The 75th Anniversary of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is a major milestone in the program’s history. It offers us a chance to reflect on the impact of the program by examining the numbers. More than 335 current or former heads of government are IVLP alumni. Meridian International Center is proud to have coordinated the programs of 168 of these alumni.
I compiled basic data on these world leaders to see what sort of statistics could be gleaned. I focused on their age when they participated in the IVLP, how many years afterward they became a head of government and what was the length of their term. I also marked their gender and if they were currently in office.
The first lens that I would like to use to discuss the data is that of women leadership. While the rise of women leaders has been slow, its increase in recent years has been dramatic. In 1960 Sri Lanka elected the first female head of government in modern history, Sirimavo Bandaranaike. The second female head of government came in 1966 when Indira Gandhi became India’s first female Prime Minister. Gandhi was also the first female IVLP alumna to serve as the head of government. 13 years later in 1979 Margaret Thatcher became the second female IVLP alumna to serve as the head of government. The IVLP programs of both Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher were coordinated by Meridian International Center.
The graph below charts the growth in female heads of government based on the start of their mandate.
Of the 22 female IVLP alumnae that served as heads of government, 91% were the first women to work in that role. With the exception of the Near East and North Africa female IVLP alumnae have served around the world. Of the 12 IVLP Meridian alumni that are currently serving 3 are women or 25%. According to UN Women as of January 2015, 10 women are serving as Head of State and 14 are serving as Head of Government. IVLP Meridian alumnae make up 12.5% of these leaders.
Based on current trends the growth or decline in female heads of government starting their mandates over the next decade can be predicted based on linear or exponential regressions. At the high end we can expect over 80 female heads of government to start their mandate in 2020. The low end predicts 30.
“The whole tour was immensely valuable. I saw and felt the vitality and generosity of the American way of life, and it has left an indelible impression on my mind. Forevermore, I shall be a true friend of the United States.”
Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister United Kingdom 1979 – 1990, IVLP Participant 1967, Meridian Alumna
“Each time I returned to stroll along the great boulevard of freedom, I always remembered this special tour which taught me to better know a great sister country to which we are bound by multiple heartstrings”
Ertha Pascal Trouillot, Acting President Haiti 1990 – 1991, IVLP Participant 1981, Meridian Alumna
Data Sources in addition to internal data
Wikipedia: List of Elected or Appointed Female Heads of State
Wikipedia: List of Elected or Appointed Female Heads of Government