U.S. Politics

These 59 Countries Had a Woman Leader Before the United States


From Sri Lanka to Argentina

Correction appended, Nov. 7

America could make history on Tuesday by electing its first female president—but many other countries around the world have already reached the same milestone.

In the past half century, 59 countries have had women leaders, according to a 2016 report from the World Economic Forum. Among that group, Sri Lanka was the first to reach the milestone when Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the country’s prime minister in 1960.

After that, the number of women in power increased slowly until the 1990s, when the rate of change ramped up. More than three-quarters of all female presidents and prime ministers entered office in the last 20 years, according to the National Democratic Institute.

While women have made significant progress in world leadership, most countries have yet to elect a woman leader, and many of those that have done so had a woman in power for less than five of the last 50 years. There are currently just 10 women serving as heads of state and nine serving as heads of government, according to the United Nations. If Hillary Clinton is elected on Tuesday, she will join their ranks.

This graphic shows all the countries that have had a woman as their head of state or head of government in the last 50 years:


Correction: The original version of this story misstated the way the women leaders came to power. Some were elected, while others were appointed or took over after the death of a leader.

2 thoughts on “These 59 Countries Had a Woman Leader Before the United States

  1. I find it distressing that the issue is electing a woman president. Should we desire the most able and qualified person over the sex of the person ? Should my passion be electing an Italian Presbyterian Republican New York Yankees fan as president ? Never gonna happen so I am to consider my country primitive , barbaric and out of touch ?


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