Women in Multilateralism

Explore the presence –or absence– of women where power is exercised in the international system 

While most governments and multilateral organizations claim to be committed to the “full and equal” participation of women in everything they do, we see a different reality.

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A legacy ofexclusion

Only 13% of all elected leaders have been women since 1945

Gender of multilateral organization leaders by year since 1945

Last updated on 07/12/2023

Men have dominated the leadership of nearly all of these 54 multilateral organizations, which include UN specialized agencies, funds, programs, departments, and offices, as well as regional development banks, and others.

21 of these organizations, or 39%, have never elected a woman as their leader, even after six or seven decades of operations.

15 of them have elected a woman to the top job only once since 1945.

And 18 have moved beyond the “one and done” mentality, electing two or more women to run the organization.

Since 1945, these organizations have collectively elected a total 523 leaders, of which 456 have been men and only 67 have been women.

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Across all UN world regions, women are consistently underrepresented, even among regions with a disproportionate amount of multilateral organization leaders.

While there have been more women leaders from Western European states, in relative terms the West is doing no better than the rest.

Slow butaccelerating

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The average share of female heads in the last five decades of the past century was 3.7%, remaining stuck below 10%. By the 2000s it had gone up to 16.7%, and the share nearly doubled during the decade of the 2010s reaching 31.4%.

At the rate of the previous century, we would still have a long way to go before achieving equality.

But if we maintain the momentum of the past decade and our current one, we can accelerate this change.

Bastionsof exclusion

Governments reveal their true gender priorities when they hand-pick their representatives to the governing bodies of multilateral organizations. The boards of all these organizations fall short of achieving equal representation.

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In seven organizations, women make up less than 25% of the governing body. Women's representation surpasses 40% in only four organizations.

At the Vanguardof Parity

Many of these organizations have adopted policies to encourage gender parity in the hiring of management professionals, and the results are clear.

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In 0organizations, the share of women in management teams is 50% or more. In 0% of them, it surpasses 40%.

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GWL Voices is an organization of women leaders from all regions and backgrounds committed to building a gender-equal international system that effectively responds to today’s challenges of sustainable development, peace, security, and human rights.

Contact: office@gwlvoices.com

Design & Development by Sociopúblico