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One More for Team Golda and Indira

October 14, 2011

So Denmark has now elected its first female head of government.  In doing so we are following in the footsteps of: Ceylon, India, Israel, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Central African Republic, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Bolivia, Dominica, Norway, San Marino, Yugoslavia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Haiti, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, France, Poland, Turkey, Canada, Burundi, Rwanda, Bulgaria, Liberia, Ecuador, Guyana, New Zealand, Senegal, Indonesia, South Korea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Finland, Peru, Mozambique, Macedonia, Ukraine, Bahamas, Germany, Chile, Jamaica, Moldova, Iceland, Croatia, Madagascar, Kyrgyzstan, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Slovakia, Brazil, Mali and Thailand.

We are, however, ahead of Sweden, and that’s what really counts.

The Danish head of state has been female since 1972, of course – but since Margrethe II is a hereditary monarch it’s hard to count that as a benchmark of progress. Another thing about the above list, which is chronologically ordered: from a quick skim through it looks as though it’s easier for women to gain power in relatively recently established or recently democratised states where power structures are more fluid (Ceylon and India: established 1948; Lithuania: democratic since 1990; Liberia: peace treaty in 2003).

Of course I’m not getting in to the issue of longevity in government, or which women were seen as “heirs to power” through family connections, or the even thornier issue of whether having a woman leader always represents progress. It seems like a plausible theory, though.  To be honest, I’m mostly just relieved that for the first time since 1993, the Danish PM’s name is no longer Rasmussen. That was getting to be embarrassing.


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