What We Do:

About the Council of Women World Leaders

Empowering Women Around the World


About the Council of Women World Leaders

The Council of Women World Leaders is an independent, self-governing network of current and former women prime ministers and presidents established in 1996 by Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, President of Iceland (1980-1996) and first woman in the world to be democratically elected president, Mary Robinson, President of Ireland (1990-1997), and Laura Liswood, Secretary General.  The Council’s mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women. Through its networks, programs and partnerships, the Council promotes good governance and gender equality, and enhances the visibility of women who lead their countries.  Dalia Grybauskaite (President of Lithuania 2009-Present), serves as Chair of the Council. President Grybauskaite can be found both at the Lithuanian government's website and her official Twitter account. The Council is an alliance of the UN Foundation.

As part of its goal to convene women at the highest levels of leadership, the Council increased its activities in 1998 to include women cabinet ministers.  The Honorable Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, is the Chair of the Ministerial Initiative.  The Founding Chair is the Honorable Madeleine Albright. The Ministerial Initiative seeks to promote ministerial-level exchange on global issues and to increase their visibility both nationally and internationally.  To have the greatest impact, women ministers within the Ministerial Initiative are organized into different portfolios by ministry.  The Council has convened numerous high-level meetings of women ministers of the environment, finance and development, health, justice, culture, and women’s affairs.  These meetings have created a unique space for ministers to share best practices from developing and developed country experiences and to form a powerful and united force for policy change, with a gender perspective. 

A key dimension of the Council’s mission has been to build the capacity of emerging leaders.  The Council’s Graduate Leaders Program is a unique opportunity for graduate students to work directly with a leader of stature and influence, most of whom are women.  Over the past 10 years of its operation, the Fellowship Program has placed more than 165 students in the offices of Council Members, international organizations, foundations, major policy institutions, and the Council Secretariat in Washington, D.C., to observe firsthand the ways in which leadership is manifested at the highest levels.  The Council offers three Fellowship Programs: the Environmental Policy Graduate Fellowship Program, the Public Health Policy Graduate Fellowship Program, and the Gender and Public Policy Graduate Fellowship Program. 

Interested graduate-level students are encouraged to apply through the careers centers at their universities.

Through its programs and initiatives, the Council of Women World Leaders seeks to:

    •Mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women;
    •Promote good governance and gender equality, and enhance the experience of democracy globally by increasing the number, effectiveness, and visibility of women who lead their countries;
    •Create and sustain Ministerial Initiatives for cabinet ministers and promote the use of their collective power, together with women prime ministers and presidents, to shape global and national policies towards women and girls;
    •Improve the governance and effectiveness of women leaders through exchange and networking programs such as the graduate fellowships and alliance partnerships.
    •Foster greater gender awareness at major international institutions, partnering with major academic and policy institutions, and collaborating with grassroots organizations.