Nine Women Leaders Who Stepped Up During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the news cycle disproportionately focuses on how white men are leading the fight against the coronavirus, Ms. has found hope in female leaders across the globe.

From pushing listeners to stay safe and healthy, to starting campaigns to provide relief or aid in light of COVID-19, to addressing the federal government’s flaws, these sheroes are fighting the pandemic with power and grace.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Whitmer became governor in 2018, and rose to the spotlight after delivering the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union in February. She has fought broadly for health care access, from expanding Medicaid to protecting those with pre-existing conditions.

Our favorite coronavirus-related action: Speaking out about the federal government’s failure to do enough to combat the virus, leading to Trump attacking her.

And keeping up her monthly read aloud—despite social distancing!

Her latest action: Banning travel between residences in Michigan. 

Dr. Deborah Birx

Nine Sheroes That Have Emerged During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Ambassador Dr. Deborah Birx speaks at a roundtable discussion at Windhoek Central Hospital in Namibia. (George W. Bush Presidential Center)

Dr. Birx is the official United States Coronavirus Response Coordinator, as well as the U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. Her background informs her policy decisions regarding the international pandemic.

Our favorite coronavirus-related action: Calling out Americans for not following protective guidelines.

“We’re only as strong as every community, every county, every state, every American following the guidelines to a T,” Birx said. “And I can tell by the curve … that not every American is following it.”

Her latest action: Expressing hope after seeing low attack rates from the virus on the East Coast.


Here at Ms., our team is continuing to report through this global health crisis—doing what we can to keep you informed and up-to-date on some of the most underreported issues of this pandemic. We ask that you consider supporting our work to bring you substantive, unique reporting—we can’t do it without you. Support our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi, the only female Speaker of the House in America’s history, has been fighting coronavirus since it first began spreading in the states. Notably, she and the White House agreed upon a Families First response in mid-March, ensuring economic stability for vulnerable parties in this crisis.

Our favorite coronavirus-related action: Introducing a $2 trillion stimulus package for coronavirus relief on her 80th birthday.

Her latest action: Refusing to watch Trump’s coronavirus briefings.

“I don’t watch them. I sometimes see inadvertently or just by accident some of the news reporting on it,” she said of Trump’s coronavirus briefings.

“But I just don’t have time for that, I am a busy person. I have a day job, and it’s not to watch the president contradict himself on TV,” Pelosi continued.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen

Like Donald Trump, Tsai Ing-Wen too took office in Taiwan in 2016.

But unlike Trump, she began addressing the virus in January, introducing four goals: “staying abreast of the latest information on the outbreak; joint international disease control efforts; responding to the spread of misinformation and disinformation; and the government’s follow-up response measures.”

Our favorite coronavirus-related action: Leading outstanding containment efforts in response to the virus—”among the best globally,” in fact.

Her latest action: Defending Taiwan against WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said the country has been racist.

Sint Maarten Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs

Sint Maarten’s Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs was elected in November of 2019, making the coronavirus the first global crisis she has faced since taking office. Jacobs starting containment measures quickly, limiting travel in early March.

Our favorite coronavirus-related action: Starting to mitigate the spread of the disease early.

Her latest action: Being incredibly blunt with her Caribbean citizens about staying home.

“Simply stop moving,” Jacobs announced bluntly.

“If you do not have the type of bread you like in your house, eat crackers,” she continued. “If you do not have bread, eat cereal, eat oats, sardines. You’re supposed to have a two-week supply for hurricanes, and at the beginning of this I said, ‘Prepare your disaster kit as if you were for a hurricane.'”

Cher

The iconic popstar Cher, known for her capitalized and emoji-ridden tweets, is very vocal about politics online. In the midst of coronavirus, she expressed her distrust in President Trump and tried to galvanize her followers to take political action.

Our favorite coronavirus-related action: Her tweets calling for the federal government to remember the American people and America’s small businesses in its stimulus packages—and to prohibit stock buybacks.

Her latest action: Her prompts for followers to use this time of shelter-in-place to get involved in politics by calling their Congressional representatives.

Cardi B

Rapper Cardi B has fearlessly made bold political comments throughout her career, especially during and after the 2016 presidential election.

As the virus started spreading through the U.S., a video she posted on Instagram about her fears concerning the virus went viral.

Our favorite coronavirus-related action: Her video calling out the federal government for being too focused on the effects of the coronavirus on stock market—and only being considered with “white people … losing money.”

Her latest action: Her freely-donated funds to support those most in need.

Rep. Katie Porter

This California representative took office in 2018. From the start of the pandemic, Porter has been fervently fighting coronavirus since its beginning.

Now, while she social distances at home with her children, Porter stays on top of the virus—with the added difficulty of a time difference between California and the Congressional happenings on the East Coast.

Our favorite coronavirus-related action: Convincing the chief of the CDC that all Americans need free coronavirus testing.

Her latest action: Her frank tone—which is so needed right now.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed

Mayor London Breed of San Francisco has taken major precautions in regards to the virus’ health, safety and economic implications.

Breed faces a unique recent issue while fighting coronavirus: preventing the wave of tourism that comes with 4/20 celebrations in the city with a history of hippies. And she has no time to play.

“Do not come to San Francisco,” she said in a news conference on Monday. “We will not allow this unsanctioned event to occur this year, especially in the height of a pandemic. The area will be fenced off, there will be police officers patrolling the area. We will cite and, if necessary, arrest.”

Our favorite coronavirus-related action: Fighting the virus with strict and early measures, helping to flatten the curve in San Francisco.

Her latest action: Limiting the fees food delivery apps can charge during quarantine.


The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-movingDuring this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

About

Fiona is a journalism student at the University of Southern California. When not in the office nor in class, she is often found photographing her friends, attending local concerts and eating sourdough toast.