Wednesday, 2016 Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted a video of herself touting research that suggests countries run by women are doing better with COVID-19.
“And i’ll just end with a little global aside” Hillary says “which is the research being done about how much better countries run by women have done during the COVID pandemic. (laughing) From New Zealand to Taiwan to Germany and Finland etc. and maybe you know, it’s not a very big sample but the kind of inclusive leadership that actually followed the evidence and listened to science has proven to be quite effective.”
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 8, 2020
As to the claim, and article by Alexandria Ossola for Quartz explores the specific topic “Do countries with female leaders truly fare better with Covid-19?”
The analysis, which is now out as a working paper and has been submitted for consideration to a journal, found that the infection rate and death rate of Covid-19 were both lower in countries run by women compared to those in male-led countries. In an effort to isolate the specific effect of having a female leader, they compared female-led countries to male-led countries that are similar in population, geography, gender equality, health expenditures, and number of tourists. No matter how they sliced the data, female-led countries fared better.
Though the paper is compelling, it doesn’t offer incontrovertible proof. Part of the reason it’s so hard to say for sure that women leaders are better rising to the Covid-19 challenge is that there are just so few of them. Of 194 countries included in the researchers’ analysis, just 19 of them (about 10%) are run by women. What’s more, experts think that many countries are miscounting or misrepresenting the number of people within their borders affected by the virus.
“We are concerned about the quality of the data,” the study authors told Quartz via email. “As we mention in the paper, most countries were not testing comprehensively, so the numbers of cases are not entirely reliable and the numbers of deaths are not recorded in exactly the same way across countries. Once we are confident about this, it would make more analysis possible about the decisions made by leaders.” Though the pandemic has been going on for months, the world likely won’t know the true extent of the virus’ early damage until much later.