NEWSFLASH: Three Women Will Hold Senior Positions in the U.N.

The United Nations this year failed to nominate a woman as secretary general for the ninth time in the body’s 71-year history. But Antonio Guterres, who was sworn in to the post last week, is already delivering on his commitment to “gender parity… from top to bottom in the U.N.”

sanjitbakshi / Creative Commons
sanjitbakshi / Creative Commons


Guterres has now announced the appointment of three women to senior positions at the U.N.—Amina J. Mohammed, currently Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, will serve as the UN deputy chief; Brazil’s Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti will assume the role of Chief de Cabinet and the newly-created position of Special Advisor on Policy will be filled by current transition chief Kyung wha Kang of the Republic of Korea.

“I am happy to count on the efforts of these three highly competent women,” Guterres said in a statement,
“whom I’ve chosen for their strong backgrounds in global affairs, development, diplomacy, human rights and humanitarian action. These appointments are the foundations of my team, which I will continue to build, respecting my pledges on gender parity and geographic diversity.”

Pressure from within the international organization—including outgoing Secretary General Ban ki-Moon’s statement in August that it was “high time” a woman occupy the post of the world’s top diplomat—failed to persuade the members of the UN Security Council, who instead elected the former Prime Minister of Portugal and former UN High Commissioner Human Rights. Guterres’ election appointment came at a time with support for a female secretary general at an all-time high—characteristic of an organization that has championed gender equality but struggled to achieve gender parity amongst its ranks. According to Foreign Policy, as of December 2016, 32 of the U.N.’s 45 most senior postings are held by men, while 28 women have chaired one of the U.N’s six primary committee’s, in contrast to 424 men who have served as chairperson.

Guterres will assume the post of Secretary General on January 1 for a five-year term after Moon officially steps down on December 31.



Lauren Young is a Ms. contributor. She has a Master’s Degree in European and Russian Studies from Yale University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and Russian Civilization from Smith College. Follow her on @thatlaurenyoung.