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The Secret to COVID Success: Promoting Women in Power

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

By Julia Loritz

Image by Julia Loritz

As nations continue to combat the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, trial-and-error is common from positions of power. The latest numbers show skyrocketing case counts in the U.S., Russia, U.K. and several South American countries. After months of dwelling in lock-down, every day citizens only see shortcomings in leadership and cases piling as healthcare facilities struggle to keep up. However, some efforts have been largely successful in containing the virus through use of widespread testing, contact tracing, and smart quarantining.

According to Stat, Taiwan under President Tsai Ing-wen “[has been] one of the strongest performers...with 446 confirmed cases and just seven deaths for nearly 24 million citizens, or 0.03 deaths per 100,000.” By comparison, the United States reports 1,200 times as many deaths per capita. Data shows similar outcomes in New Zealand as it works towards the bold ambition of eradicating the virus from its borders. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the New Zealand government controlled the virus early on by imposing border control policies and preparing hospitals for influx the day after the announcement of the first confirmed COVID death outside of China. Because of her swift response, Ardern has curated an emblematic example for the world to follow.

Sanna Marin, Finland Prime Minister; Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Mette Frederiksen, Denmark Prime Minister; just three of a growing list of nations led by women that have seen more success against the virus than some of their male counterparts. What could this trend mean? For one, it could highlight differences in pandemic response plans — specifically their flaws. In the United States, it took several weeks, arguably months, for the government to act on the severity of the virus to a thorough extent. Wearing a mask (now a mandated practice in many countries) proves to be an effective way to slow the spread. If enough people partake in correct facial coverage, communities may be lucky enough to experience a phenomenon called “herd immunity”. Usually attached to immunization sociology, the term describes a form of protection from an infectious disease. It works like a pyramid: as one infected individual contaminates another, the virus travels exponentially down a chain. But perhaps someone impedes that rapid transmission by wearing a mask, becoming part of the “herd”. Now, the chances of that person expanding the pyramid reduce drastically. Even so, wearing a mask in America has grown into a partisan divide rather than a public health initiative.

We are taught from a young age that leaders should be assertive, almost aggressive, when deciding what is best for those they represent. Take, for example, the push for fiscal re-openings while cases are still on the rise. Society exposes us to standards male leaders around the world have influenced for most of democracy’s history. Ideals revolving around authority may conform to the concept of masculinity, whether or not we realize it. This is because, unfortunately, female leaders are uncommon. Having women in places of power is often a symbol of progressivism, demonstrating a willingness to sit them at the table and an appeal for a new form of management contrary to the norm. What we see because of the pandemic is at least that the aforementioned examples have challenged traditional governing, enough to where a change can work for the better (not to excuse the triumphs of other countries led by men!).

When women welcome social and career success, others may question their confidence and decisiveness, labeling it “unfeminine”. But can these positive outcomes in a time of strife induce promotion of women in power? Their display of humility to confer and learn from experts in epidemiology and other varied resources is a valuable asset. By this technique, Merkel was able to control the outbreak in a large, forefront nation as the rest of Western Europe fell into COVID’s clutch. In the U.K. and Spain, where deaths are considerably higher, executives considered information from their inside advisors over outside specialists, according to the New York Times.

Regardless of gender, the fraction of the global community thriving in spite of the pandemic are doing so because of thoughtful and critical measures to ensure safety of the public. Uniting a country instead of diverging it is a defining characteristic of robust handling of the crisis. To pave the way for a new generation and a new normal, the acceptance of ingenuity is crucial. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

Written by writer Julia Loritz

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