Leading the Fight Against the Pandemic: Does Gender ‘Really’ Matter?
16 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2021 Last revised: 28 Nov 2022
Date Written: June 3, 2020
Since the start of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the relationship between national female leaders and their effectiveness in handling the COVID-crisis has received a lot of media attention. In this paper we scrutinise this association more systematically. We ask if there is a significant and systematic difference by gender of the national leader in the number of COVID-cases and deaths in the first quarter of the pandemic. We also examine differences in policy responses by male vs. female leaders as plausible explanations for the differences in outcomes. Using a constructed dataset for 194 countries, a variety of socio-demographic variables are used to match nearest neighbours. Our findings show that COVID-outcomes are systematically better in countries led by women and, to some extent, this may be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy responses adopted by them. We use insights from behavioural studies and leadership literature to speculate on the sources of these differences, as well as on their implications. Our hope is that this article will serve as a starting point to illuminate the discussion on the influence of national leaders in explaining the differences in country COVID-outcomes.
Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, National Leadership, Women Leaders, Risk Aversion
JEL Classification: H12, I28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation