There has been a virtual coup in the realm of global women's leadership in 2006. Chile and Liberia swore in their first female presidents, and this week Portia Simpson Miller in Jamaica joins the ranks. While these countries sit on different latitudes and longitudes, they share a hunger for a new kind of leadership. Much like the new leaders in Chile and Liberia, Simpson Miller has inherited a country that has been divided over decades by crime, violence and war.
And like Chile and Liberia-countries that endured dictatorships and economic depression at recent points in their recent history- Jamaica looked to a new kind of leader. Someone who would help mend its wounds. Simpson Miller ran on a platform of inclusion and empowerment. She ran on bringing power to people who are marginalized and uniting all classes to tackle crime and economic underdevelopment. Her unofficial campaign theme was the title of the reggae song, "It's Woman Time Now." And the people of Jamaica took notice. Stories in Jamaican press highlighted women and men calling for a woman to take over the reins because they believed women to be more inclusive, more resistant to corruption, more connected and sympathetic to the people.
Female heads of state are not a 21st century invention. For years, we have seen some women such as Margaret Thatcher in England, Indira Gandhi in India, Benazir Butto in Pakistan, and Angela Merkel in Germany, ascend through political dynasties, monarchies or the parliamentary system. These women have broken barriers and often been inspirational leaders, but they are among an extremely small and elite group. Only 11 of the 193 nations, including Jamaica now, have a woman in the top position. The glaring omission from this list is the United States, indisputably the world's leading democracy.
While the closest this country has come to having a woman command from the Oval Office is Geena Davis's character on ABC's "Commander in Chief," polls show American's readiness for a female president in the United States. According to a Roper Public Affairs poll, nearly 80 percent of Americans are ready for a female commander in chief. The poll also revealed an interesting shift in the public's perception of women in non-traditional roles. Over half felt that a woman would do as well as a man in foreign policy, homeland security and the economy.
With widespread expectation that Hillary Clinton will run in 2008 and Laura Bush and others calling on Condoleezza Rice to run as well, perhaps we stand on the brink of a turning point here at home. Finally, It's Woman Time in America.