As we acknowledge the achievements of women throughout the world, the number of countries that have had a female leader continues to expand, but the list is still relatively short.
Since then, it has become more common and acceptable for women to be elected as the leaders of their nations. Today, there are 25 women currently serving. The list includes female presidents who are head of state and may also be head of government including Governors-General, as well as female heads of government who are not concurrently head of state, such as prime ministers. The list does not include female monarchs who are head of state.
Women lead many of the most powerful countries, including Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
While women rulers have led great empires as hereditary monarchs since ancient times, the first appointed female head of state did not take office until 1960. Sirivamo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the world’s first female elected Premier, serving as head of the government.
Bangladesh, which has the eighth-largest population in the world (156.2 million), has had the longest stretches with female leaders in the past 50 years. Current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her rival Khaleda Zia have collectively – but separately – ruled over Bangladesh for 23 years since 1992.
To date, the country with most female Heads of State is San Marino (16, with three of them serving two non-consecutive terms), followed by Switzerland with seven. Among countries with only a single person in the position, Haiti has had the most female heads of state or government, with four.
Many women in history have achieved important female firsts, paving the way for generations of others to follow their steps. Women’s history is full of inspiring females who accomplished great things, and were the first woman to do so. It is important to understand the challenges women have faced and their achievements as they have set their sights on things only men had previously accomplished and have shattered the glass ceiling one-step at a time.