10 female leaders who’ve made a big difference in the last year

Image by Stacy Nguyen/NWAW

By Yukari Sumino
Northwest Asian Weekly

For International Women’s Day, we wanted to compile a list of amazing women around the globe who have made a significant impact in their countries and the world. This list is, by no means, comprehensive, and the women are not ranked. Rather, we want to give a sample of powerful females that you may not have heard very much about, but who have been doing great work.

Hillary Clinton (United States)

Who is she?

U.S. Secretary of State

What makes her great?

Clinton has been especially busy in 2010. She has visited South Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many other countries to promote American foreign policy. In Gallup’s 2010 most admired man and woman poll, Clinton was named most admired woman by Americans for the ninth consecutive year.

Tarja Halonen (Finland)

Who is she?

President of Finland

What makes her great?

She is the first female president of Finland. She is trying to jump-start a sluggish economy that contracted 8 percent in 2009 on export shortfalls and weak domestic demand. She took a stand to back Russia’s bid to scrap the visa regime with the E.U., saying, “We are doing all we can and will continue to do so for the introduction of a visa-free regime.” She was recently named co-chair of a new U.N. panel on global sustainability and was a former head of Finland’s main lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organization.

Chanda Kocchar (India)

Who is she?

Chief executive of ICICI Bank

What makes her great?

She’s the first woman to run a large Indian bank. ICICI is India’s largest private bank and the country’s fourth largest. She’s expanded her role as the chief with her recent acquisition of Bank of Rajasthan, a private sector bank with 463 branches and 4,000 employees. ICICI launched its first retail branch in Singapore.

Angela Merkel (Germany)

Who is she?

Chancellor of Germany. In 2007, she was also the president of the

European Council and chaired the G8.

What makes her great?

There are many Germans who believe that immigration has harmed the country. In 2010, Merkel said that multiculturalism has “utterly failed” in Germany. However, she wants to rectify this. “We should not be a country either which gives the impression to the outside world that those who don’t speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here. That would do great damage to our country.”

Michelle Obama (United States)

Who is she?

First Lady of the United States. Former lawyer at Sidley Austin.

What makes her great?

A forceful advocate of school nutrition standards and military families’ affairs, she’s more involved in policy than former First Lady Laura Bush was. In response to her Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity, companies like Coca-Cola, Kellogg,  and General Mills have pledged to reduce the calorie content of their foods by 2012. The first lady remains popular. Fifty-four percent of Americans view her favorably.

Roza Otunbayeva (Kyrgyzstan)

Who is she?

President of Kyrgyzstan

What makes her great?

She was sworn in July 2, 2010, after acting as interim leader following a revolution that ousted former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. She has served as a professor of philosophy, foreign minister, and head of the parliamentary caucus. She was praised by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and given the 2011 International Women of Courage Award.

Jean Quan (United States)

Who is she?

Mayor of Oakland, Calif.

What makes her great?

She is the first Asian American woman to be the mayor of a major U.S. city.

Oakland’s 2010 election was held under the city’s new instant-runoff voting, or ranked choice voting ballot system, which allows voters to indicate their first-, second-, and third-choice candidates. Quan defeated her opponent, 51 percent to 49 percent. She is currently board chair of the Chabot Space & Science Center and serves on the Board of the California League of Cities.
Oakland has a population of about 447,000.

Suad Al-Mudhaffar (Oman)

Who is she?

Principal of Azzan Bin Qais Private School

What makes her great?

She was born Morita Mihoko in Tokyo, Japan. In 1979, she made her first visit to Oman on the Arabian Peninsula as a member of a cultural mission. She moved to Oman permanently in 1983. She started Azzan Bin Qais Private School in 1990 with five kindergarten children. The school now provides education from kindergarten through the 12th grade. It is ranked among the top three private schools in Oman.

Sun Yafang (China)

Who is she?

Chair of Huawei Technologies

What makes her great?

She is a top executive at the telecom company, serving as board chair for 12 years and considered one of the top candidates to succeed founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei. Sun, however, is not a tech expert. Her focus is in R&D, marketing, and HR. With a reported net profit for 2009 of $2.68 billion, an increase of 19 percent over the previous year, and reported revenue of $21.5 billion, Huawei dominates the industry, with approximately 14 percent of the global market share.

Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar/Burma)

Who is she?

Burmese opposition politician and former general secretary of the National League for Democracy (in Burma)

What makes her great?

Influenced by both Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and Buddhist concepts, she entered politics to work for democratization. After being released from house arrest on Nov. 13, 2010, she rallied supporters and has since spoken out against the government’s budget and in support of Western sanctions. ♦

Yukari Sumino can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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