Female Leaders Outperformed Male Equivalents During The Pandemic

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 25 Jul 2020 15:18
NewsPA Images

Data has shown that female world leaders have outperformed their male equivalents during the ongoing health crisis. 

The 10 worst-affected countries – both in terms of total number of cases and cases per million people – are all led by men.


New Zealand, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, was declared free of coronavirus last month. Although its figures have slightly risen since then, the country’s numbers are nowhere near the likes of the United States, which has seen more than 4 million cases of the virus.

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The most heavily-affected male-led country hit by the virus was found to be Bahrain, which has seen 22,119 cases per million. In comparison, the worst-affected female-led country hit was Belgium, which has seen 5,568 cases per million, reported The Independent

Supriya Garikipati and Uma Kambhampati examined how our world leaders have handled the ongoing health crisis in a new paper, which analysed the first quarter of the pandemic in particular and looked at when countries decided to go into lockdown.


In regards to why female-led countries have seen less cases of the viruses, Garikipati and Kambhampati said that one reason is due to women being more risk-averse.

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They use Brazil’s leader Jair Bolsonaro as an example of a risk-taker, after he dismissed the severity of the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, describing it as ‘a little flu or a bit of a cold’.

Garikipati and Kambhampati also used UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as an example of a risk-taker after he openly admitted he shook hands with several COVID patients. Both Bolsonaro and Johnson later tested positive for the virus.


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The one thing they found female leaders took more of a risk on was their country’s economies, having locked them down earlier.

The paper explained:

While women leaders were risk averse with regard to lives, they were prepared to take significant risks with their economies by locking down early. Thus, risk aversion may manifest differently in different domains – human life versus economic outcomes – with women leaders being significantly more risk averse in the domain of human life, but more risk taking in the domain of the economy.

We find some support for this idea in studies that examine risk taking behaviour when lotteries are framed as losses. Men are found to be more risk averse than women when lotteries are framed as financial losses rather than gains.

Basically, it appears male leaders prioritised the economy over people’s lives.

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Garikipati and Kambhampati also dubbed the gender difference in leadership style as a reason why female-led countries have handled the pandemic better.

Alexa, play Beyoncé – Run The World (Girls). 

It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Life, Boris Johnson, Coronavirus, Jacinda Ardern, Jair Bolsonaro, News, Now, Pandemic, World News


VOX EU and 1 other
  1. VOX EU

    Women leaders are better at fighting the pandemic

  2. The Independent

    Coronavirus tracked: How women leaders outperform men during pandemic