Women Leaders Cared More About People During the Pandemic
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Women Leaders Cared More About People During the Pandemic

LEADER'S GENDER DID NOT AFFECT THE SIZE OF SUPPORT PACKAGES, BUT COUNTRIES LED BY WOMEN HAVE BEEN MORE CONCENTRATED AROUND A HIGHER SCORE OF THE ECONOMIC SUPPORT INDEX, ACCORDING TO RESEARCH BY PAOLA PROFETA

Governments around the globe have reacted to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus with unprecedented policy measures. In “Gender Equality and Public Policy during COVID-19,” Associate Professor at Bocconi’s Department of Political and Social Sciences Paola Profeta, Director of AXA Research Lab on Gender Equality, looks at how public policy may support gender equality during the pandemic, and the role of female leadership in promoting successful measures.
 
“Looking at female leadership, there was anecdotal evidence that women performed better in dealing with the emergency, and I wanted to see if I could find data to support that,” said Profeta.
 
The paper, published in CESIfo Economic Studies, reviews the evidence on the gender dimension of the pandemic in terms of the labor market, family relationships, public policy, and leadership. Profeta said the evidence for leadership is purely descriptive, but it sheds light on interesting patterns, which she believes are worth investigating in order to assess the relationship between gender equality and public policy.  Future studies will carefully provide causal evidence, she points out.
 
Profeta used data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT), which systematically collects information on several different common policy responses that governments have taken to respond to the pandemic on several indicators. She focused on the Economic Support Index, which records measures such as income support (as of March 2020 for 36 OECD countries). Then she matched them with the gender of the head of government, collected by Workbook Statistics. Twenty-four countries are led by a man and 11 by a woman.
 
She looked at whether countries led by women have been more focused on public policy support for income of workers and families, thus potentially alleviating the economically weaker groups of population, including women. She found that the leader’s gender did not seem to make a significant difference in terms of actions or the size of support packages.
 
“However, countries led by women have been more concentrated around a higher score of the Economic Support Index, while the performance of countries led by men spread across a wider range of values, with some countries showing very high and others very low scores,” she wrote. Does that mean women were better leaders? “We can say that, at least if we think in terms of caring about people, yes,” she said.
 
Profeta is continuing her research to look at the domestic performance of leaders inside individual countries, including Italy.
 
Paola Profeta, “Gender Equality and Public Policy during COVID-19,” CESifo Economic Studies, Volume 66, Issue 4, December 2020, Pages 365–375, https://doi.org/10.1093/cesifo/ifaa018.

by Jennifer Clark
Bocconi Knowledge newsletter

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