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The secret weapon in the fight against coronavirus: women

In the past few days, the international media have been covering the successes and achievements of countries with female leaders in the fight against the coronavirus. They remind us that successful countries have one thing in common, they are led by women.


“It was the women leaders who started acting earlier and more decisively.”


The secret weapon in the fight against coronavirus: women. This is the title of one of the articles in the British newspaper The Guardian.


Being a woman doesn’t make you better at handling a global pandemic – but women generally have to be better in order to become leaders, – states the author of the article and bring New Zealand, Taiwan, and Germany as examples.


Well, they’ve all got female leaders and they’re all doing an exceptional job in their response to the coronavirus crisis.


Tsai Ing-Wen, a former law professor, became the first female president of Taiwan in 2016 – the same year America got its first reality TV president. Tsai has spearheaded a swift and successful defence to the pandemic; despite Taiwan’s proximity to mainland China it has largely contained the virus and has just under 400 confirmed cases. It is so well prepared that it is donating 10m masks to the US and 11 European countries.


New Zealand, led by Jacinda Ardern, is also a world leader in combating the virus. The country has had only one Covid-19 death so far. That’s partly due to geography and size: with under 5 million people, New Zealand’s entire population is much smaller than New York’s. Being an island state also gives it a distinct advantage. However, leadership is also a factor. New Zealand has implemented widespread testing and Ardern has responded to the crisis with clarity and compassion.


Germany has been hit hard by coronavirus, but it has an exceptionally low mortality rate of around 1.6%. (Italy’s fatality rate is 12%; Spain, France and Britain’s is 10%; China’s is 4%; America’s is 3%.) A number of factors feed into Germany’s low death rates, including early and widespread testing and a large number of intensive care beds. Again, however, the country’s leadership plays a role. As one wag on Twitter joked: if you’re asking why death rates are so low in Germany and so high in America, it’s “because their president used to be a quantum chemist and your president used to be a reality television host”. Angela Merkel, who has a doctorate in quantum chemistry, is actually the chancellor not the president, but the sentiment still holds.


Officials’ salaries have been reduced by 20 percent.


In another publication, The Guardian referred to the initiative of the Prime Minister of New Zealand to reduce his and other officials’ salaries by 20%. For six months, members of the executive will receive fewer salaries as a sign of social solidarity, leadership from the victims of the coronavirus, as well as those fighting on the front lines.


“If at any time in New Zealand the existing rift between social groups had to be eliminated, that moment is now,” said Jassinda Ardner.


Women Show the World How to Manage a Human Family”


In its turn Forbes writes: “Looking for examples of true leadership in a crisis? From Iceland to Taiwan and from Germany to New Zealand, women are stepping up to show the world how to manage a messy patch for our human family. Add in Finland, Iceland and Denmark, and this pandemic is revealing that women have what it takes when the heat rises in our Houses of State. Many will say these are small countries, or islands, or other exceptions. But Germany is large and leading, and the U.K. is an island with very different outcomes. These leaders are gifting us an attractive alternative way of wielding power. What are they teaching us?”


CNN continues: Four of the five Nordic countries are led by women. Their countries each have lower death rates from coronavirus compared to the rest of Europe. For example, Finland’s Prime Minister, 34-year-old Sanna Marin, is the world’s youngest leader but she has an 85% approval rating among Finns for her preparedness for the pandemic, with only 59 deaths in a population of 5.5 million. CNN states: “It’s too early to say definitively which leaders will emerge as having taken enough of the right steps to control the spread of coronavirus — and save lives. But the examples above show that a disproportionately large number of leaders who acted early and decisively were women.”


“We have created a world where women are squeezed into just 25% — one quarter — of the space, both in physical decision-making rooms, and in the stories that we tell about our lives. One quarter is not enough,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

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