President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia)President Sirleaf assumed office in 2006, becoming the 24th leader of Liberia. The 73-year-old ran for office again when her term was over, and succeeded, taking her second presidential oath in January. The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner (who shared the honor with Leymah Gbowee and Tawakel Karman) is currently the only elected female leader in Africa.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (Thailand)At the age of 44, Yingluck Shinawatra is the youngest person to assume office in Thailand in over 60 years. A member of the Pheu Thai Party, Shinawatra is also the country’s first female leader.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (Germany)According to Forbes, Angela Merkel is not only the most powerful woman in the world, the 57-year-old is also the fourth most powerful person in the world, right behind Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao, who rank first, second and third, respectively.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard (Australia)While Julia Gillard is still new to the game, having only been in office for less than two years, the 50-year-old has earned an “A” from the Australian Graduate School of Management, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The review from the AGSM praised Gillard for her work in conflict management and legislative change but criticized her “broken promise” on carbon tax.
President Dilma Rousseff (Brazil)A lot of the ladies on this list proudly wear the tile of becoming the first female leader of their country. President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil is also a member of this prestigious club. The 64-year-old Workers’ Party member is also the first economist to take office in the country.
President Tarja Halonen (Finland)Yes, this is the same President that Conan O’Brien famously compared himself to (and visited, for an episode of “Late Night”). Jokes aside, President Halonen bids farewell to office this month. Due to term limits, the 68-year-old was ineligible to run for the 2012 elections.
President Dalia Grybauskaite (Lithuania)56-year-old Dalia Grybauskaite is also the first female leader of her own country. In 2010, President Grybauskaite was honored by Glamour magazine in its annual Woman of the Year awards.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (US)Three cheers for Hillary!
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina)President Fernandez has many firsts on her resume: first female president of Argentina, first woman to be re-elected. Oh, and she was also First Lady during the late President Nestor Kirchner’s presidency from 2003-2007. In the 2011 election, President Fernandez won 54.1 percent of the vote.
Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Denmark)Another newbie on the female leader circuit is 45-year-old Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who took office as the Prime Minister of Denmark in October 2011. Thorning-Schmidt, head of the Social Democrats, is also the first female Prime Minister of the country.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (Trinidad and Tobago)At 59, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar overseas the People’s Partnership -- a coalition of five political parties in Trinidad and Tobago, including the United National Congress and the Movement for Social Justice. According to a recent TIME profile, Persad Bissessar has been fighting the country’s high murder rate and high poverty rate.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh)Prime Minister Hasina is serving her 8th year in office (though not consecutive -- she served from 1997-2001). The 64-year-old is one of the strongest faces of female leadership these days. Hasina is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, a 12-year-old network that links current and former leaders.
Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir (Iceland)As Iceland’s longest-serving member of Parliament, it was only natural that Johanna Sigurdardottir took office as Prime Minister in 2009. That year, she was also named one of Forbes’ 100 most powerful women in the world.
Thursday is International Women's Day. In honor of the day, one of the top female leaders around the world, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will be attending the Women in the World Summit in New York City.Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep and Lauren Bush Lauren are expected to join Clinton at the event, now in its third year.
From Queen Elizabeth II (who is marking her 60th year on the throne) to Yingluck Shinawatra becoming Thailand's first female Prime Minister (and youngest in more than 60 years), to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's recent victory in Liberia to mark the beginning of her second term, there are now more female leaders in the world than ever before.
But it's just the begnning.
Despite this momentum, there is a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well-being . . . I urge Governments, civil society and the private sector to commit to gender equality and the empowerment of women . . . the energy, talent and strength of women and girls represent humankind's most valuable untapped natural resource, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.
This year, the UN, which first recognized International Women's Day in 1977, is focusing on its theme, Empower Rural Women -- End Hunger and Poverty.
In honor of International Women's Day 2012, here's a look at some of the top current female leaders around the world.