Family ties were originally an unspoken requirement for women to attain power. The last decade has seen a slight decline in this trend in Asia, Latin America, and Africa; however, family ties remain a relevant factor for both men and women reaching the highest offices in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe with a reported 78 percent of women presidents in 2013 having a connection. Family ties have been confirmed by scholars to aid women in becoming dominant heads of state in the past, disproportionally benefitting women compared to men. This warrants a global analysis of the impact of family ties on winning elections and the impact on policies while in office. Additionally, a further study into the role of first ladies and first daughters contributes to the analysis of the expectations placed upon women with family ties in positions as dominant heads of state. This paper will analyze the pressure of women heads of state with family ties to prioritize women’s issues as a continuation of their past roles as wives or daughter. Traditional women’s issues are rooted in the expectation that women entering politics will take a maternal approach to policy causing them to advocate for children, education, and healthcare. As family ties continue to decline as an unspoken requirement in certain countries and regions, this will present future opportunity for women heads of state to be unrestricted by pressures or expectations to prioritize or serve women’s issues, further equalizing the experience of women and men heads of state.


Familial connections to past presidents and prime ministers have aided women in attaining dominant positions as heads of state. A 2013 study by Farida Jalalzai, a scholar focusing on women politicians, concluded that 78 percent of dominant women presidents from around the globe had family ties and that women disproportionately benefit from familial connections compared to men (p. 109). Women executives are positively impacted by family ties because they create a pathway to office built upon nostalgia for the success and security of past trusted leaders. The negative impact of family ties is that women heads of state may be viewed in their past roles as first lady or first daughter which can then limit agency due to traditional gender expectations. The foundation of research confirms that family ties have aided women in attaining positions as heads of state in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe; however, the research does not examine the effects once in office or the changing dynamics in play. A decline in women heads of state having family ties over the last decade presents an opportunity to contrast the significance of familial connections globally while analyzing the impact of family ties on attaining a dominant executive office. After examining the rise to power and the policies instituted by women heads of state with and without family ties in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe and the portrayals of first ladies and daughters in a global context, this paper will conclude that women in head of state positions with family ties are subject to pressure from traditional gender expectations causing policy to lean towards women’s issues. 

Literature Review

Women have attained the highest executive offices of president and prime minister in many diverse parts of the world. The accessibility of the political system for women within a country changes drastically based upon the level of democracy, the wage of labor for men and women, gender expectations, and many other factors; however, regardless of geographic position, the concept of women as dominant heads of state or nations upsets the traditional structure of government which has been dominated by men. There are great discrepancies in the progress made by countries to improve representation of women in politics, but nearly every country has made steps whether through quotas or the reverberations of women’s suffrage movements. Many scholars have researched the factors that allowed women to attain the highest office in various countries, and one of the most relevant conclusions is that women with family connections to past prominent politicians have been more successful. 

Definition & Significance of Family Ties

One of the foremost scholars analyzing family ties in politics is Farida Jalalzai, a professor of Political Science. Throughout many different publications, Jalalzai refers to family ties, having concisely defined them as being a “relative of a former prime minister or president” (2013, p. 109). Jalalzai’s research includes a wide variety of analysis of family ties between Europe, Latin America, Africa, the United States, and Asia which has led her to the conclusion that family ties aid women in breaking glass ceilings yet also reinforce expectations of femininity which can potentially limit agency. Because of this, Jalalzai (2013) speculates in the book, Shattered, cracked, or firmly intact?: women and the executive glass ceiling worldwide, that today wives and daughters with family ties seem less “masculine” because their assent to power occurs in relation to their husbands or fathers which disassociates them from traditional masculine power gender stereotypes. Traditionally constructed ideas of power are rooted in masculine competitive traits instead of feminine collaborative traits. As defined in the book Women Political Leaders and the Media by Campus, women leaders are more likely to adopt empathetic, supportive, and collaborative approaches (p. 15).

As women’s political influence increases around the world, it becomes more apparent that family ties have been most necessary when a country is facing political instability. Jalalzai (2013) asserts that this occurs most frequently because party gatekeepers utilize ties to maintain power; this relationship between family ties and instability can “connect the stories of many women who successfully gained executive office” (p. 19, 113). In addition to instability, a major factor related to family ties is the weight of power associated with a position. Because of this, there have been circumstances when women attained an executive office but were not the head of state. Women are more likely to emerge in dual executive systems which feature both a president and prime minister as will later be explained in more depth in relation to Europe (Jalalzai, 2008, 2013). The changing power dynamics of executive systems play a role in determining the necessity of family ties. As stated in the introduction, Jalalzai’s 2013 study concluded that 78 percent of dominant women presidents had family ties, but that it is not a necessary qualification for weak presidents; 23 percent of dominant women prime ministers had family connections, but again the same is not required for weak prime ministers (p. 109). From country to country, the power of each executive position changes, but in most cases, familial connections have traditionally been a factor in women attaining dominant executive positions. 

Definition & Significance of Traditional Women’s Issues

Traditional women’s issues are rooted in the expectation that women entering politics will take a maternal approach to policy causing them to advocate for children, education, and healthcare above more “masculine” issues such as fiscal and administrative measures. Paxton and Hughes explain that when women politicians feel a “special responsibility to women,” legislation is drafted that attempts to “promote social, educational, or economic equity for women” (p. 13). In the past, clear examples have been the U.S. Equal Pay Act of 1963 which worked to equalize pay between men and women or Mozambique’s 2003 Family Law which allows women to work without the permission of their husbands (Paxton & Hughes, 2017). Additionally, efforts to protect women from domestic violence, improve systems of childcare, and support the interests of feminists on topics like abortion and contraceptives are also central aspects of women’s issues today. Women’s issues take various forms in different regions based upon cultural norms, gender expectations, the dominant religion, and other dynamic factors, but regardless, advocates of women’s issues around the world demonstrate a commitment to children, education, and healthcare.  

Family Ties in a Global Context

The development of women as dominant heads of state and the impact of family ties differs greatly by region. Jalalzai and Rincker (2017) “surprisingly”explained that“family ties to power appear more relevant in North America and Europe, though still pertinent in Asia, Africa, and Latin America” in the paper entitled, “Blood is Thicker than Water: Family Ties to Political Power” (p. 11). Because family ties have been present in all parts of the world in the past, the recent decline in Asia, Africa, and Latin America deserves closer analysis. Because the United States has not had a woman as the head of state, the United States will not be included in this section because there is no successful example to be analyzed. In the following three subsections, the changing dynamics allowing for the decline of family ties in Asia, Africa, and Latin America will be explored separately, and the presence of family ties in Europe will be explained in the fourth subsection.

Women Heads of State and Family Ties in Asia

Asian countries have traditionally seen women leaders rise to power through paternal family connections that reflect the traditional male-dominant culture. Jalalzai and Rincker (2017) have explored the significance of political tradition passing through families in Asia and pointed out that there have been few circumstances “where males follow their female relatives to executive posts” because most frequently, “the original tie to power emanated from a male relative” (p. 18). Their argument reaffirms that it is beneficial for Asian women politicians to have family ties to past male heads of state. The circumstances are complicated by Yang (2016) who presents in an earlier article an example of the decline in family ties in Asia. In the article “Ready for a Female President in Taiwan,” Yang states that East Asian political cultures still expect women to “submit to the political clout of their traditionally male-dominant family to seize paramount power” but that Tsai Ing-wen, with no family ties, upset this notion in 2012 in Taiwan (p. 464) During her campaign, Ing-wen connected herself to Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel, both of whom did not have family ties as defined by Jalalzai. Ing-wen was not constricted by any expectations to follow in family footsteps or prioritize the demands of women’s groups. Ing-wen advocated for same sex marriage, lessened unemployment, improved government transparency, and promoted better fiscal management. None of her actions have been interpreted as specifically gendered because she entered power without family ties. 

Lee (2017) joins the conversation by presenting one example of a woman executive with strong familial ties in Asia. Park Geun-Hye was the first woman President of South Korea; she leveraged gender stereotypes and kinship ties to achieve her position. Park’s father, Park Jung-Hee had a sixteen-year presidency filled with economic growth and many human rights abuses, and during the 2012 election, Park’s opponent Moon Jae-In, a human rights lawyer, brought many of these abuses to light. Regardless, Park Geun-Hye won. She utilized her relationship to her father, presenting herself as qualified due to past opportunities for connections and socialization with elite politicians. Throughout her presidency, she has been portrayed as a problem solver fulfilling a stereotype of Asian women and providing nostalgia for her father’s great economic governance (p. 387). Her connection to her father allowed her to be seen as a selfless and dedicated daughter, who has prioritized South Korea over having children or a spouse. Additionally, because Park’s mother died during her father’s presidency, Park also took upon the role of first lady. Her familial connection has also been used against her, her opponents “use her kinship tie to argue that she has not accomplished anything by herself” therefore diminishing all barriers she has overcome as a woman (p. 386). Due to her position as first daughter and “first lady” prior to her presidency, Park has also received attention for her outward appearance in the press, often that her feminine aspects help to dispel a perception that she is too masculine. Additionally, she has not been sexualized regardless of attention to her clothing, hair, and handbags which may be due to her status as a daughter first (p. 386). The election of Park confirms the strength of the patriarchal structure in South Korea. Although she did not take office at a time of instability, Park still provided comfort through the nostalgia of her father’s presidency and economic success. She is an important figure to demonstrate traditional gender expectations being projected on daughters or wives. Early in her presidency, she was viewed as a selfless and dedicated daughter. Even amid allegations of corruption, the memory of her father and her as his daughter, kept voters of the age 60 and over satisfied. Park is a very important figure when examining how the gender expectations of daughters and wives are applied to dominant women heads of state with substantial family ties to politics.

The theme of women with family ties taking office following instability has been confirmed in Asia. The idea presented by Jalalzai and Rincker (2017) was confirmed by Yang (2017) who explained that in Asia during “political crises such as those that follow the assassination or ousting of male leaders, political elite perceive women as malleable and therefore good benchwarmers and believe the electorate will see them as untainted by lust for power” (Yang, p. 379). Lee suggests that this is also true in various other Asian countries, for example, Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, and Megawati Sykarnoputri of Indonesia. Lee explains that in Asia more so than anywhere else in the world, women run for the highest executive office following the death of a father or husband and are successful (p. 380). Despite a decline in family ties affecting women attaining dominant executive offices, cases like Park of South Korea confirm a strong influence of male-dominated politics in Asia and a continued relevance of family ties.

Women Heads of State and Family Ties in Latin America

Latin America has recently seen a strong decline in women with political ties attaining the most powerful executive positions. Jalalzai (2013) claims that Laura Chinchilla’s election as President of Costa Rica in 2010 demonstrates the “erosion of family ties in Latin America” (p. 99). Jalalzai (2016) provides a foundation for her argument of the decline of family ties in the book, Women Presidents of Latin America: Beyond Family Ties?. “Women’s connection to politics in Latin America traditionally utilized family ties (the wives or daughters of important leaders, for example) or exploited conceptions of women’s roles within the family, or a combination of the two” (p. 9). Jalalzai establishes that in the past family ties were a “necessary condition” for women to gain political power in Latin America, “usually in contexts of political instability” reaffirming the same circumstances common in Asia (p. 9). Similarly, women in Latin America taking power following the death of a relative were expected to have political identities “centrally tied to the male family members they replaced” once again constricting women to traditional female gender expectations(p. 8). Isabel Perón of Argentina is a primary example of a Latin American woman who followed a traditional family path to power. She pledged to uphold her husband’s economic and social policy upon election.

Jalalzai’s 2016 book is focused on the contemporary presidentasthat have been elected without family ties (p. 9). The analysis compares Michelle Bachelet, Christina Fernández de Kirchner, Laura Chinchilla, and Dilma Rousseff. At the time that Jalalzai was writing, the only “dominant women presidents without family ties” were Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, and Roza Otunbayeva of Kyrgyzstan. Jalalzai believes that Bachelet of Chile has limited family ties because her father was politically influential but not a head of state; however, Jalalzai identified Michelle Bachelet as someone who challenges the norm (p. 17, 248). Bachelet is known for economic stability measures, military defense, and social policies pertaining to unemployment, immigration, and human rights projects. Dilma Rousseff of Brazil has also deviated from the norm as a woman without family ties. Rousseff’s main policies have affected the energy sector and limited LGBT rights. Neither woman has specifically aligned their policies with traditional women’s issues.

Jalalzai (2016) identified a strong trend that women in Latin America are presently entering politics without familial ties, and it is not a point of contention. This demonstrates a possible cultural shift allowing for more women to enter power without ties (p. 218). Chinchilla’s policies are focused on anti-crime, combating climate change, education, and LGBT rights, a wide array which do not specifically serve women’s issues. Chinchilla supports the prohibition of abortion a large women’s issue, demonstrating her policies as a leader without family ties are not subject to gender expectations. 

In the case of Christina Fernández de Kirchner, Jalalzai confirms that political ties in addition to political experience influence election results. Fernández must also be viewed as “distinguished” from other female executives because she entered office while her husband was still alive (p. 50). She was moderately successful in human rights policy, but her husband suddenly died before her second term swelling support for Fernández in her position as a wife. She continued receiving high press as a first lady turned president and has a legacy of battling Clarín a major newspaper for objectivity. Her legacy is directly connected to her position as first lady and her representation as a sex object in the media.Similarly to Asia, it is important to acknowledge that family ties have had a dominant impact on women attaining positions in Latin America, but even more so than in South Korea, the trend is in decline. 

Women Heads of State and Family Ties in Africa

The circumstances of women attaining executive offices of president or prime minister in Africa are completely different than in Asia or Latin America because there had been no precedents of women in the highest office prior to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf becoming Africa’s first female president in 2005. Cooper (2017) places the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the timeline of the U.S. 2016 election when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton because a country that boasts of democracy was unable to elect a woman to the executive position before any country in Africa. Sirleaf rose to the highest office of Liberia, a highly abusive country for women, before countries more advanced in democracy, economics, and nearly all other aspects were able. Cooper explains that Liberia prior to the election had gone over the edge of a cliff: “Mothers saw their children kidnapped, drugged and forced to take up arms in the country’s never-ending civil war. More than 70 percent of women were raped during the war years.” Sirleaf did not have a family tie to politics, but was still able to emerge as a mother like figure to nurse the broken country back to health. 

Joyce Banda similarly came to power in 2012 taking on a maternal role and focusing on the rights of children and health concerns. Moss and Johnson-Freese (2012) explain the circumstances of Joyce Banda becoming the first female President of Malawi, including the corruption that “remains a fundamental part of politics throughout Africa” (p. 269). Banda rose as an independent figure who did not conform to the traditional expectations of a woman in Malawi. In her early thirties, she protected her three children by divorcing her abusive husband and pursued university degrees in Non-Governmental Organization Management and Early Childhood Development, where women were traditionally only allowed in secretarial courses. Later, Banda began her own clothing enterprise, founded a women’s business organization, and became a leader in saving orphans from hunger. Prior to running for president, Banda won many international awards for humanitarian work and was voted the Woman of the Year in Malawi twice (p. 271). Banda, in traditional African dress, rose to be a member of parliament, and then vice president. During and after the election, she had her competence challenged, was expelled by president Mutharika for pursing her humanitarian agenda, and was personally targeted by the Malawian media. Due to the terrible treatment of Banda, Malawian women politicians and citizens, who had only recently become voiced in politics, were fearful to speak publically, especially after multiple instances of violence against women involved in politics. In 2012, the president Mutharika, who had so severely repressed women in politics died, and Banda became president. Unfortunately, the 2014 election, reinstated the Mutharika family into power in Malawi, therefore suppressing women in politics once again.

Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim rose to power in Africa without family ties or positioned as a maternal figure. However, Gurib-Fakim carries that same sentiment that she was not power hungry when entering politics, but instead, she just fell into the political realm like women with family ties. In an interview conducted by the World Policy Journal (2016), Gurib-Fakim, the first female president of Mauritius says that “the world of politics chose me—I didn’t chose to become a politician…So here I am. I’m an accidental president” (p. 36). Gurib-Fakim attributes the initial smashing of the glass ceiling to Hillary Clinton, and that she followed Clinton’s lead in Mauritius, where other than a required thirty percent representation of women in politics, women do not tend to pursue the career. Gurib-Fakim speculates that the reason that women are still unable to reach the highest levels of office in African countries is that they are still blamed for everything that goes wrong in the household. She says that with increasing education for both men and women, the sharing of household responsibility will become the standard. Gurib-Fakimfocuses on the climate concerns of her island and addresses women’s issues by stressing their contributions to agriculture and education. Through her platform that “science is the basis of social progress,” she is dispelling the expectation that women heads of state in Africa take the role of mothers. Gurib-Fakim advocates strongly for education without specifically being associated with women’s issues. This demonstrates that her presidency, attained without family ties, and her policy are not subject to the pressure caused by the gender expectations of society.

Women Heads of State and Family Ties in Europe

Europe has seen many women rise to executive positions with and without family ties, and overall, they have achieved high representations of women in politics. Paxton and Hughes (2017) provide an extensive list in the book Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective of women national leaders declaring whether each woman had a connection to a previous executive leader. All the women from Europe included in the list held the position of prime minister. Paxton and Hughes explain that a prime minster can be a very powerful position, but confirm Jalalzai’s explanation that family ties are less necessary for women when the executive position does not wield full power. Paxton and Hughes explain that “if the dominant party is the same as the president’s party, then the prime minister is generally viewed as subservient to the president” even being viewed in some cases as a puppet (p. 87). Prime Minister Beata of Poland is of the same party, Law and Justice, as the majority, this lessened the need for her to have family ties during the election. The result is that she now faces less restriction based on traditional gender expectations because the President is the dominant actor. Therefore, her main policies focus on restricting refugees, giving Poland a greater reputation for international strength and confirming that her role as prime minister, attained without family ties, is not subject to pressures to prioritize women’s issues. 

The information included by Paxton and Hughes only correlates family ties with positions that are dominant. Additionally, Angela Merkel of Germany is not included on the 2014 list. Because of this, it fails to comprehensively analyze the necessity of European family ties in the present. Jalalzai (2011) analyzes Angela Merkel’s role as a woman politician that has taken on more masculine powers and compares her to Margaret Thatcher, both of whom are examples of women without strong family ties that demonstrated more stereotypically masculine qualities. Merkel is an important example when analyzing how the expectations of women without family ties allow for a more traditionally masculine approach to leadership, directly associated with power and competition. Her policies reflect this by being focused on economic foreign policy regarding trade instead of traditional women’s issues. “Merkel leads the strongest European economy and the fourth largest economy in the world, which affords her a prominent leadership position in handling the economic concerns of the EU” (Jalalzai, 2011). Merkel is the strongest current European example of a woman in a head of state position without family ties who is not subjected to pressure to support women’s issues. 

First Ladies and First Daughters

The role of the political wife and daughter changes significantly based upon the culture and gender expectations of a country. Overall, the concept of publically recognizing and commenting on political families is the result of the U.S. media. Haveli (2003) asserts the main body of research on political wives has been conducted towards the United States with a focus on rhetoric, representation in the media, and evolution of the role of the spouse. Research acknowledges that “highly visible political couples are seen to embody gender role paradigms: at times adhering to them, at others flaunting or violating them” (p. 166). In recent U.S. politics, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Melania Trump have become recent icons for a full range of topics regarding fashion and politics, and even Ivanka Trump has taken on both roles of first lady and first daughter. It is important to acknowledge the large impact that these women have had in the western world and to connect many of their reverberations while analyzing the political spouses and daughters of all other countries.

Only minimal attention had been paid to political wives in other countries prior to the last twenty years. Haveli (2003) identifies that Leah Rabin, wife of Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, was brought to attention for a scandal involving a foreign bank account, that was illegal at the time. Israeli journalists only then began to pay attention to political spouses in 1996 regarding the Rabin family which then caused the Labor party loss of 1977, the first in history (p. 165). Haveli attributes the 1996 expansion of analyzing political spouses in Israel coinciding with Benjamin Netanyahu styling his campaign similar to that of a U.S. president, with “catchy sound-bytes,” “media consultants,” and “increased visibility of the candidate’s wife and family” (p. 172). Sarah Netanyahu responded with an outward appearance similar to Hillary Clinton’s. After adopting the hairstyle and two-piece designer suits, the media turned her into a caricature. Haveli explains that “Netanyahu’s alleged fixation with appearances and her displays of conspicuous consumption are interpreted as a violation of both the Zionist collective ethos, which demands that such bourgeois feminine concerns be put aside and the Jewish one that argues that ‘favor is deceitful and beauty is vain’” (p. 176). Eventually, the media extended its criticism to her abilities as a parent and wife as is regularly done in western media. The reaction of many political wives around the world has been to hold fast to traditional expectations of gender and the dominant religion to satisfy the media’s desire to find the “first lady fantasy,” which has since appeared in Israel, Peru, Jordan, Greece, and India (p. 186).  Additionally, it is important to restate the position of Park of South Korea. Her positions as first daughter, “first lady,” and president have developed very interesting circumstances for the development of her portrayal in the media often shielding her from criticisms associated with wives and projecting the innocence of a daughter to her early in her career.

Political wives on the African Continent have received much less media coverage and have mostly taken a maternal approach, similar to the women who have reached executive political positions on the continent. Their power has often been built through their connection to their husbands but then solidified when the country was in a period of instability, confirming the hypothesis of Jalalzai. These wives have mostly focused on issues stereotypically assigned to women such as children, healthcare, and education. Van Wyck utilized First Ladies in “The First Ladies of South Africa: Trophies or Trailblazers?” to demonstrate political influence and the impact of women leaders within their national context while also evaluating their ambitions. Van Wyck (2017) justified the analysis by asserting that First Ladies are holders of political influence and “derive their position due to their husband’s authority” (p. 158). The women Winnie Mandela, Kovambo Theopoldine Katjimune, and Sally Mugabe of South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe respectively are all examples of wives that became the “Mother of the Nation” after their husbands led liberation efforts. Mandela was a member of parliament and Mugabe the Secretary for Women’s Affairs of the ruling party ZANU-PF. Within the case of Miria Obote of Uganda, she transformed from first lady to a candidate for the political party of her deceased husband, the same was true of Christine Kaseba of Zambia who ran as a presidential candidate. Van Wyck (2017) identified that the “first lady is often the symbolic representation of women’s role in a particular society” which extends to African first ladies to take a maternal interest in social issues, the most critical being teaching and helping the helpless, “orphans of HIV/AIDS and war, the disabled and the poor” (p. 160). Van Wyck produces a chart to explain that there are six categories of political wives: spousal and motherly, ceremonial, political, policy, diplomatic, and socially conscious; African nations today expect first ladies to be nurturing, yet allow for women to strengthen the presidency by taking upon more than one role. Contrary to the positive effects of some African political wives, Moss and Johnson-Freese (2013) explain a situation where “the president’s wife, Callista wa Mutharika, was installed in late 2010 as a cabinet minister without portfolio and given a generous salary to oversee the future administration” (p. 276). In this specific circumstance, not only was the spouse involved in the corruption, but was also utilized to undermine the power of woman president Banda of Malawi. 

There is much diversity from country to country, and between continents of the expectations of the political wife. Overall, first ladies of the present, take upon various roles but normally focus in areas that have maternal or nurturing contexts, although not in all circumstances. Additionally, the way that political wives are portrayed in the media varies largely by country, but the tendency has been to criticize them on a wide array of topics from fashion to politics. 


There is significant research to demonstrate that family ties were originally an unspoken requirement for women to attain power. The last decade has seen a slight decline in this trend; however, family ties remain a relevant factor for both men and women reaching the highest office in the Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and the United States. Although there is a large quantity of research regarding family ties and success, there has been little research about how traditional gender expectations in combination with family ties play a significant role. By analyzing the rise to president or prime minister of the wife or daughter of a past president or prime minister, it is possible to draw conclusions based upon the influence of traditional female gender expectations in combination with family ties. 

This close analysis of family ties demonstrates a pathway for women to attain positions as dominant heads of state. There are additional pressures placed upon executive women to fulfill traditional gender roles as wives or daughters in relation to the past male executives. By taking a global view of women heads of state, the strength of family ties, and the increased acquisition of positions during times of instability, the connection between family ties and past election success is evident. Although there is an identified decline in the connection between family ties and women attaining the high offices in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the connection remains relevant in those three regions and in Europe and the United States. Building upon the comprehensive world analysis of family ties, there are clear pressures placed upon women heads of state with family ties to apply policies fulfilling traditional female issues such as education, healthcare, and children’s causes. 

After analyzing the rise to power and resulting policies of an array of 21stcentury women heads of state there is a trend that executives with family ties are more likely to be associated with supporting women’s issues. The main examples of women with family ties included were Park Geun-Hye and Christina Fernández de Kirchner. Both women were viewed as a continuation of their father or husband and remained giants in the media during their terms, eventually both being portrayed as caricatures. The main examples of women without family ties included were Tsai Ing-Wen, Laura Chinchilla, Michelle Bachelet, Dilma Rousseff, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Joyce Banda, Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, and Angela Merkel. These women have all been recognized for general economic and societal growth without direct expectation to prioritize women’s issues.  Between Europe, Asia, and Latin America the impact remains similar; however, in Africa, none of the three women analyzed had family ties and two were viewed as maternal figures. This is the result of instability in the countries of Liberia and Malawi. Although the policies and perceptions different between regions, there is a clear difference between those with and without family ties.

The portrayal of first ladies and daughters also offers insight into the expectations placed upon the women family members to dominant men heads of state. The continuation in the role of wife or daughter for women heads of state has impacts on the media perception. This was demonstrated with Fernández and Park, as first lady and first daughter. The greater result is that the women are unable to escape the traditional gender expectations associated with their role of daughter or wife, directly impacting policy. After combining the expectations placed upon first ladies and first daughter with the results demonstrating that women heads of state with family ties act in continuation of this role, the result is that women with family ties are pressured to prioritize women’s issues and “promote social, educational, or economic equity for women” (Paxton, p. 13)


This paper has defined family ties and traditional women’s issues, examined global variation in family ties and the portrayal of first wives and daughters, analyzed the impact of family ties on policy and presented the conclusion that women heads of state with family ties prioritize policies promoting traditional women’s issues such as education, healthcare, and children’s causes. As family ties continue to decline as an unspoken requirement in certain countries and regions, this will present future opportunity for women heads of state to be unrestricted by pressures or expectations to prioritize or serve women’s issues, further equalizing the experience of women and men heads of state.

The findings of Jalalzai regarding family ties and a closer analysis of the circumstances surrounding the election of female executives begins to explain the circumstances that most regularly bring women to positions as powerful presidents, but only begins to discuss the impacts. By taking a global view of women in the position of president or prime minister, the strength of family ties and the increased acquisition of positions during times of instability for women are evident. Although Jalalzai and Rincker have identified a decline in the connection between family ties and women attaining high offices in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the connection remains relevant in those three regions and in Europe and the United States and require future analysis to determine the effects of traditional gender expectations. 


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