For the First Time in Forever, a Woman Is Person of the Year

Merkel Time CoverTIME announced last week that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is its Person of the Year for 2015. Good for Angela Merkel, you may be thinking, but why is this big news to Take The Lead?This is big news because, incredibly, Merkel is the first woman to be given the honor in 29 years. A woman hasn’t been recognized by TIME since Corazon Aquino of the Philippines won in 1986, and back then the title was called “Man of the Year.” They had to write “Woman of the Year (Man of the Year)” on Aquino’s cover to make sure everyone knew they were referencing TIME’s annual tradition; they didn’t change it over to “Person of the Year” until 1999.As Radhika Jones writes for TIME, there’s a reasonable explanation for the gap, and it has to do with power and who tends to hold it: “The label of Person of the Year tends to favor people with institutional power. The choice reflects TIME’s view of who affected the news and our lives, for good or for ill. Since 1986 there’ve been four U.S. Presidents in the mix—three of them two-termers, all of them men. Plus a handful of leaders of the Soviet Union (and Russia), also all men. The Pope keeps being a man. And it’s a lot easier to make news from an address like the White House, the Kremlin or the Vatican.”Merkel has now led Germany for ten years, and in that time, as TIME puts it in its full profile, she has become the “de facto leader of the European Union, the most prosperous joint venture on the planet.” In a year when Merkel has led the EU through the Greek debt crisis and welcomed one million Middle Eastern refugees to Germany, that was enough to put her over the top.Fortunately, with the U.S. presidential election on the horizon and a growing list of female heads of state, we’re betting it won’t take another 29 years for the next woman to influence the world enough to be called Person of the Year.