Women in Leadership

Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of the 17 SDGs. Only by ensuring the rights of women and girls across all the goals will we get to justice and inclusion, economies that work for all, and sustaining our shared environment now and for future.

Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.
— Ban Ki-moon

Statistics on women leaders

Only 26 women are in CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies, making up 5.2% of the female population. The numbers stay virtually the same for women CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies at 5.4%, showing that women are still under-represented at the high-ranking positions as company leaders. Below are some statistics on women in parliaments (source: UN Women):

  • Only 22.8 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995.
  • As of October 2017, 11 women are serving as Head of State and 12 are serving as Head of Government.
  • Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. Women there have won 63.8 per cent of seats in the lower house.
  • Globally, there are 38 States in which women account for less than 10 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, as of June 2016, including 4 chambers with no women at all.

Gender balance in political participation and decision-making is the internationally agreed target set in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. There is established and growing evidence that women's leadership in political decision-making processes improves them.

Why do we need to encourage women to take leadership roles?

Need for diversity: The Global Leadership Forecast 2014–2015 concluded that “gender diversity in your leadership pool means greater diversity of thought, which, in turn, leads to improved problem solving and greater business benefits.” By hiring and promoting women from different backgrounds, it provides an outstanding base from which to build upon.

Women make good mentors: A mentor is someone who guides, advices and helps pave the path towards new opportunities. 30% of those surveyed by Pew Research felt women made better mentors than men — while only 5% felt men were better mentors than women. Mentorship and sponsorship can be incredibly important for career growth and job satisfaction, so having an increased supply of women on the forefront as leaders and mentors can help take the company forward.

Millennial women are more educated than men: Despite the fact that women earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees and 60 percent of all master’s degrees in the U.S., they comprise only 25 percent of executive and senior-level officials and managers, hold 20 percent of board seats and only 6 percent are CEOs, according to the “Women’s Leadership Gap” report by The Center for American Progress. This goes to show how young women are starting their careers better educated than men. A more educated workforce is essential for implementing innovative techniques, challenging the status quo and introducing new business approaches. Educated women are critical tools to accelerate the growth of a company.


Example from UN Women's work in Kenya

In the 2013 elections, the number of women legislators rose to more than 20 per cent, more than double compared to the previous elections. UN Women contributed to this result by providing training to nearly 900 female candidates in all 47 counties and running a Campaign for Women in Leadership to encourage voters to vote for women.

Women’s representation in local governments has been shown to make a huge difference. Research on panchayats (local councils) in India discovered that the number of drinking water projects in areas with female-led councils was 62 per cent higher than in those with male-led councils. Whereas in Norway, a direct causal relationship between the presence of women in municipal councils and childcare coverage was found.


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