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.

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  • 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

Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Thirty years ago, Rwanda’s government began a campaign to eradicate the country’s largest minority group. In just one hundred days in 1994, roving militias killed around eight hundred thousand people. Would-be killers were incited to violence by the radio, which encouraged extremists to take to the streets with machetes. The United Nations stood by amid the bloodshed, and many foreign governments, including the United States, declined to intervene before it was too late. What got in the way of humanitarian intervention? And as violent conflict now rages at a clip unseen since then, can the international community learn from the mistakes of its past?


Many Americans are losing faith in the benefits of internationalism. But whether it’s wars in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine, worsening extreme weather as a result of climate change, or the trade-offs of globalization, events abroad are increasingly having a local impact. At the same time, more state and local officials in the United States are becoming involved in global affairs, conducting their own form of diplomacy on international issues and driving investment home. What role should the United States play in the world economy? And how do states and cities fit in?


Unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are real. And the truth about them is often hidden from the public, for reasons related to national security. That secrecy has fed conspiracy theories about the possibility of alien life on Earth, creating a stigma around the legitimate scientific search for life on other planets. Why are UFOs considered a defense concern? And does a defense framing of UFOs inhibit scientific research?

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