Women in the United Nations

As a standard-setting organization, the United Nations has a particular responsibility to lead by example in ensuring the equal and active participation of women at all levels of the UN system. This is also necessary for integrating a gendered perspective into UN policies and programmes. UN Women is mandated to lead, coordinate and promote the accountability of the UN system for women’s equal representation.

The Charter of the United Nations stipulates that there shall be no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in every capacity and under conditions of equality in the system’s principal and subsidiary organs. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reinforced this principle, stating that there can be no distinction or discrimination on the basis of gender.

The UN General Assembly has set numerical targets on the representation of women from as early as 1986. In 1995, the Beijing Platform for Action established a goal of 50:50 gender balance for UN staff at the professional levels and above, to be achieved by 2000.

Today, the goal of gender parity applies to all categories of UN staff posts, without regard to the type or duration of appointment, the series of staff rules under which the appointment is made, or the source of funding.

UN Women’s support

UN Women provides regular updates on the status of women in the UN system, including to the General Assembly, the Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE) and the UN Secretary-General’s Change Management Committee. This helps ensure the equal representation of women in the agendas of all UN organizations.

A number of policiesstrategies, tools and mechanisms help the system advance women’s participation. The latter include networks of focal points to champion gender-related issues, data collection, and regular reporting and monitoring. Thirty-two UN entities encourage gender balance within their own organizations, many by drawing on UN Women’s support. We assist in pinpointing positive and negative trends as they emerge, and, as needed, identifying shared solutions.

The biennial Secretary-General’s Report on the Improvement of the Status of Women is the United Nations’ main report on the equal representation of women in the UN system. Tracking progress by entity, it provides evidence for UN Women advocacy and guides us in developing tools such as resource packs for each entity. The packs include info-graphics highlighting key trends, tailored factsheets, projections on the number of years to achieve parity at current rates of change and recommendations.

Featured publication
  • Status of women in the United Nations system, 2016

    Status of women in the United Nations system
    This publication examines the representation of women in the United Nations system at all levels and locations, by entity, and across various dimensions: representation, staff selection, appointment, career advancement and separation. It provides quantitative and qualitative data analysis on the United Nations’ progress towards gender parity, and includes examples of entity practices in key areas that impact the status of women. More

Planet 50–50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality