Is it time for a woman to lead the United Nations? (Thinkstock)
Is it time for a woman to lead the United Nations?

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At a private working lunch, the five most powerful members of the United Nations Security Council discussed the next U.N. secretary-general.

The selection process for U.N. chief has remained secretive and almost completely male. A European ambassador reminded colleagues of a January 1946 General Assembly resolution that says a "man of eminence and high attainment" should hold the post.

Perhaps, the ambassador suggested, they should add "or a woman." No doubt. Just three female candidates have been included in the Security Council's past closed-door votes and straw polls, but two campaigns are launching to make the next "Your excellency" a she.

"There have been eight men and no women. To me, it's time," said Jean Krasno, a lecturer at Yale who leads the new Campaign to Elect a Woman Secretary-General.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will remain in office through Dec. 31, 2016, but his successor is under discussion, with U.N. watchers even scrutinizing the handwriting on paper ballots after Security Council straw polls. Ban's successor is expected to be chosen late next year.

The campaign will launch to feature outstanding possible women candidates with political experience. Every few weeks, another group of potential candidates will be posted online.

Next month, the international women's rights group Equality Now will launch the Time for a Woman campaign, urging the public to pressure the U.N. and member states to make "gender a serious consideration for the first time," said the group's legal adviser, Antonia Kirkland.

They point out women such as Helen Clark, former New Zealand prime minister and the head of the U.N. Development Program; Bulgarian European commissioner Kristalina Georgieva; Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite; Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

"And obviously, you could have some sort of dream thoughts around (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel," said Laura Liswood, the secretary-general of the Council of Women World Leaders.

Also proposed is International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, though as a Frenchwoman, she is likely a long shot. The United States, Britain, France, Russia and China are permanent council members and traditionally candidates from their' countries are not considered.

Women's organizations from around the world are assembling at the U.N. for this week's meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women and side events featuring Hillary Rodham Clinton and Melinda Gates. "More women are leading businesses, governments and global organizations. At the same time, progress remains unacceptably slow," Ban told the meeting Monday.

The world currently has fewer than 20 female heads of state and government, and women make up about a quarter of senior posts in the U.N. Secretariat. A female secretary-general "will be a cherry on top," said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who heads the U.N. agency promoting equality for women.

Traditionally regions, such as Africa or Asia, take turns having someone in the top post, though the U.N. Charter doesn't mention it. This time would be the turn of eastern Europe, which has never had anyone in the job. The Bulgarian head of the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, has a nomination from Bulgaria.

Many of the 193 U.N. member states say they have little voice in picking a secretary-general. The Security Council, dominated by its five permanent members and their veto power, essentially hands a single candidate to the General Assembly of all member states for its approval.

Enough, says the campaign 1 for 7 Billion, launched last year with the support of dozens of NGOs like Amnesty International. It wants more transparency and public input for the best candidate, "irrespective of his or her country of origin." While 1 for 7 Billion doesn't demand a female secretary-general, it points out that a woman has never held the job.

In February, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan joined with former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland in calling for a stronger United Nations and saying the council should make the secretary-general selection process more open and thorough in time for picking Ban's successor. Brundtland is one of three women ever voted on by the Security Council in its deliberations for U.N. chief.

"After eight 'he's' it's surely time for a 'she,'" they wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times.

Critical thinking challenge: Why would a 1946 General Assembly resolution exclude women, saying a "man of eminence and high attainment" should lead the UN?

Assigned 19 times

  • jakemoney123
    3/19/2015 - 10:57 a.m.

    I believe that women should be able to lead the united nations. Being picked to lead shouldn't be based on your race, gender or sexuality, it should be base on your ability to lead and your intelligence.

  • rm00pennie
    3/19/2015 - 01:01 p.m.

    the association would say that because the time period was different. in that time woman didnt have the rights they do now. if a party were to say that now they woould have a whole bunch of womans rights groups trying to destroy them as a politicle party

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    3/19/2015 - 01:02 p.m.

    If a woman in qualified to do the job, why not elect her to lead? I feel like things in present day and for the future should not rely on the fact that there is prejudice everywhere.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    3/19/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

    It is about time women take a stand and be included in more politics. I think that women look at stuff way differently than men and that could be useful.

  • NashMcComsey-Ste
    3/19/2015 - 01:17 p.m.

    When approached by the political issue of women in office, personally, I never view leaders as men or women. I veiw them as leaders, with gender playing no part in it. I don't think being a woman should hinder or help her chances to be chosen in leadership. I think her credentials and abilities should make that decision. If the most qualified people are all men, so be it. If the most qualified people are all women, so be it. Gender should play no part, for both are equal.

  • tyrekb-Che
    3/19/2015 - 01:43 p.m.

    In my opinion I think a woman should try to run for office. It would a great opportunity to show the united nation that not just you can run the office but a woman can run in the office.

  • marcusr-Che
    3/19/2015 - 01:46 p.m.

    I don't think it will make a huge difference but. I think it is time to have a woman in power to see what happens.

  • KiraWvA-4
    3/19/2015 - 10:15 p.m.

    Is it time for a woman to lead the United Nations? Yes. It is, and has been for a long time, so why ask? In January 1946, a General Assembly resolution "man of eminence and high attainment" should hold the post of Secretary-General, which excluded women (peradventure unintentionally). There are two campaigns with the aim to make the next head of the U.N. ("your excellency") a woman. Jean Krasno is the leader of the Campaign to Elect a Woman Secretary-General, which posts possible candidates online at, and the "international woman's rights group" Equality Now will launch the Time for a Woman campaign, which pressures the U.N. to seriously consider females for the role of Secretary-General. The Secretary-General will be carefully selected sometime late next year. I think the organization aimed at uniting the nations of the world, discussing disease, poverty, child labor, slavery, natural disasters, and other influentials problems of the world, would have elected a female Secretary-General already. Considering less than twenty women hold high office in state and government, maybe my opinion is biased. But on a high note, a quarter of the senior posts in the U.N. Secretariat, which is a start and a foundation. But the equality skyscraper has a long way to go before it is completed.

  • NW2000Bball
    3/20/2015 - 08:42 a.m.

    Yes, I think it is time for a woman to be running in office. We've never expierenced it before and why not witness it now. Since Barrock Obama's term is soon to be over, we can elect a woman to be president. I think it would be a good idea. Even though some males doubt that females can handle such a job, I think they could handle it and they would lead the country in a new and improved direction.

  • moriahw-Koc
    3/20/2015 - 10:18 a.m.

    I think women having power in the world is a good idea. It's the 21st century, & it's time for change. I'm not a strong feminist, but there's nothing wrong with having a few women in power.

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