21 March 2019

Young Women Must Continue to Fight for ‘Seats at the Table’

It’s widely acknowledged that gender parity is essential in combating the global challenges of the 21st century, but women continue to be vastly underrepresented in positions of leadership across all regions of the globe.

A recent high-level event on women in power, part of the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63), brought together senior leaders from various sectors, including civil society, politics, the private sector and the UN system. During three roundtable discussions, participants examined the obstacles that hinder women’s participation and leadership, particularly in positions of power in politics, business and community advocacy, and shared their experiences, knowledge, and advice on accelerating the empowerment of women in these areas, particularly with younger generations of women leaders.

UN Secretary General António Guterres opened the event, noting that gender parity and the empowerment of women are essential to “build better societies, to change power relations, to close gaps, to tackle biases, to preserve gains, and to push the boundaries of the possible.”  

Many speakers addressed the importance of ‘women supporting women’ and the responsibility associated with holding high-level positions, including increasing the representation of women leaders at all levels of society and helping future generations of women and girls achieve their potential. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden of New Zealand noted that in her position she is acutely aware of the impact she’s having on the younger generation of leaders, and that as women fight to get a seat in the room it is essential to “pull every woman they can through, before the door closes”.

Muniba Mazari, National Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women Pakistan, echoed this sentiment, saying “on the road to success and leadership, it’s always we, not me” and that “an empowered woman is a woman that empowers other women around her.”

A key take-away from the day, particularly for younger women striving for ‘seats at the table’, was voiced by Sophie, Countess of Wessex, from the United Kingdom who advised young women not to give up, and that “if all the seats at the table are full, you just need to pull up an extra chair.”

Following the conference, women leaders issued a Call for Action to achieve full gender equality for all women, including making girls’ education a priority and advancing the economic empowerment of women to help them reach their full potential.

You can read the full Call for Action here, see the full program of the session here, and watch a video recording of the session here.