In the past, most women were considered weak and should be obedient to men. It was hard for women to voice an opinion and lead society, however, recently, women are changing the world and leading societies. In fact, in 2013, Park Geunhye became the first female president of South Korea. With this example in mind, do you know any other female leaders in other countries? The Sookmyung Times interviewed three international students to learn about female leaders in their home countries.
Father and Daughter Connected Under the Title President
Fenny, from Indonesia, introduced Megawati Soekarnoputri. Megawati is female politician in Indonesia, and she was 5th president of the country from 2001 to 2004. In addition, she was also the nation’s first female president. According to Fenny, Megawati’s father was also once president of Indonesia. She said, “Megawati’s father was the 1st president of our country. He did so many things for the nation like getting independence from Japan and the Netherlands.” Fenny also said Megawati was just as successful as her father. She pointed out that the previous president helped secure the nation when one province in Indonesia, Aceh-GAM, spoke of separation. She also said, “Aceh-GAM wanted to separate from Indonesia, but Megawati gave that province central government authority, so the region remained as a province of Indonesia. She successfully maintained a unitary Indonesia state.” In addition to helping solve this problem, the former president reformed the process of Indonesia’s military. According to Fenny previously, there was mixture of work between the government and the military in Indonesia. However, Megawati separated the government and military dealings. Megawati also concentrated on women’s rights unlike other male leaders. Fenny said, “In the past there was great discrimination between men and women in Indonesia. However, Megawati brought about equality for men and women and now women’s rights are much greater than in the past.”
After Megawati, there hasn’t been another female president nor any well-known central government female politicians in Indonesia. However, there are some female leaders in different fields like the head of Indonesian Bank. Fenny believes that to be a female leader, women should have ability to control and lead people. She also mentioned that women should be powerful. She said, “To have power, women should have authority like Oprah Winfrey and Hilary Clinton. In the case of Hilary Clinton, though she is over 60 years old, she has the strength to be the next president of the United States. Authority like Clinton’s is important to female leaders.” In the end, Fenny pointed out that Megawati could eventually be reelected as president since politicians can hold office twice just like in the United States of America.
Goddess of Beauty, Legend of Film
One of the few male students at Sookmyung Women’s University, Alessandro, introduced his country’s famous strong female figure, Sophia Loren. Sophia Loren is an Italian actress who is now in her 70s. She starred in many films like Two Women, Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, Marriage Italian Style and many others. Sophia had a rough childhood as she grew up in war time. Growing up, she participated in beauty contests. Alessandro said, “Thanks to her beauty, she gained popularity in the field and eventually started acting in movies. As an actress she won an Oscar for her role in Two Women. In addition to the Oscar, she won various other worldwide awards such as Golden Globes and Grammy Awards.” When the reporter asked why Italians admire her, he said, “During her acting career, it was difficult for a woman to emerge and gain that much popularity. In 1956, she moved to Hollywood to work with amazing actors and actresses such as Marilyn Monroe.” He also added that she differed from others due to her popularity and that she exported her films and talent worldwide. Sophia Loren’s works contributed positively to her home country. Because of her, people from all over the world love Italian movies and eventually it lets more people know about them. He also mentioned that Italy hosts a number of tributes to Sophia in the country.
In Alessandro’s opinion, what women need to become leaders in their fields are strong senses of leadership, great skills, and many experiences. To be more specific, he said, “Women who hold leadership positions must project a sense of security. That way, individuals can look up to her just like people look up to Hilary Clinton’s leadership.” In Italy, there are few females in political fields. Of course in every field there are female figures but according to him, they are a minority. Alessandro believes that “To increase the number of female leaders, the use of NGO can be a tool that helps women emerge. In addition, time is needed. Currently, we are in the process of development, so within a decade women will rise to positions of influence more than men. The new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has given more key positions to women compared to the past and works to help women to reach their goals, so situations have improving lately.”
Opening a New Era in Women Politics
“In Australia, there was a person considered a female leader in politics.” Grace started with this sentence when asked ‘Who is the most famous female leader in your country?’ In Australia, before the current prime minister, there was a woman prime minister, Julia Gillard. Grace said that so far Australia had only one female leader because the federal government in Australia was only created in 1901, so its history is fairly short compared to other countries in Europe. Julia Gillard was the 14th prime minister of Australia, elected in 2007. She was also the first female deputy prime minister of Australia, and although her policies were debatable among Australians, she still managed to become head of the state. Grace also holds a conflicting view of Gillard’s policies. Though she did not agree with her completely, she was interested in Gillard’s education policies. “Her policies mainly include the reinforcement of education.” Regarding her educational policies, Grace recalled her speech at the July 2010 National Press Club. There, Gillard stated that she would make education central to her economic agenda since the economy was powered by education. The current ruling party, however, is an opposition party of Gillard, so her education policies were altered or abolished. Grace added, “Although her policies were contentious, her perception of valuing education was great.” Also, Gillard valued Asia’s potential, so her policies involved creation of an Australia Asian Center, which incorporated sending researchers to Asia to study behavior, language, economy, and so on. When asked about the current policies, Grace said, “Due to the new ruling party, there is absolutely no mentioning of those sought after policies in the media nowadays, which is unfortunate.”
Other than those policies, Gillard has a famous speech that has more than 2.5 million You Tube hits. The speech was about sexism and her revision of the traditional definition of ‘misogyny.’ There were some conflicts over the speech, and some claim this was the reason Gillard lost the next election, but this speech about misogyny became a worldwide issue, continuing to this day. When asked about how Australia sees Gillard, Grace said, “Throughout her time in office, people, mostly men, said that she was only celebrated because she’s a female. People also concentrated on her appearance more than her policies.” Grace said even though she doesn’t support all of Gillard’s policies, it was upsetting to see Gillard’s reputation not being rationally judged but to be mixed with misogyny. Still, Grace said that even with all the controversy, Gillard played an important part in the history of female leadership. She also said to encourage future female leaders many universities in Australia have programs that allow students to meet and learn from female leaders in many fields. For example, Macquarie University, where Grace is a student, has a buddy program for financial major students, so they can meet and learn from women CEOs and other females working in financial fields. Lastly, voicing her opinion on the qualities a female leader needs, Grace said, “I think the most important quality of a female leader is to know and choose the right people to be on your team. It’s a basic quality but still hard to achieve.”