The women showing the world how to lead in times of crisis


Juliet Welk, Guest Writer

In these uncertain times, it’s easy to focus on the countries failing to take appropriate measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19. Whether it’s accusations of a cover-up led by President Xi’s (China) regime, criticism of President Bolsonaro’s (Brazil) denial of the severity of the virus, backlash over Prime Minister Johnson’s (United Kingdom) “preachy” commands, or denunciations of President Trump’s failure to enact a science-based response, many world leaders have shown us what not to do. Another group, on the other hand, is demonstrating how to govern effectively when the stakes are highest: the world’s female heads of state. Here, I will delve into three different countries’ successful approaches to COVID-19, all led by women.

1. New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to COVID-19 is a model of crisis leadership. She took early, drastic steps to combat the spread of coronavirus in New Zealand; she used programs such as her “Stay Home to Save Lives” campaign to put meaning behind what she is asking of her people; she is compassionate and understanding of the New Zealanders’ fear; she is also the only head-of-state to put out – and potentially achieve – an eradication goal for the disease.,

Ardern has been commended for her ability to lead while standing with her people, not on a pulpit before them. She holds Facebook Live conversations from her home and has productive, non-combative press conferences that allow her to inform New Zealanders of the government’s actions and the purposes behind them. This strategy has yielded her much authority, as well as an over-80% job approval rating, that has enabled Ardern to implement successful stay-at-home orders and other precautions, which have faced push-back in other countries. She uses her popularity to earn rather than enforce compliance, which, along with quick action and extensive measures, has made all the difference for New Zealand. The country of over 4.5 million people has seen only 1,474 cases, with only 19 deaths. ,

2. Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach has been “uncharacteristically personal” yet direct and effective. The quantum chemist chose to highlight the science behind the fight, explaining the epidemiology herself when discussing Germany’s strategy moving forward. Merkel, from the beginning, did not sugar-coat the pandemic; she was clear that this is grave, a large number of people are going to get infected, and everyone needs to take it seriously.

The Chancellor’s response demonstrated to her critics and supporters alike the value of direct, truthful communication between the government and its people. Merkel showed her citizens that they have reason to trust her in the midst of this crisis. Because of that, she has found wide-spread support for her administration’s efforts to combat COVID-19, and they have been successful. Germany, a country of nearly 84 million people has seen approximately 160,000 cases, counting only 6,314 deaths.,

3. Taiwan

President Tsai Ing-wen led one of the fastest responses to coronavirus that the world saw, and it is paying off for Taiwan. Tsai acted, largely independently from any other state or international organization, to put 124 measures into place aimed at combatting the pandemic, including strict stay-at-home orders, early travel bans, dramatically increased production of personal protective equipment (PPE), and island-wide testing. She was forced to act predominantly without foreign support because China, in protest of Taiwan’s independence claims, barred the island from being a member of most international organizations, including the World Health Organization. This denial of access to shared health information probably negatively impacted Taiwan during the SARS epidemic. In today’s pandemic, however, the skillful, quick direction of President Tsai allowed Taiwan to limit its number of cases to 426, including only six deaths, despite having a population of nearly 24 million., These effective measures have enabled Taiwan to begin sending needed supplies to foreign countries, including to the United States.

So is there a conclusion from all of this?

Yes. The fast, extensive, and well-supported measures enacted by these female leaders are models for how to combat COVID-19. And the women themselves are shining examples of the kind of science-based, compassionate, unifying leadership necessary during a crisis of this proportion. Now all we can do is hope other leaders learn from these examples and follow suit.

* Note: It is the opinion of the author that Taiwan is an independent state. That is not necessarily the opinion of this publication.