Women’s leadership was at the forefront of unfolding discussions at the United Nations largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s empowerment, the 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, from 15 to 26 March. UN Women brings inspiring voices of women leaders from around the world. Female leaders are furthering the global climate movement, pushing for social justice protections, addressing the COVID-19 crisis, and dismantling systemic racial discrimination. There is a need for transformative leadership with a gender investment lens to address some of the root causes that women and young girls face.

Short list on women breaking the glass ceiling…

Michelle Bachelet

Photo Credit UN Women, Carolina Sainz

Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria is a Chilean politician who has served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. During her presidential tenures, she wore an “equality lens” and promoted rights for undermined groups and the most vulnerable. Among her many triumphs for education and tax reforms, she created the National Institute for Human Rights and the Museum of Memory and Human Rights and The Ministry of Women and Gender Equality — which was to specifically increase women’s political participation. Following her presidency in 2010, she was appointed the first Executive Director of the first United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. She pledged to be a Gender Champion which meant she was committing to advance gender equality in OHCHR and on the international stage. For over two decades, Bachelet has worked to promote and further countless international organizations. In 2010, she chaired the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group, a joint International Labor Organization (ILO) and World Health Organization (WHO) initiative, which sought to promote social policies to stimulate economic growth and social cohesion.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Photo Credit: UN Women, J Carrier

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (born Ellen Eugenia Johnson), is a Liberian politician who served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. She made a lot of “firsts” – she was the first woman in Africa elected as President of her country, she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her efforts to bring women into the peacekeeping process and gender-mainstreaming. She led Liberia through reconciliation and recovery following a decade-long civil war and responded to the Ebola Crisis of 2014-2015. In 2016, Sirleaf was elected as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States, making her the first woman to hold the position since it was created. Her accolades often landed her on the global arena for her esteemed economic, social, and political achievements in relation to her administration, global governance and gender equality.

Alaa Murabit

Photo Credit: UN Women, Ryan Brown

Alaa Murabit is an award-winning medical doctor, global security strategist, women’s rights advocate and United Nations High-Level Commissioner on Health, Employment & Economic Growth. She is the 2020-2021 Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for the Advanced Study at Harvard University.

The youngest appointed United Nations High-Level Commissioner on Health, Employment and Economic Growth.
Murabit’s is engaged in promoting women’s leadership in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and security. She is often cited by various global leaders on her compelling cross disciplinary mindset and courage to break boundaries and build new models of growth.

“Alaa truly embodies the spirit of a ‘Goalkeeper’ – this vital next generation of leaders who are going to ensure we keep making progress on the world’s largest issues”

— Bill Gates, Founder, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Sustainability Gurus

Ellen MacArthur, Founder and Chair, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Ellen MacArthur
Photo Credit: Greenbiz.com

British sailor turned sustainability-philanthropist who broke the record in 2005 for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) created in 2010 was founded to inspire next-generation business leaders to rethink and redesign business. MacArthur is famously coined for her comments on around circular economy:

“If we create a circular economy, if we use things rather than using things up, then why can’t we build a future that works”

MacArthur quoted at the EMF launch.

Collaborative Diplomacy

Christiana Figueres – Paris Agreement

Photo Credit: Getty Images, Omar Torres

For Ms. Figueres perhaps one of the biggest landmarks of her career was getting the Paris Agreement done. Figueres is an internationally recognized leader on global climate change. She was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2010-2016. Throughout her tenure she brought together national and sub-national governments, corporations and activists, financial institutions and communities of faith, think tanks and technology providers, NGOs and parliamentarians, to jointly deliver the unprecedented climate change agreement. For this achievement Ms. Figueres has been credited with forging a new brand of collaborative diplomacy.

Today she is the co-founder of Global Optimism, co-host of the podcast “Outrage & Optimism” and is the co-author of the recently published book, “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis”. She is a member of the B Team, non executive Board member of ACCIONA and non executive Board member of Impossible Foods.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was adopted by the Member States of the United Nations in 2015 that followed the Millennium Development Goals. Agenda 2030 is a series of 17 goals called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which have 169 targets that seek to resolve social, economic and environmental problems. The 2015 Paris Agreement alongside the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development both represent a top-down and bottom-up approach. An interesting moment in history were we see the rise in ESG mandates, a push to have impact metrics through all our corporate engagements with a firm commitment to SDG 13 on climate action. A cross-pollination of skills, interdisciplinary leadership and collaborative diplomacy.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”