NMK – Political Coaching and Communication - Angela Merkel: A National Leader or a Woman Leader?

Angela Merkel: A National Leader or a Woman Leader?

“Whenever a woman becomes the leader of a country, the question always is raised whether her gender matters in how she governs and in how she carries out her leadership.”

Angela Merkel has always and in every situation led as a woman; yet, she “has never made a political issue of her gender.”

The combination of Merkel’s East German roots and her scientific background created a less feminine image and disrupted how the male/female stereotypes are applied to her.

Merkel was initially a scientist. Because of that, she showed a strong emphasis on rationality, competence, and knowledge. According to Genovese & Steckenrider (2013), people and professionals did not consider these qualities as female traits which gave them a reason to bag on her. Likewise, due to the fact that she is so rational, people could not see the German leader as an emotional woman. Expressly, they deemed Angela Merkel as a cold, reserved and aloof leader, rather than a warm and compassionate female.

Many experts considered that the German Chancellor had to become an “honorary man” in order to succeed. However, others state that, from a perspective of female leadership, “Merkel may be forging a new association between femininity and competence.”

Genovese & Steckenrider (2013) mention that “women leaders excel at listening, which signals empathy and nurturing”. Merkel reflected these qualities in her leadership style especially when she always tended to give a voice to everyone equally.

NMK – Political Coaching and Communication - Angela Merkel: A National Leader or a Woman Leader? - Judy Dempsey

Today, political figures pay too much attention to their physical appearances since “dress and looks equate to measures of success”.  But Angela Markel had little concern regarding her appearance. In her early years, many criticized the woman, national leader for appearing in “black suits and a pudding basin haircut”. According to the critics, her looks signified that she lacks femininity. Not only that, but they translated into a guide as to how she would govern too! Nonetheless, the make-over she did, as in wearing softer pastel clothes, jewelry and a bit of makeup as well as getting a more fashionable hairstyle, reflected “her evolution from an Easterner to encompassing Western German leadership and culture, and her rise as a leader on the world stage.”

Although Angela Merkel never called herself a feminist, she was a good example of how a woman leader can "have a feminist effect on gender norms without actually espousing feminist policies.” As a matter of fact, her behavior slanted toward feminist sympathies in her policies, she built a “Girls Club” of experienced women whom she draws upon for trusted advice, she has appointed women as ministers, advisors, press secretaries, etc. Additionally, she “quietly advocated gender equality and promoted policies favorable to women” and guided a new law on equal rights.

Indeed, Merkel was a feminist leader but she has not made women’s issues the center of her public policies, and never ‘gendered’ the policies she focused on. She worked on what she believed is the best for all Germans, equally.

In summary, “Merkel has approached her role as national leader in a genderless manner. Her leadership style reflects a combination of typically masculine and feminine traits, reflecting her East German background and her training as a scientist.”


Genovese, M. A., & Steckenrider, J. S. (2013). Women as Political Leaders: Studies in Gender and Governing. London: Routledge. Retrieved from www.routledge.com

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NMK – Political Coaching and Communication

NMK – Political Coaching and Communication - Angela Merkel: A National Leader or a Woman Leader?