Report of the Secretary-General on Improvement in the Status of Women in the United Nations System

Tuesday, September 4, 2012
United Nation Theme: 

Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 65/191, the present report provides information on the status of women in the United Nations system, including up-to-date statistics, information on progress made and obstacles encountered in achieving gender balance, and recommendations for accelerating progress. Over the two-year reporting period, 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2011, the representation of women in the Professional and higher categories in the United Nations system increased marginally from 39.9 per cent in 2009 to 40.7 per cent in 2011, an increase of 0.8 per cent and a decline from the 1.5 per cent increase in the previous reporting period (2007 to 2009). The highest and lowest proportions of women were found at the P-1 and D-2 levels, at 60.2 and 27.4 per cent respectively, with an inverse relationship between level and the representation of women. Parity was achieved only at the two lowest levels. The Secretariat, the largest entity in the United Nations system, distinguished itself with a record increase at the Under-Secretary-General level from 22.6 to 29.4 per cent (6.8 per cent). However, the combination of declines at the Assistant Secretary-General and P-2 levels and only marginal increases at all others yielded an overall decline of 0.3 per cent, to 38.7 per cent. Analysis of United Nations system trend data between 2000 and 2011 shows that 19 of the 27 entities with 20 or more staff registered increases at the D-1 level and above of more than 20 percentage points; 10 entities experienced increases of more than 30 percentage points; and 2 entities more than doubled the representation of women. The fact that progress at the D-1, D-2 and ungraded levels in the United Nations system between 2009 and 2011 (1.1 per cent), where it is perhaps more difficult to recruit women, was greater than at the Professional levels (0.8 per cent) indicates that, with determination and focused policy and practice, gender equality in the United Nations system is attainable. Significantly, the Secretariat showed the highest increases at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General levels (20.8 per cent and 12.1 per cent), which constitutes a very promising trend for the period from 2000 to 2011. The continuing challenge for the United Nations system, including the Secretariat, is to reverse the inverse relationship between the proportion of women and their seniority, bearing in mind the need to target each level independently and recognizing that increased representation of women at the highest levels does not automatically translate into advances at the lower levels. Further, a system-wide survey of United Nations entities regarding gender balance revealed the following challenges, in order of importance: low numbers of qualified women applicants; lack of accountability; lack of special measures for gender equality; an uncongenial organizational culture and insufficient outreach; inability to enforce gender policies and provisions; weak implementation of flexible work arrangements and weak integration of a gender balance focal point system. Recommendations to address these challenges include the need for more intensive senior leadership sponsorship; more rigorous implementation of existing policies, including special measures for women and flexible working arrangements; enhanced monitoring and accountability; and career development for internal female staff members, accompanied by targeted outreach. In this context, and as part of its mandate to lead, promote and coordinate the accountability of the United Nations system in respect of its work on gender equality and women's empowerment, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) spearheaded the landmark United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. This was approved by the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination in 2012, and constitutes the first-ever unified gender accountability framework in the United Nations system.

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Report of the Secretary-General on Improvement in the Status of Women in the United Nation System