Slowly but surely, women are finally beginning to break down the outdated and unacceptable gender boundaries that have plagued the political arena for centuries. Across the world, moreover, more and more brilliant women are coming to the forefront as political leaders and decision makers. And while it shouldn’t matter how they look while they’re doing it, it’s certainly impressive that so many of these female politicians have both beauty and brains.
19. Eva Kaili
Greek politician Eva Kaili began her career as a journalist for the TV network Mega Channel before being elected to the Hellenic Parliament at just 30 years of age. While there, Kaili worked with several different committees and organizations, including the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Then in 2014 she joined the European Parliament, where she’s worked ever since.
18. Mara Cafanga
Mara Cafanga is living proof that you should always keep chasing your dreams. Despite having a law degree from the University of Salerno, she spent the early days of her career working as a model and even competed to become Miss Italy in 1997. But in 2004 she gave all that up to go into politics, and in 2008 she became Italy’s Minister for Equal Opportunity.
17. Michela Vittoria Brambilla
From one Italian to another, Michela Brambilla got her first big break in politics in 2006 when she established the Circles of Freedom organization, which encourages citizens to get involved in local politics. She’s also worked very closely with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and has in the past been tipped as the future leader of his party, Forza Italia.
16. Sethrida Geagea
Lebanese politician Sethrida Geagea began engaging in activism while studying political science at the Lebanese American University. She graduated in 1994, after which she campaigned very actively against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. And when the Syrian forces finally pulled out in 2005, she became a very active campaigner for the Lebanese Forces. Geagea now serves as an MP for the district of Bsharri.
15. Ruby Dhalla
Ruby Dhalla was the first women of Indian descent – and one of the first Sikh women ever – to take office in the Canadian House of Commons. A keen campaigner from the tender age of 14, she got her spot in the Commons in 2004. And Dhalla has had a fascinating career since, from being courted by the opposing party in 2006 to her appointment as Liberal Critic for Youth and Multiculturalism in 2009. However, the politician stepped down from that latter post that same year in the wake of a controversy involving her mother’s caregivers.
14. Orla Levy
Orla Levy first found her way into politics as a member of Israel’s foremost right-wing party, Yisrael Beiteinu. But when the party merged with several others to form the current coalition in 2015, Levy left, citing the lack of commitment to social issues as the reason. Rather than ducking out of politics altogether, though, Levy stayed on as an independent member of the Knesset. Talk about gutsy.
13. Joanna Mucha
Polish politician Joanna Mucha has a very impressive resume. From 2011 to 2013 she served as the Polish Minister for Sport and Tourism, and she has twice served as a member of Sejm, the Polish lower parliament, too. In addition, Mucha also has a PhD in economics – oh, and she’s a member of the Public Finance Committee as well. Phew.
12. Luciana León
Luciana León likely had a lot to prove when she first got involved in Peruvian politics, given that her father (who served in the same party) had spent time in jail for accepting bribes from oil companies. It doesn’t seem to have slowed her down any though, as incredibly she’s been serving as a member of Apra since she was 14. León has taken on numerous different positions within the party; currently, she’s serving a second term as congresswoman.
11. Yulia Tymoshenko
Yulia Tymoshenko is on track to go down as one of the most powerful women in political history, but not without some controversy. Not only was Tymoshenko an active figure in the Orange Revolution, but in 2005 she also became the first female Prime Minister of Ukraine. In 2011, however, the politician received a seven-year prison sentence for embezzlement and spent almost three years in prison until 2014. Even so, Tymoshenko remained politically active, and she’s still working hard to fight for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.
10. Vera Lischka
What do you do when your career as a world-class breaststroke swimmer dries up? Well, if you’re Austrian former Olympian Vera Lischka, you get involved in national politics. Lischka joined the Social Democratic Party of Austria and has been representing the state of Upper Austria since 2003.
9. Rachida Dati
Since kicking off her career in the early ’90s, Rachida Dati has become one of the most experienced and influential political figures in France. She was an advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy and following his 2007 victory she became Minister for Justice, or to use her infinitely more awesome sounding proper title, Keeper of the Seals. She was also appointed to the European Parliament in 2009.
8. Rathika Sitsabaiesan
Another pioneering Canadian politician, Rathika Sitsabaiesan represented the Scarborough-Rouge River district from 2011 to 2015, before switching to a different party in 2016 and losing her seat. Sitsabaiesan was the first woman and person of color to hold the position. Plus, she has been actively involved in the politics of her home nation of Sri Lanka, especially during the civil war.
7. Hina Rabbani Khar
Hina Rabbani Khar holds two distinct records in Pakistani politics: the youngest ever foreign minister of Pakistan and the first female foreign minister of Pakistan. She took office in 2011 at the age of 33 and held it until 2013. Since then she’s been a prominent public speaker, and she continues to champion better relations between India and Pakistan.
6. Alena Arshinova
If you want to talk about people succeeding in politics at a young age, then Alena Arshinova is a shining example. A dual citizen of Russia and Transnistria, she moved to Moscow in 2007 to study for a post-graduate degree in sociology. Within three years she was co-chair of the Young Guard of United Russia, and she ran for legislative office just a year after that.
5. Virginia Raggi
Rome has a long and bloody history of domineering, brutal male leaders, and so it was always going to be a big deal when a woman was chosen to run the city for the first time. Virginia Raggi took over mayorship of Rome in 2016, and since then she’s been enacting some pretty controversial policies. For instance, she has opposed Rome hosting the 2024 Olympics, citing the city’s economic vulnerability.
4. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert
When you start your political career with a position in the European Parliament, chances are you’ve got a bright future ahead of you. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert was voted into the European Parliament in 2004, before joining the Dutch House of Representatives in 2010. And now she’s the Dutch Minister of Defence, a position she’s held comfortably for the past four years.
3. Caroline Flint
Caroline Flint has been the MP for Don Valley in the U.K. for an immensely impressive 20 years. And as a prominent member of the Labour party, she’s served as a minister for everything from housing and planning to climate change. In fact, Flint has one of the most long-standing, impressive resumes of any Labour member. She ran for deputy leader in 2015, but after losing out to Tom Watson, she joined the backbenches.
2. Kyrsten Sinema
Kyrsten Sinema has represented her home state of Arizona in just about every possible way. She first ran for office as a member of the Green Party in 2002, before joining the Arizona House of Representatives in 2005 as a Democrat. And from there, she joined the Arizona Senate, and finally the U.S. House of Representatives, where she still holds her seat. Plus, she’s been a vital campaigner for both immigrant rights and marriage equality.
1. Renh? Murata
Renh? Murata currently leads the Democratic Party of Japan. She kicked off her career as a journalist and TV personality before being elected to the House of Councillors in Tokyo in 2004. She won the leadership in 2016, becoming the first female leader of the party. And she’s also the most prominent mixed-heritage political figure in Japanese history too, with dual Japanese and Taiwanese citizenship. Murata has frequently campaigned for better relations between Japan and the long-suffering Chinese province.