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Global leadership: Voters launch a power surge of women

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"There's a misconception about where we are when it comes to women and politics," says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "Because we have the Hillary Clintons, the Nancy Pelosis, the Sarah Palins, it gives the sense that these women are everywhere. But women make up a really small proportion of our elected officials."

Overall, though, the face of global power is clearly changing, scholars say. And it is looking far more feminine.

It started with a UN conference

To understand this shift, you need to go back to 1995, said Mona Lena Krook, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, when the United Nations held its Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing. Thousands of government representatives, advocates, and interested laypeople debated all sorts of topics related to women over 10 days – everything from education to reproductive rights to women's role in development. They also talked about political power.

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