Strategies and tools

Several common tools and strategies help improve the status of women in the UN system. They are briefly described here, accompanied by the most recent UN Women data on usage, as well as examples and other resources.

Gender balance strategies

A gender balance strategy is designed to improve gender balance and the status of women through targeted organizational actions. These may include steps to increase gender awareness, enhance monitoring and accountability, and improve the work environment through appropriate human resource policies.

An example of a gender balance strategy is the one adopted by the International Labour Organization.

Temporary special measures to improve the status of women

Special measures can help accelerate the achievement of gender parity. As stipulated in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, they are temporary because they will be discontinued when gender parity has been achieved and sustained for a period of time. The United Nations Administrative Tribunal has upheld the legality of special measures, noting that they are fully compatible with the objectives of Article 8 of the UN Charter.

Special measures can include targeted recruitment and promotion, training programmes for women, and numerical targets. All are aimed at ensuring gender balance in recruitment and promotion, and at rectifying past and current discrimination against women. See also the Secretariat policy on Special measures for the achievement of gender equality (ST/AI/1999/9).

Staff selection systems

Staff selection policies can be used to increase the proportion of qualified female candidates and eliminate bias in the hiring process.

There are fewer female applicants than male at every grade level, indicating that the UN system as a whole struggles to attract female applicants. However, once in the staff selection process, women tend to fare well. All levels, except for D-2, registered a higher proportion of women interviewed, recommended, rostered, and selected than applied.

Vacancy announcements in almost all entities (89 per cent) include specific encouragement for women to apply. Many (78 per cent) make an effort to feature women and/or gender balance in the images on their websites and in their outreach materials. Further, many entities create material specifically targeted at women and increase their visibility externally. Such approaches are aimed at improving the numbers of female applicants and enhancing the United Nation’s image as an attractive workplace for women.

See also the Secretariat policies on staff selection measures, ST/AI/2006/3/REV.1 and ST/AI/2010/3.

Exit interviews

Surveying departing staff provides insights into organizational barriers to staff recruitment and retention.

Seventy per cent of entities conduct exit interviews. However, only 30 per cent of entities have mandatory exit interviews. When not mandatory, 65 per cent of entities reported none (30 per cent) or some (35 per cent) staff completed interviews. In only 15 per cent of entities reported, non-mandatory exit interviews were completed all of the time.

Work-life balance and flexible work arrangements

Successive UN General Assembly resolutions have called for strengthening flexible working arrangements, requesting that the UN Secretary-General and the executive heads of entities ensure that work–family policies accelerate achieving gender parity.

Related UN Secretariat policies include:

Expert group meetings

UN Women convenes expert group meetings to explore the latest cutting-edge research and policy developments on the equal representation of women. The meetings provide important opportunities to discuss the many challenges that exist, and to learn from the good practice of stakeholders and partners.