by Jean-Jacques Cornish
Assailed by things deadly, horrible, inexplicable and invisible we naturally ask why?
That plaintive question bridges, race, gender, class, identity and education.
Why is COVID 19 killing more men than women?
Why is the accursed virus proving more deadly to minorities in the northern hemisphere countries were it now rages?
My guess is we will still be asking these and other questions by the time a vaccine is discovered and tested.
One recurring question, however, bears immediate examination: why are women leaders dealing with the pandemic better than men.
I think immediately of Germany’s Angela Merkel, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Finland’s Sanna Marin, Norway’s Erna Solberg, Iceland’s Katrin Jakobsdottir and Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen.
They constitute a healthy slice of the 7% of female heads of government on the planet.
How does one judge a leader’s performance in the worst international crisis since World War II?
It might actually be too bold to make a judgement before we can more accurately gauge the economic disaster brought on by the virus and the lockdown to keep it out.
We might have to reconsider after seeing what is left of the economies that were opened up..
But for now we know that the severity of the pandemic is determined by three things: population density, exposure to travelers carrying the virus across borders and the speed with which borders were closed and people forced into lockdown.
Leadership had little to do with the first two points, but it can be judged on the third.
The severity of the pandemic was substantially lower when leaders acted sooner to lockdown – even by a week.
This flattened the curve , reduced the RO factor which is the number of people each coronavirus victim infects and prevented new cases.
There were male leaders who acted swiftly.
But those who stand out now: US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro down-played the risk of COVID 19 until it was too late.
By contrast each of the woman mentioned above acted days sometime weeks ahead of their neighbours.
In doing so they took the bold and unpopular step of closing down life as they knew it against an invisible enemy.
Despite the dishonest bluster and backsliding of their President, 80% of American males still picked men when asked to name leaders they most admire.
Nearly three-quarters of men believe they are more intelligent than their peers.
By comparison 57% of woman believe they are smarter than average.n
They don’t suffer the over-confidence of men, preferring to seek input and listen in order to make decisions that support communities.
They engage diverse advisers and a wide network of opinions, building teams rather than trusting their own judgement and instincts as men tend to do.
Women acknowledged for being “other directed” and emotionally intelligent are showing themselves in this crisis to be every bit as decisive and transformational as men by excelling on vision, inspiration, direction setting and thinking outside the box.
Perhaps there is something instinctive about turning to a woman in matters of physical hurt.
When you grazed your knee, bumped your head or cut your finger, who did you turn to first?
Why, Mum, of course.