Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Men dither while women lead in the world

By Hanna Rosin, Special to CNN
October 11, 2013 -- Updated 1735 GMT (0135 HKT)
Federal Reserve nominee Janet Yellen could show male leaders a thing or two about getting things done, Hanna Rosin says.
Federal Reserve nominee Janet Yellen could show male leaders a thing or two about getting things done, Hanna Rosin says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hanna Rosin: A leader guiding a nation to prosperity? Obama? No, Angela Merkel in Germany
  • She says news full of dithering male leaders, while a woman has been picked to head the Fed
  • She says competence in global leadership belongs to women like IMF chief Christine Lagarde
  • Rosin: This may be the week when the world realizes women are better at the helm

Editor's note: Hanna Rosin is the author of "The End of Men: And the Rise of Women," now out in paperback. She is co-founder of Slate's DoubleX, a Web magazine about women issues.

(CNN) -- This important leader handles the debt crisis with grace, navigating expertly between austerity and growth. The leader's opponents grumble, more out of jealousy than genuine opposition, and loyal supporters hail the leader as a hero. The leader's popularity soars; re-election is not in question. Meanwhile, unemployment is at an all-time low, and the leader's nation is looking like its own island of prosperity, a beacon to a suffering continent.

For President Barack Obama, this is a daydream. For German Chancellor Angela Merkel, this is life. Funny how the most admired leader of the Western world right now, the clearest example we have of consistent success during trying times, is a woman.

Hanna Rosin
Hanna Rosin

The pictures in the news, day after day, tell the story: House Speaker John Boehner looks like he hasn't slept in weeks. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell looks like he swallowed a lemon. Sen. Ted Cruz looks bizarrely smug while the world crumbles around him, and Obama can only shake his head and loosen his collar. The only Washington type who was smiling on the front page of the newspaper this week was Janet Yellen, newly nominated by Obama to be the chair of the Federal Reserve, and anointed by one observer as the most powerful woman in world history.

Oh, and there was one other person smiling in Washington: Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, who was in the U.S. capital for the organization's annual meeting and who said just about the only sensible thing anyone in town has said all week on the debt ceiling crisis: "I hope that in a few weeks' time, we will look back and say, 'What a waste of time that was.' "

This has not been a shining week for the patriarchy. The men in suits dither, posture, plan negotiation sessions and then cancel them, and employ copious military metaphors -- "wage battle," "refuse to surrender" -- to no effect. Increasingly they become associated in the minds of the American people with verbs normally used to describe toddlers, such as "tantrum" or "throw a fit."

Malala on the Nobel Peace Prize
Janet Yellen: 'Small lady with large IQ'
Lagarde on European 'green shoots'

Competence, meanwhile belongs to the women, particularly in the usually macho world of global finance. Over in Europe, Merkel was re-elected on the basis of her deft handling of the eurozone crisis, and in the United States, monetary policy was entrusted to Yellen. Making the victory extra sweet for women, she was chosen instead of Lawrence Summers, who will forever be remembered for saying women aren't that good at math.

And this moment of female triumph extends beyond mere competence to unfathomable bravery. The hero of the moment -- the person who has been shot at, nearly killed and is still not afraid to talk -- is a heroine: 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize and who told Jon Stewart this week that if she were faced with a Taliban gunman such as the one who shot her last year she would, once again, explain to him how important education is for girls. (In response Stewart asked if he could adopt her.)

Perhaps this will be remembered as the week when everything shifted, when we realized that leaving groups of men in charge of global decisions and of facing down terrorists is not a good idea, and we'd better calmly hand the reins over to the women.

Don't laugh. It happened in Iceland. Lagarde described the transfer of power recently on a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative. She explained how women brought Iceland out of its recession. After the economy crashed, "the banks, the funds, the government -- everything was taken over by women," she told The Wall Street Journal. "So when it's messy, you get the women in. But when the mess is sorted," she added, "keep the women."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Hanna Rosin.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1812 GMT (0212 HKT)
By now it should be painfully obvious that this latest round of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza is fundamentally different than its predecessors.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 2124 GMT (0524 HKT)
Sally Kohn says like the Occupy Wall Street protesters, Market Basket workers are asking for shared prosperity.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 2331 GMT (0731 HKT)
President Obama will convene an Africa summit Monday at the White House, and Laurie Garrett asks why the largest Ebola epidemic ever recorded is not on the agenda.
August 1, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Seventy years ago, Anne Frank made her final entry in her diary -- a work, says Francine Prose, that provides a crucial link to history for young people.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 2350 GMT (0750 HKT)
Van Jones says "student" debt should be called "education debt" because entire families are paying the cost.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
Marc Randazza: ESPN commentator fell victim to "PC" police for suggesting something outside accepted narrative.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says working parents often end up being arrested after leaving kids alone.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 2031 GMT (0431 HKT)
Shanin Specter says we need to strengthen laws that punish auto companies for selling defective cars.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
ADVERTISEMENT