7 Women that have broken ‘Gender Barriers’ in global organisations

7 Women that have broken ‘Gender Barriers’ in global organisations

On Monday 8th March 2021, Uganda will join the rest of the world to celebrate 46th International Women’s day.

The day observed globally is mainly to recognise women’s success and part in cultural, political, social and economic development in the world.

Since 1975, the movement has shaped the position women hold in offices, international organisations under the gender equality and women right’s campaign that has made the contributions of women to be recognised globally.

Women who have led these international organisations are an affirmation of what Late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere said that ‘Women are Eagles Not Chicken’.

Women like Winnie Byanyima, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Michelle Obama are a living testimonies of the feminism movement with current women global leaders in different entities and multiorganisations.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme will be ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’.

The theme celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is the list of some of global women leaders who have broken gender barriers to lead organisations that were formally male dominated.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala- World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Ngozi is the seventh Director-General of the WTO and a two time former Finance Minister of Nigeria from July 15, 2003 to June 21, 2006 and from August 17, 2011 to May 29, 2015.

She took office on Monday 1st March 2021, becoming the first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General. Her term of office will expire on 31 August 2025.

Dr Ngozi Okojo- Iweala, Director General, WTO

Dr. Ngozi is a Nigerian economist, international development expert and author. She received honorary degrees from 15 universities worldwide and honorary doctorate degrees from several universities in Nigeria.

Dr Ngozi reporting for first day at WTO as Director General on 1st March 2021

Ngozi’s Biography

Winifred Byanyima- Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

Winifred Byanyima commonly known as Winnie Byanyima, born in January 13, 1959 is a Ugandan aeronautical engineer, politician, and diplomat. She is the Executive Director of UNAIDS, effective November 2019.

She is wife to Uganda’s former opposition candidate Kizza Besigye.

She was serving as the Executive Director of Oxfam International from May 2013 until November 2019 before joining UNAIDS.

Oxfam International is a confederation of 20 civil society organizations working in more than 90 countries worldwide, empowering people to create a future that is secure, just and free from poverty.

Winnie Byanyima, ED of UNAIDS

Winnie Byanyima has seven given names, one of which is Kyegiragire, which means “I can make myself whatever I want to be”.  Byanyima says this has shaped her attitude to life.

Winnie’s Biography

Ursula von der Leyen-European Union (EU)

Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen is a German politician, physician and the first woman to head the EU’s powerful executive as the president since 1 December 2019.

Ursula was born in Brussels in 1958, and attended the European School – a multilingual elite school for the children of diplomats and EU bureaucrats.

Ursula- EU President

The President of EU represents the Commission in European Council meetings, G7 and G20 summits, summits with non-EU countries and major debates in the European Parliament and the Council.

She later studied economics at London’s LSE and medicine in Hanover before going into politics.

In London she went by the name Rose Ladson – at the time German politicians were being targeted by Red Army Faction leftist militants.

Her family nickname had been Röschen – “little rose”. She enjoyed partying and rock concerts. She speaks English and French fluently.

Later in Germany, she met Heiko von der Leyen, a doctor, at medical school and they got married in 1986 and they have seven children, which is unusual in a country where average birth rate is 1.59 children per woman.

Ursula with her seven children in 2003

Ursula’s Biography

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka- UN WOWEN

Mlambo is a South African politician and currently serving as the Executive Director of UN Women with the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations since August 2013.

Mlambo began her career as a teacher and gained international experience as a coordinator at the World YWCA in Geneva, where she established a global programme for young women.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka- ED, UN WOWEN

She is the founder of the Umlambo Foundation, which supports leadership and education. A longtime champion of women’s rights, she is affiliated with several organizations devoted to education, women’s empowerment and gender equality.

She completed her PhD on education and technology at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. Mlambo’s Biography

Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva-Kinova- International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Kristalina is a Bulgarian economist serving as chair and Managing Director of the IMF since 2019.

Before joining the IMF, Georgieva was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the World Bank from January 2017 to September 2019, during which time she also served as Interim President of the World Bank Group for three months.

Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva– Managing Director IMF

Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1953, Georgieva holds a Ph.D in Economic Science and a M.A. in Political Economy and Sociology from the University of National and World Economy, Sofia.

She served as an Associate Professor between 1977 and 1993. During her academic career, she was visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Kristalina began her career in public service at the World Bank as an environmental economist in 1993. Kristalina’s Biography

Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde- European Central Bank (ECB).

Christine is a French politician and a lawyer serving as President of the ECB since 1 November 2019. Between July 2011 and September 2019, she served as Chair and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

Born in January 1, 1956, Christine joined the French government in June 2005 as Minister for Foreign Trade. After a brief stint as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, in June 2007 she became the first woman to hold the post of Finance and Economy Minister of a G-7 country.

Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde- President ECB

From July to December 2008, she also chaired the ECOFIN Council, which brings together Economics and Finance Ministers of the European Union.

In 2009, Christine was ranked the 17th most influential woman in the world by Forbes magazine, the 5th best European executive woman by The Wall Street Journal Europe. Christine’s Biography

Natalia Kanem- United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA)

Natalia is the Executive Director of the UNPFA since 3rd October 2017.

Natalia began her career at the Johns Hopkins and Columbia University schools of medicine and public health. 

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Science from Harvard University; Doctor of Medicine from Columbia University; Certification in Tropical Medicine from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; and Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Washington. Natalia’s Biography

Dr Natalia Kanem

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