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Women and Leadership

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Women and Leadership

Real Lives, Real Lessons

MIT Press,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Eight of the world’s most powerful female leaders discuss overcoming barriers women face in high office.

Editorial Rating



  • Visionary
  • Concrete Examples
  • Inspiring


Women are dramatically underrepresented in politics. In the nearly 200 countries in the United Nations, fewer than 60 women hold positions of high executive power. Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard and economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala interview women leaders – including Hillary Clinton, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Theresa May – about topics ranging from media-shaming for wearing the same pantsuit twice to confronting gender-based violence. The authors support a collective movement to create a better, more empowered world for four billion girls and women.


The world urgently needs gender equality in powerful positions.

Only 57 women hold the highest levels of executive power in the 193 member countries of the United Nations. The World Economic Forum predicts that – if current social conditions hold – this gender gap won’t close until 2115. The next generation of women likely won’t see gender equality in its lifetime without strategic change. 

A lack of gender equality exists across other industries and fields. A 2018 time-use study found that women spend two hours more per day doing unpaid caregiving and household tasks than men. The gender gap in unpaid care labor is most extreme between the ages of 35 and 44 — when women tend to take on more caretaking for children and aging parents. Today’s four billion girls and women face unfairly low odds of leading their nations. Women and girls should channel their impatience, frustration and determination into creating better opportunities for all women.

When looking at their leaders, individuals in democratic societies should see the diversity of their communities reflected back to them. In a better world...

About the Authors

Julia Gillard was Australia’s first woman prime minister, from 2010 to 2013, and is the author of the memoir My Story. An economist and an expert in international development, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, PhD is director-general of the World Trade Organization. She chairs the African Risk Capacity (ARC) organization and chaired Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, from 2016 to 2020.

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