Female heads of state the norm in some countries

Sophie Gilliland, Online Editor-in-Chief

In the recent election, the United States faced the opportunity to elect its first female president. Even though Hillary Clinton didn’t win, 59 countries have had women leaders in the past half century and currently 18 women serve as heads of state across the world.

While this number may not seem impressive, it is progress because women have traditionally not held much power in public life.

“It comes from traditional gender roles,” history teacher Jonathan Clemons said to explain the absence of female leaders. “So if a woman is supposed to be in the home taking care of kids, it doesn’t really lend itself to going out and having a political career.”

The Nordic countries have the highest number of women in the parliaments and in their government but others like the Americas and the rest of Europe also have generally high rates; still, all across the world women make up less than half of these governmental groups. In countries and political organizations that do have women leaders, women tend to be distinguished from men in the way that they use their power and sometimes advance their political beliefs.

“Women demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through parliamentary women’s caucuses and by championing issues of gender equality,” said UN Women on their website.

Many female politicians do tend to lean toward the left side of politics and to focus on the plight of women more than male politicians do. One contradiction is the former president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, who is a social conservative.

Chinchilla opposed the separation of church and state and birth control, but her fellow Costa Ricans did not generally support her and she had a low approval rating. Chinchilla was unable to help with what the people of Costa Rica were really worried about: crime and public safety.

Where Chinchilla was unsuccessful, others were not and female politicians like Angela Merkel, the long-time Chancellor of Germany, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, are generally regarded as successful. Merkel and Sirleaf both face elections in 2017 but have improved their countries by maintaining a united Europe in the face of migration and racial tensions and by helping her country to recover from an almost 15 year long civil war, respectively.

Even after these feats, many women in politics remain generally unknown and the United States has never joined the group of countries who have had a female head of government or state.

“Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister [of the United Kingdom] in the ‘80s,” Clemons said. “Whereas the U.S. still hasn’t had a female leader so it’s something that the U.S. is having to deal with.”

Today, the United Kingdom has another female Prime Minister: Theresa May. May became Prime Minister after their former Prime Minister willingly resigned because of Brexit and she supports limiting immigration and the original Brexit plan. United States president Donald Trump has supported her and her party and will likely continue to support her through the challenge of leaving the European Union.

“I just think that all the women who have tried to run for president or who have been popular enough to become president have been against the majority of the people,” junior Kyle Fry said. “So it prevents them from becoming the leader of the United States.”