They say if you are going to dream, then dream big. The women in this list have done just that, and although some of them may have had greatness thrust upon them, they are all big hitters in the political world and advance the profile of women in global politics and international diplomacy.
#1 Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton – (born October 26, 1947)
Few women in politics have had such an eminent career as Hilary Clinton, the world renowned former first lady and wife of former US President Bill Clinton has had an un-rivalled political career that few can come close to matching.
She married Bill Clinton in 1975 and went on to serve as first lady from 1993 to 2001. Along with the usual pressures of being first lady, Clinton also had to deal with the humiliating Lewinsky sex scandal which was to severely tarnish her husband’s political career.
Clinton stoically stood by her man and went on to serve as a US senator herself from 2001 to 2009.
She later announced her plan to run for presidency but conceded her nomination when it was clear that Obama held a majority of the vote during the 2008 Democratic primaries.
However, in recognition of her abilities and popularity, from 2009 to 2013, she served as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.
Although she has not revealed any plans to run for presidency again, it is unlikely we have heard the last of Hilary Clinton, and she remains one of the most powerful women in politics of today.
#2 Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde – (born January 1, 1956)
Lagarde is a truly remarkable woman, not just for being the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since July 2011 and therefore the first woman to run the IMF, but also for being a French vegetarian and teetotal to boot, hence throwing all the typical French stereotypes out of the window.
Her achievements include being the first woman Finance Minister of a G8 nation and she was also the first woman chairman of the law firm Baker & McKenzie. She has held many ministerial posts in the French government including being the former Minister of Economic Affairs in France.
It would appear that she is not only a force to be reckoned with on dry land but in the water too; as a teenager she was a member of the French National Synchronized Swimming team.
She is listed as The World’s 35th Most Powerful Person and the 8th Most Powerful Woman by Forbes Magazine.
As far as women in politics go, this silver haired femme fatale is an alpha woman par excellence.
#3 Dilma Vana Rousseff (born December 14, 1947)
If you are looking for incredible and remarkable lives then they don’t come much more impressive than Dilma Rousseff’s.
The first female president of Brazil who has held office since 2011 has not only survived imprisonment and torture in her lifetime but also cancer.
Rousseff has many political achievements under her belt which include being the founder of the Democratic Labor Party. When she was Minister of Energy she implemented a program called “Electricity for All” which was designed to bring electric power to the households of Brazil's remote and poorer regions.
She has been listed as the World’s 20th Most Powerful Person by Forbes Magazine.
Not bad for a daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant who has gone on to become one of the most powerful women in politics of today.
#4 Park Geun-hye – (born February 2, 1952)
Park Geun-hye is the first female President of South Korea, a country which has the highest level of gender inequality in the developed world, which is a huge achievement for any woman in politics.
Sworn in on 20th February 2013 she is the eleventh (and current) President of South Korea.
However, Park’s rise to power has been one marked by tragedy and loss. She was the daughter of the former president whose mother was accidentally assassinated by a bullet intended for her father. Due to this, at the age of only 22 she was installed as ’acting first lady’ in place of her mother.
Five years following the death of her mother her father was then too assassinated, by his own intelligence chief, while attending a dinner function.
Park has promised a new era for the people of South Korea stating that she would be a ’president for the people’.
All eyes are watching this incredible lady.
#5 Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir – (born October 4, 1942)
This former flight attendant for Icelandic Airlines and former Chairperson of the board of the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association really did become a high flyer when she became not only Iceland’s first female prime minister, but also the world’s first openly gay head of government.
Passionate about social justice and LGBT rights alike she served as an MP in Iceland from 1978, and held the office of Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security for the period 1987 to 1994 and then again in 2007 to 2009.
Sigurðardóttir helped steer Iceland through its financial collapse in 2008 and emerged as the voice of calm. In June 2010 she married her partner on the same day that same-sex marriage became legal in Iceland.
Under her government, strip clubs and paying for nudity in restaurants were banned along with any other means of employers profiting from nudity. This led many to claim that Iceland was the most feminist country in the world.
Sigurðardóttir believes that the most important gender issue of today is the pay gap between men and women.
She retired from office in 2013 having been Iceland’s longest serving member of parliament.
#6 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – (born 29 October 1938)
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the current President of Liberia. She is the first elected female head of state in Africa and on top of that went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. She won this prize along with Leymah Gbowee also of Liberia, and Tawakel Karmen of Yemen as women who were recognized ‘for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.’
Although she was born in Liberia, she was also schooled in the US and received a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a degree in economics. When she returned to Liberia she served as assistant minister of Finance until the 1980 coup d'état, after which she left Liberia. This was not to be the last time she was exiled from her country.
She returned in 1985 and ran for political office but when she spoke out against the military regime, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She served some of this sentence before returning to the US.
Finally she returned to Liberia in 1997, this time as an economist. She was elected to presidency in 2005 and inaugurated in 2006, defeating the incumbent President Taylor.
There are of course many powerful women in politics that are more than worthy of being included on this list from Condoleezza Rice the former US Secretary of State, Angela Merkel the current Chancellor of Germany, through to Chile’s President elect Michelle Bachelet. Who would you include?
Cover photo: paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com