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Global issue 20

Global Insight Women Breaking the glass ceiling Women have risen to become political leaders in a number of powerful nations since Sirimavo Bandaranaike led the way by becoming Sri Lanka’s premier in 1960. But they still only make up a small percentage of senior politicians worldwide Kate Bystrova Since 1988, Indonesia, Senegal, Bangladesh, Mali, Pakistan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey have all, at one point or another, been led by a female president or prime minister. None of these countries are known for being at the forefront of women’s rights – in Indonesia, women-only train carriages had to be introduced in 2010 in response to high sexual harassment rates. Pakistan is ranked the second worst country in the world for women’s equality by the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report 2014 and is, along with Bangladesh, known internationally for acid attacks. Around one in five women in Turkey are illiterate. Meanwhile, the UK, with its reputation for being a herald of human and women’s rights, has had one female prime minister, back in the 1970s and 1980s, and no woman has led any of its three main political parties since then. The USA has yet to elect a single female president. Even Sweden, which ranks fourth in the Gender Gap Report (see page 7), has had no female heads of state. Globally, the gender gaps for educational attainment and health have almost closed, while gender discrepancies of 40 per cent for economic outcomes and 80 per cent for political outcomes remain. It seems that the world is happy for women to have the same education and health care as men, but more reluctant when it comes to letting them have any significant responsibilities. The first woman to break through the glass ceiling for political leadership was Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who became Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 1960, and from then on the number of female heads of government grew and grew. From 1960 through to August 2010, 79 women from 58 countries joined the ranks of the national executive elite, with the number of women leaders doubling in the 1990s and rising further still in the 2000s. Nevertheless, women represent only a minuscule number of all Queen Elizabeth II in 2011 with then prime ministers Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh), Julia Gillard (Australia) and Kamla Persad-Bissessar (Trinidad and Tobago) www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 17


Global issue 20
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