Young women call for increased women’s leadership, and change in the world of work


UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka meets with young women and girl activists at the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
L-R: Unami Moatswi; Daniela Zelaya; Ashken Aslikyan; Joyce Lee Boram and Heejin Lim (World YWCA); Candela Gonzalez; Zoelisoa Rakotomanana; Danae Fredes-Toledo; Emma Guthrie; Anna Spencer and Jean-Ann Ndow (WAGGGS); with UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Young women attending the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women met UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street on 17 March. The statue, placed by Boston-based company State Street Global Advisors on Bowling Green, in the heart of Manhattan's Financial District ahead of the International Women’s Day to encourage increased representation of women on corporate boards, has gained high visibility as a symbol of strength, rebellion and resilience of women and girls. 

“We need a more equal world for girls,” said Candela Gonzalez, a Girl Guide from Argentina. “We need to give girls more opportunities and smash stereotypes.” 

Highlighting the potential of girls everywhere, Anna Spencer, youth activist and Girl Guide from New Zealand added: “We have goals and ambitions, we never give up, we believe and we achieve.” 

The visit drew attention to the urgent need to increase women in leadership positions in the private sector, as well as more broadly to create an enabling working environment for women. Currently, only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.   

The delegates at this year’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), which kicked off on 13 March at the UN Headquarters in New York, are deliberating on the theme of “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work”. The meeting was preceded by a Youth Forum, which brought together almost 1,000 young leaders from across the world, to discuss issues, ranging from investing in girls’ education, leadership and body confidence to creating decent work for young women and enabling their access to entrepreneurship and technology, and ensuring their freedom from sexual harassment at workplaces. Read more>> 

Danae Fredes-Toledo, who coordinates the Stop the Violence programme in Chile started by UN Women and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, said: “I am a Girl Guide from Chile and I am here to say to all girls and women that we can be the leaders in changing the world.” Zoelisoa Rakotomanana from Madagascar had a similar message, “Girls can change the community and the world around them, girls are powerful!” 

Also present at the meeting were youth activists from the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). “I don’t want to have to choose between having a career and having a family,” said Joyce Boram Lee from South Korea. “I want to have the same opportunities as men,” added Heejin Lim. 

The Commission will develop recommendations on how to create new economic opportunities for women, such as in fast-emerging sectors like technology and the green economy, and on ways to overcome structural barriers that still hinder women’s full participation in the labour market, such as the unpaid care burden that is largely shouldered by women and wage inequality. Key recommendations include flexible work time and paid parental leave arrangements.

“These young women know exactly what they want, and are impatient to see economic transformation, and  progress in ending inequality for the constituencies they represent all over the world, said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “The Commission on the Status of Women meeting over these two weeks has a deep responsibility to use its authority judiciously to move current obstacles out of their way—as do all of us in our various spheres of influence.”

The “Fearless Girl” statue is the work of the acclaimed American artist Kristen Visbal from Lewes, Delaware, who intended the statue to inspire young women to aspire and to recognize the strength of women in the world of work. 

Related Link:

In Focus: CSW 61