From the threats of nuclear warfare with North Korea to the rise of populism in the West, it’s interesting to ponder, what would the world look like with more women in politics? Ted Turner, UN Foundation’s Founder and Chairman, believes women’s participation is key: “We know a simple fact: We cannot achieve our global development goals without investing in girls and women first.”
There’s been ample research put forth on the relationship between female leadership and peace and conflict. In an analysis by the US non-profit, Inclusive Security, measuring the presence of women in 182 peace talks between 1989 and 2011, “an agreement is 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years if women participate in its creation.”
Although it’s difficult to say how countries led by women might behave differently than those led by men, in large part because female leaders still make up a small fraction of world leadership. Based on information provided by all Permanent Missions to the United Nations, as of October 2017, 23 heads of state and government are women.
Believe it or not though, our global community has made progress. Per the Inter-Parliamentary Union, as of January 1, 2017, 23.3 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women – more than double the amount of representation from 1995 where only 11.3 per cent of women were represented.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union released a report in October 2017 showing wide variations in the average percentages of women parliamentarians (single, lower and upper houses combined) in each region. These numbers have also dramatically increased since 1995.
What’s more, when female leaders did have a seat at the table, they promoted policies in favor of our 17 Sustainable Development Goals that tackle extreme poverty, curb climate change, and put the world on a more prosperous and sustainable path by 2030.
Imagine what the world would look if the list of women in power dramatically increased. With a fresh start in 2018, let’s look back at the inspiring women of 2017 with Global Daily’s top picks for most powerful women in politics.
Because who runs the world? Yup, that’s right, Beyoncé, girls and women do.
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, 2005 – presentIn 2005, Angela Merkel became the first woman to be head of state of Germany. Fast forward twelve years later, and Merkel remains in power after winning a hard-fought German election in September 2017 against the far-right Alternative for Germany party.
Merkel has been instrumental in growing Germany’s economy, after a plunge in 2015, taking a strong stand for gender equality in the workforce, and offering an open-doors policy to Syrian refugees seeking asylum. She retained Forbes’ number one spot for 2017’s list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” – topping this list for the 7th consecutive year.
Merkel’s biggest challenges ahead lie in forming a coalition government and dealing with the growing anti-immigrant and migrant sentiment in Europe.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, 2005 – January 2018
2017 marked Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s, the current President of Liberia, last year in office. Johnson-Sirleaf has shattered the glass ceiling, becoming both the first female to lead a government in Africa and the world’s first black woman to become head of state.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate assumed her position in 2005 and took on a huge task of turning Liberia around on a limited budget after more than a decade of civil war. Since then, she’s led a period of peace and economic renewal and secured nearly $5 billion in debt relief. Later this month, Johnson-Sirleaf will be the first elected president in the history of Liberia to peacefully transfer over power to her successor, George Weah.
Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, 2014 – present
Michelle Bachelet is a woman of firsts. In 2006, Bachelet became the first woman to be President of Chile. Before that, she was minister of defense in Chile becoming the first woman in Chile and Latin America to serve in this position. From 2010-2013, she assumed the first position as Executive Director of UN Women. Bachelet went on to serve her second non-consecutive term as President in 2014, the first president to be democratically re-elected since 1932.
Bachelet, a socialist, has scored many policy victories throughout both of her terms as President of Chile. In 2017, she introduced a bill to legalize gay marriage, sponsored a reproductive rights bill, decriminalized abortion and brought in South America’s first-ever geothermal energy plant.
Bachelet has consistently taken a stand for the wellbeing of Chileans, even in the face of rising debt. By March 2018, when her successor Sebastian Piñera will take over office, she pledges to expand free higher education to 60 percent of students, increase teachers’ income, and build more hospitals.
Bidhya Devi Bhandari, President of Nepal, 2015 – present
When President Bidhya Devi Bhandari took office in October 2015, she became Nepal’s first female president and head of the Communist party. Although her position is predominantly ceremonial, she made waves for women’s rights after successfully demanding the country’s constitution require a third of parliament to be women.
Bhandari has decades of political experience. Prior to presidency, she was the Minister of Defense for the the Madhav Nepal-led government (2009-2011), the Minister for Environment and Population in 1997, and a Member of Parliament in 1993, 1994 and 1999.
In 2006, Bhandari was instrumental in leading democracy protests against King Gyanendra, which ultimately led to the end of the 240-year Hindu monarchy in Nepal.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, New Zealand, 2017 – present
In the fall of 2017, Jacinda Ardern, 37, became the youngest female leader in the world and New Zealand’s youngest prime minister since 1856. She represents New Zealand’s Labour Party and promises to tackle climate change and eradicate child poverty.
On her first day in the new job, Ardern took a stand for all women after Jesse Mulligan, The Project’s co-host asked a sexist question on personal childbirth plans. Mark Richardson, The AM Show’s co-host, later defended Mulligan saying New Zealanders had a right to know whether their prime minister was going to take maternity leave. Ardern’s response was spot-on: “It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace, it is unacceptable, it is unacceptable… It is a women’s decision about when they choose to have children and it should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities.”