Women Political Leaders: Advancing Society

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We must do more to keep the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs are the best frame to address our most pressing challenges—from ending hunger and poverty to accelerating climate action and ensuring quality education.

Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations

I am delighted to speak alongside you today at the annual Women Political Leaders Summit about the crucial issue of female leadership [...] No society will be able to rise to today’s challenges if it only uses half of its living resources, of its force, of its ability to promote, in both public service and companies, diversity, which is the cornerstone of innovation.

Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic

So how can we make women in leadership the new normal? First, gender equality is an urgent imperative, it is at the heart of recovering better from the pandemic and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations

We now need to make sure that our parliaments are not on global average 25% [women]. We need to make sure that our local governments do not have a limited number of women. We want to make sure that our cabinets do not have an underrepresentation of women. We need you to take action, and we need you to take this action NOW.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General Executive Director, UN Women

We must get rid of the biases which hold women back from taking on leadership roles. The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, commissioned each year by Women Political Leaders, shows that public attitudes across many countries are still far from universally positive about women in leadership.

Helen Clark, Chair of the WPL Board; UNDP Administrator (2009-2017) & Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008)

Women tend to have a more inclusive leadership style than their male counterparts. A recent study showed that female leaders were more effective during the pandemic, performed better under pressure and rated more positively on most of the competences involving interpersonal skills. It is exactly those skills that are needed to rebuild our economies in a more equitable and inclusive way.

Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank

We are gradually increasing the number of women in the military and also in political leadership roles. We know that when we bring different perspectives to the debate, we simply make better decisions.

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General, NATO

The pandemic is also a stark reminder that while women make up seventy percent of the health workforce, only an estimated 25% of leadership roles are held by women. To respond to these challenges, WHO launched the Gender Equal Health and Care Workforce Initiative [...] to increase the proportion of women in health and in care leadership

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO)

Women already hold more than 40% of the top positions in the European Commission. I have set a target of 50% by the end of 2024. Because our democracies are stronger when women are involved as equals.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of The European Commission

In response to the pandemic, women leaders have often invested in social services, have placed emphasis on strong welfare sectors and strong institutional capacity, which provides the right context for women leaders to exercise effective leadership. There is still a need, however, to promote women's participation in Covid-19 decision-making bodies.

Anita Bhatia, Assistant-Secretary-General & UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, UN System Coordination, Sustainability and Partnerships

To recover we need to allocate significant budgets to ensure the rights of the most vulnerable groups are at the centre of programme and policies. The key groups - which represent the majority of the population are women and young people. This requires true, compassionate, and inclusive leadership…

Aminata Touré, President of Economic Council (2019-2020), Prime Minister (2013-2014), WPL Global Ambassador for Vaccination, Senegal

We must close the gender pay gap and raise the number of women in leadership positions. We need to strengthen our welfare systems to help the career progression of women.And we must bridge the gap between male and female representation in politics, supporting female leaders across the globe.

Mario Draghi, Prime Minister, Italy


Global Advisory Board

Denis Mukwege

Founder and Medical Director, Panzi Hospital, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Member of the WPL Advisory Board

Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir

Senior Advisor, Women’s Leadership, UN Women; Chair, Reykjavík Global Forum Board, Minister of the Interior, Iceland (2013-2014), Member of Parliament, Iceland (2013-2016), Mayor of Reykjavík (2008-2010)

Helen Clark

Chair Emeritus of the WPL Board, Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008), UNDP Administrator (2009-2017), Member of the Council of Women World Leaders

Jane Goodall

Ethologist. Founder, Jane Goodall Institute. UN Messenger of Peace. Founder, Roots & Shoots.

Jody Williams

Chair, Nobel Women’s Initiative and 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

José Manuel Barroso

Chair, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Chairman, Goldman Sachs International, President, European Commission (2004-2014), Prime Minister, Portugal (2002-2004), Member, WPL Global Advisory Board

Kathy Calvin

President and Chief Executive Officer, United Nations Foundation (2013-2019)

Laura Liswood

Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders. Commissioner of the City of Seattle Women’s Commission.

Laura Tyson

Professor of Business Administration and Economics, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkley. Chair of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers (1993-1995). Chair of the Board of Trustees, The Blum Center for Developing Economies.

Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca

President of Eurochild, President of Malta (2014-2019), Member, WPL Board, Member, Council of Women World Leaders

Michelle Bachelet

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. President of Chile (2006-2010 and 2014-2018). Member of the Council of Women World Leaders

Mo Ibrahim

Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Nurhayati Ali Assegaf

Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat) of Indonesia, President of Geneva Council for International Affairs and Development (GCIAD)

Obiageli “Oby” Katryn Ezekwesili

Chair of the WPL Board, Economic and Public Policy Expert and Senior Economic Adviser to the Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI); World Bank Vice-President, Africa Region (2007-2012)

Pascal Lamy

President Emeritus, Jacques Delors Institute; President of the Paris Peace Forum, Special Advisor, Brunswick Europe, Former Director-General, WTO (2005-2013) European Commissioner for Trade (1999-2004). Chief of Cabinet to the President of the European Commission (1984-1994).

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women (2013-2021), Deputy President of South Africa (2005-2008)

Rebeca Grynspan

Secretary-General, Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), Under-Secretary General, United Nations (2010-2014), Vice-President of Costa Rica (1994-1998)

Rosalía Arteaga

Executive President of the FIDAL Foundation; President of Ecuador (1997), Member, WPL Board

Silvana Koch-Mehrin

President and Founder of Women Political Leaders (WPL), Vice-President of the European Parliament (2009-2011) and Member of the European Parliament (2004-2014)

Tarja Halonen

President of Finland (2000-2012) and Finland’s first female Head of State.  Member of the Board of Trustees, Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. Co-Chair, UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability. Chair, Council of Women World Leaders.