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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT