Women Now Hold Half of the UN’s Top Leadership Positions

One thing you may remember from elementary school is that 44 divided by two equals 22. This fact, once fodder for flash cards, took on a new meaning when the United Nations this month achieved full gender parity in its top leadership positions for the first time in its 72-year history.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka takes the stage at WE Day UN. (UN Women / Creative Commons)

23 of the 44 most senior positions within the U.N., excluding the role of Secretary-General, are now held by women. The milestone comes 18 years after the UN’s commitment to gender parity was first drafted; it also comes on the heels of the appointment of Antonio Guterres to Secretary-General—a decision which marked with some disappointment by the advocates who had pushed for a woman to serve in the post for the first time when his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon, stepped down in 2016.

In 2015, the UN’s Senior Management Group consisted of 26 men and 16 women. In 2016, Guterres appointed two new women, Amina J. Mohammed and Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, to the group. At that point, only 32 of the UN’s 45 most senior positions were held by men.

Guterres promised to be a champion for gender equality, but in his first year, his efforts at implementing a feminist agenda earned only a C+ grade from the Feminist U.N. Campaign. Perhaps this latest milestone in U.N. history could be reason to hope that the rest are yet to come—and hopefully, with more expedience than the last.

Natasha Piñon is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and a junior at the University of Southern California, where she studies political science and journalism. She also writes for The Daily Trojan.

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