Women Leading Nations

Quick: Can you name seven female government leaders in recent memory?

Top-of-head responses might include Angela Merkel of Germany, Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, and historical figures like the UK’s Margaret Thatcher, Argentina’s Isabel Perón, Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto, Israel’s Golda Meir, and India’s Indira Gandhi.

All of these women distinguished themselves, sharing some strong traits but also forging individual paths as dictated by the unique countries they governed.

While navigating global relations, such leaders demonstrate resolve, strategic vision, communication, and resilience to lead their citizens through the term years in hopes of leaving the nation better off than when they took office.

Yet among all the national parliaments around the globe, only about a quarter of them are headed by women. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) provides monthly rankings of the percentage of women in parliaments. (April 2024 is the latest available as of this writing.) Rwanda tops the most recent list, followed by Cuba, Nicaragua, and Mexico, which just elected its first woman President, Claudia Sheinbaum.

New Zealand and United Arab Emirates are the other two countries whose parliaments are made of up at least 50% women.

As UN Women states:

Women’s equal participation and leadership in political and public life are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Not only are women disproportionately affected by many of the globe’s challenges, they also possess the qualities needed to implement some of the solutions.

Government make-up is one sign of a country’s aspiration toward equality. Culture and legal frameworks also dictate barriers to women achieving leadership roles in government or business. The World Bank’s ‘Women, Business, and the Law ’ illuminates the state of women’s opportunities and empowerment in 190 economies.

Data compiled across 10 indicators show that – for example – Mexico scores high in legal frameworks for women’s safety, mobility, marriage, and assets, with room for improvement in workplace, pay, parenthood, childcare, entrepreneurship, and pensions.

Information like this and UN Women’s Country Fact Sheets, along the women’s topics we address in our country reports, help prepare assignees and business travelers for a host culture. It also may guide us, as citizens of our own countries, to focus our energies on the areas that need improvement.

Find all of these resources, and more, in the International Relocation Center’s Reference Pro Library. 

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group