After graduation, she returned to her family in Liberia determined to help her unstable homeland and worked in the Ministry of Finance. After speaking out against the ruling military regime, she was thrown in jail twice. When Johnson-Sirleaf was released, she was exiled to Kenya and went to work as an economist for the United Nations.
She returned to Liberia in 1997 and made her first run for President against corrupt leader Charles Taylor and lost. Then in 2003, peacekeeping troops stabilized Liberia. Johnson-Sirleaf ran for the presidency again and on January 16, 2006, she was sworn in and became Africa's first elected female leader. Her historic inauguration was a celebration for women around the world. First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice were both on hand.