Women leaders around the world

In 2016, Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major party in the United States. She eventually lost the race, but her candidacy was a milestone in the path towards adding the US to a growing list of countries that have had a female leader. But the overall number of countries that have been led by women still remains relatively small, and in most of these countries, women haven’t held power for long.

There are currently 10 elected female leaders in office around the world. These women only account for about one-in-20 of today’s leaders of United Nations member states. Also, most of them are the first women to hold their country’s highest office.
Female leadership is more common in some regions of the world than others.

As of 2017, Nordic countries stand out with Iceland having a female leader (either president or a prime minister) during 20 of the past 50 years. The African continent also has had long-lasting eras of female leadership. For example, Ellen Sirleaf has been leading Liberia since 2006.

In Europe, there have been quite a few female leaders taking office, but many of these women only stayed in power for a very short period of time. Edith Cresson, France’s first and only female prime minister, for example, was in office for only 11 months. Asian countries also had long stretches with women in power. India had Indira Gandhi and later Pratibha Patil, serving a combined 21 years. Bangladesh also had 21 years of female leadership.

Female leadership has also been more common in South and Central America. Violeta Chamaro led Nicaragua for seven years, while Dilma Rousseff was the leader of Brazil for five. Meanwhile, North America was the part of the world with least number of female leaders. Mexico, like the US, has never had a woman as chief executive, and Canada’s first female prime minister, Kim Campbell, served for just four months.

In the Middle East, only Israel and Turkey have had female leaders. Golda Meir led Israel for five years, while Turkey’s Tansu Ciller occupied the prime minister’s office for three.