Dr Ngozi is the first woman and first African to lead the body tasked with lowering trade barriers and fostering the inclusion of developing countries in the global trading system. Her appointment as Director-General in March 2021 was a major step forward in improving gender parity in the WTO leadership. The podcast explores the challenges she has faced in exercising leadership, the strategies she has adopted to overcome those challenges, and the steps she has taken as a leader to improve diversity within the WTO. As she recounts in the podcast, she has taken action to try to make women and trade a much stronger part of what the WTO does, and to implement a gender policy framework within the WTO to recruit women and advance their careers in the organization.
Beyond the WTO, other international organizations are also currently led by women, including the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Increasingly, more women are serving as ambassadors to the UN and strategically important powers such as the US and China, and are playing leading roles in multilateral negotiations such as those on climate change. And yet women are still underrepresented in many international organisations and in multilateral diplomacy. At the UN, there are still significant barriers to women’s leadership: the percentage of women in senior positions and in several UN departments and agencies is approaching fifty percent, but women’s representation in other parts of the UN is well below half and there has never been a female Secretary-General of the UN. In international tribunals, women only occupy 19% of permanent positions. A similar pattern holds elsewhere, as in the European Union.
In a series of conversations with female leaders, the Women in Diplomacy project will examine women’s leadership in international organizations and multilateral diplomacy, building on research that has examined women’s leadership predominantly in a national context. The project aims to help address the issue of misrepresentation and underrepresentation of women in the field by understanding the obstacles to representation and how they can be overcome. It will also probe how women operate within the gendered context of international diplomacy, and the policy changes they may make as leaders. A final report will summarise the lessons learned through the interviews and provide practical take-aways and policy recommendations for improving diversity in international diplomacy.
Access the podcast recording here and find out more about the project.