, told Forbes.

6. New Zealand

The New Zealand case is one of the most talked about.

Suze Wilson, Professor of Leadership and Executive Development at Massey University in New Zealand, wrote in The Conversation that her country’s response to the coronavirus was “masterful. “

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern proposed a strategy that consists of eliminating the curve (instead of flattening it, like other countries).

To do this, he took early measures and imposed confinement when there were only six confirmed cases in the entire country.

It also banned foreigners and recently forced New Zealanders returning to certain parts of the country to isolate themselves for 14 days.

As of April 16, only nine deaths and just over 1,000 confirmed cases have been reported.

7. Taiwan

The President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, also reacted quickly and decisively

In January, when the first signs of a new coronavirus had barely been detected at the international level, the president introduced 124 measures to stop its advance.

It did not have to resort to confining its population.

The country has also shipped millions of masks to the United States and Europe to fight the virus.

Female leadership

Dr. Vonda Wright, a double-boarded orthopedic surgeon and keynote speaker with over 21 years of experience, believes that female leadership is key to crisis mitigation and survival.

Advances in communication technology and leadership philosophy  have allowed today’s organizations to respond with greater speed to crisis. Dr. Wright holds that they need the characteristics of collaboration, empathy, teamwork  and sensitivity to navigate today’s chaotic times. In general, women tend to be more participative in finding the best solutions within the work team.

Empirical data shows that women are more likely to develop many of the critical leadership skills. Take a recent Harvard Business Review study, which found that women in management positions scored higher than their male counterparts on several key competencies: inspiring and motivating others, building relationships, and collaborating and working as a team. (In case this seems exceptional, the authors conducted the original study in 2012 and updated it in 2019, where they obtained similar results).

Similarly, when looking at more specific skills, researchers at the University of Leipzig found that on average, women are better at accurately deciphering the emotions on people’s faces. Another study revealed that they are better at reading body language. 

The ability to listen and empathize is essential to creating an environment of trust where you collaborate, a fundamental concept that champions Dr. Wright’s philosophy of leadership. She states that there is another essential skill: that of defining, articulating and communicating the strategy. Without this capacity, you run the severe risk of rushing, doing the wrong things and ending up obtaining results that are not what you want. People who have a shared vision, purpose and strategy; it is easier to promote collaboration to achieve those things. 

Leading requires humility and flexibility, determination and confidence. Positions of responsibility are earned with experience and knowledge, but leading is something else. And for that, you have to prepare.

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