Our list of influential women in political science is a testament to the wide variety of career options available in the industry. From human rights activists to campaign managers, this inspirational list features famous women political scientists who have been highly cited and searched online over the last 10 years.
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Top 10 Women in Political Science From the Last 10 Years
Political Science refers to the study of political systems, forms of government, legal structures, and the relations between different states and nations. Political Scientists seek to better understand political problems, confront civic challenges, and construct rational public policy. Top female scholars have made contributions in every area of the field including national security, race relations, immigration, genocide, and prison reform.
Those who actually identify as political scientists, a title generally reserved for those who have earned their master’s degree in the field, is somewhat exclusive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field will grow at a roughly average rate of 9% between now and 2030. But with just 7,000 currently holding this title, this amounts to just 600 new jobs in the coming decade. That said, there is cause to believe that women will constitute a significant portion of that field. While woman account for just 25% of tenured political science professors today, they actually make up exactly half of all grad students in the field.
There are a number of professional associations dedicated to helping advance the visibility and leadership opportunities accessible to women in political science. For instance, The Women’s Caucus for Political Science seeks to improve the status of women in the profession by promoting equality in employment, promotion, tenure, and graduate school admission. It works in conjunction with the American Political Science Association, which is the leading professional organization for the study of political science and which claims members in over 100 countries.
Today, women are shaping political discourse in areas such as activism, humanitarian assistance, public policy, and more. At the top of our list is Malala Yousafzai. Malala, as she is commonly identified, is the world’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate, and an outspoken human rights advocate, especially on behalf of women and children. Another activist on our list, Lilian Adriana Tintori Parra is a Venezuelan athlete as well as television and radio host who has led groups opposed to the government of autocratic Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro . Samantha Power, director of the new International Peace and Security Project at Harvard Kennedy School, previously served on President Barrack Obama’s National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President, as well as Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, and United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
Influential Women in Political Science From the Last 10 Years
1997 - Present (26 years)
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani female education activist and the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Awarded when she was 17, she is the world’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate, and the second Pakistani and the first Pashtun to receive a Nobel Prize. She is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women and children in her native homeland, Swat, where the Pakistani Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Her advocacy has grown into an international movement, and according to former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, she has become Pakistan’s “most prominent ...
Samantha Power is director of the new International Peace and Security Project at Harvard Kennedy School, member of the Board of Directors at the International Refugee Assistance Project, and joint faculty for Harvard’s Law School and Kennedy School. She earned a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard University. It is hard to overstate Samantha Power’s influence on global affairs.
After a time as a war correspondent in Yugoslavia, she returned to Harvard University to be the Founding Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. From there, she began working with then U.S. Senator Barack Obama, advising him on foreign policy. From there, she has served as foreign policy advisor to his presidential campaign, his transition team, on his National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President, and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, and United States Ambassador to the United Nations, where she remained until she was replaced by Nikki Haley.
Lilian Adriana Tintori Parra is a Venezuelan activist, athlete, and television and radio host. Tintori is the wife of Leopoldo López, a Venezuelan politician sentenced in 2015 to nearly 14 years in prison for “inciting violence” during street protests the year before. She has also led groups who have opposed the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Kathryn Bolkovac is a human rights advocate, consultant, former police investigator with the Lincoln Police Department, and former monitor with United Nations International Police Task Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She came to prominence when she sued her employers for unfair dismissal after she lost her job following her attempts to expose sex trafficking in Bosnia. Her story was shown in the film The Whistleblower and told in the nonfiction book, The Whistleblower, with journalist Cari Lynn.
Kathryn Sikkink is an author, human rights academic, and scholar of international relations working primarily through the theoretical strain of constructivism. She is currently a professor at Harvard Kennedy School.
Jody Williams is an American political activist known for her work in banning anti-personnel landminess, her defense of human rights , and her efforts to promote new understandings of security in today’s world. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work toward the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines.
Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. She earned a B.A. from Michigan State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D at Harvard University. She went on to become the first female sociologist to achieve tenure at Harvard University.
Lisa Anderson is an American political scientist and the former President of the American University in Cairo . Research and career A specialist on Middle Eastern and North African politics, Anderson served as the President of AUC from 2011 to 2016 and as Provost from 2008 to 2010. Prior to joining AUC, Anderson served as the James T. Shotwell Professor of International Relations at Columbia University, the dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, the chair of the political science department and the director of the Middle East Institute. Previously, she was an assistan...
Kellyanne Elizabeth Conway is an American political consultant and pollster, who served as Senior Counselor to the President in the administration of Donald Trump from 2017 to 2020. She was previously Trump’s campaign manager, having been appointed in August 2016; Conway is the first woman to have run a successful U.S. presidential campaign.
Erica Chenoweth is an American political scientist, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. They are known for their research work on non-violent civil resistance movements.
Ekaterina Mikhailovna Schulmann is a Russian political scientist specializing in legislative processes. Schulmann is an associate professor of the RANEPA, an associate professor of the Moscow School for the Social and Economic Sciences, and an associate fellow of Chatham House.
Razan Ghazzawi is a Syrian-American blogger, campaigner and activist and currently a PhD researcher at the University of Sussex. She has been highly involved in the events during the Syrian Civil War, and has been particularly outspoken on activists’ arrests and the violations of human rights committed by the Bashar al-Assad government. She was called “iconic blogger and leading activist” by The Telegraph. Jillian York wrote that Ghazzawi was “one of [her] heroes.”
Gloria Álvarez Cross is a Guatemalan radio and television presenter, author, and libertarian political commentator. She is the host of the Viernes de Gloria radio program in Guatemala. Álvarez is also the program director of the National Civic Movement of Guatemala, an organization that advocates for political participation in the national politics of Guatemala. She has also published books on political topics for a popular audience.
Loujain al-Hathloul is a Saudi women’s rights activist, a social media figure, and political prisoner. She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia. Al-Hathloul has been arrested and released on several occasions for defying the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia and was arrested in May 2018, with several prominent women’s rights activists, on the charge of “attempting to destabilise the kingdom” after being effectively kidnapped in the United Arab Emirates . , her husband, Saudi stand-up comedian Fahad al-Butairi, had also been forcefully returned from Jordan to the Kingdom and ...
Agnès Callamard is a French human-rights activist who is the Secretary General of Amnesty International. She was previously the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the former Director of the Columbia University Global Freedom of Expression project.
Michelle Alexander is an American writer and civil rights activist. She is best known for her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Since 2018, she has been an opinion columnist for The New York Times.
Pippa Norris is a political scientist specializing in comparative politics. She is the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and she has served as the Australian Laureate Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and Director of the Electoral Integrity Project.
Diana Kinnert is a German political writer. Early life and education Kinnert was born on February 16, 1991, in Wuppertal. She studied social sciences at The University of Cologne and the Free University of Berlin, and she graduated with a social science degree from The University of Göttingen in 2013. She also holds a certificate in social sciences from The University of Amsterdam.
Nonna Mayer is an academic French political scientist and researcher in political science. She is a research director at the CNRS, and a specialist of electoral sociology and of far right movements in France. She was president of the Association Française de Science Politique from 2005 to 2016.
Carole Pateman is a feminist and political theorist. She is known as a critic of liberal democracy and has been a member of the British Academy since 2007. Biography Pateman was born in Maresfield, Sussex, England. Educated at Lewes County Grammar School for Girls, she left at age 16. She entered Ruskin College, Oxford in 1963 studying economics, politics, history and sociology, achieving a distinction. She won a place at Lady Margaret Hall to read PPE, staying on to earn a DPhil.
Aung San Suu Kyi , sometimes abbreviated to Suu Kyi, is a Burmese politician, diplomat, author, and a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who served as State Counsellor of Myanmar and Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2016 to 2021. She has served as the leader of the National League for Democracy since the party’s founding in 1988, and was registered as its chairperson while it was a legal party from 2011 to 2023. She played a vital role in Myanmar’s transition from military junta to partial democracy in the 2010s.
Leonore Gewessler is an Austrian Green politician serving as Minister of Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology in the government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and later Alexander Schallenberg since January 2020.
Djamila Taís Ribeiro dos Santos is a Brazilian Black feminist philosopher and journalist. She graduated in political philosophy from the Federal University of São Paulo, where she also earned a master’s degree on the work of Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler. Ribeiro is a collaborating editor of weekly magazine CartaCapital, as well as a columnist for CartaCapital and Folha de S.Paulo.
Seyla Benhabib is a Turkish-American philosopher. Benhabib is a senior research scholar and adjunct professor of law at Columbia Law School. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Columbia University Department of Philosophy and a senior fellow at the Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought. She was a scholar in residence at the Law School from 2018 to 2019 and was also the James S. Carpentier Visiting Professor of Law in spring 2019. She was the Eugene Mayer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University from 2001 to 2020. She was director of the program i...
Amy Gutmann is an American academic and diplomat who is the United States Ambassador to Germany. She was the eighth president of the University of Pennsylvania. In November 2016, the school announced that her contract had been extended to 2022, which made her the longest-serving president in the history of the University of Pennsylvania. Gutmann resigned from her role as president on February 8, 2022, following her confirmation by the Senate as ambassador, after 18 years at the University.