The 16 Women Who Rule The World

yingluck shinawatraYingluck Shinawatra, Thailand

No matter what side you’re on this election season, there’s probably something we can all agree on: it would be nice to see a woman reach America’s highest office. Ever since George Washington took office in 1789, the presidency has remained a boys club. We’re still hopeful, though, that a female US president is in our near future, thanks in big part to all the women world leaders who’ve led the way. These female heads of state and government, who’ve been elected in recent years in countries like Germany, Jamaica, Australia, Thailand, and Argentina, are paving the road for America. If those countries can do it, why can’t we? Learn more about the women ruling the world now.

Angela Merkel, Germany

Country: Germany

Position: Chancellor

Claim to Fame: A former chemist, Angela is the first female chancellor of Germany and was elected in 2005. Two years later she became only the second woman (after Margaret Thatcher) to become the president of the European Council and chair the G8. Last year Forbes ranked Angela as the world's most powerful woman and called her 'the de facto leader of the European Union.'

Julia Gillard, Australia

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina

Country: Argentina

Position: President

Claim to Fame: Taking office in 2007, former first lady Cristina is Argentina's first elected female president, second female president ever to serve, and first woman ever reelected. She's an advocate for human rights, poverty awareness, and health. Cristina's also a fashion icon in her country, although since her husband -- former president Néstor Kirchner -- died in 2010, Cristina has only worn black.

Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand

Country: Thailand

Position: Prime Minister

Claim to Fame: Yingluck became Thailand's first female prime minister when she was elected into office last year, and at 44 at the time became the youngest prime minister of Thailand in more than 60 years. She's also an accomplished businesswoman, and earned her master's degree from Kentucky State University.

Atifete Jahjaga, Kosovo

Country: Kosovo

Position: President

Claim to Fame: Atifete, who was elected last year, has a lot of firsts under her belt. She is the first female, first nonpartisan candidate, and at 37 is the youngest elected president of Kosovo. She's also the first female head of state in the modern Balkans.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark

Country: Denmark

Position: Prime Minister

Claim to Fame: Helle has been the leader of the social democrats since 2005 and prime minister since 2011, when she became the first woman in Denmark to hold that position

Joyce Banda, Malawi

Country: Malawi

Position: President

Claim to Fame: Before Joyce became Malawi's first female president in April, she was the country's first female vice president. She's very philanthropic and has started numerous grassroots projects for women.

Laura Chinchilla, Costa Rica

Country: Costa Rica

Position: President

Claim to Fame: As Costa Rica's first female president, Laura has been in office since 2010. She's also only the sixth woman to be elected president of a Latin American country.

Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, Switzerland

Country: Switzerland

Position: President of the Swiss Confederation

Claim to Fame: Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf is this year's president of the seven-member Swiss Federal Council, which serves as a collective head of state over Switzerland. Since joining in 2008, she's only the sixth woman to be elected to the Swiss Federal Council. Eveline's currently joined by fellow female members Simonetta Sommaruga and Doris Leuthard.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia

Country: Liberia

Position: President

Claim to Fame: Taking office in 2006, Ellen is the first elected female head of state in Africa. In 2011, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakel Karman of Yemen 'for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work.'

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil

Country: Brazil

Position: President

Claim to Fame: Last year Dilma became Brazil's first female president, and before that she was the first woman to become chief of staff of Brazil. Dilma has been jailed and tortured in her fight against the military dictatorship, but it hasn't stopped her quest to stop social inequality and injustice in her country.

Dalia Grybauskaitė, Lithuania

Country: Lithuania

Position: President

Claim to Fame: Dalia is Lithuania's first female head of state. Her nicknames include the 'Iron Lady' and 'Steel Magnolia,' and besides being fluent in Lithuanian, English, Russian, and Polish, she has a black belt in karate.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland

Country: Iceland

Position: Prime Minister

Claim to Fame: Jóhanna became Iceland's first female prime minister as well as the world's first openly lesbian head of government when she took office in 2009. In 2010, she banned strip clubs and other means of employers making money from nudity, saying she wanted the Nordic countries to lead the way in women's equality. Feminist Julie Bindel stated that Iceland had become the most feminist country in the world.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Trinidad and Tobago

Country: Trinidad and Tobago

Position: Prime Minister

Claim to Fame: Kamla was sworn into office in 2010 and is Trinidad and Tobago's first female prime minister.

Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica

Country: Jamaica

Position: Prime Minister

Claim to Fame: In 2006, Portia became the first woman to be elected prime minister of Jamaica and was reelected in December. She's devoted to getting civil rights for the homosexual community, which is a daunting task considering the country has a history of violence against gays and lesbians.

Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh

Country: Bangladesh

Position: Prime Minister

Claim to Fame: Since 1981, Sheikh has been the president of one of her country's major political parties, the Bangladesh Awami League. She held office from 1996 to 2001 before her party won again in 2008, giving her the post of prime minister.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.