Photo: A glimpse of the conference. Credit: WUNABN - Photo: 2018

Under-representation of Women in UN System is Mendable

By Fausia Abdoel*

VIENNA (IDN) – Women are under-represented at the managerial and leadership levels within the United Nations system. The world body intends to mend this situation and achieve gender parity at all levels by 2028.

But indications are that it’s going be an uphill task. Statistics published by UN Women, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, show that at the current average annual increment from the P-3 to upper-managerial levels it would take on average 22 years to achieve gender parity in all United Nations agencies. In line with the status of gender parity at a global scale it will take 217 years.

This was one of the points highlighted during a one-day conference – on March 8, the Internatonal Women’s Day – organised by Women at the UN-Accountability Buddy Network (WUNABN), co-founded by Darline Giraud. But the conference participants – 75 attending in person and 300 following the Facebook live stream – also discussed what women could do by themselves to increase their representation.

“How to apply and present yourself for a position at the United Nations?”

Gwyneth Letherbarrow, personal branding strategist specialized in international organizations, had three tips: “Be specific what you want, market yourself and actually APPLY.” The latter seems obvious but in reality qualified women are underrepresented in the application process, making it difficult to have an equal representation of women in a final selection pool.

To make things easier, Matanat Rahimova, career coach and performance consultant for international organizations, proceeded with two extensive workshop sessions on the application process, structure of the United Nations, and completing an application and letter of motivation.

During the Q&A, the audience was very interactive both online and in person. There were multiple questions regarding eligibility. Rahimova’s advice: “Getting a job at the UN also means you have to look past job titles. Almost every sector can be of use. Do not let excuses hold you back.” She demystified a lot of the apprehension about the application process.

Roman Hoffman, Regional Coordinator of the Regional Academy on the United Nations (RAUN), also had practical tips. The only male presenter explained how the academy prepares students to integrate in the United Nations.

Sharen Munaghan, sales guru at Hubspot, also gave a live-stream presentation on how to market oneself through social media.

Mary Alice Hayward, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Management at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told the participants about her personal experiences of how she obtained her leadership position at the IAEA and encouraged qualified women to start applying. Nine out of ten applications that she receives at her level are from well-qualified women and men and the choice falls on men.

This, Hayward said, is due only to confidence male candidates exude not their academic performance. On the other hand, most of the women look better on paper but have difficulties projecting confidence during an interview. The IAEA deputy chief, therefore, encourages women to work on projecting confidence and using their networks to reach their goals.

Also Mag. Marcella Sigmund, President-elect of the Soroptimist International Union of Austria stressed the importance of networking and women using their male network to advance their career aspirations.

Looking ahead, WUNABN co-founder said: “This year we’ve organized this event to show the United Nations that we are ready as ‘qualified women’ candidates to join them in their goal to achieve gender parity by 2028. We now invite the United Nations to meet us halfway to hold a job fair next year with the presence of hiring managers, where we can learn about the work of each organization to exchange and obtain real feedback about our candidatures and what they are looking for. Mr. Guterres can pick the place and the time and we’ll be there.”

Fausia Abdoel*Fausia Abdoel is international marketing manager, writer and translator. She started as a junior reporter for local newspaper Groot Hellevoet in the Netherlands. She has worked in the field of PR and online marketing for several international companies and organizations, such as Fairfood International in Amsterdam and the Egyptian Tourism Authority in Berlin. She speaks and writes in six different languages. She lives now in Vienna and writing on a book for Harlequin Publishing. [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 March 2018]

Photo: A glimpse of the conference. Credit: WUNABN

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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