Gender in the time of COVID-19: Evaluating national leadership and COVID-19 fatalities

PLoS One. 2020 Dec 31;15(12):e0244531. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0244531. eCollection 2020.


In this paper we explore whether countries led by women have fared better during the COVID-19 pandemic than those led by men. Media and public health officials have lauded the perceived gender-related influence on policies and strategies for reducing the deleterious effects of the pandemic. We examine this proposition by analyzing COVID-19-related deaths globally across countries led by men and women. While we find some limited support for lower reported fatality rates in countries led by women, they are not statistically significant. Country cultural values offer more substantive explanation for COVID-19 outcomes. We offer several potential explanations for the pervasive perception that countries led by women have fared better during the pandemic, including data selection bias and Western media bias that amplified the successes of women leaders in OECD countries.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / mortality*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Pandemics*
  • Public Health*
  • SARS-CoV-2*

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.