A new study from the University of Haifa released Friday has found that mortality rates are lower in countries led by women, as opposed to men, but only in countries with a higher degree of societal tolerance of uncertainty with respect to national culture.
“The reason for this may lie in a correlation between such a national culture and the leadership style embodied by many women leaders,” says Prof. Dana Vashdi, one of the authors of the study.
Highlighted examples in the study include the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, and the president of Singapore Halimah Yacob, which the authors suggest are proof of their roles in reducing coronavirus morbidity rates.
Doctoral student Talia Goren and Prof. Dana Vashdi of the School of Political Science at the University of Haifa aimed to examine in an empirical study whether these women leaders have been more effective, based on a number of variables and morbidity rates in 22 countries where women lead, among all 185 countries that have provided information on cases and deaths.
The variables includes were number of hospital beds per 10,000 residents; median age of the population; population size and density; GDP; type of regime; the number of women in parliament and in the government; and the imposition of various health provisions, and restrictions on movement (lockdowns).
Weighed against were sociological cultural indexes on societal perceptions of collectivism, hierarchy, tolerance to uncertainty, and division of functions in society.
“In the past, a formative study was undertaken examining the cultural values of thousands of residents of different countries. Among other aspects, the study measured the extent to which residents are tolerant to vague and uncertain situations. These scores have been reexamined in thousands of instances since then and no change has been found, proving that cultural values change very little over time,” the researchers noted.
It was found that since June 2020, the number of deaths from coronavirus in countries led by women were lower but only if there were strong national cultural traits of tolerance to uncertainty.
"The number of deaths per 100,000 people in countries led by women averaged 11.91, compared to 13.56 in countries led by men," the study noted.
"People who belong to such a culture are more positive about changes and less anxious about new and unfamiliar situations," it added.
"We know from previous studies that women leaders typically show what is known as a “inspirational” leadership style. They are usually more charismatic, considerate, and inspiring than male leaders. This style is regarded as more appropriate and acceptable in societies that have a high level of tolerance to uncertainty. However, we did not examine in this study what leadership style the women leaders adopted in practice, so that this hypothesis requires testing,” Prof. Vashdi emphasized.
On the other hand, countries with a higher number of women in senior political positions also had higher mortality rates from coronavirus, including female-led countries.
“Surprisingly, we found that variables we expected would influence mortality rates proved to have no impact at all. For example, we did not find any connection between population density, the number of hospital beds, and shutdowns and the number of deaths from COVID-19 in various countries. By contrast, morbidity rates were found to be connected to the number of women in parliament– and the connection was positive,” doctoral student Goren added.
“The study findings underscore the complexity of the connection between gender, leadership, and culture. It also highlights the importance of ensuring that the leader’s behavior and the policy they adopt are compatible with the cultural values of the society they lead,” the researchers concluded.