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Series examines women as leaders

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WASHINGTON – As speculation about a second Hillary Clinton presidential campaign intensifies in the United States, a growing number of countries are electing women to the pinnacle of power.

The trend of female political leadership is a subject that the Albuquerque International Association will explore in depth in a series of lectures titled “Global Leadership: Women on the World Stage,” beginning Jan. 26. The lectures are sponsored by the New Mexico Humanities Council, Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico.

“We decided to look at global leadership through the prism of women because women moving into positions of power around the world may be one of the defining trends of the 21st century,” said Marina Oborotova, president of the association. “We all – both women and men – need to understand its dynamics and impact on us, our cities, states and the country.”

The first lecture, by David Foster, a professor of Spanish and women and gender studies at Arizona State University, will focus on the presidencies of three women in Latin America: Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. In a Journal interview, Foster said he will explore each leader’s path to power, their agendas and their results.

“All three countries had long military dictatorships dominated by male figures, regimes in which women had no voice and endured considerable persecution,” Foster said. “So it’s not surprising that in a certain sense now is the hour of the woman in these societies.”

Foster said that as one might expect, each of these women has a strong personality and an inherent ability to withstand the rough-and-tumble world of male-dominated politics. They haven’t changed their countries’ political dynamics as much as conquered them, he said.

“Power is power, and I think anyone who believes a woman executive officer is necessarily going to be able to set aside the ingrained sexist nature of the (Latin American) power dynamic is being a bit too romantic,” Foster said. “We’re not going to change 5,000 years of patriarchal power by electing one woman president. But women can bring a certain change in perspective, just as President Obama being African-American has brought a change in perspective after 200 years of white rule in the United States.”

Foster also pointed out that each of the female presidents has pursued agenda items that were less important to their male predecessors. In Brazil and Chile, Rousseff and Bachelet have made education a priority, while Argentina’s Fernandez de Kirchner has successfully pressed for the national legalization of same-sex marriage in her country.

“They have pursued a policies that have been very beneficial and policies that their male predecessors have not been able to pursue,” Foster said.

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