Women National Leaders
- Francine D’AmicoFrancine D’AmicoMaxwell School Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University
The number of women in national elective leadership positions has grown since 1960 when the first woman became prime minister. As the number of women in high elective office has grown, feminist scholars have worked to fill the “gender gap” in the study of national leadership in the disciplines of history, political science, and international relations. Feminist scholars, for instance, have investigated several gender-based assumptions about what the policy priorities of women leaders will be. The first assumption is that a woman leader will promote social programs and expenditures over military defense; this assumption is based on women’s traditional gender role as caretaker. The second assumption is that a woman leader will be likely to eschew the use of military force in foreign policy. The third is that she will introduce or endorse policies that promote gender equality, that is, that she will pursue a feminist agenda. Thus, the general policy questions scholars approach the study of women leaders with are: Is she a socialist? Is she a pacifist? Is she a feminist? Feminist scholars also consider public perceptions about women’s ability to serve as national leader as well as performance, or women’s style of leadership and effectiveness as leaders. Do women lead in a hierarchical, “top-down” command style or do they tend to be more cooperative, collegial, and collaborative than their male counterparts?