From Aspiration to Commitment: The UN’s “Long March” toward Gender Equality

Kirsten Haack, Margaret P. Karns, Jean-Pierre Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gender equality has long been a goal within the UN system, particularly for women’s representation among the professional staff. Yet it was more an aspiration than the target of serious action, let alone with leadership from the UN Secretary-General. It could not be addressed, however, without adequate data revealing women’s absences. Building a dataset based on Human Resources Statistics Reports has enabled the authors to show the patterns in the UN Secretariat and the secretariats of eighteen agencies, funds, and programs. The analysis reveals persistent gender-specific conceptualizations of issue areas as more masculine (e.g., peace, security, finance, trade) or feminine (health, human rights, population), creating “glass walls” and “glass ceilings” that have limited women’s appointments to high-level positions in certain areas. The results reveal the limits of goal setting, the slowness of change, and the difference that leadership from the UN Secretary-General can make in the UN’s “long march” toward gender equality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-179
Number of pages25
JournalGlobal Governance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022


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