Who runs the world? American singer Beyoncé has asked this question before, and in more than 70 countries around the world, women have responded by occupying the highest seat of power.
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While some women have been elected, others have been appointed for short terms, and still others have left a lasting legacy. Here is our list of five amazing women leaders who have made an impact on their country and the world during their tenure:
1. Margaret Thatcher, United Kingdom
The British leader grew up in an apartment above her family’s supermarket. She attended Oxford University and worked as an industrial chemist before entering politics. Rising through the ranks of the Conservative Party, she took the lead in 1975. In 1979, she became the first woman Prime Minister of the country and the first woman to lead a large Western country. Thatcher obtained the title of “Iron Lady” for her hard line against Communism (the Soviet press gave her this nickname) and set the UK on the path to economic growth by promoting free market policies and by weakening the unions. She was the longest-serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century, having served for 11 years.
2. Indira Gandhi, India
Daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, Gandhi was active in the country’s independence movement from an early age and assumed a key role in the Congress Party. In 1966, she was appointed leader of the party, elected to the post of Prime Minister the following year, then re-elected twice. She was defeated in 1977 amid popular opposition and murdered by her own bodyguards in 1984 in retaliation for ordering the military to attack Sikh separatists in their holy temple.
3. Angela Merkel, Germany
Merkel earned a doctorate in chemistry and worked as a researcher before entering politics after the fall of the Berlin Wall. When she served in Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s cabinet, he often patronized her as “mein Madchen” (my daughter). Merkel broke the glass ceiling in 2000 when she became leader of the Christian Democratic Union party – five years later, she became Germany’s first female Chancellor, and at 51, the youngest. During her long tenure, she has faced the eurozone debt crisis, the refugee crisis and Brexit, among other events. Merkel stepped down this year after leading Europe’s most populous and powerful country and the world’s fourth-largest economy.
4. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia
After earning degrees in the United States, including a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University, based in the United States, Sirleaf launched his public service career in Liberia, an African country founded by American slaves freed in the United States. XIXth century. In 2005, Sirleaf won the support of nearly 80 percent of female voters and became Africa’s first democratically elected head of state. For 12 years, Sirleaf has helped preserve the peace, write off the national debt and strengthen Liberia’s economy. Her work for women’s rights won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, although she was also criticized for nepotism when she appointed three of her sons to government posts.
5. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Iceland
In 1980, she was a divorced single mother, but Finnbogadóttir beat her opponents to become Iceland’s first female ruler. Known for promoting Icelandic culture at home and abroad, she was incredibly popular. Reelected three times, she ran unopposed in two elections and won over 96% of the vote in the third. With 16 years in power, Finnbogadóttir’s tenure is the longest of any female head of state in history, and she is best known for setting her country’s impressive record for gender equality.
Who is your favorite female head of state? Play today’s word search and tell us at [email protected]