How did we do this?

Data collection

The information in this project is based on publicly available sources as well as data provided by organizations. The data about the heads of multilaterals since 1945 was obtained from open sources (primarily institutional websites). GWL Voices systematically contacted organizations requesting data about their senior management teams and governing bodies via a standardized online data collection form. Data for this project was gathered between April and October of 2023.

Since individual appointments to governing bodies and senior management teams change continually, the information in this report should only be seen as a “snapshot” that highlights broad trends taking place over multiple years. We welcome updates and corrections to our data and endeavor to input these in our databases immediately.

Selection criteria

Organizations were selected using a combination of quantitative and qualitative criteria. The final selection includes organizations with budgets of at least $10 million in development assistance per the OECD Development Assistance Committee, and organizations that have a strategic role in key issues of international development and multilateral cooperation.

A note on missing data

Although we made repeated efforts to contact each organization, some did not send answers to our queries. As of October 20, the International Energy Agency and UNESCO had not sent us the requested information. We hope to be able to include their information in future editions of this report.

Our report includes data on the heads of 54 organizations, whereas the data for senior management teams and governing bodies involves a smaller sample. We expect to include all 54 organizations in our senior management team and governing body database in future editions.

Key considerations

This project tracks gender parity at three levels: heads of organizations, senior management teams, and governing bodies. The titles for organizations’ heads vary widely, from presidents and director-generals to high commissioners and executive directors, among others. In all cases, we selected the highest level figure leading each organization. Some of these heads are elected by governing bodies, others are appointed, as is the case in numerous UN entities in which the heads are appointed by the Secretary General. It does not include organization heads who are acting in an interim capacity.

Senior management teams were defined as the top four staff levels within each organization, excluding the head. In the UN, these grades are USG, ASG, D2 and D1. Since other organizations use a variety of naming conventions, participants were asked to provide data based on their own definition of the top four levels.

In terms of governing bodies, we asked organizations to provide data on the gender composition of those bodies through which member states exercise oversight in the organization and/or who elect the organization's head. In most cases, we used the gender of the permanent representatives to a given governing body, but in others, organizations provided data reflecting the gender of heads of delegation of the most recent meeting of their governing bodies.

Moreover, the sizes and nature of governing bodies and senior management teams vary significantly across organizations, and this should also be taken into account when analyzing and comparing the data.

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.


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