Women in Politics

Everybody knows by now that, with the likely election of Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House of Representatives, she will be the first woman to hold that post in U.S. history. And early polls say Hillary Clinton is a leading Democratic contender for the presidency. Condoleezza Rice is viewed favorably as a potential presidential candidate by some Republicans and, last week, Washington Sen. Patty Murray joined the Democratic leadership team in the U.S. Senate.

How does that compare with the rise of women to high political office in other major countries around the world? Not so well, it turns out. Only three major countries have never had a woman as president or prime minister. They are the United States, Italy and Japan.


Highlights from the advance of women in politics around the world:

The first G7 nation to have a woman as head of government or as head of state was Great Britain. Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister in May 1979 ? and served for more than 11 years.


Next were France and Canada. Edith Cresson served as French prime minister in 1991-92, and Kim Campbell briefly served as Canadian prime minister in 1993.

More recently, Angela Merkel became chancellor of Germany in November 2005, making her Germany?s first woman head of government.

Other large democracies with women leaders include the world?s largest democracy, India, where Indira Gandhi was prime minister from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 to 1984.

In Indonesia, the world?s third-largest democracy, Megawati Sukarnoputri served as the country?s president from 2001 to 2004.

The first woman in South America to be elected to the top national office ? without replacing a deceased or disabled husband ? was Michelle Bachelet, who was elected president of Chile in January 2006.

The first African country to elect a woman as president was Liberia, where former World Bank economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became head of state in January 2006.

The first elected female leader in the world was Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who first came to power in 1960.

And, while Japan has never had a woman head of government or head of state, Takako Doi served as the first female speaker of the Japanese Diet, the lower house of parliament, from 1993 to 1996.


In other words, Pelosi?s anticipated arrival in a post third in the line of presidential succession appears long overdue.

Source: The