Women Are Better at Leading Countries Than Men, Survey Respondents Say
Women serve as elected heads of state or government in only 28 countries, according to the U.N. But a survey suggests the global public might happily welcome many more.
About 70% of queried respondents believe that countries led by women tend to be better managed, according to a U.S. News survey involving more than 17,000 people from 36 countries. Another 90% believe that women deserve equal rights.
The findings are culled from the 2022 Best Countries survey, which was fielded this year from April 30 to July 13 and is used for an annual, perception-based ranking of countries. Those surveyed were asked to state how strongly they agreed with a variety of statements, such as “women should be entitled to the same rights as men” and “countries led by women tend to be better managed.”
About 93% of women and 88% of men say that men and women deserve equal rights. While it may be counterintuitive, the older a person is, the more likely they are to agree that women are entitled to the same rights as men, the survey shows. In the youngest age bracket of 18- to 24-year-olds, 85% agreed with the statement, compared with 94% of people over 55.
In every country polled, a majority of respondents agreed that women are entitled to equal rights. The country with the highest percentage of people agreeing was Argentina, with more than 95% agreement, and the lowest was Egypt, with 75%.
The question of whether or not countries led by women tend to be better managed was somewhat more divisive. Of the nearly 70% who said they agreed with this statement, 32% said they agreed “slightly” and only 15% said they agreed “strongly.” Seventy-six percent of women agreed that countries led by women are better managed, compared with 62% of men.
India, by far, had the largest share of respondents agreeing that countries led by women were better managed. Among survey respondents in India, 85% agreed, while no other country had more than 80% agreement.
Peggy Clark, the CEO and president of the International Center for Research on Women, says that simply may reflect historical precedent. India had a female prime minister, Indira Gandhi, in the 1960s and 1980s, which means that the country’s population already has a model of female leadership. The country has also had two female presidents.
There is strong evidence to suggest that countries led by women are home to better social and economic conditions, according to experts.
Julie Ballington, a policy adviser for U.N. Women – the United Nations agency that works toward gender equality – says women are more likely than men to place issues such as health care, child care and education on the political agenda. Countries with more women in government bring a “different style to politics and different policy focuses than [governments] with very few women in them,” she says.
One example of this, says Clark, is New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “I think most of the world recognizes that New Zealand was one of the countries that responded best to the pandemic,” she says.
While affluent Nordic countries like Sweden or Norway are often pointed to as prime examples of female leadership and gender equality, the link between empowering women and improving a nation’s well-being is evident across the world, including in places like Rwanda and Liberia, Clark says.
“There’s significant evidence that women’s leadership is a pretty critical piece of the puzzle in all of the basic indicator areas for the quality of life,” she says.