Women lead better – why?

In leading the fight against COVID-19, it is women who have excelled in seven of 16 countries.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern claims victory over challenger Judith Collins at a Labour Party election night event in Auckland on October 17 (photo credit: REUTERS)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern claims victory over challenger Judith Collins at a Labour Party election night event in Auckland on October 17
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Crises are times when you learn a lot about yourself and about your country. This pandemic is no exception.
One thing the world has learned – women are clearly better leaders than men. For readers who question that sweeping generalization – a brazen example of reverse gender bias – let me make the case.
Of some 240 countries in the world, only 16 countries have female heads of state – or fewer than 7%. Yet in leading the fight against COVID-19, it is women who have excelled in seven of those 16 countries, Tsai In-Wen, 64, a former lawyer and Taiwan’s first female president – elected in 2016 – has effectively limited the pandemic in her country right from the start.
Taiwan had a total of 420 cases of novel coronavirus as of April 20 – and added only 158 cases in almost seven months up to November 9.
Jacinda Arden, 40, Prime Minister of New Zealand, has virtually eliminated the coronavirus in New Zealand and won resounding reelection, with a parliamentary majority. New Zealand had 1,105 cases total, up to April 20, and then only 515 additional cases from that date up to November 7.
Angela Merkel, 66, lame duck German chancellor, has been a voice of calm and reason in the face of neo-Nazi demonstrations against lockdown in her country. She is herself a scientist – a quantum chemist – and not only listens to the science but truly understands it. Like most of Europe, Germany is now suffering a steep second wave of coronavirus. But under Merkel, Germany has been among world leaders in extensive testing and tracing. Denmark, led by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, 42, and Finland, led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin, 34, have both done well in limiting the pandemic in their countries. Denmark has had 128 COVID-19 deaths per million, and Finland, 66 deaths per million, in contrast with the US, which has had 722 deaths per million.
Up to September 27, Norway performed a million tests (for a population of about five million) and reported 13,741 confirmed cases and 274 deaths (53 deaths per million). A senior Norwegian Institute of Public Health consultant said one of the major reasons the mortality rate was significantly lower than in other European countries (such as Italy, Spain, and the UK) was the high number of tests performed in Norway, enabling early treatment. Erna Solberg, 59, has been Norwegian prime minister for more than six years.
Iceland joins Taiwan, among a group of countries which adopted a cooperative strategy early in the pandemic, bringing together multiple organizations to tackle the challenges in containing COVID-19. Databases show only 20 total deaths from COVID-19 in Iceland. Katrín Jakobsdóttir, 44, serves as the 28th prime minister of Iceland since 2017.
Seven brilliant women, who have led their countries to safe shores. Is this coincidence?
Note that the three biggest failures in controlling the pandemic were recorded by men: US President Donald Trump, who is 74; Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, 65 and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 56. The US ranks 11th highest in the world in coronavirus deaths per million; UK, 10th highest, and Brazil, fourth highest.
Why have women done better than men in managing their country’s pandemic crisis? And why can I claim that women lead better in general?
Let’s start with evolution.
Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Humans have been on earth for six million years and have evolved. During that time, survival of the fittest has shaped who we are.
Men have evolved to kill – animals, rivals and enemies. Women have evolved to collaborate – in raising children, nurturing families and communicating with others, in lieu of brute strength.
Business schools teach students how to destroy competition. That will get you four years of Trump and well over 250,000 coronavirus deaths and 10 million cases in the US.
But why believe me, a man? Let us ask female leaders themselves. A survey of women leaders by Business News Daily provides many powerful reasons, given by top women, why women make great leaders.
Women are empathetic; this means they have a strong understanding of what motivates people and what their deepest needs are. Men? They are trained from a young age not to show sissy weakness.
Women listen. I have been in many management workshops where women know how to tackle a challenge, after listening intently to the dilemma; men have no clue – but drown out or ignore the silent or quiet voices of the women.
Women are nurturing. They nurture their children and they nurture their team members, to develop their skills and strengths. Women are team-builders.
Women multitask. Personally, I am as bad at walking and chewing gum as US President Gerald Ford was. Women do 10 things at a time, all the time and do them all well.
Women are great communicators. Women need to use language, in place of muscles, to explain what must be done and to get people to do it.
Women handle crises very well, with compassion and patience. And while doing so, they check their egos at the door; men wear theirs on their foreheads.
Women have much higher emotional intelligence – the ability to recognize emotions in themselves and others, to control emotions in themselves and to ‘read’ emotions in others and deal with them wisely. Research has shown that women have more emotional self-awareness and better interpersonal relationships.
Women are flexible and agile. They tend to admit their mistakes, while men tend to deny them. Women lead by example and do difficult things while making them look easy. And as one woman leader told Business News Daily, “the women who emerge on top are extraordinarily strong and capable. We had to fight to get there.” Israel, of course, had a strong woman who led the country – Golda Meir. She became prime minister on March 17, 1969, after serving as labor minister and foreign minister. At the time she was only the world’s fourth woman to hold this top office and Israel’s first. Meir resigned as prime minister in 1974, in the wake of the Yom Kippur War.
It is said that Golda had a powerful influence on US President-elect Joe Biden. As a 30-year-old freshly elected senator, narrowly winning as an underdog in Delaware, Biden chose to fly to Israel on his first overseas trip. Biden met with Meir on the eve of the Yom Kippur War. He recalls Golda was chain-smoking as she described the threats facing Israel. He later termed this meeting “one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life.” But perhaps one of Israel’s strongest female leaders was one who never got the chance to lead the country. On February 18, 2019, Tzipi Livni shed a tear or two as she announced her retirement from politics.
Livni almost became prime minister, perhaps sending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into permanent retirement. Here is how it unfolded.
Facing corruption charges, prime minister Ehud Olmert resigned on July 30, 2008. Livni won the resulting leadership contest for the Kadima Party and received a mandate to form a new government. But she failed.
Likud leader Netanyahu cut a deal with Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, that led Shas to block Livni. As a result, the stalemate brought national elections on February 10, 2009. Livni won the election, with Kadima gaining 28 Knesset seats compared with the Likud’s 27, under Netanyahu.
Normally, the leader of the party with the most Knesset seats is asked to form a government. But not this time. Netanyahu cobbled together a coalition, helped by Shas and the Haredi party United Torah Judaism, who were persuaded by generous promises of funding. Incidentally, Shas has never ever had a single female member of knesset.
At the time, Livni said, “I could have presented a government. I was willing to pay a certain price to form a government, but I wasn’t willing to mortgage the economic and the political future of the State of Israel.” Perhaps her opponent was willing.
Livni was a lieutenant in the IDF, served in the Mossad for four years and held eight different cabinet positions throughout her career, the most held by an Israeli woman. She was the first female vice prime minister, as well as justice minister, agriculture minister and housing minister.
I sometimes wonder what Israel’s political future might have been, including a near-peace deal with the Palestinians, had Livni not been shoved aside by sharp-elbowed men. 
The writer heads the Zvi Griliches Research Data Center at the S. Neaman Institute, Technion, and blogs at www.timnovate.wordpress.com