If you look at the world's population through the lens of gender, you will find an approximate 50-50 split between men and women. But when it comes to presidents, prime ministers, and other heads of state, a significant gender gap is uncovered. For 15 years, The Council of Women World Leaders has been at the forefront in fostering a dialogue on gender issues. The Council is a network of current and former women prime ministers and presidents. It was established in 1996 by Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, President of Iceland (1980-1996), the first democratically elected woman president in the world, along with Laura Liswood, who serves as the organization's Secretary General. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland (2000-present), currently serves as Chair of the Council, which recently became a program of the Woodrow Wilson Center.
During a recent event sponsored by the Council, we spoke with two of its members, Mary Robinson and Margot Wallstrom, about their work, the status of women leaders, and prospects for the future.
Her Excellency Mary Robinson served as President of Ireland (1990-1997) and as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002). She is Chair Emerita of the Council of Women World Leaders and currently serves as President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice.
Margot Wallstrom is the United Nations Special Representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. She also serves as Chair of the Ministerial Initative of the Council of Women World Leaders. Previously she served in several Swedish government ministerial positions and also as Environment Commissioner and Vice President of the European Commission.