World’s most powerful women – and where to find them

Hillary Clinton could join a distinguished rank of names tonight if elected to the Oval Office. [Akatz/Shutterstock]

The world is still mostly led by men, but the balance could swing slightly towards women of power today (8 November), when the US goes to the polls to potentially elect its first female president. Here are some of the distinguished individuals Hillary Clinton could join. EURACTIV Germany reports.


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Angela Merkel, 62, has been chancellor of Germany since 2005 and heads up the biggest European economy, having successfully charted a course for the Bundesrepublik out of the choppy waters of the financial crisis that crippled many other parts of the bloc. In 2013, she was elected for a third time. Her open-doors refugee policy has won her many admirers around the world, but also plenty of critics, which many inevitably derail her expected tilt at a fourth stint as chancellor.


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Theresa May, 60, is only the second female British prime minister, after Margaret Thatcher. The former home secretary in David Cameron’s Conservative party has been tasked with organising the UK’s exit from the EU, following its 23 June Brexit vote, despite herself being in the ‘remain’ camp before the referendum. Her main opponent in this endeavour may prove to be another British female leader…


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Nicola Sturgeon, 46, Scottish First Minister, has put Scottish independence back on the table, citing a change in the terms of the deal that was offered to voters of the first independence referendum and the fact that Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU.

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Beata Szydło, 53, has been head of the Polish government and prime minister since November 2015. She is a member of the Law and Justice party (PiS), which was founded in part by fellow former prime minister, Jarosław Kaczyński. Szydło, the daughter of a miner, was Mayor of Brzeszcze, which is near Auschwitz, from 1998 to 2005.


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Aung San Suu Kyi, 71, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. The Burmese politician rose to international fame as one of the most well-known political prisoners, following her house arrest by the Burmese Junta in the late 1980s. Her party won a landslide victory in 1990, but the military refused to hand over power. In 2015, her party once again received overwhelming backing. Due to a constitutional block, she was unable to become president, instead becoming state counsellor, a position equivalent to prime minister.


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Michelle Bachelet, 65, is currently the only woman to head a Latin American country. The Chilean president was voted into office at the beginning of 2006, serving until 2010 after which she was not allowed to stand for reelection as the Chilean constitution forbids consecutive terms. In 2014, she was once again elected into office, winning a runoff election against Evelyn Matthei. Bachelet’s father, an air force general, died in prison in 1974, following his arrest by the Pinochet regime. She herself was tortured by the regime, before leaving in exile to Australia. Bachelet returned to Chile in 1979.


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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 78, is the first woman to be elected as president of an African country. The former opposition politician was voted in as president of Liberia in 2006, a position she still holds. She was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her non-violent struggle to improve women’s safety. Since the 1960s, the Harvard-educated economist has held various positions with the World Bank and UN, as well as domestic ministerial posts.


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Margrethe Vestager, 48, is the European Commission’s current Commissioner for Competition. She was the leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party until she was nominated by her country to represent it in the newly formed Juncker Commission in 2014. She has recently won international attention for her pursuit of a landmark tax case against Apple, in which the tech giant was ordered to pay nearly $15 billion back to Ireland. She may come into conflict with Theresa May in the coming months, as the Commission has announced that it will be looking into the UK’s “Brexit assurances” to Japanese carmaker Nissan, which may constitute illegal state aid.

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