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Female leaders ‘better than men at meeting Covid-19 challenges’


Women are more able to allay their employees’ concerns during the crisis, NZ study finds

A survey of New Zealand employees during the Covid-19 lockdown has found that women have a different and more effective style of leadership than men when dealing with staff concerns about workplace changes.

The NZ study involved 625 participants working in full-time jobs. Just over half of the respondents (57.1 per cent) were female and 52.6 per cent identified their leaders as male. The average age of the employees was 40 years and they worked an average of 36 to 40 hours a week.

It found that female business leaders were perceived as better than their male counterparts at dealing with staff anxieties and mental health issues associated with change.

The survey is part of a long-term research project conducted by psychologist Jarrod Haar from Auckland University of Technology and business lecturer David Brougham from Massey University.

“We found that a good leader—defined as a boss who shows care and expresses genuine concern for workers—is beneficial to employees,” Haar said in a university statement.

“Those employees who experienced good leadership at work had greater sense of wellbeing, including higher life satisfaction and fewer feelings of job stress, burnout, anxiety and depression.”

He said the survey provided “clear evidence that during the Covid-19 lockdown period, having a good leader is beneficial to your wellbeing”.

“It is ‘extra beneficial’ if that leader is a woman. The results likely reflect that female leaders may have a different approach to leadership, with a tendency to be more focused on relationships, and more sensitive, attuned and responsive to their staff,” Haar said.

“Good leaders who are female are better able to allay their employees’ concerns and frustrations with work. The result? Employees have a greater sense of wellbeing, which in turn helps make them more productive.”

The survey coincides with global praise for NZ prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s strong and empathetic leadership in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Suze Wilson, a lecturer in executive development at Massey University, described Ardern’s consultative approach as “a masterclass in crisis leadership”.

“In freely acknowledging the challenges we face in staying home—from disrupted family and work lives, to people unable to attend loved ones’ funerals—she shows empathy about what is being asked of us,” Wilson wrote in a university editorial.