Women serving in the U.S. political arena are making a name for themselves in both the Democratic and Republican parties for their ability to lead, make decisions, take risks and stick to their convictions, even though men still dominate the political scene. This growing demographic is gaining attention as women play a stronger role in the world of politics.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was the first woman to hold that office. The former sports reporter then went on to make waves during her run for vice president in the 2008 president election alongside John McCain. Her highly conservative political viewpoints have made her a tea party favorite, and she was at one time considered a potential candidate for the 2012 presidential election. Palin has since started the "Pink Elephant Movement" to support female GOP candidates and appears regularly as a political commentator on Fox News.
Nancy Pelosi spent 25 years as the representative for California's 28th Congressional District before becoming the Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 112th Congress. She was subsequently elected as the first woman in history to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives and is considered to be the highest ranking female politician in U.S. history. As a heavily left-leaning Democrat, Pelosi has tried to focus much of her efforts on economic issues, although she has drawn attention for her perspectives on civil liberties, abortion and LGBT rights, as well.
Condoleezza Rice saw a lot of firsts as a black female, including being appointed the 66th Secretary of State of the United States. The former political science professor was also the first black female Stanford provost and was the first female National Security Advisor, where she served under President George W. Bush. Although she was originally a Democrat, Rice switched affiliations to the Republican party in part because Republicans would register blacks to vote during the Jim Crow years when Democrats would not. Rice was ranked in 2004 and 2005 as the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.
Hillary Rodham Clinton helped lead her home state of Arkansas as first lady before becoming first lady of the United States when her husband Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992. After serving time as a U.S. Senator, Clinton went on to run for president herself in 2008 before conceding ultimately to Barack Obama. President Obama appointed Clinton as secretary of state after he was elected. Active in politics for most of her life, Clinton was named the most admired woman by Americans in Gallup's 2011 poll.
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed to her position by President Ronald Regan and was the first women ever appointed as a Supreme Court judge. Her voting record was mostly conservative, and she was considered a swing vote in the court and voted to uphold Roe v. Wade. In 2009, O'Connor was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, and in 2010 Time Magazine named O'Connor one of the 25 most powerful women of the past century.
Former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano currently serves as the third secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Napolitano, who is a breast cancer survivor, was the first woman to chair the National Governors Association and was the first female attorney general of Arizona. Napolitano was once considered for the U.S. Supreme Court but didn't receive an appointment. In 2011, she was named one of the top five governors in the country by Time Magazine.
First Lady Michelle Obama, who likes to refer to herself as "Mom-in-Chief," has been a strong advocate for the protection, care and health of children. After being raised modestly on the South Side of Chicago, she went onto become the first black first lady in U.S. history. A life-long advocate for nutrition, community services, development and support and fundraising, Obama has grown since her husband's election as president to become a lifestyle and fashion icon among women. She was named by Essence magazine as one of the world's most inspiring women.
Conservative Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was the first Republican woman to be elected to represent Minnesota's 6th Congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. A former Democrat-turned-tea party favorite, she drew attention to herself more than usual by once insinuating that President Barack Obama might have anti-American views. Although she was a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Bachmann eventually opted to leave the race and run for re-election to Congress.
Janet Reno was appointed as U.S. attorney general by President Bill Clinton, making her the first woman in U.S. history to hold the position. During her time in office, Reno came under fire when cult leader David Koresh got into a stand-off with FBI and ATF agents at his compound near Waco, Texas, and Reno approved a siege against the Branch Davidians that led to most of them dying. She also famously brought a major anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft, which the U.S. ultimately won. Since her retirement, Reno has stayed largely out of the public eye but is called on at times to speak on behalf of the Democratic party.
Kathleen Sebelius is the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, and before that she served as the second female Governor of Kansas from 2003 to 2009. Sebelius was once considered as a potential running mate for John Kerry and as a presidential candidate herself for the 2008 presidential election. Although the Washington Post listed her as the top vice presidential prospect for the 2008 nomination, Sebelius eventually accepted the HHS appointment from President Obama. In 2011, Sebelius was named the 13th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.