Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Gaulke, Kate. Gendered Leadership: Men and Women Governor’s Responses to COVID-19. University of Nebraska- Lincoln. March 2023.


Copyright Kate Gaulke 2023.


To alleviate a large-scale crisis, leaders have to choose mitigation strategies to best address the issue at hand while also avoiding the spread of panic among their constituents. This balancing act can be challenging and was especially demanding during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic was not only a global health crisis, but also caused worldwide social, economic, and political turmoil. For three years, the pandemic riddled the United States with disease, economic hardship, food insecurity, and unemployment. Since its rise, COVID-19 has been the foremost concern on policy agendas nationwide. Governors, in particular, played a significant part in leading Americans through the pandemic by declaring stay-at-home orders, facilitating vaccine rollouts, and promoting economic stability in their state. One question that has emerged is whether women governors handled the pandemic differently than their men counterparts, as it has been historically proven that leadership styles differ greatly by gender. This thesis examines the relationship between governors’ gender and COVID-related death rates and confirmed case rates. In doing so, I answer the following: How have responses to COVID-19 differed between men and women governors across the United States? In comparing nine women governors with their closest matching men counterparts, I found no major difference when it came to total deaths per capita and total confirmed cases per capita from January 16th, 2020 to January 4th, 2021