What is it about?

Gender equality has long been a goal within the UN system, particularly for women’s representation among the professional staff. Yet it was more an aspiration than the target of serious action. It could not be addressed, however, without adequate data revealing women’s absences. Building a dataset based on Human Resources Statistics Reports has enabled the authors to show the patterns in eighteen secretariats across the UN system.

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Why is it important?

The analysis reveals persistent gender-specific conceptualizations of issue areas as more masculine (e.g., peace, security, finance, trade) or feminine (health, human rights, population), creating “glass walls” and “glass ceilings” that have limited women’s appointments to high-level positions in certain areas. The paper shows the limits of goal setting, the slowness of change, and the difference that leadership from the UN Secretary-General can make in the UN’s “long march” toward gender equality.

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This page is a summary of: From Aspiration to Commitment, Global Governance A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations, July 2022, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/19426720-02802003.
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