HomeLearning Center’It’s a Lonely Place’: Iceland PM Katrin Jakobsdottir on the Decline in Female World Leaders

’It’s a Lonely Place’: Iceland PM Katrin Jakobsdottir on the Decline in Female World Leaders

Originally published by Brianna Boecker for Women’s Agenda

As global leaders continue to discuss the highest-level issues in the final days of the UN General Assembly, one of the few female leaders in the mix has brought up concern for the declining number of women heading governments around the world. 

Iceland’s prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, says that being a female leader is increasingly isolating, The Times reports. 

“Numbers have gone down rather than up so it’s a lonely place,” said Jakobsdottir. “It’s a worrying trend and shows there’s nothing given about gender equality.”

There’s currently 13 UN countries with female leaders worldwide, according to data from the Council on Foreign Relations. Out of the 193 UN countries that exist, this leaves the percentage of UN nations led by women to be less than 10 per cent.

Tsai Ing Wen and Vjosa Osmani, who serve as presidents of Taiwan and Kosovo (not UN member states), respectively, tip the already small number up to 15 total countries worldwide that are led by women. 

Countries like Peru, Italy and Bosnia all saw their first female leaders take office this year, however there’s also been some big-headline resignations– New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern in January, Moldova’s Natalia Gavrilita in February and Finland’s Sanna Marin was voted out in June. Gabon’s first female prime minister was removed in a coup last month as well.

Despite the lack of female representation, countries led by women tend to be healthier and happier than those led by men. The latest World Happiness report shows 5 out of the top 20 happiest countries were led by women– a ratio that far exceeds the number of women taking on such roles. 

“I think if we had more women at the table making decisions we would have less conflict and more focus on the well-being of the population,” said Jakobsdottir, who has made a point to centre gender equality in her speeches throughout her time in Iceland’s top office.

“The sad fact is gender equality is not high on the agenda for many men,” she said. “Of course there are good exceptions but very seldom. And when there are so few of us women in leadership positions I think it’s our responsibility to wave that flag wherever we go.”

Back to News