How to Ensure the Next World Bank President Is Its First Woman Leader
Like many of the multinational organizations created in the wake of the Second World War, The World Bank is caught in a relentless downdraft of public skepticism. This lack of credibility has many causes, but it starts with leadership systems that perpetuate biases entirely at odds with the values of societies that these bodies are supposed to serve.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the role of women. Our advocacy organization GWL Voices is about to publish the first comprehensive mapping of the gender of leaders in the world’s 33 most important international organizations, which are collectively known as the United Nations system.
Our report will show that the World Bank is one of 13 organizations that have never been led by a woman. Five have elected a woman president only once in their entire history. On average, women have been in charge for less than 12 percent of the time since these institutions began to operate. And despite the work of the 77-year-old United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which describes itself as the principal global policy-making body dedicated to gender equality, only a third of these organizations are currently headed by a woman.
The picture is slightly better at the organizations in charge of areas such as children, food, population and health. But looking at the institutions that have only been run by men, one would think the world lacks female professionals in the top ranks of politics, finance, international development, labor, nuclear energy, intellectual property, meteorology, agriculture, industrial development and maritime affairs.
This is an affront to the millions of women who distinguish themselves in these fields, and to the global movement toward transparency, equity and accountability that has revitalized many public and private institutions.
The upcoming World Bank election is one of at least 16 that will take place in the U.N. system over the next three years. These elections could finally end the shameful tradition of gender inequality in multilateral bodies — but only if their governing boards feel pressure from three different fronts.