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Does a governor’s gender alter their behavior in policy-making, particularly in times of crisis? Despite having the most female governors in U.S. history, there has been very little scholarly attention to female governors. We study the COVID-19 policy responses of Democratic U.S. governors operating under challenging institutional constraints, namely divided government, but differ in constraints brought about by gender. We find that in the setting of the COVID-19 responses, female governors tend to act faster and more aggressively than their male counterparts, namely in social policies. However, male governors tend to move faster in closing nonessential businesses. Our findings may inform policy-makers in response to future crises, including the high likelihood of an impending subsequent wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.