Women Leaders

Women Leaders


Leonard Zwelling

         In The New York Times on June 14, Nicholas Kristof observes that countries led by women have handled their responses to the pandemic better than those led by men.

         Specifically he identifies New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland and Norway as having had better outcomes in terms of deaths per million inhabitants than countries led by men. According to Kristof who surveyed the death rates in 21 countries, 8 of which were led by women, the women-led countries had death rates of 36 per million as opposed to the 214 per million in the 13 countries led by men. Kristof readily admits that this may be no more than correlative and not causal. It could be that countries that do better during pandemics have characteristics that allow them to choose women leaders. He also notes that some women governors in states in the U.S. have had poor statistics, but that every country with a death rate above 150 per million is led by a man. The worst of these are Great Britain, Iran, Brazil and, of course, the U.S. What can we conclude from all of these data?

         First, as has been pointed out to me before, many of the women-led countries are smaller and more homogeneous in their population make up and that may play a role in the countries’ success.

         Second, maybe women listen to public health experts better, heed their advice, and thus attain a better outcome.

         It could be that the women exuded a quiet confidence that caused the populations they led to follow their lead, social distance, wear masks, protect the elderly and wash their hands.

         Maybe women were more willing to wear masks and thus set better examples.

         I think women just communicate better when communication is the most important leadership skill to possess in a time of crisis.

         This should give us all great pause in anticipation of Joe Biden’s choice of a running mate. That woman has a better than 50-50 chance of being the first female President of the United States and I suspect that could happen as early as next year if Biden continues to seem as cognitively fragile as he appears to be.

         All institutions in our country need to consider the full spectrum of potential leaders for the next generation of CEOs, presidents and corporate bigwigs. It is surely apparent that in the three crises faced by the nation now—the pandemic, the subsequent economic downturn, and the incidents of police murder—men have made a mess of it. Other than Deborah Birx, the corona response team was all men and what did that matter as Trump was not listening to most of them anyway. I am really not sure who Trump listens to, but other than Melania and Ivanka, I suspect they all have a Y chromosome and probably four stars on each shoulder. The economic team in Washington is mostly men and most of the policemen are, well, policeMEN.

         As someone who has been married to a woman leader for almost 48 years, I can vouch for the fact that women approach leadership challenges differently than men and often better. I believe it is because the listening organ in the female is more highly developed than it is in the male of the human species.

         Kristof’s point is well taken regardless of why you think women leaders have fared better during the coronavirus crisis than have men leaders. My guess is that once we finally get a woman President of the United States we will all be better off. And that may happen sooner than we can imagine. One can hope.

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