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Better, Faster or More Comprehensive? A Meta- level Analysis of the Policy Measures Applied by Women- led Governments during the Beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Comparative Politics
Executives
Gender
Government
Political Leadership
Comparative Perspective
Mette Marie Staehr Harder
Karlstad University
Mette Marie Staehr Harder
Karlstad University

Abstract

The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique experiment for scholarship on substantive representation, political leadership, and gender. Especially, this situation allowed for comparisons of how women and men government leaders acted when confronted with similar political choices on issues that had not yet been the object of party politics. Most notably, scholars have studied possible relations between the gender of government leaders and the success of countries' pandemic strategies (e.g. Bosancianu et al., 2021; Coscieme et al., 2020; Piscopo, 2020; Purkayastha et al., 2020; Windsor et al., 2020). Conducting a first in-depth review of this literature, we find that the conclusions of these studies are surprisingly conflicting. Most notably, the degree to which scholars find women-led governments to be more successful than men-led governments is related to the way success is calculated, of which control variables are chosen, as well as the time span studied. Due to the methodologically sensitive nature of these findings, we suggest that scholars cease approaching the question of differences between men and women government leaders during the beginning of the pandemic as a question of countries’ pandemic performance. Rather, we suggest that this question is approached through studies of whether or not men- and women-led governments applied different policies during the beginning of the pandemic. Thus far, this question has only been studied as a question of the pace of the various lockdown measurements (Aldrich & Lotito, 2020; Garikipati & Kambhampati, 2020) and differences within testing policies (Profeta, 2020; Purkayastha et al., 2020). Thus, the relation between the strength of government responses and the gender of government leaders has not yet been scrutinized. To gain knowledge of this, we conducted a 36 OECD-country study of this. We find that countries led by women did not apply more extensive response strategies. If anything, such countries applied less strict closure and containment measures. Hence, our findings support the idea that the gender of a government leader was not very important for the pandemic performance of the OECD countries during the spring of 2020.