Women Leadership

Women Leadership

In a New York Times interview, former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Powers (pictured) was asked to comment on women’s leadership, how it has excelled in this time of crisis, and what lessons we can learn from female leadership internationally.

Some of the countries that have been doing well in this pandemic — New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan and Finland — all have something in common: They have female leaders. What can we take away from that? Is it just a correlation or do you think there’s a real cause-and-effect here?

It is so striking the extent to which that correlation exists. Of course, there are a few countries that have performed very well — Australia, the Republic of Korea, for example — that are led by men. But the qualities of leadership in each of them — which vary even among the women — is some combination of expressed empathy, a kind of intellectual humility, an ability to change course when something doesn’t appear to be working and an inclusive message. Those qualities of leadership are associated with women’s styles of leadership. 

But what would maybe tip a little into causality is — imagine what it took for any one of those women to get to where they got. There’s a reason that 85 percent of countries are not governed by women, that our boardrooms look the way they do. So what it took for those women to become the head of state, chances are you’re going to be cool in a crisis and lead with some combination of toughness and humanity.

Also imagine in those countries where these female leaders are the ones navigating the crisis — those kids are growing up and seeing women leaders…So almost irrespective of why it is, the impact on what boys and girls expect in leadership will set the sense of possibility for young girls and women all around the world.

According to researchers at the University of Pretoria, countries with female leaders have experienced six times fewer COVID-19 deaths, pointing to female leadership as a marker for healthier and more equitable societies. In a statistical analysis of COVID-19 data and a series of additional factors including basic human needs, inequality, and economic resilience, data demonstrated:

  • Female-led governments were more effective and rapid at flattening the epidemic's curve, with peaks in daily deaths roughly six times lower than in countries ruled by men.
  • The average number of days with confirmed deaths was 34 in countries ruled by women and 48 in countries ruled by men.

"Female-led governments shared similar approaches to the crisis, characterized by early consultation with national health experts and advisors, and containment measures were implemented early. On the other hand, most male-led governments downplayed initial warnings and acted with substantial delays to respond to the crisis," noted one of the authors. 

Over the past few years, most women-led governments have also placed a stronger emphasis on social and environmental wellbeing, investing more in public health and reducing air pollution—which seems to be closely associated with COVID-19 deaths, noted researchers, who continued “Countries with women-led governments better deliver on Basic Human Needs, one component of the Social Progress Index, which considers aspects of basic medical care, sanitation, shelter and personal safety."

There is evidence that women are more interested in positions of leadership in societies that value equity, solidarity and collaboration, which are usually associated with healthier communities. As the risk of pandemic, we might want to reconsider what is good policymaking, and what policies make our economies and societies resilient, concluded the report.

For over 30 years, this has been a tenet of the Chrysalis mission – women’s leadership truly makes a difference…it’s what we continue to work for, and we can be proud that the results are clearer every day.