Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office

Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office

Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office

Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office

Synopsis

To date, there have only been two female leaders of G8 countries, Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel. The United States, where women's lib has been on the front burner for more than 40 years, has yet to nominate a female candidate for its highest office. Are stereotypes still limiting women's opportunities?

Excerpt

Women have ruled as monarchs for centuries—symbolized by the powerful historical figures of the Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra, Elizabeth I in Tudor England, and Catherine the Great in Russia. But in the contemporary world, relatively few women have been directly elected to reach the apex of political power. In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the world’s first female elected prime minister, followed by Indira Gandhi of India and Golda Meir of Israel, and in 1974, Isabel Perón of Argentina became the first woman president. Today (2010) among the 192 sovereign states recognized by the United Nations, only half a dozen have a woman prime minister. This includes Sheikh Hasina Wajed in Bangladesh, Johanna Sigurdardottir in Iceland, Jadranka Kosor in Croatia, and Angela Merkel in Germany. Another ten nation-states are governed by elected women presidents, including Mary McAleese in Ireland, Tarja Halonen in Finland, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Philippines, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia. Many other women have contested election to head of government, as discussed by case-studies in this book, but few have succeeded.

The barriers appear to be formidable. Yet given both the scarcity and diversity of women executives, it remains difficult to pin down the precise reasons. Women executives are clearly not drawn disproportionately from any one cultural region, type of society, or category of regime. This leaves theories of modernization and cultural explanations as somewhat implausible; traditional attitudes towards women and men’s roles in countries such as Pakistan, Liberia, and Bangladesh may prevail but this . . .

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