"It is not gender that determines success or failure."
In a speech during the inauguration of the Skyway 3 project earlier this month, President Rodrigo Duterte said his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, was not running for the presidency in May 2022 because the job is not for women.
“The emotional set-up of a woman and a man is totally different. [You will go crazy here.] That is the sad story,” Mr. Duterte said, adding that he had told his daughter not to run because he does not want her to go through the hardships he is currently going through.
For her part, Duterte Carpio confirmed she had spoken with her father about not running, “but nothing about gender was discussed.”
Such statements are not unusual for the President, who is known for his macho leadership, sexist views and misogynist words. I will no longer repeat the many examples here.
Whether the facts would bear him out, and whether this world view would carry him through this new era, however, are another matter.
Just consider this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen women leaders proving themselves exceptional and inspirational. Look at New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, or Germany’s Angela Merkel, or Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen. Here at home, we have the quiet diligence of Vice President Leni Robredo, as well as other female local executives providing their own brand of non-traditional but nonetheless effective leadership.
Many have sought to analyze, empirically, whether women made better leaders especially in times of crisis. In an article published last month in the Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, both leadership development consultants, wrote that their research showed that women outperformed men in numerous aspects during times of difficulty.
In their article, Zenger and Folkman used information from 454 men and 366 women. The data was gathered between March and June 2020, the early months of the pandemic. The researchers wanted to see if there were any patterns in how male and female leaders in organizations were reacting and responding to the crisis.
The researchers listed 19 competencies that comprised overall leadership effectiveness. Out of these, women outranked men significantly in 13 items: Taking initiative, Learning agility, Inspires and motivates others, Develops others, Builds relationships, Displays high integrity and honesty, Communicates powerfully and prolifically, Collaboration and teamwork, Champions change, Makes decisions, Drives for results, Values diversity and Establishes stretch goals.
In other competencies, women outperform men, too, although the difference is not statistically significant. These are: Innovates, Solves problems and analyzes issues, Customer and external focus, Develops strategic perspective and Takes risks.
Men outperformed women in only one competency—Technical or professional expertise and even then, the difference was not deemed statistically significant.
The verdict: “Consistent with our pre-pandemic analysis, we found that women were rated significantly more positively than men. Comparing the overall leadership effectiveness ratings of men versus women, once again women were rated as more effective leaders (t-Value 2.926, Sig. 0.004). The gap between men and women in the pandemic is even larger than previously measured, possibly indicating that women tend to perform better in a crisis,” the authors said.
Other studies conducted during the pandemic bore similar results. Supriya Garikipati of the University of Liverpool and Uma Kambhampati of the University of Reading looked at data sets for 194 countries and found that COVID-19 outcomes are systematically better in countries led by women and, that this, to some extent, may be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy responses adopted by them. Their study is on the web site of the Social Science Research Network.
Another study by Kayla Sergent and Alexander Stajkovic, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that American states with female governors registered fewer COVID-19 deaths, at least in the early period of the pandemic.
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Then again, this is not to pit women against men, or create a contest as to which gender is superior. Men and women are inherently not the same. Generally, they each have different emotional and psychological compositions, and might respond to different situations differently. Data from the studies above may show sterling performances of female business and political leaders during a crisis—but many men have performed well, too.
What is notable is that women are performing well despite such limiting mindsets by other leaders, by their teachers or mentors, and even their parents. The job of a president is difficult, indeed. We cannot imagine how a chief executive would be able to focus on addressing a nation’s numerous problems, poise the country for growth and development, establish a respectable presence on the world stage, all while being genuinely compassionate in a way that inspires the people, young and old alike.
What determines success in all these difficult tasks is not gender. It is a combination of intellectual, emotional and psychological attributes topped with the virtues of basic decency, integrity, open-mindedness and honesty.
President Duterte may have his views. Fortunately for us, it does not mean they are true or that we have to be limited by them. The rest of us are entitled to carve our own destiny and, by the power of our votes, install only competent, compassionate and deserving leaders of our land.