Adding a Gender Dimension to Economic Decision-Making

By Seufert-Barr, Nancy | UN Chronicle, June 1995 | Go to article overview

Adding a Gender Dimension to Economic Decision-Making


Seufert-Barr, Nancy, UN Chronicle


Women hold a meagre 1 per cent of executive positions in the 1,000 largest corporations based outside the United States. The proportion is higher, at 8 per cent, in the 1,000 largest corporations in the United States, but only a handful of women hold the top-most positions, according to a recent study by the UN Secretariat Division for the Advancement of Women.

The same is true for the web of powerful global and regional multi-lateral institutions, where "women have been virtually excluded from key decision-making positions and from negotiating roles", as well as national trade policy, where the proportion of women is "insignificant", asserts Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in a 1994 report (A/49/349).

The result: the proportion of women in economic decision-making is not only "very low", states the report, but also "a gender dimension has been absent from macroeconomic policies and decisions regarding resource distribution, wealth creation and exchange".

The United Nations is no exception. As of 30 June 1994, the overall percentage of women in Secretariat posts subject to geographical distribution was just 32.6 per cent, while et the highest professional levels--D-1 and above--the percentage hovered at around 15 per cent, a full 10 per cent short of General Assembly targets.

"As we look back over time, it becomes clear that we have failed to live up to the promise of the Charter", Mr. Boutros-Ghali stated on 14 March, in a message to a conference on women and the UN, organized by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. "Recruitment and promotion of women in the United Nations have lagged dismally behind what they were supposed to be."

One way forward is to smash the apparent "glass ceiling" restricting women's upward mobility by attacking the gender bias embedded in employment training and promotion rules, administrative regulations and performance evaluation, all of which are formulated to provide advantages to men both as employers and employees, and are unfavourable to women and their needs, according to the Secretary-General's report.

The corporate world must become more "women-friendly", putting an end to the pervasive "male corporate culture" which propagates sexual harassment, denial of career development opportunities for women, and the under- or non-valuation of women's qualifications and skills.

Finally, it is critical that women become better represented in places where male privileges tend to become institutionalized--in the boardrooms, cabinets, trade union headquarters and the executive suites of transnational organizations. …

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