Female leaders performed better at fighting coronavirus than their male counterparts, new research suggests.
Countries led by women - including Germany and New Zealand - suffered half as many COVID-19 deaths on average as those headed by men, as well as fewer cases, thanks to proactive policies such as earlier lockdown measures.
"Our results clearly indicate that women leaders reacted more quickly and decisively in the face of potential fatalities", said Professor Supriya Garikipati, one of the authors of the research.
“While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries.”
The study was conducted by the British universities of Liverpool and Reading across 194 countries during the first peak of the pandemic.
Researchers analysed those with similar characteristics on the basis of variables like GDP, total population, urban population density and the proportion of elderly residents, as well as annual health expenditure per capita, openness to international travel and societal gender equality.
They chose a "nearest neighbour" for each country, leading to comparisons such as Serbia (female-led) and Israel (male-led); New Zealand (female) and Ireland (male); Germany (female) and the UK (male) and Bangladesh (female) and Pakistan (male).
For each of these cases, female-led countries had fewer deaths and COVID-19 cases.