Women leaders can handle a crisis.
While the current COVID-19 pandemic underscores its importance, proving they can handle a crisis has consistently been important for women candidates and will continue to be so in the years to come. It is a key component of being seen as qualified, and, in previous Barbara Lee Family Foundation research, voters rated “can handle a crisis” as a top trait when assessing a woman’s electability.
There are so many types of crises— outbreaks or natural disasters, such as pandemics, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or blizzards; and man-made disasters, such as mass shootings, industrial accidents and spills, infrastructure negligence, or the opioid epidemic—and the impact on each voter varies depending on their age, race, gender, geography, ability, and socioeconomic status. “Handling a crisis” may seem like a vague concept, but new Barbara Lee Family Foundation research shows voters have very concrete ideas about what makes a woman leader equipped to do so.
- Voters know the type of leader they want in a crisis: someone with a 360-degree view who is in touch with people’s lives. They want someone who is thinking about what needs to happen before, during, and after a crisis, and think women are better at taking that 360-degree view.
- Communication is essential, and voters see it as a two-way street. For voters, communicating isn’t just about conveying information; it’s also about listening to and learning from others. There are two sides of gathering information – from the people impacted and from the experts – and people think that women will be better at both.
- Confidence is key. Confidence signals both likeability and qualifications, and is essential when it comes to showing a woman can handle a crisis. In past Barbara Lee Family Foundation research, voters assessed a woman officeholder’s confidence in less than 30 seconds.
- Voters want their leaders to be team captains during times of crisis. When given the choice of either a woman or a man governor showing individual leadership or working with a team, voters overwhelmingly prefer them working with a team.