First, a little Benazir Bhutto story, since we are on the subject of women leaders.
A friend of mine was to be on the podium of Harvard’s graduation the year Benazir Bhutto was to give the keynote, and heard this conversation. John Galbraith, the economists who was also a professor at Harvard, Bhutto’s former undergraduate advisor, and her friend, was also to be on the stage, and all the famous people who were to be on that stage were to walk out in procession. The Secret Service, who were protecting Bhutto who at the time was Head of State, arranged the people so that two or three guys, including Galbraith, were to walk out first, Bhutto in the middle, then a string of people afterwards. The idea was to put the person they were protecting in the middle.
Bhutto was fairly diminutive of stature, so she would have been hard to see and while this would enhance her safety, it would also have lessened the impact of hear appearance at this event, a former undergrad returning as a Prime Minister of a whole country. Galbraith, her friend and mentor, would have nothing of it. He insisted that he be in the front of the line. When the Secret Service agents, tough, numerous, steely eyed and, well, convincing as they tend to be, told him that this would be impossible, and that security concerns trumped appearances and that she would be walking out onto the stage in the middle of the procession, Galbraith, whom you may remember as having been a very tall and imposing figure with deep booming voice, turned to the head of the security detail and simply said, “Sir, I overrule you,” at which time the detail backed off, Bhutto, grinning, walked to the front of the line, and the procession began.
Apropos the question that has come up in recent years as to the meaning of, say, a “black” or a female president of the United States … as to whether we are “ready” or whether such a thing would advance civil rights in the US or whether such a thing would lead to polarizing opposition from racists or misogynous, we can look at what has happened with the presidency of Barack Obama (and see that all of the above are true) and also look at the place in the world of the United States. Many other nations have had women prime ministers, presidents, queens, or whatever. Is the United States in the majority yet, are we one of the few countries (or one of the few “Western” countries, or one of the few “democracies” or whatever) who has not had a female in charge?
Pursuant to this question I made a list (made = copied from the internet) of countries and put a star next to those which I think have had a woman leader. I’m sure I missed some. Have a look. Tell me which countries I should move from one list to another (or if I’ve left out some countries). There are complexities.
Countries that have had a woman leader:
- Central African Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- Sri Lanka
- United Kingdom
Countries that have not had a woman leader (subject to correction!):
Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Federated States of Moldova
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sao Tome and Principe
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates