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Women at the helm - the growing list of female leaders

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-11-01

Ten women are presidents of their countries. While some of these are ceremonial positions, a further eight are leaders of their governments. The list keeps growing.

Since Dilma Rousseff’s election as Brazilian head of state late on Sunday, the world now has ten women presidents.

Most of these are the first women to lead their countries - with the exception of Doris Leuthard who is Switzerland’s third female president and Ireland’s Mary McAleese who succeeds Mary Robinson.


Latin America now has three - Cristina Kirchner in Argentina (wife of the late Nestor, himself a former head of state) and Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica are now joined by Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff.

Europe leads with four women presidents – Tarja Halonen in Finland, Mary McAleese in Ireland, Doris Leuthard in Switzerland and Dalia Grybauskaite in Lithuania.

Asia also has two women presidents - Roza Otounbayeva in Kyrgyzstan and Pratibha Patil in Inde.

Africa trails with just one – Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a US-educated economist, who is the only female head of state to be elected by universal suffrage in African history.

But, the position of president is often a representative role wielding little actual power, as is the case in Switzerland and India.

A further seven women, who are not heads of state but are nevertheless heads of government, are worth including, such as Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (named by Forbes Magazine as the world's most powerful woman).

SPOTLIGHT: WOMEN IN POWER

Date created : 2010-11-01

  • BRAZIL

    Dilma Rousseff elected first female president of Brazil

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  • ARGENTINA

    Former president Nestor Kirchner dies aged 60

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