The international spotlight is once more on Manila as nineteen world leaders meet for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting. Out of APEC’s 21 member economies, only two countries have a woman as its head of state: President Park-Geun Hye of South Korea and President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Both women were the first female presidents of their country.
Michelle Bachelet first served as Chile’s president in 2006. When her term ended in 2010, she served as first executive director of the UN Women before being re-elected for a second term as president in 2013. The year of Bachelet’s election also saw the election of Park Geun-Hye as President of South Korea, a position that her father Park Chung-hee held for 17 years.
In the first part of this series, M2.0 Communications explored the benefits of having female leaders. The second part of this series showed example of how female leaders used their public image to their advantage.
As we cap off this series, we look at more women leaders who proved themselves in male dominated fields.
1. Miriam Defensor-Santiago
When Margaret Thatcher died in 2013, Miriam Defensor-Santiago posted a photo of herself with the former UK Prime Minister. In her post, she said that despite being known as Asia’a Iron Lady, she considers a protégé of the late Lady Thatcher, the leader whose uncompromising style of leadership reversed Britain’s post-war decline.
Though Miriam is a woman that one would never dare to cross, she is also known for her witty sense of humour, usually opening her speeches or lectures with pick-up lines that drive audiences wild with laughter and applause. She claims to have been cheated during the 1992 presidential elections, and is now making her third bid for the country’s highest position. When asked if she is confident of winning, Miriam said that “third time’s the charm.” We’ll see come 2016.
2. Conchita Carpio-Morales
It was only through Facebook feeds that many people knew about the death of Ombudsman Conchita-Carpio Morales’ son on the week that she ordered the dismissal of Makati mayor, Junjun Binay. The viral Facebook posts that announced the passing of the Ombudsan’s son pointed out how Morales remained committed to her work despite grieving for her son---an act that netizens recognized as one of the many sacrifices that Morales did for the country.
During the weeks that followed, Morales made it to one headline after another when she ordered the dismissal of public officials who have been accused of corruption. Much to the delight of a public who is already weary of corruption stories, Morales turned herself into the embodiment of the statement, “corrupt politicians beware.”
3. Aung Saan Suu-Kyi
Nobel Prize Winner, Aung Saang Suu-Kyi is the symbol of a new era in Myanmar---a transition to democracy after years of military rule. In the recently concluded elections in Myanmar, the National League for Democracy (NLD), of which is Suu-Kyi is leader, managed to secure a majority of seats in parliament.
Though the constitution bars Suu Kyi from being president, Suu Kyi is expected to be the country’s de facto leader if the NLD forms the new government. In the 1990 elections, the NLD won 59% of the national votes 392 of 485 seats in Parliament, but the military regime put Aung Saan Suu Kyi under house arrest before the elections nullified the poll’s results. It was only in 2010 when Aung Saan Suu Kyi was released.
4. Park Geun-Hye
Despite being labelled with sexist creeds by Pyongyang because of her alliance with the United States, Park Geun-Hye shows that she is a lady who is not for turning. To address the North Korea threats and provocations, Park pushed for a three-way alliance between South Korea, China, and the United States, an act which is also part of a possible reunification between the two Koreas.
Park’s diplomatic moves involving China have raised concerns, but an analysis by Victor Cha, Chair of the Center for Strategic International Studies, evaluates Park’s alliance as a design “to alter Chinese strategic thinking, engage U.S. interests, and ultimately build Northeast Asian cooperation.” When it comes to foreign policy, President Park is showing the makings of a diplomatic genius.
5. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Time Magazine once asked Bill Clinton who should be present in the room if he is to make an important decision. If John Kennedy needed his brother, Robert (who was Attorney-General in the Kennedy administration) when making a big decision, Bill Clinton was quick to reveal the name of the person who has that level of importance in his presidency: Hillary.
Though Hillary Clinton was hounded by one controversy after another during her stints as Arkansas First Lady, First Lady of the United States, Senator, and Secretary of State, she managed to constantly reinvent herself and come out stronger than before. As 2016 comes closer, the world awaits the answer to one of the most pressing questions of the time: Will Hillary Clinton be successful in what would be her last chance to be America’s first female president?
6. Angela Merkel
On December 2014, German voters re-elected Chancellor Angela Merkel to a third four-year term in what Forbes described as Europe’s most vibrant economy. For nine times now, the German Chancellor has topped Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful women.
She prevented a recession from crippling the German economy when the global economic crisis is gripping economies across the world. As de-facto leader the European Union, she serves as the backbone of the 28-member international body, and helps Greece boost its sinking economy. During the Russia-Ukraine crisis, she resorted to shuttle diplomacy to broker a peace deal with Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
Though female leaders had different ways of fulfilling their roles, they all had these things in common: they have stood out in a male-dominated world, they challenged the status quo, and they captured our admiration.
Want to add more to our list? Share your own version of the list in the comment box below.