Who Runs the World?... Not Women

Female representation in politics leads to numerous benefits, but the vast majority of the world’s most powerful politicians are men. Using the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women’s Power Index tool to track women’s leadership across the globe, this episode examines the problems that arise from a shortage of female leaders.

Play Button Pause Button
0:00 0:00
  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Molly McAnany - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Linda Robinson
    Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
  • Sandra Pepera
    Director for Gender, Women, and Democracy at the National Democratic Institute

Show Notes

The leaders attempting to solve the world’s problems at the United Nations General Assembly this week are almost all men. Even as countries have made efforts to increase gender equity, women remain underrepresented in politics—especially on the global stage. Of 193 UN member countries, just 26 have female heads of state.


The Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy Program finds that increasing women’s leadership confers several benefits. Female leaders run the gamut of political and ethical views, but on aggregate, countries with women’s leadership are more bipartisan, equal, and stable. In spite of those benefits, threats against women in power are increasing. But so too, is women’s representation in politics.


A map of women's representation in legislatures by country, showing most countries below 50%


From CFR


Jamille Bigio and Rachel Vogelstein, “Women Under Attack: The Backlash Against Female Politicians,” Foreign Affairs


Ann Norris, “Renewing the Global Architecture for Gender Equality


Linda Robinson and Noël James, “Women’s Power Index



From Our Guests


Sandra Pepera, “Why Women in Politics?,” Women Deliver


Linda Robinson, “Women in the 118th Congress: Halting Progress, Storm Clouds Ahead,” CFR.org


Linda Robinson, “Biden’s Progress on Women’s Rights: Good Start, But Not Fast Enough,” CFR.org


Read More


Gender, Women and Democracy,” National Democratic Institute


Global Gender Gap Report 2023,” World Economic Forum


Women Peace and Security Index,” Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security


Watch and Listen


Small and Mighty!,” UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women


Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” TED

West Africa

West Africa is losing many of its best and brightest. Across the region, doctors, lawyers, and engineers are leaving, depriving some of the world’s youngest countries of the minds they need to develop sustainably. At the same time, coups have rocked the nearby Sahel, threatening to create a corrosive cycle of instability. Can West Africa quell the tide of emigration?

Maternal and Child Health

In the past thirty years, sixty countries have expanded access to abortion care as an underpinning of maternal health. The 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade made the United States the fourth country ever to decrease access to abortion—and the world took notice. Some countries have since reinforced protections for abortion care, while others have moved to further restrict it.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most popular man in India. On track to be elected for a third term, he has boosted the country’s global standing and propelled strong economic growth while consolidating power and galvanizing majoritarian support for his Hindu nationalist agenda—all while growing closer to the United States. How could Hindu nationalism reshape India?

Top Stories on CFR

United Kingdom

CFR experts discuss the results of presidential elections in France and the United Kingdom, as well as what to expect from the 2024 NATO Summit in Washington, DC.

Election 2024

Each Friday, I look at what the presidential contenders are saying about foreign policy. This Week: Republicans are gathering in Milwaukee next week optimistic about their chances in November.  


The surprising shift to the left in snap elections has broken the far-right populist fever in France, but now a crisis of governability looms in Paris that has further weakened President Emmanuel Macron’s grip on power.