3 reasons why women leaders actually matter for women
There are currently just 30 female presidents and prime ministers worldwide. Moldova and Barbados are the only two countries where women occupy both the positions of president and prime minister, while Bangladesh is the only nation where a woman has led for more years than a man over the last half century.
Clearly, women leaders matter as a question of gender equity, but as my research shows, they may also matter to women in other ways.
I looked at four different female presidents in three different political systems: the Philippines’ first female president, Corazon Aquino (1986–1992) and its second female leader, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001–2010); Indonesia’s first and only female president, Megawati Sukarnoputri (2001–2004); and Sri Lanka’s Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK).
CBK, who was Sri Lanka’s fifth president from 1994 to 2005, followed in the footsteps of her mother, Sirimavo Bandarnaike, the world’s first female elected head of government in 1960.
I was interested in the difference these women leaders made on women’s lives through the law. However, I did not want to blindly place a positive spin on the impact women have as presidents.
My research used the Gender Legislative Index, which relies on human evaluators and machine learning to determine how well laws advance women’s rights. The index indicated whether the laws enacted during these leaders’ tenures were “good” for women.
Of course, “women” are not a monolithic category with the same interests and needs. And nor are women leaders all the same. But there are three reasons why women leaders may matter more to women.
- Bringing women up the ladder
- Legislating for women
- The significance of ‘Madam’ President