Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership: US Lags Dramatically behind

This site WORLDWIDE GUIDE TO WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP is dedicated to the women who have ruled since the beginning of times – or as long as the sources date back.

There have always been female rulers. Egyptian Queens are believed to have governed from around 3000 BCE, and the first to be named by the sources without any doubt is Ku-baba, who ruled the Mesopotamian City-State of Ur round 2500 BCE.

First female ministers
However, it was not until during and just after the World War I that the first few women became members of the revolutionary governments in Ukraine, Russia, Hungary and Ireland. Nina Bang, Danish Minister of Education 1924-26, was the first woman to be minister in democratically elected parliamentary government. See more in First female ministers. Nevertheless, development was slow and it was not until the end of the 20th century that female ministers stopped being unusual, though a number of countries don’t have women in their governments at the moment.

First female Prime Minister and President
In 1960 Sirivamo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the world’s first female elected Premier Minister and in 1974 Isabel Perón of Argentina became the first woman President – one woman had been Acting Head of Government and two women Acting Heads of State before that.

In 2009 Monaco became the last country in the world to have it’s first female member of government. 1999 Sweden became the first country to have more female ministers than male. 11 women and 9 men and in 2007 the Finish government had 60% women.

Current female heads of state and government
There are 192 members of the United Nations, 2 independent states outside, a few self-declared de-facto independent states and many self-ruling depencies. There are 31 female leaders in 28 different countries or self-ruling territories at the moment.

Of the monarchies, there are reigning Queens in 3 countries: Denmark, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom – and the latter is represented by female Governor Generals in 3 countries; Antigua and Barbuda, Australia and Saint Lucia. They function as their countries’ de-facto Heads of State.

The 10 female Presidents are in Argentina, Costa Rica, Finland, India, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Lithuania and Switzerland – and in the Federation of Bosnia within Bosnia-Herzegovina.

At the moment there are 11 woman Prime Ministers; in Australia, Bangladesh, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Slovakia and Trinidad and Tobago and in the self-governing territories of Bermuda, Saint Maartin and the Åland Islands. For more details see: Situation in 2010

Content of
The site contains lists of female Heads of State listed by country, a chronological list of Women in Power from B.C. 3000, female Prime Ministers, Ministers of Finance and Ministers of Defence and Ministers by country, female Chairpersons of Parliament, female Governors, Premiers and local Leaders by country, female Party Leaders for each country, a chronological list of female Presidential Candidates, Ambassadors to the United Nations and first female ambassadors for each country, lists of women’s ordination to priesthood and female bishops and finally a list of female Danish leaders.


Including leaders of Self-governing External Territories

1952- Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, Paramount Chief of Fiji and Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis

Until 1953 her title was Queen of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Overseas Dominions. She is head of state in 15 countries apart from Great Britain and as Head of the Commonwealth she is the front person of the organization of many other former British colonies and territories. Her reign takes place during a period of great social change, she has carried out her political duties as Head of State, the ceremonial responsibilities of the Sovereign and an unprecedented programme of visits in the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and overseas. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary
is the mother of three sons and a daughter. Married to Phillip Mountbatten, former Prince of Greece. (b. 1926-).  

1972- Queen Margrethe 2 of Denmark, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Head of the Evangelican-Lutheral Church

The Rigsfælleskab – or Commonwealth of the Realm – includes the external territories of The Faero Islands and Greenland. She has engaged in translation work and made her mark artistically in several genres. She has made a point of knowing and reaching out to all parts of the realm, and the Faeroe Islands and Greenland are favourite destinations. The Queen has also succeeded in giving her traditional New Year Message a strongly personal touch, which has helped to consolidate her popularity. She succeeded her father, Frederik 9, and married to Count Henri de Laborde de Monpezat, Prince Henrik. Margrethe Alexandrine þorhildur Ingrid is mother of two sons. (b. 1940-)

1980-Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard is also Princess van Oranje-Nassau, Princess van Lippe-Biesterfeld etc, etc, etc. The Kingdom of The Netherlands includes the external territories of Aruba and The Nederlandse Antillen. She succeeded upon the abdication of her mother, Queen Juliana, and she closely follows affairs of government and maintains regular contact with ministers, state secretaries, the vice-President of the Council of State, the Queen’s Commissioners in the provinces, burgomasters, and Dutch ambassadors etc. She meets the Prime Minister every Monday. Much of her work consists of studying and signing State documents. She regularly receives members of parliament, as well as other authorities on social issues. Widow of Prince Claus of the Netherlands, Jonkheer von Amfeld (1926-2002), and mother of 3 sons. (b. 1938-).

President Mary McAleese, Ireland 

She was Professor of Law and 1993-97 Pro-chancellor of University of Belfast. The eldest of nine children, she grew up in Northern Ireland and her family was one of many adversely affected by the conflict. She is an experienced broadcaster, having worked as a current affairs journalist and presenter in radio and television with Radio Telefís Éireann. She has a longstanding interest in many issues concerned with justice, equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation but never engaged in party politics. During the 1997-elections 5 candidates were female and there was only one token male candidates finishing a distant last. (b. 1951-).

1997- Governor-General Hon. Dr. Dame C. Pearlette Louisy, St. Lucia

A former civil servant, she a non-political appointee. (b. 1946-)

2000- President
Tarja Halonen, Finland 

Social Democrat member of Parliament 1979-2000, 1984-87 Chairperson of the Social Affairs Committee and Member of the Presidium of the Parliament, 1987-1990 Second Minister of Health and Social Affairs (Health Minister) and 1989-1991 Minister of Nordic Co-operation, 1989-91 Co-leader of Soumen Sosialidemokraattinen Pulolue, The Social Democrats. 1990-1991 Minister of Justice, 1995-2000 Minister of Foreign Affairs. (b. 1943-).

2005- Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany

1990 Deputy Spokesperson of the Government of the DDR, 1990-98 Deputy Chairperson of CDU, 1991-94 Federal Minister Women and Youth and 1994-98 Federal Minister of Environment, Protection of Nature and Reactor Safety, 1993-2000 Chairperson of CDU in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 1998-2000 Federal Secretary General and since 2000 Federal Chairperson of CDU and 2002-05 also Parliamentary Leader. Bundeskanzlerin in a Grand Coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD. Née Kasner and married secondly to Joachim Sauer, no children. (b. 1954-).

2006- President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia

1972-73 and 1977-79 Secretary of State of Finance, 1979-80 Minister of Finance, 1980 President of the National Bank, 1980-85 worked for the World Bank, 1985-86 in house arrest after her return, 1990-92 Leading member of exile-government of Amos Sawyer in United States of America, 1992-97 African Director of the UNDP (United Nations Development Program). From 1997 Leader of the Unity Party. Presidential Candidate in 1997, Candidate for the Chairmanship of the National Transitional Government in 2003 and finally won the presidential elections in November 2005. She is divorced, mother of a number of children, and grandmother. (b. 1938-).

President Pratibha Patil, India

Deputy Minister 1967-72 and Cabinet Minister 1972-83 and Congress Leader and Leader of the Opposition 1979-80 in Maharastra, Deputy Chairperson of the Union Upper House, the Rajya Sabha 1986-88, Governor of Rajasthan 2004-07. Married to Devisingh Shekhawat, a former Mayor of Amravati. (b. 1934-).

2007- President
Cristina E. Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina

Won the first round of the presidential elections in October 2007 as candidate for Partido Justicalista. She was Member of the Assembly of Santa Cruz 1989-95 and 1. Vice-President of the Assembly in 1990, National Senator 1995-97 and again since 2001, National Deputy 1997-2001. President of the Senate Committee of Contitutional Affairs since 2001. Her husband, Nestor Kirchner was President until 2007.. Mother of 2 children. (b. 1953-).

2007- Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack, Antigua and Barbuda

A former nurse and magistrate from 1995. (b. 1944-).

2007- President
Borjana Kristo, The Federation of Bosnia (Bosnia-Hercegovina)

2003-07 Minister of Justice of the Bosniak-Croat Federation an entity in The Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The former Vice-President of the Parliament, Spomenka Micic, was elected one of the 2 Vice-Presidents of Federation in 2007. (b.  1961-)

Premier Viveca Eriksson, Åland (Finish External Territory)

Chairperson of the Liberal Parliamentary Group 1999-2001, Member of the Speaker’s Conference 1999-2000, Chairperson of the Finance Committee 1999-2001, first Vice-speaker 2000-01 and 2005-07, Speaker 2001-05 and Party Chairperson from 2004. (b. 1956-).

2008- Governor-General Dr Quentin Bryce, Australia

Former lawyer, academic and human rights advocate, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, founding chair and Chief Executive Officer of the National Childcare Accreditation Council and Governor of Queensland 2003-08. (b. 1942-)

2008- Leader of the Government Antonella Mularoni, San Marino

As Secretary of Foreign and Political Affairs she also functions as Leader of the Government even though the Captain Generals are both Heads of State and Government. She was Political Secretary to the Minister of Finance 1986-87, Director of the Office for relations with the associations of San Marino citizens living abroad 1987-90, Deputy Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, 1989-90, Barrister and public notary in the Republic of San Marino 1991-2001, Member of the General Grand Council 1993-2001 and again from 2008, and Judge of the European Court of Human Rights 2001-08. (b. 1961-).

2009- Prime Minister  Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh

President of the Awami Leauge from 1981, Opposition Leader 1986-87 and 1991-96 and 2001-06 and Prime Minister 1996-2001. Also in charge of a number of other portfolio’s including that of Defence during both of her tenures as chief of Government. (b. 1947-).

2009- Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland

Johanna Sigurdardsottir was Deputy Chairperson of the Social Democrats 1984-93, Chairperson 1994-99 of the National Revival Party until she rejoined the Social Democrats, becoming it’s leader in 2009. Vice-President of the Lower Chamber 1979 and 1983-84 and Vice-Chairperson of the the Alþing 2003-07, Minister of Social Affairs And Health 1987-91 and Minister of Social Affairs 1991-94 and 2007-09. First married to Þorvaldur Steinar Jóhannesson with whom she has got 2 sons, and in 2010 she married her registered partner since 2002, the author Jónína Leósdóttir, who is mother of 1 son. (b. 1942-).

2009- Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, Croatia

Vice-President of the Sabor 1995-2000 and Deputy Chairperson of HDZ 1995-97. Minister of War Weterans from 2003, Minister for Family and Inter-Generation Solidarity 2003-08 and responsible for Foreign Policy and Human Rights. Presidential Candidate 2005. (b. 1953-).

2009- President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Lithuania

1994-1995 Extraordinary Envoy and Plenipotentiary Minister at the Lithuanian Mission to the EU and Deputy Head Negotiator for the Europe Agreement with EU, 1996-1999 Plenipotentiary Minister at the Embassy in USA, 1999-2000 Vice-Minister of Finance and 2000-01 Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Head of the EU Accession negotiations, 2001-04 Minister of Finance and 2004 EU-Commissioner of Financial Programming and Budget 2004-09. Won 69% of the votes in the presidential elections. Unmarried and no children. (b. 1956-).

2010- President of the Confederation Doris Leuthard, Switzerland

Member of the Assembly in Aargau 1997-2000, Vice-President of Christian Democratic Party, CVP 2001-04,  President of CVP Schweiz 2004-06 and Federal Councillor of Economic Affairs from 2006 and Vice-President in 2009. (b. 1963-).

2010- President Roza Otunbayeva, Kyrgyzstan

Other versions of her surname are Otunbaeva or Otunbajewa. 1983-86 Secretary of the Municipal Communist Central Committee of Frunze, 1986-89 Deputy Prime Minister and Foregin Minister in the Kyrgyz SSR, 1991 Ambassador of the USSR to Malaysia,1992 Kyrgyz Deputy Premier Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs,1992-93 Ambassador to USA and Canada and 1994 to Turkey, Foreign Minister 1994-96, Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain 1996-2003, Deputy Head of the United Nations special mission to Georgia 2002-04, Acting Foreign Minister 2007, Parliamentary Leader of the Social Democrats 20009-10 and Interim Head of State and Government from April 2010 after the former President was ousted and in May she was named President for the term ending in December 2011. (b. 1950-).

2010- President Laura Chinchilla Miranda, Costa Rica

Vice-Minister of Security 1994-96, Minister of Public Security, Interior and Police 1996-98, 1. Vice-President and Minister of Justice 2006-08 and Acting Minister of Security in 2008. Resigned to become Liberal Party Presidential Candidate for the 2010-elections which she won.(b. 1959-).

2010- Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Trinidad and Tobago

Attorney General (second in Cabinet) 1995-06 and 2001, Minister of Legal Affairs 1996-99 and 2001 and Minister of Education 1999-2001. First appointed acting premier on the absence of the Premier in September 2000. Leader of The United National Congesss and Oppostion Leader 2006-07 and 2010 and Political Leader from 2010. (b. 1952-)

2010- Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi, Finland

MP from 1991, Deputy Parliamentary Leader of the Center Party in 2003, Party Vice-Chairperson 2003-08 and Party Chairperson from 2010, Political Advisor of the Prime Minister 2004-07, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Aid and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office 2005-06 and Minister of Public Administration and Local Government 2007-10. Mother of 2 children. (b. 1968-)

2010-  Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australia

MP from 1998, Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives 2003-06 and Deputy Leader of Labor 2006-10, Deputy Leader of the Opposition 2006-07 and Leader of Labour from 2010, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion from 2007-10. Her parents immigrated to Australia from Wales. She lives with her partner and has no children. (b. 1961-).

2010- Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, Slovakia

Iveta Radicova is Professor of Sociology and Political Sciences at the Comenius University in Bratislava, from 2005 Director of the Institute of Sociology at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, 2005-06 Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, MP from 2006 and Deputy Leader of the  Democratic and Christian Union–Democratic Party 2006-10 and Party Leader since 2010. Presidential Candidate for all the opposition parties in 2009 and finished second in the second round of voting, and in 2010 the opposition 4-party coalition won the elections. (b. 1956-).

2010- Prime Minister Sarah Wescott-Williams, Sint Maarten (Self-governing Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)

Ca. 1995-2009 Commissioner of General Affairs, Education etc., 1999-2009 Leader of the Government, Social and Cultural Development, Finance, Juridical Affairs, Emergency Services, Information, Communication and Protocol, Strategic Policy, Planning and Development of Sint Maartin which was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 2010 when it became a self ruling entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. She is Leader of the St. Maarten Party.

2010- Premier Paula A. Cox, Bermuda (British Dependent Territory)

Succeeded her father, Eugene Cox as Minister of Finance when he died in January 2004. 1998-2002 Minister of Labour and Home Affairs and Public Security, 2002-04 Minister of Education, 2002-03 Minister of Development, 2003-04 Attorney General and Minister of Justice. Minister of Finance since 2004, Deputy Leader of the Progressive Labour Party and Deputy Premier 2006-10, Party Leader and Premier from 2010. (b. 1969-).

6 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Trinidad and Tobago, Amado and Chattertrap, BettyJean. BettyJean said: Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership: US Lags Dramatically behind: […]

  2. […] the rest here: Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership: US Lags Dramatically … Share and […]

  3. […] the original: Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership: US Lags Dramatically … Share and […]

  4. I may have missed it since I didn’t click on all the links, but I think somebody forgot to mention Golda Meir.
    She was the Labor Minister of Israel in 1949, the Foriegn Minister in 1956 and the Prime Minister of Israel in 1960.

  5. These are currently serving women – not former lady leaders- THAT’S RIGHT- currently serving.

    I couldn’t show all the women that HAVE ever served – but I suppose I could have at least mentioned the most recent we would recall like; Perone, Marcos, Meir, Ghandi and Bhutto

  6. I have learn a few good stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much attempt you put to create the sort of magnificent informative website.

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