“A richer life for me is about empowerment, agency and freedom.”
Photo: News Øresund - Johan Wessman
The first female Prime Minister of Denmark.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt joined the Danish Social Democratic Party in 1993, the same year she finished her graduate studies at the College of Europe. Only one year later, she led the secretariat of the Danish delegation of Social Democrats in the European Parliament. Following a brief stint as a consultant with the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions, Helle was elected as an MEP in 1999, marking the beginning of her illustrious career in electoral politics.
In 2005, Helle was elected to the Folketing, the Parliament of Denmark, and shortly afterwards took over leadership of the Social Democrat Party following the resignation of Mogens Lykketoft. As Leader of the Opposition, Helle championed policies addressing social inequalities and pressed for action on climate change.
Following the 2011 Danish elections, Helle became the first female Prime Minister of Denmark, skilfully negotiating the challenges of leading a coalition government. Under her tenure, the Danish government pursued tax reform and rolled back the anti-immigration policies put in place by the preceding administration. In 2017, she was named one of the world’s greatest leaders by Fortune magazine.
After stepping down from the office of Prime Minister in 2015, after the parliamentary elections of that year, Helle went on to pursue a varied career with a number of international organisations. From 2016 to 2019, she served as CEO of Save the Children, where she drove the growth of the charity and oversaw international aid to over 50 million children. Helle currently serves on Facebook’s Oversight Board, helping the social media giant deal with some of the thorniest issues surrounding digital freedom of expression. She is also a Member of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development at the World Health Organisation, a body created to consider lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic in preparation for future global health challenges.