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Women in Leadership Roles: Online Discussion 19 November - 15 December, 2007

New!Report of Online Discussion now available

The online discussion on “Women in Leadership Roles” hosted by WomenWatch – the UN Internet Gateway on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women – took place from 19 November to 15 December 2007. All messages have been archived and are available for viewing.

The online discussion was organized by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in its capacity as Task Manager of WomenWatch, with support from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The objective of this online discussion was to exchange data and promote dialogue on good practices concerning women in decision-making positions in the non-political spheres; and to suggest measures to promote increased leadership by women in different areas. This online discussion provided an opportunity to contribute to the global debate and the development of new policy recommendations on the roles and impact of women in decision-making positions in different areas such as public administration (including the judiciary), the private sector, academia, media and civil society, including trade unions and professional associations.

How to view the archived online discussion
The online discussion has ended, but all messages have been archived and are available for viewing. Click the following link to view the archived discussion:


If you have any questions regarding the online discussion, please contact us at womenwatch@un.org

Background information

The full participation of women in decision-making processes has been recognized as a human right in international human rights conventions and global policy frameworks and as critical for the achievement of gender equality. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women calls upon States Parties to take all appropriate measures, including temporary special measures, to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas, including in political and public spheres.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which monitors the implementation of the Convention, has repeatedly called on States Parties to promote women to management positions in the public and private sectors through special training programmes and sensitization campaigns; and to promote changes in attitudes and perceptions held by both men and women as regards their respective roles in society.

The outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, the Beijing Platform for Action, considered the inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels as one of the critical areas of concern for the empowerment of women. It also noted that women's equal participation in decision-making is not only a precondition for justice or democracy but is also a necessary condition for ensuring that women's interests and rights are taken into account. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of gender perspectives at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved. The Platform called for the equal access to and full participation of women in power structures and decision-making and for increasing women's capacity to participate in decision-making as leaders.

In the five-year review and appraisal of the implementation of the Platform for Action, Governments reiterated their commitment to the involvement of women as full and equal participants in all areas of development. The linkages between economic participation and political representation were also recognized.

In the 2005 World Summit, Member States reaffirmed that the full and effective implementation of the goals and objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was an essential contribution to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. To put this commitment into practice will require that women have equal opportunities to participate fully in all decision-making processes.

The 2006 Commission on the Status of Women's agreed conclusions on "Equal participation of women and men in decision-making processes at all levels" expressed concern about the lack of sufficient information and data disaggregated by sex on the participation of women and men in decision-making processes in all areas and at all levels," and called on "the relevant entities of the United Nations system, other international and regional organizations, including the international financial institutions, national parliaments, political parties, civil society, including the private sector, trade unions, academia, the media, non-governmental organizations and other actors" to take a series of actions to improve the participation of women in decision-making.

During the last decade, women's participation in decision-making bodies has been growing, albeit slowly. The introduction of policies and programmes, including temporary special measures, at the local, national and international levels, has resulted in an increase in women's participation in decision-making process. Women are increasingly assuming senior-level positions in different areas, including the economy, the public and private sectors, the judiciary, international affairs, academia, trade unions, the media, non-governmental organizations and others.

Evidence suggests that women's participation in and contributions to decision-making processes has improved the quality of policy outcomes. In many countries, for example, women inside the government and within civil society organizations have played a critical role in passing laws and developing policies that address women's and children's rights in areas directly related to poverty reduction and violence against women. Women have also been instrumental in the development of gender-responsive budgeting, which aims to ensure that government budgets and allocations, and the policies and programmes that underlie them, address the different priorities and needs of women and men.

While data are increasingly available on women's participation in decision-making in political bodies such as parliaments and governments since 1995, there is a persistent lack of information, including quantitative data and qualitative analysis, on the extent to which women are equally represented in high-level positions in public administration (including the judiciary), the private sector, academia, media and civil society, including trade unions and professional associations. Little is known about women's leadership roles in civil society outside organizations dealing with women's and children's rights and needs.

The objective of the online discussion is to improve understanding of the factors affecting access and retention of women in decision-making positions in a variety of areas; share available data; identify the different constraints women face to participate in decision-making bodies; and learn about alternative strategies and good practices to enhance women's role and participation in decision-making.

Themes of the Online Discussion
  • First week: 19 - 25 November
    Introduction: Overview of the current situation and impact of women leaders in different areas (public administration, judiciary, private sector, academia, media and civil society, including trade unions and professional associations)

  • Second week: 26 November - 2 December and
    Third week: 3 - 9 December
    Constraints and Strategies: Institutional and individual factors that influence women's access to decision-making positions and mechanisms and good practices that promote women's role in decision-making

    • Week 2: Views from public administration, including the judiciary, and the private sector
    • Week 3: Views from civil society, including trade unions and professional associations, the media and academia
  • Fourth week: 10 - 15 December
    Other issues, wrap up and recommendations

    » View the archived online discussion

    » View the report New!

Photo credits: UN Photo, UNICEF, WomenWatch

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