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This June, Julia Gillard was appointed Australia's first female prime minister. No one model exists for the circumstances under which a woman rises to the highest halls of political power: the countries these 15 women lead hold female literacy rates from 41.6 percent (Liberia) to 100 percent (Finland), fertility rates of 1.36 births per woman (Germany) to 6.77 (again, Liberia), and the full gamut of consequences for acts of violence against women.
The United States currently ranks 74th worldwide in the percentage of women in national legislatures. The media has called 2010 "The Year of the Republican Woman", with more than 100 Republican women filing for candidacy in the US House and Senate (more than 150 female Democrats have filed as well). Although Hilary Clinton earned 18 million votes and came close to winning the Democratic presidential primary in 2008, who knows how long it will be until a woman occupies the Oval Office?