To say that the world at the hands of the male ego has thrived and won is a far stretch of the truth. Since man has been leader we have seen death, destruction, wars, mutinies and environmental disasters. Had the world been nurtured by female leaders in the past would we see so much violence, hatred and agasht today? Could we not have experienced world peace sooner and in the process see the results in our children now, if we only had not been afraid of men .
However, all is not lost. The tides are starting to turn in areas that will take our future into the loving and supportive place it needs to be. The one place we need to see this difference is at the helm of our nations….our legacy leaders are being chosen. We are choosing women! It seems to be a natural turn of events when something is hurting, that a woman’s emotion, ability to heal and nurture steps in with a reassuring embrace and lateral thinking.
Today we are starting to see the numbers of woman leaders climbing in countries where men have dominated and violence against women had been accepted. Currently there are thirty female leaders across the globe, ranging from Governor Generals to Chancellors to Prime Ministers to Presidents and of course, our Queens. The birth of female leadership was in 1960, with Sirimavo Bandaranaike elected Prime Minister of Sri Lanka after the assassination of her husband in 1959. There is still a strong male presence, nevertheless women are nudging the balance. We are the multitaskers!
These are the women who will take us forward to change, ten of which have been elected this year alone:
Queen Elizabeth II (1952) of the United Kingdom, 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.
At the tender age of 25 Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary succeeded the throne and was crowned Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. As a child she was home schooled for privacy until age eleven, then relocated to Buckingham palace and attended Eton College. She became the head of many charities such as Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children and the National Society for the prevention of cruelty to children.
In 1945, during WWII she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (the women’s services) serving as Second Lieutenant and in 1947 pledging her dedication to the Commonwealth. She married former Prince of Greece – Phillip Mountbatten in 1947 and in the following years bore three sons and one daughter. This year she celebrated her 84th birthday.
Queen Margethe 2 of Denmark (1972). Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Head of the Evangelican-Lutheral Church.
Not born a monarch, she began her royal training at thirteen years of age. 1953 saw a change in the Danish constitution allowing Princess Margethe succession of the throne. She became the first female Danish sovereign. In 1958 and at the age of eighteen she was given a seat in the Council of State. Her main task is to represent the kingdom abroad and she is the Colonel in Chief of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. She is an academic with degrees in political science, prehistoric archaeology and economics. Furthermore, she is an accomplished artist, costume designer, translator, writer and adept in embroidery and church textiles. In 1967 she married a French diplomat and produced two sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Joachim.
Queen Beatrix of Netherlands (1980)
After her mother’s abdication she was acceded to throne in 1980. Previous to her being crowned Queen in 1956 she was entered into the Council of State aged 18. She spent her nursery and primary years of school in Canada and finished her schooling in 1961 with a law degree. During her days as a university student she was an active participant of the Women’s Student Association. With much opposition, she went on to marry a German Prince. Diplomat Claus Von Amsberg, who passed away from illness in 2002. They produced three sons together.
She is the President of the Council of State and the government’s main advisory body, thus following affairs of government and maintaining consistent contact with ministers, state secretaries, the Vice-President of the Council of State, the Queen's Commissioners in the provinces, burgomasters, and Dutch ambassadors. Much of her work comprises studying and signing State documents along with meeting the Prime Minister every Monday.
President Mary McAleese – Ireland (1997)
The first President to come from Northern Ireland, she is the second female President in office, inaugurated in 1997 and then re-elected in 2004. Born in Belfast, she went on to attain her law degree in 1974 and Journalism degree in 1979. She is married, mother of three and member of the Council of Women World Leaders.
Governor-General Hon. Dr. Dame C. Pearlette Louisy – St Lucia (1997)
Inaugurated on 19 September 1997, she is the first woman to hold office in this country. In 1966 she was awarded her Bachelor Degree in English and French and followed this with a Masters in Linguistics and PH.D in Education. 1999 saw her awarded an Honourary Degree of Doctor of Law by the University of Bristol and in the same year, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title of Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George on her. She was born in 1946 and has spent her entire professional career in the field of education. As a student she focused on management and provisions of tertiary education in small nation states.
President Tarja Halonen – Finland (2000)
Earning her Master of Law degree in 1968, her ability to speak numerous languages (Finnish, Swedish, English, German, French Afrikaan and Estonian), her history as a member of parliament (1979-2000) have all gone toward her Presidency in 2000 and being re-elected in 2006. She also reigns as first female President and participates in discussions of women’s rights. As the first woman to ever work as a lawyer in the union, she also made it into the 2009 Forbes magazine top 100 most powerful women as well as being member of the Council of Women World Leaders. Born in 1943 she grew up in the working class area of Kallio, Helsinki. She enjoys art history, theatre and swimming.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel – Germany (2005)
Currently chairing the German Conservative Party, she led a grand coalition with the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) during 2005-2009, and was the second woman to chair the G8 in 2007 while President of the European Council. She is now the first female Chancellor of Germany (head of government 2009), with a degree in Physics and Doctorate in Chemistry.. She was born in 1954 in Germany, remarried in 1998 and became stepmother to two children. She is also known for re-opening the Berlin Wall in 1989.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf – Liberia (2006)
At 72, Ellen Johbnson-Sirleaf is known as the ‘Iron Lady’. She was married at the tender age of seventeen,, however, went on to obtain her Masters in Public Administration at Harvard University. In 1972 she started out as Minister of Finance yet in 1985 she was arrested for campaigning against Samuel Doe and sentenced to ten years goal. After spending one year in goal she was granted leave of the country as an exile. She was elected for government in 2005 and took office in January 2006.
President Pratibha Patil – India (2007)
The first woman to hold office in India and inaugurated in July 2007. She was awarded her Masters Degree in Politicial Science and Economics, then topped it with a Law Degree through the University of Bombay. Her career started out working on social activities as a lawyer to uplift and help women in poverty. She went on to set up an educational institute (which runs a chain of schools and colleges in Jalgon and Mumbai), created a trust which runs hostels for working women, was involved in creating an Industrial Training School for the visually impaired, a school for children of poverty, and established an engineering college at Jalgaon for rural youth. She is a mother of two children.
President Christina E. Fernandez De Kirchner – Argentina (2007)
As the second ‘First Lady’ to become President, she succeeded her husband and took office in 2007. Known as ‘The New Evita’ she studied law at the National University of La Plata in 1979, however, her political career began with the Peronist Youth Movement in 1970. She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders and in 2009 was ranked the world’s eleventh most powerful woman in the Forbes magazine. Fernandez states “I want to reach out to all women…to those who have stayed home, to the factory workers, to the university students, to the professionals and the business women”. She has two children to her late husband Nestor Kirchner.
Governor-General Dame Louise Lake - Tack, - Antigua and Barbuda (2007)
Born a humanitarian, she was educated in a girls school and following her graduation in Nursing, she immigrated to the UK - working at the National Heart Hospital and the Harley Street Clinic. She continued her studies to graduate in law and progressed to serving as a magistrate. Appointed Dame and becoming the first female Governor-General in July 2007, she believes in “Advancing the people’s agenda”. Widowed with two children, she is an avid reader, occasional writer and enthusiastic gardener.
President Borjana Kristo – The Federation of Bosnia (Bosnia-Hercegovina) (2007)
Born in 1961, she is the first woman to hold Presidency. She holds membership of the Croation Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina and also served as Justice Minister.
Governor-General Dr Quentin Bryce – Australia (2008)
Completing her Bachelor of Arts in 1962 and Bachelor of Law in 1965, she became the first woman accepted to the Queensland Bar. 1978 saw her join the National Womens Advisory Council and she was the first director of the Queensland Womens Information Service, Queensland director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner in 1988. In that same year she was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia.
Come 2003 she was also appointed Companion of the Order of Australia and Dame of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. She took position of Governor of Queensland (2003) and was further appointed Governor-General of Australia in September 2008, becoming the first female in Australia to hold that position. What is more, she has been the chair of the National Breast Cancer Advisory Council, is mother to two daughters, three sons and a grandmother of six.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed – Bangladesh (2009)
Born 1947, widowed and mother to two children. She married in 1968 and went onto graduate university in 1973. Unanimously elected in 1981 she held office in 1996 – 2001. Sheikh is a published author of numerous books – ‘The Plight of the Street Children’, ‘The Origin of Autocracy’, the ‘Elimination of Poverty’, ‘Some thoughts’, ‘People and Democracy’ and ‘Development for the masses’. She has and continues to write articles in the areas of social, economic and political issues. Since her election she has undertaken programs to alleviate poverty, enhance per capita income, create more jobs opportunities, food production and housing programs to keep people in their rural homes.
Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardsottir – Iceland (2009)
Previously Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security, she became Iceland’s first female Prime Minister on 1st February 2009. Graduating college with a commercial diploma in 1960 she married and had two sons. She has since divorced and with new legislation married long-time partner Jonina Leosdottir in 2010, becoming one of the first same-sex couple in Iceland.
Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, Croatia (2009)
As a single mother, Jodranka took office in 2009 after the resignation of Ivo Sanader. She is Croatia’s first female Prime Minister. After graduating from law school and working as a Journalist since 1972 she continued on to author four books - two of which were poetry and two about the Croatian war. She has also gained awards from the Croatian Journalist Association and the European Community for her humanitarian work.
Prime Minister Dalia Grybauskaite – Lithuania (2009)
After being granted her Doctor of Social Sciences in 1993 and a long political history Dalia took office as the first female Prime Minister on July 12 2009. While serving as an EU Commissioner she introduced the community budget reform and in 2003 she was presented the Cross of Commander of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas. In her youth she was a passionate basketball player and now enjoys classical music and reading.
President of the Confederation Doris Leuthard – Switzerland (2010
Growing up in the rural areas of Switzerland, Doris enjoys tending her garden of flowers and vegetables whilst maintaining close proximity to her parents. As a student she graduated in law and partnered a law firm. Working as a politician she was previously head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs overseeing the labour market, innovation, agriculture, housing, national economic supply and trade policy.
Currently she is head of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications and was elected President of the Confederaton, taking office on the 1st November 2010.
President Roza Otunbayeva – Krygyzstan (2010)
Sworn in on July 3rd 2010 due to riots overthrowing government, she is currently the interim President until elections are held. Roza graduated at Moscow State University with a degree in Philosophy and in 1992 became both Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. She was born in 1950, a divorced mother of two and fluent in Russian, English, German, French and Kyrgyz.
President Laura Chinchilla Miranda – Costa Rica (2010)
The first female to be elected President in Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla was sworn in on the 8th May 2010. On route to election she campaigned for more jobs, improved standards of living for elderly citizens and children and a crackdown on drug trafficking and crimes. Her history in politics began with her graduation at the University of Costa Rica where she received her Masters Degree in Public Policy. As a career platform she went onto Deputy Prime Minister from 1994 – 1996 and Minister of Public Safety from 1996 – 1998. She was also Chairman of the Joint Drug Intelligence Center, Chair of the National Immigration Council, member of the National Drug Council, National Security Council and the Academic Council of the National Police Academy.
With her knowledge and experience she has published books and articles on justice, public security and police reform. She is married to Jose Maria Rico Cueto. They have one son together.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar – Trinidad and Tabago (2010)
Kalma was born in 1955 and achieved her Bachelor of Arts in 1974 and Diploma of Education in 1976. She furthered this with a Law Degree in 1985 and in 2006 obtained an Executive Masters in Business Administration. Since graduating she has spent time lecturing in language and as a Social Worker for the Church of England’s Society in London. In 1995 she was the first female Attorney-General and on 26th May 2010 she was sworn in as the first female Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tabago. Her interests expand through reading, walking, social work and equal opportunities for women. She is also the former Secretary and Vice Chairperson of the National Organisation for Women. Kamla is married to Dr Gregory Bissessar and mother of one son.
Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi – Finland (2010)
A parliamentarian for fifteen years, Mari was elected to position of Prime Minister on 22nd June 2010. She currently stands as interim until the 2011 elections, after Matti Vanhanen’s resignation. Previously she served as Minister of Public Administration and Local Government (2007-2010), and Minister of Foreign Trade and Development (2005-2006). Mari spent time at University studying Economics and earning a Masters Degree in Social Science.
She married Juha Mikael Louhivuori in 1996 and they have two children together. She plays the piano and flute and her hobbies include classical music, skiing, running and in-line roller-bladeing.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard – Australia (2010)
Born in Wales, Julia migrated to Australia with her family in 1966 due to a childhood illness ‘Bronchopneumonia’ which called for a warmer climate. She attended the University of Adelaide and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Law in 1986. Julia is unmarried with no children, however, she was elected as the first female Prime Minister in June 2010. She was sworn in on the 14th September 2010 and is the second minister on record born outside of Australia.
Prime Minister Iveta Radicova – Slovakia (2010)
Commencing studies in Sociology at Comenius University in Bratislava (1991), Iveta earned her PhD and continued her postdoctoral at the University of Oxford in 1990. From 1990-1993 she spent time lecturing on Sociology and Political Science. During the period of 1990-1992 she was active in the Public against violence movement. Then in 2005 she was announced Professor of Sociology, thus becoming Slovakia’s first female Professor of Sociology. Throughout 2005 -2006 she was Minister for Labour, Social Affairs and Family, working to protect children’s rights.
She is currently the first female Prime Minister of Slovakia and was sworn into office July 8th 2010. Widowed to Stano Radic, she has one daughter.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescott-Williams – Sint Maarten (self-governing part of the kindom of the Netherlands) (2010)
Sarah became the first Prime Minister after the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved on October 10th 2010. In 1999 she was Deputy of Education, social and cultural development, finance, juridical affairs, emergency services, information communication and protocol, strategy policy, planning and development. During the period 1995-2009 she was Commissioner of General Affairs and Education. Her message to the people is “Our heritage, inspiring the future”.
Premier Paula A. Cox – Bermuda (British Dependant Territory) (2010)
First elected into parliament in October 1996, Paula trained as a Solictor and received an Honourary Doctorate in education 2003 from Wheelock College USA. Her study achieved her a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from McGill University in Canada and a post-graduate diploma in International law from the University of Manchester. From 1998-2004 she served as Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Security, Minister of Education, Minister of Development, Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
In 2004 she succeeded her father as the Minister of Finance after his death and 2006-2010 saw her as Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party, Deputy Premier, Party Leader and currently Premier.
President Dilma Rousseff – Brazil (2010)
From dreaming of becoming a ballerina to first female President of Brazil, Dilma has lived a tough life. Her youth saw her becoming a socialist guerrilla, fighting against military dictatorship. However, she was captured, imprisoned and tortured between 1970-1972. Once released, in 2002 she joined the Workers Party and was appointed Minister of Energy. During 1973 she graduated from university with a degree in Economics. In 2005 she was the first female to hold the position of Chief of Staff until March 2010 when she left to run for Presidency. On 31st October 2010 Dilma was elected as the first female President of Brazil.
Dilma was diagnosed with Lymphatic Cancer in 2009, underwent chemotherapy and was given a 90% recovery rate from her oncologist. Her interests comprise of opera, history, Greek theatre and embroidery. She has one daughter.
These are the women that stand before us today, who see the male ego and use it as a stepping stone to a better world. To aide social responsibility and end human suffrage. Our sisters of yester-year would be proud, we are continuing their legacy.
Women such as Belva Lockwood (the first woman to receive votes in a presidential election 1884), Clara Zetkins (founder of International Women’s Day 1910) , Alice Paul and Lucy Burns (founded the National Women’s Party 1913), Frances Perkins (first woman in presidential cabinet under Roosevelt 1933), Shirley Chisholm (first black woman elected to the US Congress 1968) and many, many others that share the timeline of growth and change for women. It is through their striving and sheer determination that women are on the global map today.
The evolution of women’s careers are far more than just the realm of Politics. They are touching the lives of women all over the world and their families. Not only did these women have a dream…they are mothers – like you and me! Their instincts to protect and serve are strong, as is their will to change societies view of women. They are creating a better place, a better space...for all of us.
Perhaps we can all take a moment to thank those women past and present who have stood up for us, who thought of us, who prepared for us and protected us. They have given you and me the gift of freedom that we see today to chase down our dreams and bring them to reality.
And in turn...build better lives for our children.