By Gillian Murphy, G11

Coronavirus has revealed many truths about our world, showing the best and worst of humanity, from racism to acts of genuine altruism. One such truth that has been highlighted during these trying times is that countries that have successfully avoided serious outbreaks have females in positions of power. In a world where true equality between the sexes is a distant achievement, it is still extremely difficult for women to reach leadership positions. Often, those of a more conservative viewpoint try to make the argument that this stems from myriad reasons; women are less qualified, women are less capable, women are too emotionally-driven. Though these age-old stereotypes echo across every continent, they have been overshadowed by the performance of female leaders across the globe during the pandemic. Here are a few such dynamic heads of state.


After having gained international fame for being the second modern world leader to give birth while in office (and brushing off claims that this would affect her job: “I am not the first woman to multitask”), Jacinda Ardern has continued to display her capabilities as Prime Minister of New Zealand during the coronavirus. While many other countries scoffed at the intense pre-emptive measures which New Zealand took to protect its citizens, such as forcing those entering the country to self-isolate and prohibiting the entry of foreigners, the success of Ardern’s quick decisions has become quite evident. Currently, the nation has a total of 20 deaths and fewer than 1,500 cases. Ardern has also set aside political differences to display cross-party unity during the coronavirus with Australia’s conservative Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern...

Photo courtesy of Reuters


Over in Germany, Angela Merkel entered the battle against coronavirus with a leg up; her career in politics began after she obtained a degree in quantum chemistry and spent the beginning of her working life as a scientist. This background of scientific reason and rationality has been essential to how she has dealt with the crisis, and the results speak for themselves. Her no-nonsense and truthful demeanor was essential in getting Germans to grasp the enormity of the situation and avoid panic, and she successfully convinced citizens to obey her directives. Testing was quickly made available and dispersed, and this, among Merkel’s other initiatives during the pandemic, have helped her reputation after difficulties appealing to the far right and far left. 

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel...

Photo courtesy of Reuters


While much of the world is still on lockdown, Denmark is one of a few nations that has begun the process of reopening. This has only been possible due to a swift and successful reaction on Mette Frederiksen’s part to the pandemic that closed schools, restaurants, and businesses. Though Denmark saw many citizens infected (over 9,500), the hope is that the success of the original measures plus incorporating social-distancing into the opening up of the country will keep the case-count from rising. Time will tell if this will be effective. Although there is a pressing need for the economy to resume as usual, reopening the country is not a simple or decidedly safe task, but Frederiksen is keeping this in mind: “if we open Denmark too quickly, we risk infections rising too sharply and then we’ll have to close down again.”

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks...

Photo courtesy of Reuters


Sanna Marin, another history-making woman in power, is the world’s youngest female prime minister. Although she is relatively new to her position (elected in December), she seems to have grasped how to reach the people during these tumultuous times. The Finnish government called on social media influencers around the country to spread truthful information about the pandemic, even going as far as to classify these influencers as ‘critical workers’. It seems that Marin’s youth was an advantage to her country, as her millennial perspective allowed her to understand how social media can be a key tool to accessing citizens and disseminating crucial information.

Finland's PM Sanna Marin holds a news...

Photo courtesy of Reuters


The leader of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, has been praised for having one of the most rapid responses to the pandemic. This was necessary due to Taiwan’s proximity to Wuhan, and the 124 measures she employed have kept the death toll below 10. The recent memory of the SARS outbreak has lingered in the minds of the Taiwanese, and at the first sign of a new virus, they implemented what they had learned the hard way before, creating the Central Epidemic Command Center. The containment of the disease was so effective that Taiwan did not have to resort to a lockdown, as many countries have. In addition to guiding and helping her own country, Tsai has worked to distribute face masks to other nations, displaying generosity that has been applauded by many other world leaders. With all of this work under her belt, Tsai Ing-wen recently gave a few powerful words of advice to the rest of the world: “Global crises test the fabric of the international community, stretching us at the seams and threatening to tear us apart. Now more than ever, every link in this global network must be accounted for. We must set aside our differences and work together for the benefit of humankind. The fight against COVID-19 will require the collective efforts of people around the world.”

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen visits Haiti

Photo courtesy of Reuters

And the capability of women extends far beyond those in leadership positions; women have stepped up in a variety of roles during coronavirus’ spread. In the US, African-American women make up the majority of those considered essential workers, and similar statistics are visible around the world. Though positions such as nurses, grocery-store workers, and others in female-dominated employment sectors are often overlooked and underappreciated in day-to-day life, coronavirus has been a stark reminder to appreciate these workers. It has taken a global pandemic to reveal just how much women are capable of, especially those in power.

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