UN Calls For More Women in Power and Decision-Making Roles

Women are incrementally entering public life and elected or appointed to decision-making positions but progress is too slow, states UN Commission on the Status of Women. 

Yesterday the UN Commission for the Status of Women (CSW65) met for its 65th session. The session, the UN’s largest gathering on gender equality and women’s rights, was held virtually due to COVID-19 and will be held until the 26th of March 2021. 

The priority theme for the meeting this year’s is “Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”

So far the opening session featured statements from global leaders, including the Chair of the 65th Commission on the Status of Women Mher Margaryan; the UN Secretary-General António Guterres; UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; civil society representative Virisila Buadromo of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights Asia and the Pacific and youth leader Renata Koch Alvarenga

In her opening address, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted the struggles women are still facing in the workplace, especially now due to COVID-19.

Four key areas summarize the opening so far and what is necessary to create an “enabling environment” for women: 

  1. Transforming Our Systems - There are many institutional and systemic issues that we need to address. Transforming these areas will help to set the conditions needed for women to play a full role in public life.
  2. Address the Financial Gap - We need to improve access to funding that support women’s participation in work, public life and civil society, especially in light of the inequalities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Challenge and Reform Workplace Culture - It is important to raise awareness of our deeply ingrained, harmful social norms, challenge these norms and promote a gender-inclusive senior management culture. Remember #ChooseToChallenge! 
  4. Collect More and Better Data - We live in an age of information. Knowledge is power but, perhaps even more so today, data analysis and curation is power. Collecting more and better data will help us pinpoint where gender inequalities remain.

Progress is made step by step

An example of some of the work being done right now by the UN is the partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of Pittsburgh. The two organizations are working together on policy-relevant research as part of their Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL). Researchers from the University, supported by the Ford Institute for Human Security, have been measuring women's participation and leadership in public administrations globally since 2015, as well as monitoring progress toward Sustainable Development Goal 16. A new report from UNDP and Pittsburgh, using data from 171 countries, is expected to launch in the next few months.

Another initiative is the Generation Equality Forum Action Coalitions, which has announced new global commitments to accelerate progress on gender equality. The work includes cross-discipline partnerships amongst governments, feminist and youth movements and organizations, the private sector and international organizations. 

The 2021 edition of the IPU–UN Women “Women in politics map,” which presents global rankings for women in executive and government positions as of January 1st 2021, showed all-time highs for women heads of state and heads of government, women speakers of parliament and women MPs and ministers. 

Yet progress is too slow

Despite efforts and improved numbers we have yet to achieve gender parity. Globally, women hold only 21 percent of ministerial positions, five points higher than in 2010: 

The session released a paper ahead of time which examines global trends, persistent barriers and opportunities to women’s full and effective participation and decision making in public life.

UN Women previously stated: "at the current rate of progress, gender equality will not be reached among Heads of Government until 2150, another 130 years.” That feels way too far away. 

All this information acts as a backdrop to the CSW65 session this year. The organization of the sessions over the next two weeks will cover these important topics and facilitate discussions around how to galvanize progress towards achieving gender parity sooner rather than later. Topics include: what are good practices towards achieving women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, interactive dialogue on eliminating violence against women in public life, exploring women's participation and leadership in COVID-19 response and recovery and other points. 

The speakers expected to address the Commission this year include some exciting and big names: US Vice-President Kamala Harris, France Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities Élisabeth Moreno, Mexico Vice-Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights Martha Delgado Peralta, European Commissioner For International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, among others, are expected to address the Commission this year. The full list of speakers is available here.

To check out the official talks, go to http://webtv.un.org/. The session will conclude on March 26 with the acceptance of the final document and draft resolutions submitted to the commission.

You can also follow along the online conversations via Twitter using the hashtags #CSW65, #GenerationEquality, #ActforEqual and by following @UN_Women.