16 January 2006

Women World Leaders

BerlinBear avatar In two recent posts in the light of the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Michelle Bachelet as presidents of their respective countries, I've made references to the (very low) number of women in leading political roles around the world. Given that, and since there are only a handful of them anyway, I thought it might be worth stating who the lucky few women leaders are.

It should be noted that the list below does not include ruling Queens, of which there are three - Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom Great Britain and Northern Ireland and all Her Other Realms and Territories; Queen Margrethe II of Denmark; and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (unless of course you count the Maori Queen
Te Ata-i Rangi-Kaahu Koroki Te Rata Mahuta Tawhiao Potatau). Nor does it include woman Governors-General, those representatives of Queen Elizabeth in Commonwealth countries, of which there are four - Dame Silvia Cartwright, Governor-General of New Zealand; Michaëlle Jean, Governor-General of Canada; Dr. Dame Ivy Leona Dumont, Governor-General of the Bahamas; and Dr. Dame C. Pearlette Louisy, Governor-General of St. Lucia.

That said in advance, here is the list of current world leaders who are women:
  1. Mary McAleese, President of the Republic of Ireland. (Incidentally, Ireland is the only country in the world to have had two consecutive woman presidents - McAleese's predecessor was Mary Robinson. Furthermore, in the 1997 presidential election in which McAleese was elected, there were five female candidates and only one male. He finished last.)
  2. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia
  3. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland
  4. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive President of the Philippines
  5. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia
  6. Michelle Bachlete, President-elect of Chile
  7. Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany
  8. Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand
  9. Begum Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister of Bangladesh
  10. Luísa Días Diogo, Prime Minister of Mozambique
  11. Maria do Carmo Silveira, Prime Minister of São Tomé e Princípe
  12. Anne Green, Chief Islander of Tristan da Cunha (St. Helena)
In addition to that select list, the following women fill the top political posts in their respective dependent overseas territories:
  1. Nassimah Magnolia Dindar, President of the General Council , Réunion (French Overseas Territory)
  2. Marie-Noëlle Thémereau, President of the Government, Nouvelle Caledonie (French Overseas Territory)
  3. Deborah Barnes Jones, Governor, Montserrat (British External Territory)
Last year, briefly, Yulia Tymoshenko was the Prime Minister of Ukraine, but she only lasted 8 months before her entire government was sacked by President Viktor Yushenko.

As you can see, it's pretty slim pickings. Just to put it all in perspective, the United Nations has 191 members. Even if we were to work on the assumption that each of those member states had only one top political post (which is clearly not the case, as many member states have both a President and a Prime Minister, or some similar arrangement), then the twelve women listed above occupy just under 16% of top political posts in UN member states. That, if you don't mind me saying so, is a rubbish proportion. You can't tell me that men are that much better at running countries; I just don't buy it. Personally, I'd like to see more competent women in charge. And while I'm about it, I must confess to feeling a touch of pride at the fact that New Zealand is the only country which appears twice in the listings above, with both the Governor-General and the Prime Minister being women. (Actually, we could add to that the Chief Justice, the Speaker of the House of Parliament, and various cabinet minsters, all of whom are women in New Zealand).

If you're interested in learning more about the leaders listed above, or about past women leaders, try either of the following links:
ZPC Collections
Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership

[Update: I've found another good site with biographies of women world leaders: Der Spiegel (in English).]