By Cynthia Richie Terrell on October 20, 2017
Almost one month after voting day in New Zealand, 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern has become the country’s new prime minister. Ardern’s victory, which was a surprising coup for the country’s left, makes her New Zealand’s third female prime minister and its youngest leader in 150 years.
It also means she joins a group of 12 other women who make up the world’s currently serving female heads of government, or 13 if you include Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen, who was elected as the democratically-ruled island’s first female leader last year. The countries the women lead represent less than 7% of the UN’s 193 member states.
Of the 13 women, six are heads of European countries, two are heads of South American countries and four are their country’s first female leaders. Europe counts the most women in power. Bangladesh leads in longevity – its prime minister Sheik Hasina has been in power for 13 years, accumulated over two terms. Marshall Islands president Hilda Heine is Ardern’s only female counterpart in the Asia-Pacific region and is relatively new to the job, having served just over a year.
In November, the group will shrink again as Liberian president and first female African head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, steps down after serving a maximum two terms in power. None of her potential successors are female. Doris Leuthard will also finish her tenure as President of the Swiss Confederation at the end of 2017 and will likely be replaced by the confederation’s vice president, Alain Berset.