Do women make better leaders? [Archives:2006/914/Viewpoint]

January 23 2006

A recent BBC poll came up with this question after voters in Chile, Germany and Liberia recently elected their first female heads of state. Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is Africa's first elected female president. Michelle Bachelet is Chile's first elected female president and could be considered the first successful president in South America. The only relatively similar experience in North America was in Canada where Kim Campbell was elected prime minister in 1993 but ousted just six months later. There are speculations that Hillary Clinton will be hard to beat in the 2008 U.S. presidential elections. Europe is full of examples of female leaders: Britain had Margaret Thatcher, Germany has Angela Merkel and France could get lucky with Segolene Royal. Tansu Ciller was Turkey's only female prime minister, not to mention popular female presidents in Finland and Norway. Asia has had many experiences with powerful women: India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The only country in the Middle East with a potential female rising star is recently-appointed Israeli Foreign Minister Zipi Livni. Iran has had its share of powerful females, beginning in 1951 with its first female ambassador, Mehrangiz Dawlatshahi. Eight women nominated themselves as candidates in the 1997 Iranian presidential elections, but the Council of Guardians rejected them all.

However, women in the Arab world have not had their fair chance to participate effectively in politics. For example, Yemen has witnessed several attempts by women to participate in the political sphere yet, many times, their attempts were aborted or paralyzed. The common compliant is that Yemen's socio-political system is not yet ready to accept women leaders. Still, if Yemeni women did get the chance to become national leaders, would they make better leaders than men? Today, the world seems to be recognizing women's leadership abilities more than ever. Will this trend affect Yemen's system now that a new government is about to be restructured in less than eight months? Especially since the only female minister, Amat Al-Aleem Al-Sosowa, is heading to New York to work with the United Nations, vacating her Yemeni government post. Moreover, the only female ambassador is Yemen's ambassador to Turkey, Nouria Al-Hamami. Unfortunately, there were more names and positions held by women in the past. Some say this is because Yemeni women cannot get together for the same cause. Apparently, according to a number of political analysts, Yemen's women's movement has not developed and evolved enough to promote women's leadership and encourage them to compete with men. So the question will remain unanswered in our country until such a movement develops or the quota system is enforced, as demanded by the country's women's organizations.