The story of women during the pandemic is one of resilience, perseverance, and strength. It's undeniable that the pandemic has tested all of us. The effects it has had on mental and physical health are staggering. With so many deprived of social interaction, distraught at the loss of a loved one or suffering in a hospital bed, it’s unrealistic to think that anyone would escape unscathed. However, it must be noted that women most of all have been pushed to the limit.
Indeed, it was women who were twice as likely to lose a job during the pandemic, more likely to do unpaid housework and childcare, and more likely to face violence at home. Despite this, it was women who were paragons of effective leadership and staying cool under pressure. Data shows that countries that had a woman as head of state had very low rates of infection and minimal deaths. So, what did they do differently?
Leaders such as Jacinda Ardern, the Prime minister of New Zealand, took the lead and rapidly shut down borders and enforced mask mandates. Preventing their countries from spiraling into the massive COVID craze that so many other countries faced. But most importantly, they backed up their promises. Ardern and her ministers all took a 20% pay cut to support those struggling from the economic disruption of COVID. Similarly, Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan, donated huge quantities of face masks and medical equipment to other countries.
This sent a message of solidarity and compassion that should be natural for all leaders. Women leaders took an approach of clear communication and emotional intelligence. They spoke directly to the populations, answered questions, and avoided the rhetoric of a militarist response. For example, the heads of state of Denmark, New Zealand, and Norway all held press conferences answering questions from kids, such as “Can I still have a birthday party?”
The pandemic has revealed the strengths exuded by many women leaders. Their approaches have been effective, upfront, and considerate without downplaying the severity of the crisis. Noticeably, countries with women leaders had the least incitement of fear and anxiety that resulted in the hoarding of toilet paper and canned foods. This suggests that it is high time we identify the handicap that the patriarchy has placed on us. In an ideal world, this would have been the response of leaders across the globe, but many decided to declare war on the pandemic instead. We have a window of opportunity for change, it’s imperative that we don't waste it.