The Making of Female Presidents and Prime Ministers: The Impact of Birth Order, Sex, of Siblings, and Father-Daughter Dynamics



Although research into the factors that may affect male achievement of political leadership is relatively robust, very few studies on the making of female presidents and prime ministers exist. This paper examines the literature on birth order, sex of siblings, and parent-daughter dynamics to see whether the findings for male political leaders—that first-born individuals will be overrepresented as compared with later-born siblings—also hold for female ones. Two other hypotheses were tested concerning differences in birth order and sex of siblings between female political leaders and a larger sample of women. A review of the literature on parent-daughter dynamics suggests that this may be another important variable for future research into explanations for the success of women who achieve senior-level positions of power. The findings suggest that first-born women, like first-born men, are overrepresented among political leaders; that first-born women are overrepresented among female political leaders as compared with their numbers in a larger sample population; and that fewer female political leaders have an older brother than would be expected to occur in a larger sample population. The last finding applies only for women who come to power in the period 1960–1989, not those who gained office more recently.