women in politics

There Are More Women Leaders Than Ever, But They Don’t Stay in Power for Long

South Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-hye, was removed from office Thursday. Photo: Getty Images

Park Geun-hye was South Korea’s first-ever woman president, and on Thursday she also became the country’s first president to be removed from office. Following a corruption scandal, South Korea’s Constitutional Court ruled unanimously to impeach her; she was replaced by prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who will remain acting president until an election is held within 60 days.

Park, who was elected in December 2012, held office for just four years, and her case isn’t unusual. According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, although the list of countries that have had female leaders continues to grow, women rarely hold office for more than a few years, and they’re usually replaced by men.

Of the 146 countries studied by the World Economic Forum in 2014 and 2016, 56 (or 38 percent) have had a woman head of state or government in the past 50 years. But “in 31 of these countries, women have led for five years or less; in 10 nations, they have led for only a year.” The report continues:

At least 13 additional countries have had women leaders who held office for less than a year, according to a separate analysis by Pew Research Center. Of these countries, Ecuador and Madagascar had women leaders for a total of just two days. In South Africa, a woman was president for a 14-hour stretch, but she had briefly served as acting president before; in all three countries, women leaders were replaced by men.

Some countries have managed to hold onto their women leaders for extended periods of time — Bangladesh has had two different women in power for a total of 23 years, and India and Ireland have both spent a total of 21 years under female leadership. Iceland has had a female president or prime minister in 20 of the past 50 years.

Meanwhile neither the U.S. nor Mexico has never had a woman as chief executive, and Canada’s first and only female prime minister served for four months. At least Justin Trudeau is the next-best thing?

Women Leaders Don’t Hold Power for Long